Preview: Session A660, by Vicky Saumell

Guided Discovery for Language Instruction: A Framework for Implementation at all Levels

Footsteps-004-300x163Date: Day 2, May 24
Time: 10:00AM
Room: SS 1085

New language can be introduced in different ways and there has been a long standing debate on how to do it best. Most approaches fall within the deductive / inductive classification. Guided Discovery takes the best from both in a way that makes it work for a variety of settings and contexts and as a tool to introduce different aspects of language at all levels. The purpose of this article is to provide a brief description of Guided Discovery in advance of the presentation at TOSCON14.

Deductive and inductive approaches derive from deductive and inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning applies a general rule to particular instances as opposed to inductive reasoning, which involves inference from the particular to the general. Thus, language learning is deductive when teachers explicitly present the rule, which is later applied by students in practice tasks. In inductive language learning, however, the rules are worked out from exposure to the language in use. In other words, deductive indicates explicit presentation of rules, while inductive relates to implicit learning of rules. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages and stand as opposing extremes in a language instruction continuum.

Guided Discovery
In between these two approaches lies “Guided Discovery”, which combines the best from each. Guided Discovery is a modified inductive approach in which there is exposure to language first, followed by the use of inference, and finally an explicit focus on rules and practice.

Guided Discovery addresses some of the drawbacks associated with both deductive and inductive instruction as it is essentially learner-centred. The teacher becomes a facilitator, who guides learners in the right direction so as to avoid misunderstandings of the rules. It makes learning memorable since learners are actively involved in the process. It is meaningful because it involves the learners` own reasoning.

What can be taught with Guided Discovery techniques?
Although guided discovery is generally associated with grammatical rules, it really lends itself to a variety of concepts and aspects of language ranging from grammatical form and usage to pronunciation, spelling and lexis.

A step by step methodological framework
Guided Discovery can be easily implemented with any class, at any level, by following these four steps.

Step 1: Exposure to language through examples or illustrations
The teacher exposes students to the language through illustrations, examples or a combination of both. The examples can be in the form of isolated sentences, although it is always more effective if the language is presented in context. Contextualization of the language makes grammar relevant and alive and can be done through a reading or listening text, illustrations or photos, or real life situations and topics. Context also helps to facilitate understanding.
This first step allows learners to activate their personal learning strategies in order to understand the language.

Step 2: Observation and analysis of the language through guided questions
The teacher guides the observation and analysis of the language by drawing attention to the significant points he or she wants to present. This can be done through questions, by completing gaps in sentences or rules or by matching examples and rules. Learners’ cognitive potential is put into play as they cooperate, analyze, hypothesize, compare, and construct and generate knowledge. Taking part in the learning process empowers them. This scaffolding step is essential to avoid learners reaching a wrong conclusion or misunderstanding the rule.

Step 3: Statement of the rule
The teacher uses the information from step 2 to state, or gets the learners to state, the rule in order to make sure that all learners understand it. Learners construct their new knowledge based on their own insights from step 2 and the teacher`s clarification in step 3.

Step 4: Application of the rule in practice tasks graded by difficulty or complexity
This step aims at putting the language in practice. The teacher assigns tasks from more controlled (matching, filling the blanks, close-ended questions) to more communicative and meaningful (open-ended questions for discussion, role-playing, writing tasks, etc). The difficulty and complexity of the tasks is usually graded from receptive to productive skills, that is, from identifying or understanding to producing.

Guided Discovery is aligned with more modern language learning theories that advocate student participation and the development of critical thinking skills and autonomy. It relates to analytic learning and problem solving. It helps learners engage in the learning process and thus make personal connections that anchor the learning. It is a learner-centered approach that increases participation and fosters collaboration. It empowers learners towards assuming responsibility for their own learning and becoming more autonomous. It is therefore a valid and useful way of approaching language instruction at all levels of language ability. So it would be interesting to see more teachers working with this approach and whether they can observe any differences in learner response and understanding.

Al-Kharrat, M. (2000). Deductive & Inductive Lessons for Saudi EFL Freshmen Students, The Internet TESL Journal, 6/10
Chan, P. (2010). Empowering Students to Self-learn, ELT World Online: Voices from the Classroom, 2
Gollin, J. (1998). Deductive vs. Inductive language learning, ELT Journal, 52/1, 88-89
Handoyo Puji Widodo, (2006). Approaches and procedures for teaching grammar, English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 5/1, 122-141
Thornbury, S. (1999). How to Teach Grammar. Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited

IMG_0611Vicky Saumell holds a Diploma in the Theory and Methodology of TESOL. She has written and tutors New Learning Environments for the Master’s in ELT at Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia. She is also a freelance author for Pearson and Cambridge University Press. Her recent contributions are to Pearson ELT’s English in Common series.


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