The world of English language teaching is vast and ever-evolving, with numerous methodologies and strategies to engage students. One concept that is becoming ever more important in the classroom is mediation. But what are mediation skills, and why are they important?
What is mediation in simple terms?
Mediation is about facilitating communication. It’s not just about understanding and producing language, but about relaying, interpreting and translating information for others. It’s bridging the gap between two parties, often making complex ideas more understandable. Think of it as the person who conveys meaning to another person, whether in their language or English.
As teachers, our primary goal is to help students with linguistic skills like reading, writing, listening and speaking. However, mediation focuses more on the use of these skills in real-life contexts. It’s the difference between understanding a text in English and explaining its key ideas in simpler terms to someone who might not fully understand it.
Why are mediation skills important?
Embracing mediation means helping our students to be active participants in communication rather than passive receivers.
- prepares students for real-world scenarios where they might need to mediate information, such as in the workplace, in their community or while travelling.
- helps students to become cross-lingual communicators. For example, if a Korean student needs to give information about their English lessons to their non-English speaking parents. They will need to navigate, and understand the information and convey it to them in a way they can understand, and in a different language from the original information.
- helps students become cross-cultural communicators. Imagine you’re a teacher in a multilingual class. There are many different cultures to navigate and your students will find themselves in scenarios where they need to communicate and explain things cross-culturally.
By teaching our students to be effective mediators, we are also helping them develop their future skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and social & emotional understanding – essential skills in a globalised world.
4 activities to incorporate mediation skills in your classroom
A good starting point for including mediation activities in your lessons is to look at what mediation activities are. The CEFR gives mediation examples as:
- mediating a text such as relaying specific information
- mediating concepts such as communicating in a group
- mediating communication such as acting as an intermediary in informal situations.
1) Role-playing activities
- In class, simulate real-world situations where students might have to mediate.
- For example, one student could play a tourist who speaks limited English, and another could be a local city guide.
- The guide has to explain the cultural significance of a local festival that is going on, to the tourist, in simple terms.
2) Simplify complex texts
- Put students into groups and provide each group with a different authentic article or story. You could use current articles from the news, for example.
- Have groups break down their text into simpler sentences or illustrate the main points.
- Groups then share their articles in simpler terms for the rest of the class to understand the main ideas.
3) Group discussions
- Choose one student to put on headphones or to leave the class for 5 minutes.
- Discuss a certain topic with the rest of the class for those 5 minutes.
- Have the student re-enter the class and have students relay the main points of the discussion.
- The student who missed the discussion should be able to understand the key points based on the mediation provided.
4) Cultural exchange
- If you have students from different cultural backgrounds, ask them to explain a particular tradition or festival from their country to a partner.
- The partners then move into new pairs. They have to relay the information they learnt to their new partner, ensuring they understand and can effectively communicate the main ideas.
Assessing mediation skills
Evaluating mediation skills requires a slightly different approach than traditional assessments.
- Focus on clarity: the main goal of mediation is clear communication. Does the student convey the main message of the information without unnecessary complexities?
- Check for accuracy: while it’s essential to simplify the information, the core details need to remain accurate. The mediator shouldn’t change or misinterpret details.
- Engagement: especially in activities like role-plays, the level of engagement can indicate a student’s comfort and skill in mediation.
- Feedback: after a mediation task, allow the ‘receiver’ of the mediated information to provide feedback. Did they understand? Was any part confusing?
- Self-assessment: encourage students to reflect on their mediation skills. What challenges did they face? How can they improve?
Mediation is more than just a teaching technique; it’s a necessary skill in our interconnected world. By incorporating mediation skills and tasks into our lessons, we are preparing students for real-world challenges, enhancing crucial future skills and promoting effective communication.
For more on mediation skills, take a look at this paper.
What are some mediation activities that have worked well in your classroom?
Share your ideas below!