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Th–20th century




Henry Sweet was a key figure in establishing the applied linguistics tradition in language teaching

Innovation in foreign language teaching began in the 19th century and became very rapid in the 20th century. It led to a number of different and sometimes conflicting methods, each trying to be a major improvement over the previous or contemporary methods. The earliest applied linguists included Jean Manesca, Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff (1803–1865), Henry Sweet (1845–1912), Otto Jespersen (1860–1943), and Harold Palmer (1877–1949). They worked on setting language teaching principles and approaches based on linguistic and psychological theories, but they left many of the specific practical details for others to devise.

Those looking at the history of foreign-language education in the 20th century and the methods of teaching (such as those related below) might be tempted to think that it is a history of failure. Very few students in U.S. universities who have a foreign language as a major manage to reach something called "minimum professional proficiency". Even the "reading knowledge" required for a PhD degree is comparable only to what second-year language students read and only very few researchers who are native English speakers can read and assess information written in languages other than English. Even a number of famous linguists are monolingual.

However, anecdotal evidence for successful second or foreign language learning is easy to find, leading to a discrepancy between these cases and the failure of most language programs, which helps make the research of second language acquisition emotionally charged. Older methods and approaches such as the grammar translation method or the direct method are dismissed and even ridiculed as newer methods and approaches are invented and promoted as the only and complete solution to the problem of the high failure rates of foreign language students.

Most books on language teaching list the various methods that have been used in the past, often ending with the author's new method. These new methods are usually presented as coming only from the author's mind, as the authors generally give no credence to what was done before and do not explain how it relates to the new method. For example, descriptive linguists seem to claim unhesitatingly that there were no scientifically-based language teaching methods before their work (which led to the audio-lingual method developed for the U.S. Army in World War II). However, there is significant evidence to the contrary. It is also often inferred or even stated that older methods were completely ineffective or have died out completely when even the oldest methods are still used (e.g. the Berlitz version of the direct method). One reason for this situation is that proponents of new methods have been so sure that their ideas are so new and so correct that they could not conceive that the older ones have enough validity to cause controversy. This was in turn caused by emphasis on new scientific advances, which has tended to blind researchers to precedents in older work.

There have been two major branches in the field of language learning; the empirical and theoretical, and these have almost completely separate histories, with each gaining ground over the other at one point in time or another. Examples of researchers on the empiricist side are Jesperson, Palmer, and Leonard Bloomfield, who promote mimicry and memorization with pattern drills. These methods follow from the basic empiricist position that language acquisition basically results from habits formed by conditioning and drilling. In its most extreme form, language learning is seen as basically the same as any other learning in any other species, human language being essentially the same as communication behaviors seen in other species.

On the theoretical side are, for example, Francois Gouin, M.D. Berlitz, and Elime de Sauzé, whose rationalist theories of language acquisition dovetail with linguistic work done by Noam Chomsky and others. These have led to a wider variety of teaching methods ranging from the grammar-translation method to Gouin's "series method" to the direct methods of Berlitz and de Sauzé. With these methods, students generate original and meaningful sentences to gain a functional knowledge of the rules of grammar. This follows from the rationalist position that man is born to think and that language use is a uniquely human trait impossible in other species. Given that human languages share many common traits, the idea is that humans share a universal grammar which is built into our brain structure. This allows us to create sentences that we have never heard before but that can still be immediately understood by anyone who understands the specific language being spoken. The rivalry of the two camps is intense, with little communication or cooperation between them.

Rahmanov I.V., one of the leading researchers in history of methods of teaching foreign languages points out that “ the most ancient and at the same time the most primitive method of teaching foreign languages was natural method, which was called “the method of governess”. Through the history of teaching foreign languages a lot of different methods changed each other, excluding and supplementing each other, but the principle about ambiguity, difficulty and spottiness of this process formulated by great didactics John Amos Comeniusand I.G. Pestalocij is actual till nowadays. Disterverg considered the learner as the subject of education process and he put the educational subject on the second place, said that its particularity must be taken into account completely.

All scientists who deal with teaching foreign languages emphasize that in teaching foreign languages importance of the teacher’s professional language competence, factors of accounting of educational subject’s particularities and individual peculiarities of learners, especially motivation in learning foreign languages are equal. The process of teaching foreign languages consists of three equal components:

- the teacher and his professional skills;

- the learner and his aspiration;

- the subject which learner must acquire.

It is natural that in psychological-pedagogical analyses of education we must consider factors-components mentioned above. Thereupon in our opinion important factors and components of educational system are – psychological particularities of foreign language teachers; psychological peculiarities of learners of various age stages; psychological features of foreign language as educational subject; psychological analysis of speech activity as an object of mastering; pupil’s educational activity in the process of learning foreign languages and the form of education.

