CI & TPRS

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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby tomthorne » 18 Apr 2012, 08:51

GuyInTaiwan wrote:Yes, both of you make sense. I was actually talking more about the openly absurd situation of a foreign teacher literally fresh off the boat (4 months in Taiwan in some cases) with no prior experience teaching EFL/ESL being quite resistant to ironlady's ideas. It's not even that such a person has a filing cabinet full of materials prepared over a decade. The person probably still doesn't know which direction Taipei is from where they live!


I'm more annoyed with guys who have 20+ years teaching, training and researching the old approach and still refuse to change.

Has there been a head-to-head test of TPRS vs a standard communicative approach class yet?
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby ironlady » 18 Apr 2012, 21:18

You can't do it with a defensible research design.

TPRS vs communicative (or input vs. output, more accurately stated) is such an emotionally charged issue that I don't believe you could even defend the idea of having the same teacher teach both methods to two groups and comparing at the end. The other question is -- where is the end? For output-based teaching, the "end" comes frequently in small chunks: now they know the present tense, let's test it -- while in TPRS, there isn't really a distinct "end" and no clear "units". We expect incremental growth and we expect different students to acquire at different rates. We can assess whether they have acquired, say, the language from the past week of class, but then there's nothing to compare that to head-to-head with output-based teaching.

With regard to "newbies" not being open to CI, remember that even if they are new to Taiwan, they have been thinking about language teaching, may have taken classes about it, and have probably learned (or failed to learn!) languages themselves. All of those probably used output-based methods, since that's the majority of what's going on just now. So it doesn't surprise me that they would be resistant when one woman walks in and says "Everything you ever heard about language teaching is wrong. Trust me." Especially when they're in an environment that doesn't really support CI and where assessments are outright anti-CI.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby tomthorne » 19 Apr 2012, 00:07

ironlady wrote:You can't do it with a defensible research design.

TPRS vs communicative (or input vs. output, more accurately stated) is such an emotionally charged issue that I don't believe you could even defend the idea of having the same teacher teach both methods to two groups and comparing at the end. The other question is -- where is the end? For output-based teaching, the "end" comes frequently in small chunks: now they know the present tense, let's test it -- while in TPRS, there isn't really a distinct "end" and no clear "units". We expect incremental growth and we expect different students to acquire at different rates. We can assess whether they have acquired, say, the language from the past week of class, but then there's nothing to compare that to head-to-head with output-based teaching.


This is fair enough. However, wouldn't it really strengthen the input driven argument if, say, a rather "good" output driven teacher tried a head-to-head test using pretty bad input driven skills with a bunch of low level uni students? The standard university tests would have to suffice as a rather ridiculous benchmark of achievement, although they could easily be accompanied by recorded oral questions. Video recordings of lessons could also be made. As an attempt to reduce the emotion and increase the objectivity it could help. On the other hand, do you think that people would just dismiss the results and continue to believe what they believe?
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby ironlady » 19 Apr 2012, 00:38

Uni tests are not testing proficiency. TPRS isn't concerned with discrete-point tests; the point is proficiency and fluency. Plus, "bad input" means the effect would probably not work well -- even new input-based teachers who are trying their best to do *good* input often end up giving bad input, so I can only imagine what kind of input would result for a teacher who didn't really have his heart in it.

Switching to input-based instruction isn't easy on the teacher. It's a whole new skillset backing up a totally new mindset.

There was an interesting study at Georgetown University recently -- neurological, not linguistic, too! -- that compared people who'd learned languages via immersion to those who learned via rules-and-output, and showed that the brains of the immersion people showed patterns more like those of native speakers. I believe that if TPRS had been added as a condition, the TPRS-taught brains would have shown more native-like features in the same period of time (since the input is more comprehensible than random immersion), but this was not focused on methodology or philosophies of language teaching. The results do support CI-based instruction, though, since long-term retention and native-like skills are what we're aiming for.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby tomthorne » 19 Apr 2012, 00:54

ironlady wrote:Uni tests are not testing proficiency. TPRS isn't concerned with discrete-point tests; the point is proficiency and fluency. Plus, "bad input" means the effect would probably not work well -- even new input-based teachers who are trying their best to do *good* input often end up giving bad input, so I can only imagine what kind of input would result for a teacher who didn't really have his heart in it.


