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Introduction

“Nihil in intellectus quod nisi prius in sensu.” (There is nothing in the intellect that is not first in the senses.” (Cited in Scruton, 1995).

“Imagination” said Napoleon “rules the world” (Cited in Rose, 1985: 77)

                                                 

For this project it is my intention:

a)       to give a definition of terms, a short account of what lead me to the discovery of Multi-Sensory Imaging and a discussion of why this project is important; 

b)       to present an overview of Accelerated Learning (the overall approach of which Multi-Sensory Imaging can be said to form an extremely valuable part); 

c)       to produce a set of exemplary materials which utilise Multi-Sensory Imaging in order to assist EFL students in the experiential reading of authentic texts and in so doing to promote and deepen their emotive engagement with a view to expanding their capacity for overall comprehension; 

d)       an account of the process of writing the materials and the reasoning behind it; 

e)       to use the materials during a lesson with the dual objective of increasing the student's capacity for global understanding of the chosen texts and of allowing the students to decide for themselves the value and usefulness of these techniques; 

f)         to obtain valuable feedback from the students on their views and opinions about the lesson, the materials and the whole approach;

g)   an evaluation of the materials in the light of the student's feedback; 

Furthermore I would like to make it clear from the start that it is NOT my intention to do any of the following:

a) teach content;

b) "prove" anything;

c) make empirical claims;

d) claim objectivity;

e) quantify.

First of all teaching content is precisely what we are trying to get away from with this type of lesson. Using texts, even authentic ones, to provide examples of correct usage of language items either after these items have been presented or in order to present them takes the student right back into studial reading mode (Tomlinson, 1998). This is not to say that analysing language items in context is wrong but merely that it should take its proper place in the order of things i.e. after the text has been read experientially and all the various tasks that assist in this have been completed.  

It is to be noted as well that the lesson is designed and conducted from a Humanistic perspective whereby we are more concerned with teaching people than teaching language. (Rogers, 1983). 

Secondly, Accelerated Learning (within which this project aims to fall) is about challenging “...participants to break the traditional mind-set of ‘teacher as purveyor of content’ and instead develop an attitude of ‘teacher as peer, resource person, and facilitator’...” ( Learning Strategies Corporation, 1997). 

Knowing that Tomlinson has just finished his PhD on a very similar topic and been heavily criticised for not having "proved" anything despite his large number of experiments and years of research it would smack of both arrogance and ignorance to lay claim to having "proved" anything at this level, with such a small sample and so little time (comparatively). Besides which, as Wilson (1997) explains:  

"What the thinker thinks, the prover proves".  

My experiences of FL learning, my studies in the subject, my reading of it and my theoretical understanding of it stand to convince me of the efficacy of my approach. As such I do not feel under any obligation to "prove" anything to anyone. (Nor, indeed, is it my objective.) However, even for those who remain sceptical, one can hope that there will be at least some provocation of thought resulting from the project. 

After many painful months of having huge quantities of empirical research into SLA inflicted upon me during my studies the only thing that really struck me was this: how much room there is for conflicting opinion. For instance, Tomlinson (1998: 5) cites Tarone and Yule (1989): 

"It seems clear that researchers cannot agree at present upon a single view of the learning process which can safely be applied wholesale to language teaching"  

and Cook (1996): 

"... no second language acquisition research can provide a definitive answer to the real problems of second language teaching at this point... There is no predetermined correct theory of language teaching originating from second language acquisition research." 

Yet despite this it has consistently astounded me as to how little room is actually given to those who dare to express an opinion that contradicts with whichever opinion is held to be the most authoritative at that time and in that area by those who regard themselves as the authorities on the subject (and expect you to as well).  

While not wishing to negate the great deal of work that has gone before, nevertheless one does detect a certain amount of pandering to the ‘authority of print’ and too much blind acceptance of the sacred cow status of much ‘research’ simply because it lays claim to being empirical. Obviously one cannot fail to recognise that there is a necessity for empiricism and scientific rigour within our field but one should also recognise its failings and drawbacks and that there should be a greater realisation that it is not the be all and end all. Besides which there remains, in my opinion, the important point that so much of it is just so DULL! Beyond that one also comes across the rather narrow-minded notion that seems to say,  

"If you can't test for it empirically, it doesn't exist".  

