Teaching by principles - COGNITIVE PRINCIPLES

There are twelve overarching principles of second language learning that interact with sound practice and on which your teaching can be based. These principles form the core of an approach to language teaching, as discussed in previous chapter.


This principles called “cognitive” because they relate mainly to mental and intellectual functions.

Principle 1: Automatically

We commonly attribute children’s success to their widely observed tendency to acquire language subconsciously; that is, without overtly analysing the forms of language themselves. Through an inductive process of exposure to language input and opportunity to experiment with output, they appear to learn languages without “thinking” about them.
This childlike, subconscious processing is similar to what Barry McLaughlin called automatic processing with peripheral attention to language forms. That is, in order to manage the incredible complexity and quantity of language—the vast numbers of processing language unit by unit, piece by piece, focusing closely on each and “graduate” to a form of high-speed, automatic processing in which language forms (words, affixes, word order, rules, etc.) are only on the periphery of attention. Children usually make this transition faster than adults, who tend to linger in analytical, controlled modes, focusing on the bits and pieces into the hard drive of their minds.

Below are the important rubric of Automaticity principle
-          Subconscious absorption of language through meaningful use.
-          Efficient and rapid movement away from a focus on the forms of language to a focus on the purposes to which language is put.
-          Resistance to the temptation to analyse language forms.
The principle of Automaticity may be stated as follows:
Efficient second language learning involves a timely movement of the control of a few language forms into the automatic processing of a relatively unlimited number of language forms. Overanalysing language, thinking too much about its forms, and consciously lingering on rules of language all tend to impede this graduation.

Notice that this principle does not say that focus on language forms is necessary harmful. Because in fact, adults can be benefit from certain focal processing of rules, definitions and other formal aspects of language. What the principle does say is that adults can take a lesson from children by speedily overcoming our propensity to pay too much focal attention to the bits and pieces of language and to move language forms quickly to the periphery by using language in authentic context for meaningful purposes., In so doing, automaticity is built more efficiently.

Below are some possibilities might mean to us as a teacher:
-          Because classroom learning normally begins with controlled, focal processing, there is no mandate to entirely avoid overt attention to language systems (grammar, phonology, discourse, etc.). That attention, however, should stop well short of blocking students from achieving a more automatic, fluent grasp of the language. Therefore, grammatical explanations or exercises dealing with what is sometimes called “usage” have a place in the adult classroom, but you could overwhelm your students with grammar. If they become too heavily-centered on the formal aspects of language, such processes can block pathways to fluency.
-          Make sure that a large proportion of your lessons are focused on the “use” of language for purposes that are as genuine as a classroom context will permit. Students will gain more language competences in the long run if the functional purposes of language are the focal point.
-          Automaticity isn’t gained overnight; therefore, you need to exercise patience with students as you slowly help them to achieve fluency.

Principle 2: Meaningful Learning

This is the close related to the Principle of Automaticity, which convincingly argue the strength of meaningful as opposed to rote learning. Meaningful learning “subsumes” new information into existing structure and memory systems, and the resulting associative links create stronger retention. Rote learning has little chance of creating long-term retention.. Children are good meaningful acquirers because they associate sounds, words, structure and discourse elements with that which is relevant and important in their daily quest for knowledge and survival.
The principle of Meaningful Learning is quite simply stated:
Meaningful learning will lead toward better long-term retention than rote learning

The language classroom has not always been the best place for meaningful learning. In the days when the ALM was popular, rote learning occupied too much of the class hour as students were drilled and drilled in attempt to “overlearn” language forms. The principle of Meaningful Learning tells us that some aural-oral drilling is appropriate.
            Some classroom implications of the Principle of Meaningful Learning:
-          Capitalize on the power of meaningful learning by appealing to students’ interests, academic goals and career goals.
-          Whenever a few topic or concepts is introduced, attempt to another it in students’ existing knowledge and background so that it becomes associated with something they already know.
-          Avoid the pitfalls of rote learning:
a.       Too much grammar explanation
b.      Too many abstract principles and theories
c.       Too much drilling and/or memorization
d.      Activities whose purpose are not clear
e.       Activities that do not contribute to accomplishing the goals of the lesson, unit or course
f.       Technique that are so mechanical or tricky that students’ focuses on the mechanics instead of on the language meanings.

Principle 3: The Anticipation of Reward

According to Skinner, the anticipation of reward is the most powerful factor in directing one’s behaviour. The principle behind the Skinner’s operant conditioning paradigm, which I term the Reward Principle, can be stated as follows:

Human beings are universally driven to act, or “behave,” by the anticipation of some sort of reward—tangible or intangible, short term or long term—that will ensue as a result of the behaviour.

This behoves you to help students to see clearly why they are doing something and its relevance to their long-term goals in learning English. Also, a reward driven ultimately have a high impact on classroom instruction.
                        Conditioning rewards can:
-          Lead learners to become dependent on short-term rewards.
-          Coax them into a habit of looking to teachers and others for their only rewards.
-          Forestall the development of their own internally administered, intrinsic system of rewards.
Considering all side of Reward Principle, the following constructive classroom implications may be drawn:
-          Provide an optimal degree of immediate verbal praise and encouragement to them as a form of short-term reward (just enough to keep them confident in their ability but not so much that your praise simply becomes verbal gush).
-          Encourage students to reward each other with compliments and supportive actin.
-          In classes with very low motivation, short0term reminders of progress may help students to perceive their development. Gold stars and stickers (especially for young learners), issuing certain “privileges” for good work, and progress chart and graphs may spark some interest.
-          Display enthusiasm and excitement yourself in the classroom. If you are dull, lifeless, bored, and have low energy, you can be almost sure that it will be contagious.
-          Try to get learners to see the long-term rewards in learning English by pointing out what they can do with English where they live and around the world, the prestige in being able to use English, the academic benefits of knowing English, jobs that require English and so on.

Principle 4: Intrinsic Motivation

Simply stated, the Intrinsic Motivation Principle is:
The most powerful rewards are those that are intrinsically motivated within the learner. Because the behaviour stems from needs, wants, or desires within oneself, the behaviour itself is self-rewarding: therefore, no externally administered reward is necessary.
Classroom techniques have a much greater chance for success if they are self-rewarding in the perception of the learner. The development of intrinsic motivation does indeed involve affective processing, as most of these first five principles do, and so the argument is appropriate. But reward-directed behaviour in all organisms is complex to the point that cognitive, physical, and affective processing are involved.

Principle 5: Strategic Investment

Principle of Strategic Investment can be called:
Successful mastery of the second language will be due to a large extent to a learner’s own personal “investment” of time, effort, and attention to the second language in the form of an individualized battery of strategies for comprehending and producing the language.

This principle is laid out in where practical classroom applications are made. For the time being, however, ponder two major pedagogical implications of the principle are:
-          The importance of recognizing and dealing with the wide variety of styles and strategies that learners successfully bring to the learning process.
-          The need for attention to each separate individual in the classroom.
The principle of strategic investment nevertheless is a reminder to provide as much attention as you can to each individual student. Some aspects of the dilemma surrounding variation and the need for individualization can be solved through specific strategies-based instruction, which will be shown below:
-          Am I seizing whatever opportunity I can to let learners in on the ‘secrets” to develop and use strategies for learning and communication?
-          Do my lessons and impromptu feedback adequately sensitize students to the wisdom of their taking responsibility for their own learning?
-          How can I ensure that my students will want to put forth the effort of trying out some strategies?