In the inductive process, students seek patterns and use them to identify their broader meanings and significance. In the deductive process, meanings or rules are given, and students have to then apply them.
I’m a huge fan of using inductive learning, and plenty of research (which you’ll find in the resources on this list) document its effectiveness.
I’ve written many posts about it, and thought it would be useful to bring together a few of my best ones, along with resources developed by others, that explain the inductive process and how to apply it in mainstream and English Language Learner classrooms (feel free to make suggestions of ones I’ve missed):
The British Council has shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.
Here are two British Council posts where I wrote about it:
So what do you think the purpose of consciousness is?
I think the purpose of it is to draw all the relevant information together in a larger space. It’s almost as if we can’t spot it because we are doing it all the time. Why do we love crossword puzzles and why are people addicted to sudoku? That’s what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do — to spot [patterns] — and once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world.
And that’s why solving puzzles or finding a useful bit of information feels so good?
We get streams of pleasure when we find something that can really help us understand some deep pattern. Sudoku isn’t the most [fun activity], but it sure feels good when you put in that last number. It’s why scientists love doing research. The way I approach my job, it’s like trying to solve a really big fuzzy crossword puzzle and when you do put in that new clue and see the deeper pattern, that’s incredibly pleasurable.
If our brains are hungry for information, then why do we tend to see learning as a chore and fail to recognize it as a huge source of pleasure?
I don’t know. Obviously, more intelligent people get more pleasure from spotting these patterns, but I think almost every normal person does this. I think it’s a pretty pervasive thing but it’s almost as if we can’t notice it because it’s so pervasive.
The blog also has a useful chart. It’s worth checking-out but, in summary, it discusses findings that students will remember things far better if they bring their own meaning to in a way they choose:
What this research suggests is that, merely in terms of remembering, it would be more effective for students to come up with their own organisation for course material…..You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way.
If you are a teacher, like me, then this research raises some distrurbing questions. At a University the main form of teaching we do is the lecture, which puts the student in a passive role and, essentially, asks them to “remember this” – an instruction we know to be ineffective. Instead, we should be thinking hard, always, about how to create teaching experiences in which students are more active, and about creating courses in which students are permitted and encouraged to come up with their own organisation of material, rather than just forced to regurgitate ours.
It’s nothing particularly new, but any research that backs up that kind of perspective certainly can’t hurt….
In addition to teaching full-time in high school during the day, I’m on the adjunct faculty in the teacher education programs at California State University, Sacramento and the University of California, Davis. I’m finding an important question keeps on cropping up:
How do I teach a newcomer, with next-to-zero English proficiency, who is placed in my mainstream classroom without any additional outside support being provided?
Unfortunately, I suspect that this is a very common issue for teachers across the United States – a newcomer is “parachuted” into their classes and they’re just told to “integrate” the student into their instruction.
Here are some suggestions – from readers and from me:
MY NUMBER ONE PIECE OF ADVICE: Remember, your newcomer student is as intelligent as any native-English speaker you have in your classroom. He/she is just new to the English language. Start off by reading this piece that Katie Hull and I have written: Do’s & Don’ts for Teaching English-Language Learners. And, please, don’t make the mistakes of speaking loudly in English to them or giving them a seat at the very back of the room.
PROVIDE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
* Learn their story – why their family came here, what their interests are, goals they might have for their life. If you cannot speak their home language and/or can’t find another staffperson or student who can, using Google Translate is a very viable option. Using the audio translation mode, it will automatically provide verbal interpretation. It’s not perfect by any means, but you should be able to have a basic conversation. Just last month, Google announced a breakthrough in improving their Translate tool for some languages and expects to apply a similar tech upgrade to all of them.
* Provide access to a computer or tablet (I often will let a student use my “teacher” computer). If a student has zero or next-to-zero English, the best help any teacher – no matter what subject they are teaching – can provide is support to students in developing basic English communication skills. Duolingo, LingoHut, USA Learns and English Central are the four best online tools for that kind of support (here are other language-learning sites, too). Doing this – for a short time, at least – can help them begin to develop self-confidence, get them familiar with online tools they can also use at home (if they have Internet access there) and give you some time to develop a longer-term plan on how you are going to teach them your content matter and pull together needed resources.
*If you are fortunate enough to speak your newcomer’s language, using the Preview, View and Review method is an option (preview the lesson in the home language, then the main lesson in English, and then review it in the home language). I’ve also used the bilingual resources listed in the previous suggestion in the same way – previewing and reviewing with those materials.
*There are many sites that provide similar high-quality materials on multiple subjects using different “levels” of text. For example, an article on the Electoral College might be edited for three or four different reading levels. Using a high English level version of one for most of your students and a simplified version for your newcomer is a fairly easy way to make content accessible. In fact, there are tools that let you do the same for any text you copy and paste into them. You can find links to all these options at The Best Places To Get The “Same” Text Written For Different “Levels.”
