Why Instruction Matters

The New York Times just had a wonderful article about whether or not college lectures are fair.  Read it here.

As an educator we hear often that "instructional techniques get worse as you continue in education," and having gone to the top university in Canada, I have to agree.

When I worked in the High School setting, we often set out to prepare students for College, only to hear from alumni that they were struggling to access content.  While this happens for numerous reasons, this NYT article points to educator instruction as a contributing factor.

We see the same problem in World Language classrooms.  I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said "oh, you speak ---?  You're so lucky!  I took four years in High School and I can't say a word!"

Would we accept this statement if said about Language Arts? Would anyone ever say "I took English all throughout High School but I can't read to save my life!"

The short answer: no.  This article points to one of the reasons that I believe so strongly in proficiency-based learning in World Language.  When we give students exclusively written assignments, endless verb conjugation exercises, and passive reading/listening activities, we should be surprised if our students graduate speaking more than a few self-conscious sentences!  That's not to say that each of those tasks does not have a place and a purpose in World Language education.  However, they cannot be the focus.  When we focus on proficiency-based learning, we focus on what the students can do with the language: not what they know about the language.  What does that equal?  Students who feel confident and able to converse and communicate in another language, and all the cognitive and lifetime benefits that come with it.