The "Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment" explains the importance for students to develop general as well as linguistic competences in the target language they are learning. The first group includes declarative knowledge (savoir), skills and know-how (savoir-faire), existencial competence (savoir-être) and the ability to learn (savoir-apprendre). The second group integrates linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences. Taking these guidelines into account and considering the students are expected to develop receptive, productive, interactive as well as mediation strategies (both oral and in writing), it is natural to conclude that the methodology followed in a language classroom should be based on communicative principles. Yet that statement can be considered to be rather vague. The Proyect Based Learning (PBL) methodology is the perfect one to flesh out the principles embraced in the CEFR together with a number of methodological tips that may come in more than handy:
- The reviewed version of Bloom's Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2000) which classifies cognitive operations in six levels, going from LOTS (Lower Order Thinking Skills) to HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills), is:
- Bruner's Spiral Curriculum (1960) is based on the principle that anything can be learnt as long as it is taught effectively and with intellectual honesty, that is, stressing key ideas and progressively wrapping them with more particular and detailed ones, a process which students will continue carrying out throughout their lives (lifelong learning). It is necessary that key ideas are constantly reviewed so as to create solid foundations capable of supporting the learning of new data and ideas. The role of the teacher is that of a guide who motivates and inspires by promoting intuitive, analytical and critical thinking.
- Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) (1978) shows how assisted performance maximises the potential students can attain. Tasks can be more intellectually challenging provided the teachers prepare appropriate scaffolding (Walqui, 2006) and create opportunities for students to learn cooperatively. Students learn more effectively in a collaborative environment than on their own. Moreover, when students are distributed in working groups, those who have grasped the concepts more easily can become teachers to their peers and help them to reach the necessary goals to complete the task. Pairing stronger students next to weaker ones provides opportunities for both of them to develop their potential while, at the same time, catering for diversity.
- Dewey's educational philosophy is mostly concerned with experiencing, interacting with and reflecting about the real world. He defended an informal, hands-on education focused on relevant experience which should always encourage the learner to make an 'intelligent effort', that is, to think and reflect. His theory holds that for effective learning to take place, students have to be busily involved in the process. Similarly, Maria Montessori encouraged children to relate to the world and explore it in their own terms so as to gain knowledge through experience. These principles are present in task-based or project oriented learning (Project Based Learning, PBL), which focuses on processes and by means of problem-solving tasks inspires students to take responsibility of their own learning; do research; share their findings; draw conclusions and cooperate.
- Krashen's Monitor Hypothesis (1982) emphasises the importance of providing the learner with comprehensible input and wide exposure to the language. He distinguishes between acquisition (which takes place subsconsciously and following a Natural Order) and learning (which happens consciously and aided with some Monitoring). His theory highlights the importance of loweing the affective filter which can hinder the acquisition-learning process. The teacher has to design communicative activities that create an appropriate environment to make the students feel confortable. The theory rests upon the principle that no output or language production can occur until there has been sufficient exposure to the target language.
- Blended Learning, a 21st century educational pedagogy that aims to take the learning-teaching process beyond the classroom throught the use of technology. The use of both synchronous and asynchronous tools multiply the possibility of communicaiton between the students and the teacher. The teacher becomes a facilitator who guides the students to master the necessary skills to continue their learning process. Empowered with those skills and having a wide number of resources at their disposal, students can decide what, when, where and how they learn following their own rhythm and needs. The tutor accompanies them during the process encouraging them and promoting critical thinking to help them solve the doubts and problems they encounter.
And, most importantly, embrace a flexible and eclectic methodology so you can be attentive to the different needs and learning styles (multiple intelligences) of the students and you are able to cater for them.
The infographic below summarises these principles. Below it, you can find some recommended bibliography.
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Bruner, J. S. (1960) The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Council of Europe, (2001)Common European Framework for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Asssement
Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education, New York: Collier Books
Ellis, R. (2003) "The methodology of task-based teaching", Kansai University Journal of Foreign Language Education and Research, pp. 79-101
Garrison, R. & Vaughan, N. D. (2008) Blended Learning in Higher Education: Framework, Principles and Guidelines. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.
Krashen, S. D. (1981) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Krashen, S. D. (1982) Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Krashen, S. D. (1985) The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. New York: Longman.
Krashen, S. D. & Claremont, C. A. (1969) The Natural Approach. New York: Pergamon Press
Montessori, M & Claremont, C. A. (1969) The absorbent mind. New York: Dell Pub. Co.
Vygotsky, L. (1978) Mind in society: The Development of Higher Mental Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Walqui, A. (2006) "Scaffolding Instruction for English Language Learners: A conceptual Framework" The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Vol. 9, nº2