Grammar: Lesson 3
The dictogloss reviewed in the previous lesson was an example of a data-driven approach to analyzing language. A data-driven process is part of an inductive process that goes from examples to generalizations, as opposed to a deductive approach that goes from generalizations to examples. Is there one single definition of an inductive approach to learn a second language? In this section, we will analyze several possible definitions of induction and, in particular, the notion of guided induction.
The dictogloss activity from Lesson 2 was an example of inductive learning. In this section, we will explore the meaning of induction.
Major elements of an inductive approach to learning.
Definitions of Induction
The following shows how the definition of inductive learning has evolved over the years.
1. Seliger (1975): Teacher presents the grammatical rule at the end of the session.
2. Shaffer (1989): Students’ attention is focused on the structure being learned; and the students are required to formulate for themselves and then verbalize the underlying pattern.
3. Decoo (1996): Exposure to instances of language use, from which learners gather patterns of use, “goes from the specific to the general, namely first the real language use, from which will ’emerge’ patterns and generalizations.”
4. Herron & Tomasello (1992): Students learn best when they produce a hypothesis and receive immediate feedback because this creates maximal conditions under which they may cognitively compare their own developing system to that of mature speakers.
5. Erlam (2003): Students take an active role in hypothesis testing but do not search for rules or an underlying pattern. Neither teacher nor students state grammatical rules.
Analyze the definitions of inductive learning (in chronological order) and write up your own preferred definition of inductive learning. You can use components from various definitions.
Language Teachers’ Perspectives
Let’s look in more detail at the definitions proposed by Erlam (#5) and the one from Shaffer (#2). What is the main difference between these two definitions? Does it make a substantive difference or not?
Language teachers share their perspectives on the definitions.
Continuum: Deductive to Inductive
Decoo (#3) classified inductive approaches into different types of processes. This idea can be classified and organized further on a continuum as shown in the following graphic.
Defining various levels on the continuum.
The Consequences of Choosing One Approach Over Another
Erlam (2003) conducted a study in which she tested the pedagogical benefits of inductive and deductive approaches. She operationalized the constructs in the following way:
“The present study compared …
1. deductive instruction, which involves rule explanation, and
2. inductive instruction, in which the learner takes an active role in hypothesis testing, but does not search for rules or an underlying pattern. Neither the teacher nor the learners stated grammatical rules.”
Erlam’s study did not find any advantage that can be attributed to inductive instruction. Would that constitute empirical evidence against the benefits of inductive learning discussed in the previous section? HINT: Could guided instruction produce a different result than purely deductive or inductive instruction?
A discussion of induction in practice.
Guided Induction in Practice
Decoo (1996: 97) labels the fourth category on the continuum from deduction to induction (guided, implicit) as subconscious induction. He describes the types of pedagogical activities associated with it in the following excerpt.
“In subconscious induction on structured material, the students are exposed to language material that has been structured in such a way to help the inductive process. The principle advocates that through the systematic repetition of the same pattern, through graded variations, through drill and practice, the student will come to an ‘integrated mastery’ of the rule, without conscious analysis.”
How do we structure actual lesson plans to incorporate guided induction?
A language teacher asks a question about induction in practice.
Use the Whole Continuum, Start with Language Data
In the following two lessons we will review activities that make use of inductive pedagogical processes. A guided inductive approach starts out with an analysis of language data in context (e.g., a passage from a novel, a chart, a video clip) , but it can make use of the whole spectrum of options identified on the continuum. The arrows in the graphic below depict a possible sequence of activities going from the most implicit to the most explicit end of the continuum.
Illustration of Guided Induction
We all have lots of experience using mirrors. But, is that experience enough to make judgments about the effect of distance from the mirror on the size of our image reflected on the mirror. Watch the following segment and see if you agree with the answer provided by this class to the puzzle posed by the instructor.
The instructor poses a puzzle to the class.
Testing Your Knowledge of Mirrors
Now, let’s test the answer with the use of an actual mirror. What do you think?
Testing the answer to the puzzle.
Analyzing the Outcome
Can you explain what happened in this experiment? Why were students convinced that option (b) was the right answer? Why was the student who used the mirror in class reluctant to accept that (c) was the right answer?
Guided Induction Versus Pure Induction
Finally, review the answer provided by the instructor in the following segment. Summarize his response either agreeing or disagreeing with his explanation.
Discussing the answer.
[Module Instructor Rafael Salaberry]. 2010. [Grammar]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu
The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.
How ever a no obligation exam is available at the end of this module.