OK, fair enough. I'm not sure how you guys are going to sell TPRS to those who work in academia, though. They don't teach English anymore and probably haven't for 10+ years. Unfortunately they make the rules, write the textbooks and set the agenda. How's it working out telling them that their tests are wrong :) ? Seriously, I agree that they are but at some point you have to beat them at their own game, as it were.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby GuyInTaiwan » 19 Apr 2012, 08:17

Perhaps the best way might be to argue about return on investment. If someone "learnt" piano for fourteen years (which is how long kids here have to study English if they complete university), even if they only had one lesson per week and never practised at home, and they could only just stumble their way through Chopsticks at the end of it, we'd call that a complete failure. If someone invested $1,000, and after fourteen years, only had $1,010 (adjusted for inflation, if you like), we'd call that a complete failure. These are things that don't even come naturally to people. Language comes naturally to people, so it should be that much easier for someone to get to a reasonable level in it. It's almost like the present way of doing things, particularly here in Taiwan, has been deliberately designed to produce failure. It's mind-boggling that it could be so useless and ineffective. This isn't just the elephant in the room. It's the brontosaurus in the room, with everyone squashed up against the walls, hardly able to breathe, claiming everything is fine.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby heimuoshu » 19 Apr 2012, 22:23

I read a short research study/report in Krashen's online journal which states if I recall correctly that TPRS and the communicative approach delivered the same ability on speaking and listening but TPRS was better for reading and writing. Not what I expected. I'll post a link if ayone wants it.
I do think that long term, the key is comprehensible input, and that it is possible with an adjusted communicative approach. There are many things to learn from TPRS though. Staying in bounds for one. Not teaching the names of countries and the languages spoken there in one lesson, but rather over a longer period where it is acquired better. Not teaching questions and question words as a unit or two but rather have it acquired over a period of time.
Also do note that TPRS is effective only up to a point and then it needs to be replaced with another CI method that involves extended listening and reading. Creating readers is in my opinion even more important than selecting the classroom method. Once you are able to read, you should be reading. I know Krashen has research that indicates that it doesn't matter if you read easier or more dificult books but my general approach to it is that if you have students at or preparing for CEFR A2, then any book written at A1 should be readable and comprehensible to them without teachers having to teach it. The same for B1 reading up to A2 etc. That doesn't mean I don't lay out a few books that are more difficult, it is just a guideline and I consistently allow students to change a book they either dislike or find to difficult. I am amazed by how shit libraries are in both public and private schools as well as buxibans. I have more than 500 books (probably close to 1000) that cost me a fortune, but it is well worth it.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby heimuoshu » 19 Apr 2012, 22:27

GuyInTaiwan wrote:ironlady: I don't have any sentence patterns on my wall. I will also probably get rid of most of what I do have on my wall and replace it with the 100 highest frequency words in the English language.

I also think you misread part of what I wrote. I wrote that they should be able to work things out at an unconscious level (i.e. they wouldn't have to think about it).

There is one thing that I find frustrating. There are certain weaker kids in every class who are kind of gaming the system, so to speak. They know that there's a high likelihood that I will check them personally to see if they understand. When I ask if anyone doesn't understand, they put their hands straight up. In theory, that's great. However, I suspect that with some kids, they're doing it to deliberately slow the class down and actually do understand because some other kids give them grief about it, and they amazingly get it the first time I go over it again. In the most egregious examples, right at the start of the lesson, I introduce the three new sentence patterns for that day. There is Chinese next to them. Some kids claim not to understand them. I'm sure they're taking the piss. Or, it's often preceded by them not paying attention. Likewise, there are kids who don't pay attention, and when I do directly question them to see if they understand, they openly admit that they don't know (and don't care). I'm not talking about kids who are paying attention and really do want to understand. I'll give those kids all the time in the world. However, in all of the real problem cases, there's absolutely nothing I can really do to discipline them so they don't screw around while everyone else is paying attention. The most I can do is move them elsewhere, but then they either distract other people or it becomes very confrontational and they deliberately don't pay attention and seek to undermine me at any opportunity.

