Constructivism and language fluency building
As a linguistic and cultural anthropologist, I believe that culture is constructed, learned and shared. Though we’re born in a given culture, we are still not born with that culture. We have to learn through socialization or enculturation. True, for Noam Chomsky, our brain is wired in a way that allows us to acquire or learn language. He called it Language Acquisition Device. Of course, not everybody agrees with his theory. So far, we haven’t discovered other primates and mammals that have a language like humans. Though, I agree with Chomsky that humans have a special capacity to acquire language, we still have to learn it through socialization and enculturation. If you are a diplomat, you learn to speak like a diplomat. Similarly, as we attend school, we’re taught how to write, in which style, how to quote, etc. For example in this course in instructional design, we are taught to quote in APA style. All these practices are part of our formation. To become a good teacher, we have to learn how to teach and to improve our teaching style over the years. Further, in this course, we’re encouraged to share ideas, to asks questions, to collaborate by participating in discussions. Learning is thus built to achieve real-world tasks (Karagiorgi and Symeou, 2005). Doing so is indeed constructing learning style, skill development and learner autonomy. It is meeting the learner in the middle, a kind of Zone of Proximal Development.
Similarly, in teaching advanced French speaking courses, I encourage my students to identify their needs or areas of interests. Building on what they like, I encourage them to connect their areas of interest to other areas as they speak. By so doing, students become gradually comfortable as they move from what they know, strengthen and consolidate their vocabulary and grammar, and gradually move to other areas. This gradual or scaffolding technique proved helpful in developing confidence, interest, motivation and pushing my students to the next level. Similarly, in teaching them intensive reading techniques (close reading done in class), I often use images or a cloud of words as a pre-reading activity. This allows to activate prior knowledge and gradually move to the text. After reading the text, I ask them to provide the general ideas. Then, we examine the main ideas in each paragraph, followed by secondary ideas. In short: context - text- paragraph-sentence-lexicon. Through these steps, my students are able to do a close reading moving from context, to the text and detailed elements of the text including style. All this builds on a model which allows students to see, process, understand and take ownership of learning. I also encourage my students to engage in extensive reading to improve their skills. I will call this a constructivist approach to speaking and reading in teaching a second language.
Karagiorgi, Y., & Symeou, L. (2005). Translating Constructivism into Instructional Design: Potential and Limitations.
Educational Technology & Society, 8 (1), 17-27.
Instructional Design (2017, December). Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner). From December 6, 2017 http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html