Responding to Terry

Below I’ve reprinted two posts of Terry Waltz’ without her permission, but I’ve asked in the past and she’s always consented to me posting (to my posting?) her stuff on my blog b/c it enhances my blog.
My comments first:
Some of us have been discussing the phenomenon of “drift” and I’ve mentioned it on my blog, but the earliest mention I can find now is this in August: “I had just written a few weeks prior about the drift I’ve seen in posts from supposed tprs-ers that sounded much like legacy teaching” , so I need to keep looking “a few weeks prior”. But Terry again refers to this drift in the last full sentence in her first post and in the second sentence of the first paragraph in the latter post. She writes directly and clearly. I would like to see those who think learners can gain competence in L2 by memorizing, by grasping the structure of the structures, by output, by interpretative dance, would just explain the mechanism by which acquisition occurs. What I have seen, as I’ve noted in the writings of a major figure in SLA, is vague “it feels good”, “it stands to reason”, “in my personal experience”, “from what I’ve heard” statements, none of which are worth a bucket of spit. What tprs and CI generally have to offer is the direct testimony of hundreds of experienced teachers who have taught via the legacy method and then switched to tprs. The only way we are going to get some sort of scientific “proof” (apparently the principles of science are not taught in education departments b/c few list members seem to grasp what “proof” means or entails) is to invest several million dollars in research one huge project with an N of at least 8, since so many studies wind up with an N of 3, and a handful of competent teachers who won’t take better jobs in Oregon before the research project is over, as well as students who don’t turn out to be heritage speakers of the L2 or to have just spent two years in school in the country where L2 is spoken (I can’t believe how dumb some of these research projects are). In short, “proof” the way school teachers understand it just isn’t going to happen. So let’s look at the testimony of hundreds of teachers as to how they do it and then posit that that is how one does it rather than junking the whole thing up with “neat stuff I learned at a state organization conference using bubblegum wrappers”. The little I’ve tried tprs showed me it is hard, so learn it first, then junk it up if you want.
Now Terry:
Maybe for learning. But we’re not learning here. We’re acquiring. Well, we’re learning part of the time, but more on that below.
I think there is an important distinction to be made here. TPRS provides plenty of opportunities for prediction, even while the input is HCI (classic TPRS-style CI where meaning is established beyond a reasonable doubt through a shared fluent language). But in TPRS, the prediction is of ideas (content of the story/narrative, in the form of details or suggestions), not the meaning of the language being heard. The TPRS predictions are on the “learning” side (in terms of students “learning” what the facts of the story are, or “learning” the information being discussed about their classmates, or whatever — NOT about “learning” the language and how its forms corresponds to various meanings).
In fact, I would say that making students “predict” (guess) what language means to participate in an ongoing, developing class narrative would be counterproductive, as those who guess wrongly will be participating inappropriately in the discussion or offering answers/suggestions that “don’t quite fit”. That might make one pay more attention if one were a mature, motivated adult, but not if one is a teenager.
At the core, I really wonder why everyone seems so bent on making TPRS into something else. It is what it is — native language meaning establishment wherever possible being a core component. The fact that some people teach in situations where this is not possible doesn’t make it reasonable that the method should have to abandon the practice — merely that those in alternative situations have to adapt. And it works very well. Is it some urge to be accepted by the “mainstream” or something? The urge to find “the next big thing”? The urge to invent something? The feeling that “TPRS doesn’t quite work for me yet so I need something different instead of really getting the TPRS thing down?” I don’t know. But I am seeing more and more things under the banner of “TCI” that to me has less and less “CI” involved. Not all, but a substantial amount. To me, this is very dangerous especially for those new to (what I deem real) CI-based teaching.
Interesting discussion.
Terry Waltz

I am not talking about whether or not one should or should not use TPRS-style using-the-native-language to make input comprehensible, or use interpretive dance or smoke signals. We can agree to disagree on that. I believe these other forms are drift, pure and simple, but that is neither here nor there for this thread.

What I am saying is it is time to distinguish clearly between these two states of affairs by means of a unique term to describe the type of CI that pure, classical TPRS utilizes. CI by just-telling-them-what-it-means.
We need an obvious way to specify what we are doing and meaning when we refer to comprehensible input as it is operationalized in TPRS, and contrasting that easily and inoffensively with the alternative styles of CI which are becoming more and more mainstream as legacy methods reach out for CI. I no longer feel that when I write “comprehensible input” it is sufficient to make my reader understand precisely what I am talking about.
Terry Waltz

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