Hmm. 

Closely allied to the above two paragraphs is the notion of objectivity. This is the great unobtainable. I refer the reader to a description of Dr. Charles Garfinkle's "Ethnomethodology": 

"...ethnomethodology shows how every human perception, including the perceptions of social scientists who think they can study society "objectively", always contains the limits, the defects and the unconscious prejudices of the emic reality (or social game) of the observer." (Wilson, 1990). 

and to Heisenberg’s Principle: 

“the observer alters the observed by mere act of observing”  (cited by Turco, 1997: 13) 

Finally we have quantification. Humanity's abiding obsession. Many years ago in an 'O' level Sociology class I came upon the Disraeli quote:  

"There are lies, damn lies and statistics". 

In my opinion never a truer word has been spoken. And yet, bizarrely, they remain insidiously ubiquitous in every walk of life.  

To my mind intuition and personal observations and perceptions have become sorely undervalued in the face of a mass of data obsessed with its own claims to superiority. Yet small-scale action research projects have a part to play in the understanding of how learning occurs.  

The following quotes give an idea of why this is so: 

"Field (1997) claims two important roles for action research. Firstly, it encourages teachers to reflect on their practice, and therefore leads to potential change. It plays an important part in reflective teaching, where personal and professional development occur when teachers review their experience in a systematic way ...Secondly, it is said to empower teachers, releasing them from dependence upon precepts handed down by trainers and inspectors. By testing for themselves the methods and materials they use in the classroom, they can establish which are the most effective for them." (Cited in Tomlinson, 1998: 22).  

But it should not just involve the teachers. The students have an equal role to play and their views must be included. After all it was as a student that I learnt so much about what DIDN”T work in the classroom.  

Beyond these reasons this project is important because it is looking at ways in which to incorporate techniques and principles derived from Suggestopedia and Accelerated Learning into more traditional learning environments. In my opinion the ideal would be for all students to be taught within institutions devoted to Accelerated Learning but sadly reality necessitates the recognition that more frequently this will not be the case.  

My interest in Accelerated Learning stems from my long held view that traditional language teaching is seriously flawed and woefully inadequate. I count myself fortunate in that I have always believed that my inability to get to grips with either French or German at school and later Spanish at college was due to the drawbacks of the system rather than any lack of intellectual ability on my part. To the eternal discredit of our education system(s) this is not true of many students who leave with the view that they are somehow not suited to language learning or worse that they are intellectually deficient in some way.  

From the start of embarking upon my studies in EFL I have been looking for ways to break free of conventional pedagogy, to direct student centred lessons that didn't involve cumbersome grammar terminology, complex rules that can be frequently  shown to be inapplicable and tiresome drills and exercises. All the time, despite receiving little support in the early days from either peers or tutors, I was convinced that there had to be some way of approaching language learning that could speed up the process and could be so much easier and so much more FUN! 

It is from this searching perspective that I finally came upon some alternative approaches and met with the realisation that I WAS NOT ALONE! (A very joyous revelation indeed). Chief among these new ideas was the notion of using "authentic texts" and the utilisation of visualisation techniques to assist in "global understanding" and promote emotive engagement and experiential reading as opposed to obsessing over tired old comprehension questions and grammar focus activities leading the students to concentrate only on studial reading. Multi-Sensory Imaging is the common sense expansion of visualisation to incorporate all the senses.

Furthermore an introductory lesson on Suggestopedia led to the discovery of its expanded modern equivalent, Accelerated Learning. Finally here was what I had been looking for. Although much work remains to be done and there are many valid criticisms, nonetheless, I firmly believe that we now have the ability to vastly improve education as a whole and language learning in particular. 

Chapter One

   

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