Just what is i+1?

The following post was sent by me to a Listserv:
“A point of clarification. From the way I read the accursed Krashen, he
hypothesizes (hypothesizes, not claims) that i+2 is not a challenge; it is
the level at which a learner will “acquire” that item of vocabulary or
structure. Beyond i+1 you don’t get any action, nothing happens.

When you use the word challenge in an educational setting, it sounds like
“our slang” for something REALLY motivated students can do. No, they can’t.
They can “do” i+1, not i+2. If they can do i+2, that means it’s REALLY i+1
for that student. I just want to avoid this game people get into where they
throw what they call “challenging” material at a bunch of kids and then
congratulate the 2 or 3 who get it and call the rest lazy.”

I then got a reply and so responded to it with the following:

Your weight-lifting analogy is a good one. If you put no extra stress on your muscles, they don’t grow. If you so overload the muscle you tear something, you don’t grow b/c your body has to heal first. So weight-training involves adding “just enough” weight to get the growth response from the muscles.

When Krashen talks about i+1, he isn’t talking about a challenge in the sense I defined it in my post [above[. Please keep in mind, I am talking about the peculiar use of this word ’challenge’ in education or edubabble: pushing kids to their limit to stretch them, etc. I am not arguing against that; I am just saying that that is not what Krashen is talking about when he says i+1. What he means by that is new material……… boy, this is going to be long, I’m afraid. Fair warning.

Remember: Krashen does not advocate simplifying input for learners, although I think we all do that. He posits that given a ton of input, i+1 will occur somewhere in that input. But what is i+1? It is where the learner comprehends (i) everything in an utterance except one part (+1) that he gets from the context. That is then stored in the part of the LAD where acquisition takes place, where ’acquired’ features are stored.

So when teachers talk about challenging students, they are not talking about bumping up the input a little bit, they’re talking about bumping it way up as you might in a chemistry class or a history class, where some of the kids will “rise to the challenge” and read that extra book or take notes when none are required or discuss the content with someone or do an uncalled for experiment to see how some phenomenon works, etc.

If you do that with input, i.e. make it i+3, then what happens is incomprehension and no gain, like making the weight so heavy the lifter cannot move it or does so with injury. So the student may comprehend the i part of the input but since there is no 1, only 2, 3, 4, and on, he gains nothing.

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