*There are a number of content-specific books that are designed to be particularly accessible to ELLs – you can see a list of a few of them at The Best Books For Teaching & Learning ESL/EFL. I use some of the books listed in my history and English classes (note that, though the book titles are all accurate, the links where to purchase them might be out-of-date). You can find other content-specific books at The Best Places To Buy ESL/EFL Books. Software & Multimedia. Providing these textbook alternatives, which likely cover similar subjects to the ones you use with the majority of your students, could be a useful scaffold.
*At the very least, make sure you have a bilingual dictionary in your newcomer’s student language.
*At our high school, seniors often get a class period when they are T.A.’s (teaching assistants) or “Peer Tutors.” With support and minimal training from me, a student who doesn’t even speak the newcomer’s home language can provide invaluable support to them. In addition, having the title “peer tutor” can look better on a senior’s transcript when applying to college.
*Inductive teaching emphasizes pattern-seeking, which is a skill found to be particularly important to those learning a new language (and it’s important for everybody else, too!). If you presently employ inductive methods in your instruction, creating more simple versions for your newcomer should be fairly easy, though would take a little extra time. If you are not using them now, I’d encourage you to consider experimenting with it. You can learn more at The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching. In particular, you might want to read how I use it: Get Organized Around Assets and The Picture Word Inductive Model.
*If your newcomer does not have Internet access at home (or even if he/she does), providing him/her with accessible books they can read at home can be a big help – plenty of research documents the importance of home libraries. Our local Friends of the Library has provided hundreds of free books for our newcomer students, and you can also print out many online (see The Best Sources For Free & Accessible Printable Books).
*If your school has a specialized class where the newcomer is learning English, regularly talk with their teacher to learn more about the student and to both listen to – and offer – ideas how you can both support the student in their classes.
Prioritize – choose two or three concepts from the unit you are teacher and work hard to get those across to your newcomers. Trying to ensure the student understands every little last thing will be overwhelming for you both.
In fact, Google just published this video that highlights that feature and the features I mentioned in the earlier post:
In addition, I neglected to mention the obvious strategy of showing English subtitled with any videos you show.
Finally, this was an idea suggested by one of the credential candidates at my California State University, Sacramento, course: if you are teaching whole novels in your class, why not get a version of it in your ELL’s home language, if available?
I just reviewed projects created by students in my ELL Beginners class and have used examples from their writing to create these two sheets I’ll be using Monday. I’ll use them to teach how adjectives come before nouns (a particular challenge to those who have Spanish has their first language), remembering to put periods at the ends of sentences, and when to use “has” and “have.”
The post makes a fairly accessible case for its use. Unfortunately, however, they make a mistake that I’ve seen in other places — it contrasts “assisted” or “guided” discovery learning (where teachers provide some…guidance or assistance) with what they call “pure discovery,” where students are pretty much left to their own devices.
If we’re serious about encouraging the use of more constructivist pedagogy in the classroom, I think we need to be making the contrast with instructional strategies that are more commonly used, like direct instruction. Yes, direct instruction has its place, but it must also be kept in its place.
This post is really just an excuse for me to post previous resources I’ve shared on this topic:
Next February, this blog will be celebrating its ten-year anniversary! Leading up to it, I’m re-starting a series I tried to do in the past called “A Look Back.” Each week, I’ll be re-posting a few of my favorite posts from the past ten years.
This month’s issues of ASCD Educational Leadership has just been published, and in itRobert Marzano reports on a study that may be the most important one that’s come out this year.
Here is a very simple summary of his study, which was a “meta-analysis” of hundreds of others: It found that “direct instruction” was a more effective instructional method than “unassisted discovery learning.” And it found that “enhanced discovery learning” trumped them both.
I personally think this idea of “unassisted discovery learning” is a bit of a “straw man.” It basically means that students have to learn on their own with very little assistance from a teacher. As example might be how I started a science lesson once on the scientific method — I gave students two cups — one half filled with water, and scissors and asked them to figure out how they would tell time with it. I call the issue a “straw man,” though, because I, and many other teachers, might start off a lesson like this (plenty of research has shown that the use of “novelty” like this is effective), I’m not convinced many would make the whole lesson “unassisted.”
What’s important, though, about the study, I think, is that it highlights that “enhanced discovery learning” was particularly effective.
Here’s how the study itself (you have to pay $12 to gain access to it) defined “enhanced discovery learning”:
…generation, elicited explanations, and guided discovery conditions. Generation conditions required learners to generate rules, strategies, images, or answers to experimenters’ questions. Elicited explanation conditions required that learners explain some aspect of the target task or target material, either to themselves or to the experimenters. The guided discovery conditions involved either some form of instructional guidance (i.e.,scaffolding) or regular feedback to assist the learner at each stage of the learning tasks.