A lot of teachers have been reading a previous post entitled “Faking it”. There I outlined my belief that a lot of students and teachers were, “playing school” and that not as much learning as possible was occuring.
I have another thought to add.
I recently took a poll on EFL Classroom 2.0 about the relative importance of productive vs receptive activities in the classroom. Here are the results.
Most teachers believe that more learning occurs through production rather than reception. Not a surprise to me but I think it unfortunate. Also, a major reason why so much English language teaching is ineffective. I believe that our teaching should weigh on the side of reception (especially in the beginner – intermediate levels) and not production. I think we have the horse before the cart.
I’m reminded of Krashen and a statement he made that has stuck with me over the years. Probably the one statement that really puzzled but then informed me and my own teaching. He said (and I paraphrase);
“speaking is a result of language acquisition not the cause”
Now this IS a contentious issue (and see my Canadian compatriot Merrill Swain’s research on CO – or comprehensible output) but I do agree that most teachers have it wrong, do it wrong. Reception and input (comprehensible input) does lead to quicker and stronger acquisition of language.
I think teachers wrongly have the mindset that speaking and writing are “better” due to several things;
1. the are more “active” and so there is the appearance that acquisition is taking place.
2. a misunderstanding about the difference between learning and acquisition.
3. they want to be “a teacher” and there is a belief that a teacher just doesn’t let the students read books or listen. There is a belief that a teacher must be in control, command, order, engage etc…..
To gain fluency, of course you need to speak and write – but this is the icing on the cake – not the cake itself! It comes later in the process of learning a language.
If you want to be a fluent writer – read a lot.
If you want to be a fluent speaker – listen a lot.
It is that simple and I think a lot of our schools, our teacher training programs etc… have it dead wrong. Also, this is why I believe self directed learning and the use of technology is very effective for learning languages (but like everything, only if done well – and that is where the teacher comes in). Why I’m promoting a lot of online tools and especially working hard to build EnglishCentral.
Now maybe I got it all wrong??? Let me know your thoughts please.