Sunday, March 19, 2017

Killing pronunciation 4: Dis-integrated vs prior schema-based pronunciation change
What does it mean to "integrate" pronunciation work into "regular" instruction? And if you do, how do you know if it "worked"--or why? : Caveat emptor: Without informed, systematic follow up, most pronunciation instruction is probably a crap shoot, dicey at best. 

That thought was again inspired, in part, by a recent article in the new Handbook of  Pronunciation Teaching by Sicola and Darcy entitled: Integrating Pronunciation into the Language Classroom.  

To access the chapter you have to buy the Handbook itself, prices ranging from about $125 to $195USD, plus tax and shipping, or just the online chapter itself for about $35USD--or from about 6 vente carmel frapps up to around 40!

In essence, Sicola and Darcy argue that since there is a range of pronunciation teaching techniques and strategies that have been shown to produce some gain or results in reported practice or quasi-experimental studies, then when integrated into general classroom instruction--as opposed to being taught in a separate class or individualized work online-- they should work in that integrated context, too. Really? I think they are maybe half right, but they have almost no "hard" evidence to support that claim.

An earlier post focused on why figuring out whether or not a method works can be so problematic in education today: basically, integrated instruction can mask the actual impact of individual techniques and procedures, such as homework--or pronunciation. Context of instruction trumps technique, almost always.

The near consensus among researchers investigating in-class feedback and correction, for example, as unpacked in a recent blogpost, is now that for genuine, effective uptake to occur in pronunciation work it must be predominantly in follow up that it occurs not in initial in-class presentation and practice -- or homework, but as it followed up on later and repeatedly (Rosario et al, 2015).

So, how do you best set up the key pronunciation schema that you need to use in everyday instruction, in little vignettes or mini-lessons inserted into speaking, listening, reading and writing courses, or . . . in something like the old reliable, stand alone "pronunciation class" that provided the basic training that was then followed up on or used spontaneously during incidental "teachable moments"  by any and all instructors in the program at large?

Where are we headed? My guess: back to good "out of class" experience and basic pronunciation  training, either in the form of specific pronunciation-designated classes or something analogous, such as web-based training,  that is then referred back to by instructors in integrated pronunciation work all over the place and curriculum. In other words, pronunciation techniques should be part of everybody's tool kit but ideally the basic training should occur someplace else, before the problem is addressed in class. Our colleagues who do public speaking and voice training have had this right for decades.

The sooner some of what passes for (one-shot-mini-lesson-in-the-middle-of-something-else-with-no-clear-follow-up-based) integrated instruction disintegrates, the better! (It already has in haptic pronunciation instruction, of course, should you need a great model of how to do it!)


Rosario, P., Nunez, J., Vallejo, G., Cunha, J., Nunes, T., Suarez, N., Fuentes, S. & Moreira, T. (2015). The effects of teachers' homework follow-up practices on students' EFL performance: a randomized-group design. Retrieved from:

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