Jan 27, 2010

Protect our English!

I have had an interesting encounter with a group of teachers who all come from a similar teaching background. The topic under discussion was 'correction' - no minor issue. They were very much of the view that one of a teacher's prime responsibilities in lessons is to correct mistakes; all mistakes (at least the ones that don't slip by unnoticed).
A lot has been said and written on the effectiveness and the appropriateness of correction and I don't intend to go down that road right now. What struck me in this discussion, however, was the overall view of language and learning that lay below their belief in the importance of correction (and, whenever possible, the use of error-avoidance strategies). As we spoke I had this image: what these teachers were doing was to shield a statue from attack. Language was a complete and perfectly-formed body - the version of language as they presented it to students. Mistakes were like hostile arrows or stones that would chip away at this perfect work - too many mistakes and the statue would become too damaged to be any longer recognisable, something the teacher had to attemot to stop at all cost.
Mistakes cause damage: it is a very 'static' vision - and it sees learning as a purely external rather than personal activity that involves the imitation or reproduction of 'perfection'. Learners' language can only get worse: it can't get better than perfect.

It was an interesting encounter and it didn't finish here. But that is for another time.

No comments: