Philosophy of Teaching and Learning

We believe that second language acquisition in the classroom is best fostered in positive affective conditions, where stress is facilitative, not debilitative, and where the atmosphere is nurturing yet challenging and motivating. We believe that the classroom must provide input and opportunities for interaction and student output.

Activities in and out of the classroom should acknowledge and exploit our environment. The input should be meaningful and come from multiple sources and through multiple media. It should be at and above the student's current level of competence. It should provide information about the different aspects of language needed for communicative competence: phonology, grammar, pragmatics, discourse, writing styles and conventions, literacy, semantics, cultural customs and values, and communicative and learning strategies. Input should be natural language, whether it is graded or not, scripted or nonscripted.

The interaction should provide opportunities to practice all of the above aspects of language. Interaction should be between the student and different interlocutors (other students, the teacher, people outside the classroom), should be in different tasks and should use different channels (writing, speaking, listening, etc.). Some interaction should require negotiation to achieve meaning and it should be two-way, i.e., the student should hold some of the information necessary to achieve meaning. Student output should be frequent, meaningful as well as mechanical, and should vary in task, activity and focus. Student output should receive feedback, both cognitive and affective. Cognitive feedback should be both positive and negative (corrective).

When teaching, the teacher should consider the pacing of both the rate of speech and the speed at which information is given. The teacher should vary presentation styles and take into account different student learning styles (holistic-analytic; inductive-deductive; visual-aural). The teacher should vary tasks and foci. The teacher should consider the meaningfulness of the tasks, activities, and the language used. The teacher should consider what kinds of feedback should be given to students and when. The teacher should consider student interests, expectations, needs, and reasons for study.

Students should be accountable for learning in terms of attendance, attention, and homework. As adults, our students will be most motivated when they have some control over and choice in what and how they learn, especially in terms of task, task style, content of class materials, and focus of the class. Our courses should meet or change student expectations.