Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stop correcting pronunciation! (If your students can afford it!)

Clip art: Library
 of Congress
Good post by Tabaczynski, Counselling Paradigm in Language Teaching that seems very in line with where the field, in general, is headed. Here is his bottom line:

"I would suggest that instead of correcting we simply provide feedback. Students, I would argue, need feedback rather than correction. . . . the idea is that the development of language is non-linear, dynamic, and emergent, a product of the interaction of several systems . . .  I suggest that the task of teaching is providing external scaffolding systems of ‘buckets’ to collect information and manage spaced out retrieval practice."

Just as an aside, what does "correct" mean anyway?  According to Merriam Webster's, a range of things, such as:
  • to make or set right 
  • to alter or adjust so as to bring to some standard or required condition 
  • to punish (as a child) with a view to reforming or improving
  • to point out usually for amendment the errors or faults of
Got to be a better way (or at least metaphor) than that! Simple question, however: How might such a "spaced out buckets" approach work for you and your students? 

It would, of course,  be one thing were your students to be working on their English near full time in an academic preparation program (EAP.) That is especially the case when most students have good financial resources behind them or have the academic training or guidance to manage their learning and work with "strategies"--or even have time to think about them (as are most of Tabaczynski's students and thousands in the developed world like them.)

But how about if you have only minimal time and training to assist with pronunciation or attention to form in general, your students are not really very--or at all--"meta," they can not even afford textbooks, and they are in a class of 50 that meets only an hour or two a week? Might you still not be (justifiably) tempted to "kick the bucket" in favour of more direct, traditional "pointing out" or "punishing with a view to improving?"

My point. Today, where learners can afford it--especially with computer-assisted and better trained instructor support-- things look promising. For those who can't or whose programs won't, as Tabaczynski argues persuasively, with the current additional cognitive overlay of underlying behaviourists' reinforcement, extinction metaphors and methods, they may well be even worse off . . .

The answer, you ask? Next post, I'll address one (moving and touching) solution to this emerging "rags or riches" conundrum in the field. Perhaps we also need a new mantra: Pedagogical Justice for incorrect Pronunciation!

Keep in touch!

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