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ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

ICELT DISTANCE UNIT 8 Learning Theories

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Introduction
This unit will offer guided reading tasks to How languages are learned. It will cover the whole content of this core text. In addition, it will concentrate on the theories and work of Piaget, Vygotsky and Bruner. To familiarise you with their work you will have guided reading tasks from Psychology for Language Teachers, another core text. You will also be looking at chapter 1 of Teaching Languages to Young Learners. Cameron, L. This unit will not be very practical. It will consist in the main of reading tasks although there will be some classroom and live observation tasks. It will provide reading on the background issues that will impinge on much of the course. It also relates directly to Methodology Assignment 4 Learners and Learning and indirectly to all the other assignments.

Aims
By the end of this unit you will be able to: Relate current approaches to the methodology of English language teaching to underlying theories of learning and acquisition and to learning theory in general. Understand how learners learn their fist and second/additional languages and apply this understanding to planning and teaching.

Essential Reading
Cameron, L. 2001. Teaching Languages to Young Learners. OUP Lightbown, P. and Spada, N. 1993 How Languages are Learned. OUP Nunan, D. 1998. Language Teaching Methodology. Pheonix ELT Wiiliams , M and Burden, R. 1997 Psychology for Language Teachers. CUP

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

1 Positivism - the Behaviourist approach


Task 1:1 Place a tick to indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements
1 Languages are learned mainly through imitation strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

2 Parents usually correct young children when they make grammatical errors. strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

3 Most of the mistakes which second language learners make are due to interference from their first language strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

4 Teachers should present grammatical rules one at a time , and learners should practice examples of each one before going on to another. strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

5 Teachers should teach simple language structures before complex ones strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

6 Learners errors should be corrected as soon as they are made in order to prevent the formation of bad habits strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

7 Teachers should use materials that expose students only to those language structures which they have already been taught strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

8 When learners are allowed to interact freely (in group or pair activities) they learn from each others mistakes strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

9 Students learn what they are taught strongly agree 1 1 1 1 1 strongly disagree

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

If you tended to strongly agree with most, or all, of these statements the chances are that you are strongly influenced, consciously or unconsciously by the behaviourist approach to language teaching. What is the behaviourist approach? The scientist Pavlov demonstrated in his experiments with dogs and other animals that sentient beings could be taught to react in the same way to repeated stimuli. The behaviourist theorists, who followed him, most notably B.F Skinner, applied his principals to language learning and teaching. For Skinner and his followers language acquisition consisted of a series of learned habits. This impacted dramatically on language teaching in the sixties and seventies where lessons consisted of the endless repetition of a certain structure until learners had been assumed to master that structure i.e. they didnt make mistakes when saying it, and only then were allowed to go and practice another structure. In what came to be known as the Audio Lingual classroom mistakes were immediately corrected and correct utterances praised.(Reinforcement) Learners were never exposed to structures they had never met before until it was considered time to formally learn those structures. Skinner and his fellow behaviourists argued that this method most closely replicated the way in which very young children learn languages, exposed to constant repetition and reinforcement from their parents and other adults. Since then the behaviourist approach has been largely refuted. After all even very young children dont just repeat what they hear; they create original utterances all the time. However elements of the behaviourist approach can still be found in most course books and teaching practice today.

TASK
1:2 Can you think of any language classroom activities that are based on behaviourist principles? Take a quick look through a unit in a typical course book or Teachers book and see how many activities are behaviourist in approach. (See key) 1:3 What creative phrases have you heard children say in their first or second language. Start making a list.

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Reading task 1a
Read : 1 Psychology for Language Teachers pp 8 to 13 2 How Languages are Learned pp 1 to 7

When you have finished the reading go back to Task 1 and see if you change your mind about any of your answers.

Key to task 1:2


In most coursebooks even today you can find drills of some kind and texts, which have been modified to eliminate some of the most difficult vocabulary and structures. This just goes to show that despite quickly being superseded by other theories of learning and acquisition there is an element of truth in the behaviourist position.

