Although the reading approach is more traditional, in 1957 Skinner became a forward thinker in terms of the behaviourist approach to teaching. Skinner’s rat was used to explain how operant conditioning reinforced the concept that students will respond positively to stimuli and response. Skinner saw language as verbal behaviour; therefore, through positive reinforcement the desirable behavioral habits will be encouraged and learned through patterned practice.
To what extent though can these approaches be applied to teaching a class of 30 or more pupils? Both Chomskey and Skinner are not wrong; however, both are not entirely appropriate anymore in certain circumstances. From my experience, it is important to allow the students to work through a text and see pieces of grammar they are not familiar with, as it allows them to begin to ask the questions themselves, which in turn helps encourage independent learners. The only significant issue with the reading approach is that learning a second language is scary enough for most primary school pupils. The teacher must be prepared to guide the students through the pieces of the texts they can assume the students will not understand. When teaching this approach to a large size class, it becomes harder to maintain. There will always be students that are not prepared to ask a question when they do not understand something. If a teacher focuses too largely on the reading approach it would be possible for quiet, less confident pupils to fall behind.
Likewise, Skinner’s behavioral approach towards teaching becomes more difficult to manage in a large class. Although it is every teacher’s dream to be able to go around a classroom and speak to each child to see what they are struggling with, what they are doing well, and to reinforce excellent work and hard efforts, it is sadly a mammoth task that is hard to complete each lesson. In a class of 30 pupils, if one was solely to use the behavioral approach, it would equally allow for certain pupils to slip through the system.
Written by Callum Carroll, 31 March 2014