Advantages of Teaching Turkish Students

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There are a number of advantages to teaching Turkish students that can be used by the teacher to aid learning in the classroom.

Community

In my opinion, far and away the biggest advantage to teaching Turkish students is their ability to quickly bond with each other and form a cohesive classroom community.  Students can be counted on to work together, help each other out, and provide mutual support.

Although they may not be used to working together as this often isn’t encouraged in traditional education, Turkish students quickly adapt to and value forms of instruction that place cooperation at the forefront of the learning experience.  Strong students are excellent at helping out weaker students and classes often have a lot of patience for those who aren’t as quick to pick things up.

Trust is also a very important issue in Turkey and any kind of classroom activities that foster the building of trust, cooperation, and relationships in the classroom are bound to see positive results.  Some basic trust-building activities can be found here,  here, and here.

The Importance of the Written Word

Turkish culture often places a very high value on books.  Turkish students have a propensity to believe the book even over the teacher and this attitude can be used to the teacher’s advantage.

The use of a course book and authentic outside material will be highly valued by the students.  If you want to promote an interesting perspective or clarify a language point, bringing in, or at least citing valid references, can go a long way in helping your students to increase their knowledge and more readily accept new ideas and concepts.

Respect for Teachers

Generally, there is a lot of respect for the teaching profession in Turkey.  However, this can be a bit tricky.  Traditionally, teachers are viewed as rather stern and serious types and this type still garners the most respect.

Foreign teachers who come in with big smiles and lots of fun activities often promote the idea that they are relaxed and many students think they can get away with anything because of it.  They also may have less respect for teachers with this kind of style.

To tap into respectful attitudes, one thing teachers can do is to dress professionally.  This goes a long way in promoting a serious attitude and garnering respect.

Another bit of advice is to be very clear with your students.  While you may be doing a lot of interactive activities in a way much more relaxed than what students are probably used to, you can still clearly state your rules and what you expect from students.  For example, making it clear that students who fail to come to class regularly will not pass.  If students see a smiling teacher who does a lot of fun lessons, students may be inclined to think they can get away with anything.  They will then be shocked and hurt when they find out at the end of the course that they will not be passing even though they rarely bothered to show up.  You can forestall these by being as upfront as possible.

Motivation

Most Turkish students, especially in private language school contexts, are very motivated to learn English.  They understand the value of it for their future careers and goals.  For this reason, it’s often easy to get students’ participation in classes and they tend to be serious about learning in the class.  Exceptions to this are children and teenagers who often don’t value English learning yet and university prep students who see it simply as a hoop to jump through.

Grammar

 

Like many learning contexts around the world, Turkish students are often obsessed with grammar.  While this is often very problematic, it can be used to the teacher’s advantage.  Regardless of what kind of activity you do in the class, if you summarize the grammar points learned or practiced throughout the lesson, students will be very happy.  It’s a good idea to take notes during any lesson and find key grammar points to highlight along with the main structures being used during the class.

Even if your lesson goal wasn’t to practice a grammar structure, throw this language up on the board to give your students a sense of what grammar came up and they will leave the lesson feeling something has been accomplished.

Summary

As always, it’s important to look at your students’ needs, interests, and attitudes.  Every culture and classroom is different.  It’s always helpful to get to know your students and find out what makes them tick.  From there, you can teach to their strengths and provide support for their weaknesses.

2 Comments

  • By Asl?, April 21, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Hi Nick,
    I agree with you about most of the points you made in your post. I would like to agree with the motivation part, too but what I have come up with throughout the year at the private university where I teach is a totally different story.

    I should accept that students were motivated more in the beginning but some school policies and wrong approaches to education have led our students to despair and loss of motivation.

    As you have also mentioned, each class has a different athmosphere. But this atmosphere is affected by a lot of variables like school’s approach to ELT, constantly changing school policies and of course the teacher.

    And about respect; Most of Turkish students have a tendency to not to accept that a fun activity can not teach anything, it is just for fun. Learning is only possible with grammar teaching and memorization.

  • By turklis1, April 22, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    Hello Asli,

    Yes, some school policies will affect motivation a lot. It also depends on the context. University prep classes are the most difficult to find motivated students because no one wants to be there.

    I definitely see where you are coming from with the tendency to equate fun with non learning. However, this is true throughout much of the world, not just Turkey. I always found that you had to have a reflection section at the end of every lesson to highlight what was learned. Eventually learners would realize they were learning a lot and enjoying it. Surprise surprise :)

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