2 Cognitive psychology and language learning.


As we saw above behaviourism was enormously influential in language teaching from the sixties until well into the eighties and aspects of the behaviourist philosophy can be still be found in language teaching today. This is perfectly reasonable, as some of the behaviourist explanation as to how language is acquired is perfectly valid. Acquiring a language is, in some respects, the acquisition of a series of patterns and habits. However language theorists soon began to realise that leaning a language is a far more complex process than behaviourism allows for. What might loosely be called the cognitive approach is concerned with the relationship between the internal processes operating in a language learner and the external stimuli and support provided by the teacher the classroom environment and the outside world. In the rest of this unit we will be looking at the work of some the most important cognitive theorists and how this work has impacted on language teaching methodology. Before going on to look in detail at the work of certain thinkers please do the following task.

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

TASK 2:1
Give answers, with examples if possible, to the following questions: 1 Can you think of anything that children learn how to do seemingly without being taught?

2 In what ways do parents and educators have an effect on what children learn?

3 Do you think it is possible for a child to learn his/her first language without any kind of formal instruction at all?

TASK 2:2
The first cognitive theorist that you are going to read about is Noam Chomsky. Chomsky postulated the existence of something innate in children called a Language Acquisition Device. (LAD). In the space below write down what you think this might be and how it might affect childrens learning of their fist language.

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Reading task 2a
Now read pp 7 to 10 of How Languages are Learned .

Key to task 1
1 Provided they have sufficient nourishment and freedom of movement most children lean to walk at about the same time. They seem to have an innate ability to begin to walk when the time is right. Is it not then possible that they have an innate ability to learn languages, which will develop regardless of circumstances. This is the theory of Chomsky with his innatist position . Piaget with his view of the child constructing meaning internally from the stimulation provided by the environment shares a similar viewpoint of the child as a lone scientist making sense of the world by actively constructing 2 Other theorists notably Vygotsky and Bruner without rejecting this position have emphasised the importance of learning being also guided or mediated by parents and educators. 3 Most cognitive thought places high importance on the role of parents and instructors in guiding children in their leaning. Cognitive psychology has shown us however that children seem to learn things such as language morphemes in a certain fixed order and that what is formally taught or not taught seems to have little effect on this fixed order .

The critical period hypothesis and the interactionist positioin


Chomskys notion of an innate Language acquisition device applied to how children learn their first language and before we go on to look in detail at theories of second language learning we will just look at a couple more ideas about how children learn their first languages. Before you read the relevant section of How Languages are Learned consider the following questions and write down brief answers to them ;

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Task 2:3
1 Does the time that children begin to learn a language have any importance? Will it be impossible for children to learn a language if they start too late?

2 What is effect that mothers and other adults have on the childs learning of its first language? How do adults tend to talk to young children ?

Reading task 2b
Now read pages 11 to 16 of How Languages are learned and then go back to your answers to task three and see if you would change anything about them

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

3 Theories of second language learning


We have been looking at theories of how people learn their first language. Clearly these are very similar to theories as to how people learn a second language. However while every normal person manages to learn their first language by no means everybody is successful in learning a second language. The circumstances in which people learn their first language are generally similar whereas people learn a second language under many different conditions and at many different ages.

Task 3:1
In the space below write down as many different types of second language learner as you think of: e.g. An adolescent student learning a second language formally in a second language classroom

Reading task 3a
Read How Languages are Learned pages 19 to 23.

3:2 Behaviourism in second language learning Task 3:2


From what you have read about behaviourism with its emphasis on language learning as the formation of a series of habits write down what you would expect the behaviourist approach to be towards : a) Language acquisition b) Errors

British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Reading task 3b Read How Languages are Learned pages 23 to 25 .

3: 2 Cognitive theory Task 3:3


How would you expect cognitive theory to differ from the behaviourist view of language acquisition? Write a brief answer in the space below

Reading Task 3c Read How Languages are Learned pages 25 and 26.

3:3 Creative construction theory.


