Ardythe on Acquisition Theory

Last week Kate was called out in a post observation email by an administrator who doesn’t yet understand how people acquire languages. (That is an understatement.) We asked for help from the group, not just academically in terms of pro-Krashen statements of support that she could share with this administrator, but also emotionally, to deal with the emotional part of being critiqued by people who are oddly placed in positions to judge our work in the school building, even though they often don’t know the actual current research, as per:

Among the responses provided Kate last week is the comment below from Ardythe Woerly, reproduced here today as a blog post so that we can access it easier when we need to read it. It is a confidence builder, a reminder that no matter what the opposition is that we face in our buildings, we are on the right side of the argument. I will repeatedly time stamp this excellent advice for all of us so that we can review it here every few months, because many of us will need to do so in our positions, since there are many clueless administrators walking around in school buildings doing theses kind of bullshit observations.

I keep thinking that Kate’s situation last week was not unlike that of a doctor who receives criticism on doctoring from the local hospital administrator whose degree in hospital administration means scheduling meetings and insuring the daily operation of the physical plant of the hospital and its employees, not in telling doctors how to treat patients:

Kate –

If [your] administrators’ learning theory philosophies side with cognitive theorists nover behaviorists, then traditional methods don’t stand a chance over CI and acquisition theory. Graduate schools are pushing cognitive/acquisition theory over traditional/behaviorist approaches.

Krashen’s theories are specifically lauded as meshing with the cognitive approach. Several texts show side by side comparisons of traditional and acquisitional approaches and explicit grammar, worksheet drills, etc. are no longer best practices.

According to the charts in current methods and linguistics texts, going traditional would be like using the DON’T column as your lesson plan. Following CI/Krashen theories is the DO column and corresponds to cognitive approaches in the spirit of Chomsky and Vygotsky. Surely your administrators are familiar with those names and would encourage anything that aligns with them, and discourage anything (traditional) that is not.

Good luck Kate. Best Practices are on your side and not with the traditional/19th century approach.




2 thoughts on “Ardythe on Acquisition Theory”

  1. “Following CI/Krashen theories is the DO column and corresponds to cognitive approaches in the spirit of Chomsky and Vygotsky. Surely your administrators are familiar with those names and would encourage anything that aligns with them, and discourage anything (traditional) that is not.”

    I so enjoy a good laugh. Our administratos would probalby say, “Chomsky who?”

  2. I have two favorite anecdotes along those lines Clarice.

    The first was when one of my administrators once asked me about Kragen.

    The other, much more serious, happened in a formal (middle school/high school) articulation meeting years ago in Jefferson County with ten teachers and three assistant principals. We really needed the meeting to “clear the air” about what Lupe Garcia and I were doing in the middle school (TPRS) and what the eight high school teachers were doing up at the high school. I asked that we pull up the ACTFL web pages and read them together in the meeting via the LCD. As we were setting that up, one of the high school Spanish teachers at the table leaned over and asked me if ACTFL had anything to do with the ACT exam. I said no. Then, as we looked at those web pages, I could tell, I sensed, how few of the teachers and definitely all three of the APs had almost no awareness or connection or insights into the text on the wall in front of them. It was as if they were people off the street who weren’t involved in education at all. They were reading, in fact, the mandates of the national parent organization of all language teachers in the United States. Should these people be telling us what to do? Should they be evaluating us?

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