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English Teaching Methodology “Theories”. August, 2012. Behaviorism. An approach that dominated during the first half of the XX century (40s & 50s). Most influential proponent, the American Psychologist B. F. Skinner (1957). Behavior can be researched scientifically.

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behaviorism
Behaviorism
  • An approach that dominated during the first half of the XX century (40s & 50s).
  • Most influential proponent, the American Psychologist B. F. Skinner (1957).
  • Behavior can be researched scientifically.
  • All human behavior is determined by the environment either through association or reinforcement.
  • Psychological arena.
slide3
Assumptions about Behaviorism:
  • Language learning is a habit at formation resembling the formation of other habits, i.e., a language is learned in the way other habits are learned.
  • Free will is illusory and all behavior is determined by the environment either through association or reinforcement
  • Only human beings have the capacity for language learning. They acquire language as discreet units of habits, independently trained, not as an integrated system.
slide4
This theory puts emphasis on three important factors – stimulus, response and reinforcement. According to Skinner the approach of the theory emphasizes several important factors:
  • It considers the immediately observable aspects of situational stimuli.
  • It stresses the language behavior.
  • The theory also emphasizes the verbal and behavioral responses.
slide5

Positive Reinforcement

Stimulus

Child

Response

Negative Reinforcement

The theory is based on the premise that effective language behavior consists of producing responses to the correct stimuli. The link between stimuli and responses becomes habitual.

innatism
Innatism
  • Main proponent, American linguist Noam Chomsky (1959).
  • This approach was a direct challenge to the established behaviorist theories of the time, rekindling the age-old debate over whether language exists in the mind before experience.
  • The theory has laid out an explanation of human language faculties that has become the model for investigation in other areas of psychology.
slide7
The theoretical assumptions underlying the Innatist theory are as follows:
  • Every human child possesses innate knowledge of language structure to detect and reproduce language. That is, language acquisition depends on an unobservable mechanism called Language Acquisition Device or LAD. The LAD is supplied to human children with birth. The LAD contains language universals, that is, the structures and sounds common to all human languages and dialects.
  • Language learning is distinct from other cognitive capacities.
  • Young children learn and apply grammatical rules and vocabulary as they are exposed to them and do not require initial formal teaching (Foley).
slide8
Chomsky theorized that the child, from his/ her birth is exposed to language that functions as a trigger for the LAD. The LAD has the capability to formulate hypotheses about the structure of the language to which the child is exposed. The child is unconscious about this process.

The hypotheses are checked in the child’s own language production. They are also regularly checked against the further data or input that his/her exposure to the language provides. As he/she finds that his/her hypotheses, do not account for all the data he/she modifies the hypothesis and checks them again.

Through the process of checking and rechecking hypothesis, the child broadens his/her range of hypotheses and forms an initial grammar of the language. The grammar goes through successive modifications and resembles the adult grammar by employing his/her linguistic competence, the child can generate innumerable grammatically correct sentences and rejects ungrammatical ones.

behaviorism vs innatism
Behaviorism vs Innatism
  • For Behaviorism, language is learnt in the way other habits are learnt. Whereas for Innatism, language develops in the same way as other biological functions.
  • The behaviorist theory maintains a focus on the change in observable behaviors. Innatism, on the contrary, focuses on an unobservable change in mental knowledge.
  • The behaviorist theory asserts that any piece of information in the mind could be accessed by any other cognitive process. On the other hand, the Innatist theory argues that language constitutes a species-specific and unique cognitive system, separate from other systems of systems of cognition.
  • The Behaviorist theory ignores completely the inborn aspect of human knowledge, that is, the existence of congenital potential which makes learning possible. The Innatist perspective, holds that children, indeed, all human beings, are innately predisposed to unravel the complex code of language (Pinker).
slide10
In Behaviorism situational stimuli are considered an essential prerequisite for learning. In Innatism, exposure to language in situations is a mere precondition for the activation of the language acquisition device, and is irrelevant to the actual course learning takes (Barman, Sultana, and Basu 31).
  • In Behaviorism knowledge is seen as constant. In Innatism, Knowledge is seen as dynamic.
  • In Behaviorism learning is said to be successful when the child can repeat what was taught. In Innatism, learning is said to be successful when the child can generate innumerable grammatically correct sentences and rejects ungrammatical ones through the process of checking and rechecking the hypotheses of the structure of the language to which she/he is exposed.
  • The Behaviorist view holds that children need formal teaching and guidance to learn in a correct way. Quite the opposite, the Innatist view maintains that young children learn and apply grammatical rules and vocabulary as they are exposed to them and do not require preliminary formal instruction.
slide11
The Behaviorist theory states that children's activity is limited to a passive reception of the stimuli coming from the environment. They do not make any conscious effort to organise the accumulating experience, since they are equipped with no mechanism warranting this process. Quite the reverse, the Innatist theory judges the child as an active participant, not a passive and stimulus-response machine
  • The Behaviorist theory ignores completely the creativity of human beings, whereas the Innatist theory views language acquisition as a creative process.
  • Behaviorism has no evolutionary premise, Innatism has one. Chomsky disciples and not a few cognitive theorists hold that all learning takes place because it is an innate characteristic of mankind that has proven to have evolutionary advantages (Pinker).
  • The Behaviorists experiment upon animals, not human beings. On the other hand, the Innatists experiment on human child, not animals.
  • The Behaviorist theory does not advocate the critical period of language learning. But the Innatists claim that language acquisition only functions if it is stimulated at the correct time.
slide12
The Behaviorists fail to recognize the logical problem of language acquisition which the Innatists call the poverty of the stimulus argument.
  • Behaviorism stresses on correction and considers it as an essential part in language acquisition. On the contrary, the Innatist view holds that correction is useless in language acquisition.
  • The Behaviorist theory is mechanical, since neither conscious awareness nor intent is assumed to be operative here. In contrast, the Innatist theory is not mechanical since it does consider the child as an inert recipient.
  • The Behaviorist theory cannot explain how the child proceeds in his/her journey of language acquisition. In opposition, the Innatist theory gives some rational explanations about children’s language acquisition procedure.