The discussion on students is great. Without
breaking that up, let me bring up another group we often complain
about: the SLA
researchers and researchers in other fields.
Why do we complain about them? One thing Bill
VanPatten pointed out in his exchanges with us was that SLA is not
figuring out how to teach L2 but rather what happens when L2 is taught
happens when it is learned.
Nevertheless, certain ideas come along that cause
us to gasp and say, “So that’s why……..!” or “Hey, maybe I should
focus in that direction.” VanPatten himself and several of his
written very helpful how-to books for us.
What, then, are the strengths and weaknesses of
research and why isn’t it more helpful?
Part of it is that it is a little too complicated
sometimes. I have noticed that a lot of people, even other researchers,
Krashen, attributing things to him he did not say. For example, he
states that the Monitor must be used, just not overused. That’s where
instruction comes in. He stated that there are significant differences
learning L1 and L2 (by observation, L2 learners tend to be taller than
learners – that’s my contribution).
Looking at that last silly comment, now go to Gary
Taubes’ new book, Good Calories Bad Calories (appropriate topic as we
Thanksgiving). It is about really bad science. Most of you were exposed
Kuhn’s book on paradigms and have an idea of how scientists can be
blinded by a
variety of things in their research. Taubes points out that scientists
experiments that clearly showed that X did not equl Y and then would
something like, “We can see by the results that X does not equal Y, so
we can be
assured that indeed, X does equal Y.” ??????
Amazing stuff. For those of you interested in
research on diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension and all the
of so-called Syndrome X as it relates to food, the book is fascinating.
cite it for its insights into how the best researchers can go awry.
Whenever anyone says to me, “The research says….”
I ask myself how that fits with what I know; does the research really
does the putative result fit into an overall scheme and is that good or
On this List, I have usually found myself referring
people to research or rather the summaries of research found in our
major works, but that is only b/c so many of us seem to think that only
classroom fl teachers know anything about how students learn L2. Not
Reading research is very important. Most
researchers are not dogmatic, though some are (and you’ll see some in
book), but I find that a lot of teachers read something and then react
to it as
if that person is telling them what to do.
Now maybe an admin (another topic) or a “trainer”
might say something like that, but researchers are generally so aloof
practical applications that we wish they WOULD tell us what to do.
What we must do is remain open and keep observing
as we try different methods. My own mind was opened reading Taubes’
thought that overweight people got that way through willful overeating
fear of exercise. I cannot go into details here, but basically fat
not getting nourishment from their fat and they are just as hungry as
else. Moreover, their hunger is a deep-seated (hypothalamus) drive that
irresistable. I feel really bad now about the way I thought about
people (not that I haven’t been overweight but it hasn’t proved that
hard for me
to return to my desired weight – my problem is blood pressure and there
really struggled, a perfect target for the “you just need will power,
So it would be good to hear from people the good
things they have got out of reading research and their frustrations
it. It’s helped me a lot. What has it done for you?