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Topics & Questions for Study and Discussion
Note: Items listed below are coded for either individual (I) work, group/pair (G) work, or whole-class (C) discussion, as suggestions to the instructor on how to incorporate the topics and (Q) questions into a class session.
1. (G) The class should be divided into four groups, with one of the four learning theorists discussed in the chapter assigned to each group. Tasks for the groups are to "defend" their particular theory as the most insightful or complete. To do so, each group will need to summarize strengths and to anticipate arguments from other groups.
2. (C)The results of the four groups' findings can be presented to the rest of the class in a "debate" about which learning theory has the most to contribute to understanding the SLA process.
3. (C) Tease apart the distinction between elicited and emitted responses. Can you specify some operants that are emitted by the learner in a foreign language class? And some responses that are elicited? Specify some of the reinforcers that are present in language classes. How effective are certain reinforcers?
4. (I) Skinner felt that punishment, or negative reinforcement, was just another way of calling attention to undesired behavior and therefore should be avoided. Do you think correction of student errors in a classroom is negative reinforcement? How can error treatment be given a positive spin, in Skinnerian terms?
5. (G) List some activities you consider to be rote and others that are meaningful in foreign language classes you have taken (or are teaching). Do some activities fall into a gray area between the two? Evaluate the effectiveness of all the activities your group has listed. Share your conclusions with the rest of the class.
6. (G) In pairs, quickly brainstorm some examples of "cognitive pruning" or systematic forgetting that occur in a foreign language classroom. For example, do definitions fall into this category? Or grammatical rules? Cite some ways that a teacher might foster such pruning.
7. (C) In one sense Skinner, Ausubel, and Rogers represent quite different points of view—at least they focus on different facets of human learning. Do you think it is possible to synthesize the three points of view? In what way are all three psychologists expressing the "truth"? In what way do they differ substantially? Try to formulate an integrated understanding of human learning by taking the best of all three points of view. Does your integrated theory tell you something about how people learn a second language? about how you should teach a second language?
8. (G) Look back at the section on foreign language aptitude. From what you have learned, what factors do you think should be represented in a comprehensive test of aptitude? Compare your group's suggestions with those of other groups.
9. (G/C) The class should be divided into at least seven groups or pairs. To each group/pair, assign one of Gardner's seven multiple intelligences. In your group, brainstorm typical language classroom activities or techniques that foster your type of intelligence. Make a list of your activities and compare it with the other lists.