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Concourse 2

Some 'alternative' approaches

4

Any novelty, if carried on too long, will trigger adaptation.  No matter how exciting and productive the innovation, people will tire of it.  They no longer respond.  It is important to neutralize adaptation by switching continually from one activity to another.
James Asher (exact source obscure)

The guide to the history and development of English Language Teaching covers: grammar translation, audio-lingualism (including structural linguistics and behaviourist theories of learning) and the rise of communicative language teaching.
The separate guide to Communicative Language Teaching takes it on from there and there's another devoted to Krashen's hypotheses and the Natural Approach and yet another to Task-Based Learning.  You should go to those guides for more on the background.  This guide serves as an introduction to some other approaches which are often inserted into a communicative approach or may form the basis for your experimenting with novel ways to teach language.


cuisenaire rods

The Silent Way

The main source for this area is Gattegno (1963).  His book is available online at http://issuu.com/eswi/docs/gattegno_-_teaching_foreign_languages_in_schools_t.

face

Characteristics

As the name implies, the central characteristic of the methodology is for the teacher to remain as silent as possible.  The main reason for this is to devolve as much autonomy and decision making as possible to the learners.
The teacher may be silent but that is not the same as being inactive.  It is the teacher's role to monitor very actively, lead pronunciation practice (a major element of the approach), make decisions about when to move on or introduce new structures and support the learners in their efforts.  This may, for example, mean mouthing language silently, gesturing or intervening to draw the learners' attention to errors or correct language in some way.
It's important to note that the teacher is not always silent, just for 90% of the time.  When the teacher does speak, he/she should only say something once so that learners attend very carefully.

Cuisenaire rods
These are also widely used outside the Silent Way approach.  Sets of rods consist of coloured pieces of wood or plastic of varying lengths.  They can be used to represent words (showing, e.g., stressed syllables), whole clauses (showing stressed words or important functional words such as articles and prepositions), floor plans (see picture) and even abstract ideas.  Like this:
example rod use
which simultaneously shows word class (nouns are orange, verbs blue, articles black etc.), weak forms and stressed syllables (the length of the rods) as well as being manipulable to show varying word order.  The possibilities don't stop there.
Colour charts
Colour is used extensively for three purposes:
    to link pronunciation to colour in the learners' minds, hence making it more memorable
    to link spelling to colour
    to link sentence structures to colour identifying content and function words
They look like this:
silent way word chart
theory

Theory

There are two fundamental premises:

  1. people do not learn languages through imitation and drilling.  Learning is a creative, cognitive process which is internal to the learner.  Learning consists of trial and error, making hypotheses about language and testing them out to see what response the teacher provides.  To do this, learners may draw on their first languages, other languages they speak and their intuition.  Errors are, therefore, both natural and necessary.  This is, therefore, a discovery approach.
  2. the teacher's responsibility is to focus on how learners learn rather than on teaching methodology or techniques.  As far as possible teachers should guide the learning process rather than interfere with it.
critic

Criticisms

  1. The approach is severely structural with opportunities for real communication very limited.
  2. The teacher's rather distant and aloof role may be seen negatively by some learners who expect more help and guidance.
  3. The opportunities for more advanced learners may be limited by the constraints of charts and rods (although efforts have been made recently to accommodate more advanced materials).
influence

Influences

  1. Some will claim that the often obsessive and uninformed focus on limiting the dreaded teacher-talking time is a direct result of the ideas of the Silent Way.
  2. Cuisenaire rods are widely used to demonstrate structures and stress patterns among much else (see above).
  3. The idea of limiting modelling to single events to encourage learners to focus hard and notice the new item may also derive from the approach.

TPR

Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response is an approach based on the work of James Asher.  In his words, it derives from the premise that the human brain has a biological program for acquiring any natural language on earth (Asher).

The approach is entirely based on what Asher and others consider the way in which a child learns its first language.

face

Characteristics

The teacher's role
The teacher takes on the role of a parent teaching a child, using commands to force learners to perform acts based on the language she/he uses.
For example, at beginner level, the teacher may use imperatives such as Bring me your chair, Move to the seat near the door etc.  At more advanced levels the commands may become quite complex, e.g., If you went to bed before 10 o'clock last night, ask the person on your left a question about yesterday etc.
The learners' role
The learner is placed in the position of a child learning its first language, responding to orders and commands.  Learners initially respond to commands only but will presently move on to constructing their own commands for their peers and initiating language to do so.
The role of language
Language is used to evince a physical response in the learners on the principle that in this way memory traces will be consistently and continually reinforced.  The approach is one which is well suited to the use of imperatives and the manipulation of objects in the classroom.
theory

Theory

There are twin premises:

  1. that adults can (and do) acquire a second language in exactly the same way that they acquired their first, i.e., interaction between parents and children combines verbal and physical phenomena.
  2. that children learn by responding to comments and imperatives such as Look at daddy! by refocusing their gaze accordingly.  The response to the language is then reinforced by the parents and the language patterns are absorbed.

The approach claims to increase the speed of learning twofold.

critic

Criticisms

  1. The approach is based on a behaviourist understanding of language (and all behaviour) which has been significantly criticised for some time (see the guide to the history and development of ELT for more on the debunking of behaviourism).
  2. The syllabus allows only for a restricted, purely structural approach to language learning with little space for imaginative and truly meaningful communication.
  3. The approach is difficult to put into effect above quite elementary levels because of its focus on the use of imperatives.
  4. Learning imperatives is poor preparation for real-life, appropriate language use.
influence

Influences

  1. Some elements of TPR are often introduced into more 'mainstream' approaches because it is recognised that for many learners a kinaesthetic approach is valuable and makes the language memorable.
  2. It is an approach suited to teaching the lexis of action verbs and can be used extensively for this and for story-telling exercises.
  3. Many argue that learners enjoy and are motivated by the need to get up and do things in the classroom rather than remain in their seats.

community

Community Language Learning

This approach was developed by Charles Curran and draws heavily on theories of counselling (and, some would argue, group therapy sessions).

face

Characteristics

The teacher's role
The teacher takes on the role of a counsellor or 'knower' whose responsibility it is to help the learners perceive their strengths, weaknesses and needs for the target language.  In essence the role is one of understander, informer and sympathetic listener.
The approach was originally intended for monolingual groups so it is important that the teacher-counsellor is fluent in the learners' language as well as the target language.
The learners' role
The learner is the client.  The client is not expected to speak until ready to do so nor respond unless he/she feels comfortable and prepared.  In this respect, the approach has something in common with Krashen and Terrell's Natural Approach.
The stages of CLL 'lessons'
The nature of CLL lessons, by definition, varies depending on the needs and wishes of the learners (the clients).  Here, however, is one possible approach:
At first an unthreatening environment must be created.  To this end, learners normally sit in a circle and think about what they want to talk about and learn to communicate.  This may involve some collaborative brainstorming in whatever language helps.
Then a tape recorder is switched on and the learners can contribute.  The teacher-counsellor's role here is discreetly to input language, often via translation from the mother tongue of the group.
The recorder is switched off and the learner-clients discuss how the conversation went.
Now the tape is played back and the learners transcribe the conversation (or, at least, critical parts of it).
Finally, with the help of the teacher-counsellor, the learners analyse the language they used and look for ways to improve it.
On-line CLL
It can readily be seen that the advent of web-based technology has given CLL a new impetus.  Learners can form groups independently of where they or their teacher-counsellor actually lives and come together as (in)frequently as they like.  Modern conferencing software is ideal for this approach.
theory

Theory

  1. Learning happens best when the content of the 'lesson' is learner generated.
  2. The learner-clients slowly develop from being dependent on the 'knower' for all language input to the point at which they can act as knowers for others.
critic

Criticisms

There aren't too many of these as CLL is a close fit with many communicative teaching approaches and, in any case, is an approach chosen by the learners for themselves.  However, there are some obvious difficulties:

  1. It is difficult to implement the approach with anything but monolingual groups (although it can be done with the teacher simply improving the clients' language through shaping input rather than translation).
  2. Because the 'syllabus' is internally generated and learner based, the approach does not recommend itself to those situations in which there is an externally imposed syllabus (examination classes, EAP and so on).
  3. Some learners may feel disorientated by the amount of autonomy they are expected to demonstrate, may not have adequate ideas or may be intimidated by the presence of the tape recorder.  These are not insurmountable hurdles.
nfluence

Influences

  1. Outside of monolingual settings, the approach is not particularly influential insofar as it is not used in a 'pure' form.
  2. Some forms of CLL can clearly be embedded in a communicative approach and the learner-centred nature of the approach may well have influenced Dogme in particular.
  3. Many monolingual groups meeting for 'conversation' lessons may, in fact, be unwittingly taking something like this approach.

suggestopaedia

Suggestopedia / Desuggestopedia

This is an approach to language teaching based on the work of Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychoanalyst.  It makes some extravagant claims (e.g., that it can speed up the process of language learning by 500%) and has been labelled pseudo-science by some.  The name is a portmanteau word taken from 'suggestology' and 'pedagogy'.  The former is, in Lozanov's words, a science … concerned with systematic study of the nonrational and/or non-conscience influences.

face

Characteristics

The environment
In some versions of the approach, comfortable or even reclining furniture was recommended but recently proponents suggest more conventional furniture arranged around a central table.
Music (normally pre-classical) is a key element and used to accompany the initial introduction of the language which is usually read by the teacher to the accompaniment of the music and then by the learners in the same way.
Typical procedure
There is usually a three-step procedure:
Firstly, the language is introduced to the accompaniment of the music in what is intended to be a very relaxing and unthreatening manner (playful, is a term sometimes used to describe this phase).  In this phase, too, there is a concert section in which the learners repeat the material together with the teacher while they listen to the music and the teacher pauses at important moments.
Next, the learners are free to use the material spontaneously, to 'elaborate', to sing and play while the teacher guides and consults.
Finally, for further elaboration, the learners speak freely in the target language without interference or interruption.
theory

Theory

Somewhat controversially, the approach has been characterised as being based on covert and unethical hypnosis.  This is denied (see below).
The central tenet of the approach is to remove, as far as possible, all affective filters to learning and create in the learner a state of mind conducive to memorising language.

critic

Criticisms

This is a fraught area.  Original criticisms of the approach were arguably based on a false understanding, indeed, some say a deliberate caricature, of the approach.  The combination of soviet-era psychology and discredited hypnosis may have been influential.

  1. The approach uses subliminal manipulation of the learners through a process close to hypnosis.  Hence the name 'suggestopedia'.  That's unethical.
    The response to this is that Lozanov (once a user of hypnosis) is now wholly opposed to it and has redefined the approach as 'desuggestopedia' to emphasise the position.  He claims that the term was based on the meaning of 'suggest' as in 'recommend', not the meaning used in psychoanalysis.
    He also now denies any connections to neuro-linguistic programming, the use of reclining furniture, monotonous reading tones and any other techniques that may induce a hypnotic state in the learners.
  2. The approach is based on pseudo-science and a false understanding of how the brain works.
    There has been little evidence to refute this although there are many who support Lozanov's claims.
  3. Input is limited to reading and listening with little attention paid to communicative skills.
    The elaboration phase of the process is claimed to provide just that kind of practice.
  4. Lozanov's focus is on memorisation but language is much more than that.
    The claim is that learners can both memorise language items more easily through these techniques and be able to deploy the items naturally.
nfluence

Influences

  1. Suggestopedia is widely used around the world, and not only for the teaching of languages.
  2. Its influence can be observed in many classrooms in which the teacher tries, through the use of music or other techniques, to reduce the learners' affective filters.
  3. Many teachers use visualisation exercises in which the learners sit quietly and listen, often with their eyes shut, as a way to introduce target language through a text.  They may not realise that this is a central suggestopedia technique.

dogme chat

Dogme

Dogme is nothing if not communicative.
The originator is Scott Thornbury and the name comes from a film movement which demanded the minimum use of technique and materials.  It encourages teaching without published materials and with the minimum of intrusive technology.

face

Characteristics

Absence of published materials
A Dogme approach abjures the use of published materials and the importation of technology so a Dogme lesson may have no materials at all (with all language coming from the participants) or use materials imported by the learners (and, occasionally, the teacher).
Planning
Only the general outlines of a lesson can be planned because learning is seen to happen in conversation and the focus is on what emerges naturally from the learners rather than imposed upon them.
Procedures
Procedures are, by definition, very flexible so the teacher's role will vary from equal listener and participant to short periods of more recognisable teaching focused on language issues that have emerged from the conversation.  Lessons may start from an idea or question from individual learners or they may brainstorm (with or without the teacher) what they would like to talk about.  At the outset, before the learners have become accustomed to the approach, ideas may come from the teacher but, thereafter, they should derive from the learners because that will maintain relevance and involvement.
theory

Theory

The movement (it is more that than a methodology) has a number of guiding principles (the exact number rather depends on who is describing / advocating the approach).  They can be condensed into:

  1. Interact and engage: learning happens when learners are involved in what they are talking about because it is relevant to them and interacting naturally with each other and the teacher.  In other words, learning is dialogic.
  2. Scaffolding: this much-abused term is used here to mean that the teacher's role is to assist and shape emerging language.
  3. Emerging language: the target of Dogme is to work with language that emerges from the learners rather than impose a syllabus.
  4. Empowerment: the learners and teachers are freed from the demands of externally imposed syllabuses and materials and take control of the learning for themselves.  Wherever possible, therefore, any materials should come from the learners.
  5. Learning is conversation driven: the focus is on connected discourse rather than sentence-level language analysis.
critic

Criticisms

  1. Dogme does not give teachers the opportunity to use a complete range of materials and resources and is obsessively purist (Gill, 2000)
    There is some debate about how anti-materials Dogme actually is.  Meddings and Thornbury (2009) focus more on a critique of course materials (focus on structure, cultural bias etc.) than on their non-use.  On the other hand, Dogme can address the challenges of resource-poor teaching environments.
  2. Dogme overly constrains the teacher to a single role
    The teacher's role needs, in fact, to be quite flexible (see below) but it is true that the approach, used consistently, could confine the teacher to that of informant and participant rather than, e.g., teacher and manager.
  3. There is no evidence that it works
    True, research evidence is lacking, but advocates of the approach would aver that a) it is an attempt to restore the basis of Communicative Language Teaching and b) that it shares characteristics with approaches for which there is some evidence of effectiveness (such as Task-based Learning in which meaning is constructed in a similar way).
  4. Learners expect more
    There is no doubt that some learners, paying good money for a course, either directly or via general taxation, expect to see a rich material base and to use a range of technical and print-based resources.  They may be demotivated rather than motivated by this approach.
  5. Some situations require adherence to a syllabus and Dogme can't be used.
    It's true that an examination-focused course is an unlikely place to find Dogme in action but providing the learners are sophisticated enough to know what the demands of the examination are and introspective enough to know where their weaknesses and needs lie, there's no reason why the approach can't work with materials and concerns imported by them.
influence

Influences

The theory and approach are yet young so discerning influences on other approaches and methodologies is not simple.  However, as a reason to devote at least some hours a week on intensive language courses to conversation-driven events Dogme fits a bill.
It is also, in fairness, sometimes used as a cover for failing to plan and prepare properly.  It has famously been dismissed as:
Winging it, elevated to an art form
(Thornbury, 2000:3)


You will note that in all the above a non-partisan view of the approaches has been taken by preferring description to prescription.  However, as with all minority approaches, there are strident proponents and opponents.  Tread warily if you tread at all.

Learn more

There are many web-based descriptions and elaborations of these approaches but many are written by enthusiastic proponents and may lack a certain objectivity.  This is true even for normally reliable sources.  Some of the more reliable and less fervent of these are listed below.


There's an easy matching test for this.



Related guides
the history and development of ELT this covers a range of approaches from a historical perspective
Communicative Language Teaching for a guide to the dominant approach
Task-Based Learning for more on an approach within CLT
Krashen for more on the natural approach based on his 5 hypotheses
humanism in ELT for a guide to the underlying influences on many of the approaches considered here
methodology the index to related guides


References:
Asher, J, What is TPR? at http://www.tpr-world.com/what.html
Gattegno, C. (1963), Teaching Foreign Languages in Schools: The Silent Way, online at http://issuu.com/eswi/docs/gattegno_-_teaching_foreign_languages_in_schools_t [accessed November 2014]
Gill, S (2000), Against Dogma: a plea for moderation at http://archive.today/D3beB
Larsen-Freeman, D (2000), Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Lozanov, G (1978), Suggestology and Outlines of Suggestopedy. New York: Gordon & Breach
Meddings, L and Thornbury, S (2009), Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Peaslake UK: Delta
Stevick, E (1980), A Way and Ways, Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle (Stevick's work covers a number of methodologies under a general category of 'humanist' approaches)
Stevick, E (1980), Humanism in Language Teaching: a critical perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press (also available from http://www-01.sil.org/lingualinks/languagelearning/booksbackinprint/onhumanisminlanguageteaching/humanism.pdf)
Thornbury, S (2000), Dogme: Dancing in the Dark?, available from: http://nebula.wsimg.com/22eaea86234146ac3105f57698b06b75?AccessKeyId=186A535D1BA4FC995A73&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

Websites:
The Silent Way:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWSLtlwZ5X8 a Silent Way lesson by an expert practitioner
Suggestopedia:
http://www.slideshare.net/syllwia05/suggestopedia-14826034 is an interesting overview with examples of the approach
http://www.lozanov-international.com/suggestology-method-en-GB/ is the home page of suggestopedia
Total Physical Response:
http://www.tpr-world.com/ is the home page for TPR
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mk6RRf4kKs for an example of TPR in action
Community Language Learning:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4G9uY8Vq2Y for an example CLL lesson
Dogme:
http://www.scottthornbury.com/articles.html contains a link to the original article about Dogme and much else besides