Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning pronunciation by mirroring instructor modeling

The value of mirroring nonverbal behavior is well established in several fields, including counseling psychology and  pronunciation instruction. In EHIEP instruction, students are introduced to 8 sets of pedagogical movement patterns across the visual field that are later used in classroom instruction. Although it is important that their initial experience with the gestural patterns accompanied by articulation of sounds or sound patterns is focused and multiple-modality engaged, it is not critical that they are able to do any of the patterns on their own, without direction of either a video or their instructor. In fact, given what we now know about the potency and behavior of mirror neurons (reported in several earlier posts, such as this one,) it seems less critical that there is some overt response. (There IS some sense to the "comprehensible input hypothesis, after all!)  In fact, an interesting model of that process is the one proposed by NLP practitioners, as in this piece characterizing the five stages of modeling in NLP: "The first phase is identifying an appropriate exemplar as the model of excellence. In phase two the modeller takes an unconscious uptake of patterns demonstrated by the model (this phase ties in with the findings on mirror neurons) avoiding conscious understanding at this stage. Phase three is an evaluative phase based on feedback gained from demonstrating the modelled patterns in the appropriate context." It is often sufficient that students just "get" to phase two, where they have internalized the pattern and can respond to it when later it is employed in instruction for anchoring or recall. At that point the student will only be asked to "move along with" the instructor repeating the sound or word being attended to, but it is probably sufficient just to have attended well enough so that his or her mirror neurons had picked up ("uptaken") and "recorded" or made note of the pedagogical movement pattern earlier. In other words, once well anchored, change just needs consistent practice outside of class and occasional, high value, context-rich, mirrored "re-modeling" in class. Looking good!

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