The Language Lab
Five Reasons to Use the Language Lab
- Document student work easily. Both instructors and students can record students’ oral or written work and save it for assessment in or out of the lab. Students can listen to and self-assess their work, or save recordings to their ePortfolios as evidence of their language practice and development. As an instructor, you can utilize lab recordings in formative or summative assessments, and can offer audio or written feedback on the recordings.
- Offer immediate, personalized feedback. In the lab setting, an instructor can utilize their headphones to ‘drop in’ on students working individually, in pairs, or in groups. This allows the instructor to observe student interactions and offer oral or written feedback, without pausing the work of other students. You can also easily pause the whole class to offer quick feedback that is relevant to the whole class.
- Shake up class routines. It can be a challenge to reset the tone or direction of a class when you feel it’s off-track. If your students resist working with unfamiliar classmates, or are often using English as their ‘working language’ in class, a lab class might help get them re-engaged. In the lab, you can randomly pair up students so they ‘meet’ people they don’t usually work with, or drop in ‘unannounced’ on their group work, via your headset, as a way to encourage a focus on communicating in the target language. After a lab class, you might open a conversation with students about the experience, to discover ways to bring more engagement back to your home classroom.
- Design for differentiated learning without distraction. If you have multiple levels in your class, you might be looking for ways to offer differentiated learning activities. In the lab, you can assign group work involving a task appropriate to each group’s level. Since students are working with their headphones on, they can better focus without the distraction that can result from hearing other students work, or comparing one’s own level to someone else.
- Provide a structured environment for exploring authentic material. As language educators, we strive to encourage meaningful and authentic communication, which often means utilizing authentic materials. The language lab allows for use of authentic materials in a structured environment, in which the instructor can easily send out or direct students to particular authentic online resources. Since the instructor can guide students’ work by monitoring their computer screens, offering quick oral feedback, or sharing the instructor screen with students, instructors can help students to develop strategies for interacting effectively with authentic texts. (Of course, students can also access most resources on their own devices these days! As an instructor, you might want to experiment with conducting activities using both the bring-your-own-device and language lab setups, to evaluate the opportunities provided by both options).