I know that in theory, they should be engaged in class and classroom discipline should deal with all of this without having to take it beyond that to other discipline, but some kids simply aren't engaged, and I doubt whether they can be. Whether it's poking the kid next to them or having a chat about something, that's much more engaging, and probably always will be. This seems to be a point at which the theory of CI/TPRS and the reality of some students simply run up against each other. I can beat myself up about not engaging everyone. I can blame the kids. I can blame the administration and their former teachers. I can blame their parents. I can blame society. None of that solves this really fundamental problem though. Last year, I used to really get stressed about all of this. This year, I have simply let go and I'm all the less stressed and much happier for it. I'm still trying to get everyone but the most disaffected 10% of the class, but I just don't think I can get those guys and will only drive myself to an early grave trying. Maybe I really am a pretty mediocre teacher at best (and maybe I'm just really bad). I've gone through a fairly long period of introspection, and I've come to accept that. Maybe this is defeatist. I think this grave dilemma I have (which I discussed last year) is an insurmountable problem that is endemic to compulsory, mass education though. I think it also leeches a massive amount of time away from those kids who are willing or capable of learning. As such, I wonder if, after a month of classes, once you've figured out who the bad kids are, it's better to just work on sidelining them so they take as little time away from everyone else as possible.

I know you have read Slavic's book and remember that he says to have a barometer student or two. In the beginning it was hell for me when it looked lke two or three kids were F789ing around, but you will be surprised (or at least I was) how they eventually do come around (granted not all of them). I am also in the position where I let my kids choose. Want a story? YES. Fuck around and it's textbook and writing. Got it? YES. By the time they have figured out we are doing less and less textbook it's a lot easier.
Peer pressure works like a charm.
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CI & TPRS

Postby ironlady » 20 Apr 2012, 02:47

Read Krashen's papers with the critical eye of a mainstream academic toward research design. That's all I'm going to say about that.

As for reading being more important than CI, I don't agree. during the climb to initial fluency -- prior to full unconscious control of all grammar patterns -- reading is most effective when sheltered, IMO. Krashen is fond of promoting reading as THE way to fluency, but IMO the sort of read-anything approach he is promoting is not what will most efficiently get students to initial fluency. For going from initial to final fluency (expansion of vocab and collocations) yes, any sort of reading or listening. But IMO they must have the structure first to be able to read extebsively.
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Re: CI & TPRS

Postby heimuoshu » 21 Apr 2012, 11:49

ironlady wrote:Read Krashen's papers with the critical eye of a mainstream academic toward research design. That's all I'm going to say about that.

As for reading being more important than CI, I don't agree. during the climb to initial fluency -- prior to full unconscious control of all grammar patterns -- reading is most effective when sheltered, IMO. Krashen is fond of promoting reading as THE way to fluency, but IMO the sort of read-anything approach he is promoting is not what will most efficiently get students to initial fluency. For going from initial to final fluency (expansion of vocab and collocations) yes, any sort of reading or listening. But IMO they must have the structure first to be able to read extebsively.

I never said reading is more important than CI. You must have misread my post.
What I did say is that it is more important to create readers than selecting a classroom method. Unfortunately, it is also something that can not be measured in a test or in a research study because the point really is that readers will continue to learn and improve while those who don't will not.
Teachers are not measured on how effective they are in creating readers. Teachers are also often not given enough time to create readers in the class. It takes my students up to a year of paging through books and maybe reading a sentence here and there while looking at the pictures before they start reading. My son has been doing that for 18 months and I'm sure he will continue to do so until he is ready to read. Creating a reader is a process. That's what I said and/or meant.
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