The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Friday, April 24, 2020

New ways of teaching and learning

A recent tweet by Tyson Seburn sent me scurrying off to check out what a monitor corpus has to say about the way we're describing new ways of teaching and learning.

I used the Timestamped JSI web corpus (via SketchEngine) which is, as its name suggests, a corpus of data collected from a range of online sources and which is added to daily. That means it can be used to track usage over time. I looked specifically at the new data added for just March and April 2020 to try and capture the language that's being used about the current coronavirus situation in which schools, universities and other institutions have been closed to students attending in person and have had to start using the internet instead.

I looked at collocates of the words 'teaching' and 'learning' and in particular words used as modifiers directly before them, effectively adjective + noun combos. The graphs below show which combinations were most frequent (just based on raw frequency statistics) and relevant to the question above (so I ignored things like machine learning and religious teachings). It's not a detailed analysis and I'm sure there are all kinds of factors I could take into account if this was an academic study, but I think it gives a useful first impression.

Important note: the graphs aren't directly comparable at a glance because the numbers vary quite a bit (look at the bottom axis) and the number of collocates shown on each graph changes the size of the bars. The order of frequency within each set though should be clear and the relative frequency of each collocate.

What was also really interesting were the terms of comparision, so ways of talking about non-online teaching and learning. We could perhaps call these a type of retronym; a new term created to differentiate what used to be a generic thing from a new type, in the way we now talk about landlines to distinguish them from mobile phones. I didn't dig into the examples here, so not all of these will be used in opposition to online teaching (especially those with *) , but I'm guessing a lot of them will be.

I did also look into the word class for which there turned out to be a much smaller range of relevant collocates, with online classes being by far the most common, followed by virtual classes and gaining ground in April, Zoom classes. Those were in opposition to in-person classes and face-to-face classes.  Then there were live classes, which when I checked were mostly synchronous online classes.

Of course, this doesn't quite answer Tyson's original question which was more about the terms being used by different HE institutions - this data includes all kinds of much more general contexts. I think it shows some interesting patterns though.

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger Sandy said...

Absolutely fascinating! I know I've been using the term 'online teaching' in preference to others, but the ones I've struggled with are collocates with 'lesson' and 'classroom'. I tend to go for physical classroom v. online classroom, and face-to-face lesson v. online lesson. Hadn't seen 'hands-on' as a collocate before. I wonder if it differs in state and private (language school) sectors, though I know that's a much bigger research project!
Thanks for sharing this Julie.

2:28 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Sandy, thanks for your comment. I suspect this is an area of usage that's in a state of flux at the moment. I'm sure different people will be using different combinations of terms in different contexts with different intentions/interpretations. Some people will have very clear ideas in mind about the differences and others will be using terms interchangably. It'll be interesting to see whether usage settles down into clear patterns at some point.

9:04 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home