teaching rationalePosted by Roger King on 10/22/2012 2:30:00 PMI have often said that the students should be the ones "doing the work" in a foreign language classroom, and not the instructor. Student-based learning was a concept formally and informally bantered about back during my early formative years as an educator, and it has made a lasting impression on me ever since. Initially, the idea must seem self-evident when one thinks of a classroom. So why did this term "student-based learning" come about actually? I believe the answer to this lies in the intensive scrutinizing that classroom teachers were put under during the era of meritorious pay schedules circa the late eighties and early nineties, at least in Texas. What the teacher was doing every second of a class period was very much at the forefront of Madeleine Hunter's pedagogical model, and this had a great influence on evaluation systems of the latter part of the last century. Student-based learning came as a natural response to the microscopic evaluations of the instructional leaders who were required to state exactly how the present lesson related to those of the past and the future, why today's lesson had relevance to tomorrow's, how what went on the day before related to the here-and-now of the moment, etc. So many explicit and rote utterances were required of the teacher that everything seemed to come across as scripted, to seem unnatural, and to obviate any real moments of student participation that were spontaneous and creative.
My approach effaces my presence in most part. I have even said to members of administration that if they were to visit my room, they would probably come away from the experience unimpressed, and perhaps even stunned at my lack of participation. Facilitator yes, center of attention no. I spend more time evaluating my students' work outside of the classroom than I do leading activities and running a different series of presentations in it. The amount of time foreign language teachers have spent #and spent fruitlessly I must add# explaining obscure grammar concepts that lead to no L2 production, drawing up charts that look nothing like a sentence in a book, and discussing comparative linguistics topics is staggering. No one explained a language to me when I was growing up. They modeled it for me. So it is simple. How does one move from explaining-based L2 teaching to a more model- and use-based approach? I can't explain it, you have to come see me model and use it. Gotcha.