Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathering persistence in pronunciation instruction

Apropos for the day, a recent research study (summarized by ScienceDaily) by Padilla-Walker and Day of Brigham Young University on factors influencing persistence, examining the potential contribution of fathers to development of persistence in teenagers. The longitudinal study basically asked the question "Can your child stick with it?" and concluded the following about children who could:
  • [They] felt warmth and love from their father.
  • Accountability and the reasons behind rules were emphasized.
  • [They] were granted an appropriate level of autonomy [italics, mine].
  • [There were] above-average levels of authoritative parenting[italics, mine].
  • [The fathers] engaged in high quality interactions, even if the quantity of those interactions might have been lower than is desirable.

Research on adult exercise persistence has demonstrated similar principles of persistence but generally only in regard to the aspects of the learner's personality or the overall environment provided, for example, by the health club. I have yet to find a systematic study of the relationship between the leadership style (e.g., parent vs facilitator) of the coach and trainee persistence. Note the two terms in italics in the list: autonomy and authority. One reason that many have serious aversions to pronunciation work is that it requires all five of the above--but especially the exercise of both authority and (Here it comes!) . . . power. It simply does not fit well with contemporary learner-centered, non-evaluative and (overtly) non-directive approaches that can generally be very effective in motivating learners to do high level, strategic thinking and reading, general acquisition of vocabulary and developing fluency. (It did resonate well, of course, with the structuralists' drill and practice ethos.) Getting students to consistently and persistently do their pronunciation homework-and providing them with effective and systematic practice at the same time--can be enormously challenging. Are you comfortable with being more of an authority figure in pronunciation work? Apparently, you need to be . . . 

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