The 23 participants were divided into two groups for the English class which meant organizing 90 minute classes. The instructor was contracted to teach the English class for 3 hours two mornings a week. All participants, the instructor, and the IEOP Co-ordinator came together for the 3 hour seminars. A half-hour break in between classes would give the instructor some breathing space and the chance to take a break before the second IEOP Business English class arrived for instruction. It is customary that the EWP instructor is approached by numerous participants asking additional questions related to class content and/or the English language before class, at breaks, and after class. The reality is the instructor is usually juggling two language programs daily so it is necessary to pack up promptly in order to teach a different class at a different site in the afternoon. Time constraints are a constant.
Given these circumstances, class time is centered tightly around the content which means there is little time for free form conversation related to participant business ideas and strategies, transferable skills, business background, and entrepreneurial self assessment. These types of conversations provide valuable input for the instructor.
Developing an effective teaching style within this milieu raised many questions. How can the instructor effectively address participants language needs when there are strict time constraints? How can the instructor meet additional objectives set for each EWP program which includes discussion in order to foster a comfort level with the language? How can the instructor reduce the amount of times she says, Im really sorry but I have to go. All these concerns pointed to the following action research question.
Understanding the Situation
Data Collection Methods
Four methods of collection were used to shed light on the research question. The first method involved discussion with IEOP staff, EWP and the workplace education instructors. All staff and instructors agreed that an e-mail option would be an interesting component to add to the program. These discussions centered around whether this action was feasible and if technology could assist the instructor in reaching both participant and instructor objectives.
The second method involved collecting data from two separate questionnaires given to participants. The first questionnaire focused on questions related to computer accessibility, e-mail accounts, computer skills and current e-mail addresses. The second questionnaire dealt with comfort level, actual e-mail skills, research ability using the Internet, hours per week that participants spent on-line, and a request to self-identify if assistance was needed in any of these areas.
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