According to Creative Construction Theory learners are said to construct an internal representation of the language being learned . These internal pictures of the language develop in a predictable sequence towards the full language system. The most influential of creative construction theorists has been Stephen Krashen with his monitor model. This monitor model consists of 5 basic hypotheses.

Task 3:4
Here is a list of Krashens 5 hypotheses. In the space below each one write down what you might expect it to consist of. 1 The acquisition learning hypothesis

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

2 The monitor hypothesis

3 The natural order hypothesis

4 The input hypothesis

5 The affective filter hypothesis

Reading task 3d Read How Languages are Learned pages 26 to 29 . 3.4 The interactionist position.
The interactionist position differs from Krashens in that it places greater emphasis on learners interacting with native speakers or people with native speaker like competence.

Reading task 3e Read How Languages are Learned pages 29 to 31. 3: 5 The work of other educational theorists.
Much of the thinking of Krashen and the interactionists emerged from the thinking and research of other educational theorists Piaget, Bruner, Vygotsky and others.

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Task 3:6 Read: 1 Psychology for Language Teachers pages 13 to 45 2 Teaching Languages to Young Learners pages 13 to 20 In one or two sentences summarise the thinking of the following : 1 Piaget

2 Bruner

3 Erikson

4 Maslow

5 Rogers

6 Vygotsky

7 Feuerstein

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

4 Factors affecting second language learning


Before we go on to look at the rest of How Languages are Learned please take time to reflect on some common ideas about language teaching . In the box below write down whether or not you agree with the following ideas and briefly say why you agree or disagree.

Task 4:1
1 Languages are learned mainly through imitation

2 Parents usually correct young children when they make grammatical errors

3 People with high IQ,S are good language learners

4 The most important factor in second language acquisition success is motivation

5 The earlier a second language is introduced in school programs, the greater the likelihood of success in learning

6 Most of the mistakes which second language learners make are due to interference from their fist language.

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

7 Teachers should present grammatical rules one at a time, and learners should practise examples of each one before going on to another

8 Teachers should teach simple language structures before going on to complex ones

9 Learners errors should be corrected as soon as they are made in order to prevent the formation of bad habits

10 Teachers should use materials that expose students only to language structures which they have already been taught

11 When learners are allowed to interact freely(for example in group or pair activities), they learn from each others mistakes

12 Students learn what they are taught

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

4: 2 Characteristics of a good language learner


It is obvious to every teacher that some people learn a language much more easily than others .

Task 4: 2
In the space below write down what you think are the characteristics of a good language learner

Reading task 4a
Compare your list of characteristics with the task on page 34 of How Languages are Learned. Do the task on page 34

Extensive research has been done on the following learner characteristics: Intelligence Aptitude Personality Motivation and attitudes Learning styles Age of acquisition

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Task 4:3 Briefly write down a definition of each of the following factors and how you think it might affect language learning. 1 Intelligence

2 Aptitude

3 Personality

4 Motivation and attitudes

5 Learning styles

5 Age of acquisition

Reading task 4b Read the whole of chapter 3 of How Languages are Learned

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

5 Learner language
Before you read chapter 4 of How Languages are Learned do the following task:

Task 5:1 Write brief notes to answer these two questions: How can errors help the teacher?

Do learners acquire language in a particular order? What is that order?

Reading task 5a Read the whole of Chapter 4 of How Languages are Learned

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

6 Second language learning in the classroom


This unit looks at the differences between : 1 Learning in a natural environment, that is to say, learning on the street in a country where the language is spoken 2 Traditional teacher centred instruction 3 More student centred communicative instruction.

