Once, after years of research he established this, he began exposing learners to a broad variety of pedagogies and learning activities to see if these triggered engagement among the learners.
His research revealed that the strategies that are most likely to engage learners include: multisensory stimuli; a social element to the activity; a clear and challenging goal and real-world relevance.
You can see how complex it may be for a sequence of lessons in, say, learning vocabulary lists of a foreign language, to engage learners.
The following classroom activity, which I was part of last year, was up to the challenge.
Pairs of Year 10 students of French were set the challenge to collaboratively create a lesson resource and activity that would engage Year 4 French students – absolute beginners in the language.
The older students would then teach the young learners with the resources they had created, aiming to convey both French vocabulary and a love for the language to them.
In many ways, the activity hit Professor Sung-Il Kim’s sweet spot.
The challenge carried real world relevance (something that language lessons often struggle to achieve), as real-life eight-year olds would be waiting for them in class!
The peer-teaching foregrounded the social element to the learning, and helped the students work to a deadline, thereby meeting the demanding challenge ahead of them.
The best resources created by students used the Mac program iBooks Author to develop highly interactive, multimedia and bilingual iBooks.
These digital books would develop a short narrative oriented around a fictitious character who would travel through France, as a ploy to introduce French vocabulary alongside English words.
In many of these brilliant iBooks, each page contained an image of a French setting with a superimposed character holding simple speech-bubble conversations with French counterparts.
Each speech bubble was accompanied by a translation as well as a sound file of its pronunciation to help young readers decipher the sounds of French.
And every chapter ending contained a vocabulary gaming quiz, inserted into the iBook with readymade HTML widgets.
Delivering the resources was achieved easily, as the Year 4 students could use iPads in class.
The unit’s culmination was a shared Year 4/Year 10 French lesson, where the older students led their younger peers in reading their French narratives.
The curiosity and interest displayed by the Year 4 students was self-evident, and their learning of vocabulary began immediately.
As for the teachers looking on, the joy on the Year 10 students’ faces, proud to see their creativity prove so effective, was a wonder to behold.