If you’ve ever taken a class at E-QIP before, you’re already well familiar with Kaizen Connect™ (whether you’re aware of it or not). It’s simply the name we’ve given to the learning framework we’ve been using for over a decade—one that prioritizes continuous learning over acing tests, and embracing (and learning from) mistakes over seeking perfection.
Kaizen is a Japanese concept that’s used in the business world to refer to a system of continuous improvement at all levels. Given E-QIP’s strong connection to Japan—many of our staff members and students hail from the country, and many others have lived and worked there—this philosophy naturally seeped into the way we approach language learning.
In the language classroom, implementing kaizen means keeping track of students’ errors and correcting them in order to reinforce “good” language habits, so that students are always working at improvement and learning not just from their teachers, but from themselves.
This framework involves a three-stage cycle:
Phase 1: Production—Instructors use a range of techniques to draw and facilitate the production of linguistic data from the student.
Phase 2: Insight—The data is recorded in a personal Student Learning File, then assessed and analyzed by our Academic Team (Instructors, Instructor Coach and Academic Coordinator) to assure that the student progresses at an optimal pace.
Phase 3: Elevation—The student's Learning Plan is adjusted taking the analysis into account, and then they are guided on how to take their speaking up to the next level.
Depending on the student and teacher, this might mean making a correction right in class as soon as a mistake is registered, or offering suggestions for improvement at the end of a class, the end of a week or the end of a session based on the notes that have been collected. Or, perhaps most often, it might mean some combination of the two.
The only way for this to work, of course, is if students are given the opportunity to speak enough to provide adequate data for their instructors to give feedback on. Studies have shown that asking language students to reproduce their target language on their own is the most effective way for them to learn.
In all of our group workshops and private lessons, students are asked to speak in their target language from day one. Within the Kaizen Connect framework, mistakes are not a deviation from the lesson; they are the lesson.
So, what does all of this actually look like in the classroom? Imagine a group of pre-intermediate English students. The teacher asks the group to go around the circle and share what they’re planning on doing over the weekend; in a pre-intermediate group, this might mean that some members lack the exact language to describe their weekend plans.
Student A might ask for help describing the activity she has in mind. Rather than allow Student A to revert to a translator or find a picture of what she means, the teacher might ask her to do her best to describe the activity, even if she doesn’t know the name.
At the end of the lesson, the instructor may identify common mistakes or examples of mistakes that can be discussed as a group on the board or, in virtual classes, in the chat section. For example:
Teacher: Can anyone tell me what is wrong with this sentence? “My brother and sister-in-law is coming to the beach with us.” Yes, it should be “My brother and sister-in-law are coming to the beach with us.” Now, can anyone explain why that is? …
Going over your errors—or your “opportunities for growth”, as they might be more aptly labelled—is something that many students come to strongly look forward to.
After all, the very nature of being in a language class means that you already know your fluency, grammar, vocabulary or comprehension aren’t perfect (in fact, no one’s is!), but you’ll never be in a better position to improve than when you have the freedom and necessary support and guidance to take the language for endless test drives, get it wrong and learn a little bit more with every single misstep and every moment of uncertainty.