What Language Teaching Is
Models of Language Teaching and Learning
Language instructors at the university level in the United States are often in one of three situations:
These instructors often must begin their work in the classroom with little or no guidance to help them appreciate which methods work, how, and why. In response, they may fall back on an outdated model for understanding language teaching and language learning.
Older model: Language learning is a product of transmission. Teacher transmits knowledge. Learner is recipient.
This teacher-centered model views the teacher as active and the student as fundamentally passive. The teacher is responsible for transmitting all of the information to the students. The teacher talks; the students listen and absorb (or take a nap).
The teacher-centered model may be attractive to new language instructors for several reasons:
However, experienced language instructors who reflect on their teaching practice have observed that the teacher-centered model has two major drawbacks:
To overcome these drawbacks, language teaching professionals in the United States and elsewhere have adopted a different model of teaching and learning.
Newer model: Language learning is a process of discovery. Learner develops ability to use the language for specific communication purposes. Teacher models language use and facilitates students' development of language skills.
In this learner-centered model, both student and teacher are active participants who share responsibility for the student's learning. Instructor and students work together to identify how students expect to use the language. The instructor models correct and appropriate language use, and students then use the language themselves in practice activities that simulate real communication situations. The active, joint engagement of students and teacher leads to a dynamic classroom environment in which teaching and learning become rewarding and enjoyable.
Language instructors who have never experienced learner-centered instruction can find it daunting in several ways.
This final point is an important one. In fact, in an effective learner-centered classroom, the instructor has planned the content of all activities, has set time limits on them, and has set them in the context of instructor-modeled language use. The instructor is not always the center of attention, but is still in control of students' learning activities.
This site is designed to help new language instructors become comfortable with learner-centered instruction and put it into practice in their classrooms. The pages on Teaching Goals and Methods, Planning a Lesson, and Motivating Learners provide guidelines and examples for putting learner-centered instruction into practice. The pages on Teaching Grammar, Teaching Listening, Teaching Speaking, and Teaching Reading illustrate learner-centered instruction in relation to each of these modalities.
For a set of learner-centered instruction techniques, see Guidelines for Instruction in Teaching Goals and Methods.
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