Speaking about the factors which influence on successful learning foreign language it is necessary to note a close connection of psychology of teaching foreign language with psychological and pedagogical disciplines, particularly, with pedagogical psychology. All mentioned factors and components of education are the research subject of pedagogical psychology.

Pedagogical psychology – are the most important branches of psychology. The basis for allocation of this branch of psychology is the psychological aspect of concrete activity of teaching and studying.

Pedagogical psychology is in close relationship with developmental and age psychology, which study ‘age dynamics of person’s mental development, ontogenesis of mental process and psychological quality of developing person’. Ontogenesis refers to the sequence of events involved in the development of an individual organism from its birth to its death. This developmental history often involves a move from simplicity to higher complexity. So all problems of development and age psychology are considered on the basis of accounting person’s age features. Pedagogical and age psychology in their researching base on the theories of General Psychology, which opens the general psychological laws, studies mental processes, mental conditions and person’s individual-psychological peculiarities.

Pedagogical psychology as independent branch started to form in the end of XIX century collecting experiences and achievements of pedagogical, psychological and psychophysical experiments and researches.

Pedagogical psychology includes – Educational Psychology, Upbringing Psychology and Teacher’s Psychology.

In America this field of psychology is mainly called Educational Psychology.

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching, and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing on subgroups such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities. Although the terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified in the US and Canada as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. This distinction is however not made in the UK, where the generic term for practitioners is "educational psychologist".

Educational psychology can in part be understood through its relationship with other disciplines. It is informed primarily by psychology, bearing a relationship to that discipline analogous to the relationship between medicine and biology. Educational psychology in turn informs a wide range of specialties within educational studies, including instructional design, educational technology, curriculum development, organizational learning, special education and classroom management. Educational psychology both draws from and contributes to cognitive science and the learning sciences. In universities, departments of educational psychology are usually housed within faculties of education, possibly accounting for the lack of representation of educational psychology content in introductory psychology textbooks.[1]

To understand the characteristics of learners in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age, educational psychology develops and applies theories of human development. Often represented as stages through which people pass as they mature, developmental theories describe changes in mental abilities (cognition), social roles, moral reasoning, and beliefs about the nature of knowledge.

For example, educational psychologists have researched the instructional applicability of Jean Piaget's theory of development, according to which children mature through four stages of cognitive capability. Piaget hypothesized that children are not capable of abstract logical thought until they are older than about 11 years, and therefore younger children need to be taught using concrete objects and examples. Researchers have found that transitions, such as from concrete to abstract logical thought, do not occur at the same time in all domains. A child may be able to think abstractly about mathematics, but remain limited to concrete thought when reasoning about human relationships. Perhaps Piaget's most enduring contribution is his insight that people actively construct their understanding through a self-regulatory process.

Piaget proposed a developmental theory of moral reasoning in which children progress from a naïve understanding of morality based on behavior and outcomes to a more advanced understanding based on intentions. Piaget's views of moral development were elaborated by Kohlberg into a stage theory of moral development. There is evidence that the moral reasoning described in stage theories is not sufficient to account for moral behavior. For example, other factors such as modeling (as described by the social cognitive theory of morality) are required to explain bullying.

Rudolf Steiner's model of child development interrelates physical, emotional, cognitive, and moral development in developmental stages similar to those later described by Piaget.

Developmental theories are sometimes presented not as shifts between qualitatively different stages, but as gradual increments on separate dimensions. Development of epistemological beliefs (beliefs about knowledge) have been described in terms of gradual changes in people's belief in: certainty and permanence of knowledge, fixedness of ability, and credibility of authorities such as teachers and experts. People develop more sophisticated beliefs about knowledge as they gain in education and maturity.

Each person has an individual profile of characteristics, abilities and challenges that result from predisposition, learning and development. These manifest as individual differences in intelligence, creativity, cognitive style, motivation and the capacity to process information, communicate, and relate to others. The most prevalent disabilities found among school age children are attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disability, dyslexia, and speech disorder. Less common disabilities include mental retardation, hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and blindness.

Although theories of intelligence have been discussed by philosophers since Plato, intelligence testing is an invention of educational psychology, and is coincident with the development of that discipline. Continuing debates about the nature of intelligence revolve on whether intelligence can be characterized by a single factor known as general intelligence, multiple factors (e.g., Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences), or whether it can be measured at all. In practice, standardized instruments such as the Stanford-Binet IQ testand the WISC are widely used in economically developed countries to identify children in need of individualized educational treatment. Children classified as gifted are often provided with accelerated or enriched programs. Children with identified deficits may be provided with enhanced education in specific skills such asphonological awareness. In addition to basic abilities, the individual's personality traits are also important, with people higher in conscientiousness and hope attaining superior academic achievements, even after controlling for intelligence and past performance.


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