TA: Short But Not So Simple

The features listed below make the TA different from other approaches to language teaching. It is not a comprehensive list, though. Its purpose is to show that TA is different from other approaches to language teaching and therefore it is best to look at it as a separate approach rather than a variant of the Communicative Approach. The features below should be seen as a system rather than discretely as it is at the level of a system where the TA is different.

  • Most uses of language are conventional or routine ones, i.e., people do not have to solve any non-standard or creative problems (e.g., shopping, enquiring, etc.). These uses of language do not require meaning making in the real sense of it - this use of language is more about reproducing well-known meaning rather than making new ones. Routine part of language competence should not be the focus of learning – necessary skills will develop within practice centred on the development of non-routine competences.
  • The TA is primarily concerned with the development of problem solving competence which includes a non-routine or creative part of language competence. Development of problem solving competence lies at the heart of learning an interdisciplinary language of problem solving which is seen as the main aim of education.
  • Problem solving in the TA context is understood in a fundamentally different way from its traditional interpretation in language teaching. Tasks connected with routine uses of language are not considered problem solving ones and traditional “problem solving” tasks as known in the field of language teaching have nothing to do with the development of problem solving competence as defined within the TA.
  • TA students are expected to learn “to think grammatically” and to strive to become masters in the field of “meaning potential”. Learning a language includes learning particular “ways of construing and portraying” world.
  • The TA is based on the idea of a non-linear nature of learning and thus non-linear organisation of learning / teaching process. Instead of a linear curriculum model TA offers a modular course based on a number of learning technologies. Technologies serve as bases for the three vectors of TA: (1) language as the object of study (Creative Grammar Technology); (2) communication as the object of study – language used as one of the means for solving problems (interpretation) and using language as one of the means for solving problems (Text Technology); learning as the object of learning (Self-Study Technology and Research Technology).
  • The invention method promoted in TA may be seen as an integration of what is referred to as discovery and social construction method. We believe that students “discover” models rather than facts. With time, these models are integrated in students’ networks (internalised). However, for this to happen, models have to be tested and validated in the process of learning (and life) and this is seen as an essentially social process.
  • Learning must be natural and as close to life as possible. Agreeing that classroom brings about many constraints and purposes of learning can be very different, we believe that learning is essentially about doing real things and thus one should not make a distinction between “ways of thinking” when learning a foreign language and “ways of thinking” when being a linguist. Another consequence of the “natural” principle is that questions to which answers are already known should be avoided in the classroom communication by both the teacher and students.
  • The ultimate learning aim for a TA learner is to become one’s own mediator and thus to be able to scaffold him/herself in any kind of learning.

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