Friday, May 17, 2013

In search of a "touch" for pronunciation teaching

Scott Thornbury, of the New School, recently gave a plenary at TESOL-Spain that at least had a great title: The Human Touch: How we learn with our bodies. (His blog, An A-Z of ELT, is a good read; one of his 2010 posts on embodied cognition I have linked to earlier.) From the abstract, it is clear that the "touch" in "human touch" is the more general, metaphorical use of the word, although the tactile dimension will certainly figure into his comments, particularly as developments in this area have begun linking more and more to the neurophysicality of touch (See earlier blog on the texture of touch in haptic pronunciation work, for example.) Hopefully we can get access to the text or video of the plenary. Thornbury is always a "moving" speaker.

In HICP work the application of touch, within the larger notion of embodied cognition,  is in connecting vocal resonance with some type of pedagogical gesture, what we call: pedagogical movement patterns. For some time I had been puzzled as to why there wasn't more--or much of any--research on the use of touch in teaching, distinct from movement and gesture in general.

Clip art: Clker
What I have only recently discovered, in preliminary "re-reviews" of some seminal gestural research is that touch, as a component of gesture, is often reported almost as an aside or simple descriptor in studies of gesture-synchronized learning or vocal production. In other words, some gestures involve touch; some do not. (One of the early influences on the development of HICP was the observation that in American Sign Language (ASL) the predominance of signs that carry high emotional loading also tend to involve touch.)

In other words, interesting "data" on the effect of touch within gestural systems seems to be there, buried in earlier research. As far as I can tell, it has for the most part just not been isolated and examined as a relevant variable in learning or expression. My current research reanalyzing earlier language-teaching related gestural studies already shows promise. (More on that in subsequent blogposts and other publications, I'm sure!)  If you know of published research that unpacks that role of touch, please link it here! In the meantime, KIT!


1 comment:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

This article on Shadow Guide for best learning retention on interactive surfaces is interesting: http://www.wigdor.com/daniel/research/tabletop_2009_shadow_guides.pdf

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