Task 6:1
In the spaces below write down what you think are two three characteristics for each type of learning 1 Natural acquisition

2 Traditional teacher centred instruction

3 Student centred communicative instruction

Reading task 6a Read How Languages are Learned pages 69 to 79

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

In the rest of chapter five you are going on to read about five different views of how languages should be taught and the results of research into these five different methods. The five labels given in the book for these different methodologies are:

A Get it right from the beginning B Say what you mean and mean what you say C Just listen D Teach what is teachable E Get it right in the end

Task 6:2 Read the following quotations and match each quotation to one of the five methodologies above. Write the LETTER of the methodology beside each quotation. For example if you think that quotation 1 refers to the Get it right in the end school of thought write E next to the quotation 1 As learners, in interaction with other learners and teachers, work towards a mutual understanding in the negotiation process, language acquisition is facilitated 2 The emphasis here is on providing comprehensible input through listening and/ or reading activities 3 It reflects the behaviourist view of language acquisition in assuming that learners need to build up their language knowledge gradually by practising only correct forms 4 Its proponents recognise a role for instruction, but also assume that not everything has to be taught. That is, they assume that much will be acquired naturally, through the use of language for communication 5 They claim that basic research provides evidence that any attempt to teach a word order pattern that is a Stage 4pattern to learners at Stage 1will not work because learners have to pass through Stage 2 and get to Stage 3before they are ready to acquire it

Reading task 6b Read How Languages are Learned pages 78 to 106

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

Task 6: 3
Reflection Having read chapter 5 Second Language Learning in the Classroom which of the five methodologies outlined seems to you as a teacher the most the most appropriate for your teaching situation. Briefly explain why in the space beneath.

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

7 Popular ideas about language learning: facts and opinions


Before you read the last chapter of How Languages are Learned go back to Task 4:1 page 13.

Task 7:1
Are there any answers that you wrote to task 4:1 that, in the light of your subsequent reading, you would now like to change? If so, change them now.

Reading task 7a
Read chapter 6 of How Languages are Learned

Task 7:2
Reflection Make two lists of ideas you now have about teaching. List 1 should consist of ideas that you had before doing this unit and which havent changed. List 2 of ideas that you once had but which have now changed.

LIST 1

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

LIST 2

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

8 Methods and methodology

Over the past 30 years there have been many methods introduced in the ESOL classroom. Task 8:1 Note down the different methods you have has experience of either as a teacher or as a learner and note the characteristics of these methods.

Reading task 8a and 8b Read the following overivews of methods and methodologies and make notes of the main points. Nunan, D. 1998. Language Teaching Methodology. Pheonix ELT Chapter Twelve: Language Teachign Methods. A Critical Analysis.

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LEARNING THEORIES

Peer Observation 5 The Learning Environment


Name of Observer: _________________________________ Name of Teacher: __________________________________ Date: ___________________ Class: __________________

Teacher's Signature: __________________________________________________________ For this task you should consult:

Classroom Observation Tasks. Pages 58 - 61 Wajnryb, R. (1992) CUP

3.1a Affective factors in the learning environment (from Wajnryb, 1992: 60) Factor / item Memory jog

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

3.1b Graph of student's concentration pattern over 12 minutes (from Wajnryb, 1992: 60) high c o n c e n t r a t I o n low 3 12 Time 3.1c Categorise (from Wajnryb, 1992: 61) 6 minutes 9

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LEARNING THEORIES

Report:

Observer

Candidate number

Date of observation Level

of

class

You should write between 100 and 200 words. This piece of writing is not assessed but it is an essential part of your portfolio. Use the following questions to help you evaluate the observation in terms of you own professional development. Continue on the other side of this page if necessary

Refer to the questions 2 to 5 and reflection in Classroom Observation Tasks page 61 to help you write the report.

________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

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British Council, 2004

ICELT distance unit 4

LEARNING THEORIES

FEEDBACK on learning theories unit 1. How long did it take you to work through this unit? Less than 6 hours About 6 hours More than 6 hours

2. In general, how did you find the unit? Good OK Poor

3. Was the level of the material? Too challenging About right Too easy

4. Please assess the overall presentation of the unit. Good OK Poor

5. Please assess the clarity of the writing in the unit. Good OK Poor

6. Please write any other comments you have here. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

Thank you for taking time to complete this form. We appreciate your comments.

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British Council, 2004