A brief defense, and justification, of a “teacher centered” language classroom.

[draft in progress]

I have put “teacher-centered” in quotes, because a CI-based classroom only seems to be teacher centered, in the negative sense in which the term is commonly used in educational circles.

Recent trends in pedagogy have emphasized the benefits of a student centered curriculum, where teachers “get out of the way” of student learning.

As it relates to the non-language subjects of study in elementary, secondary school and above, this approach makes a lot of sense. Students need to learn how to be independent learners, and through a structured “gradual release of responsibility,” students can gain the skills to help them achieve success in the workplace, which is increasingly requiring people to work independently and collaboratively.

When it comes to the second language classroom, however, the model of a student-centered classroom, and the dichotomy between teacher and student centeredness, is more complex.

Others have stated this better, and I will refer to the work of Terry Waltz and others. Terry Waltz clearly states the language teacher’s objection to a simple goal of “students getting out of the way” first with an appeal to the idea that learning a language is not the same as learning a subject in one’s first language….

Second, if we accept the notion that a large quantity of input (spoken and written) is required for language acquisition to take place, this means that a teacher must be present to provide the bulk of this input, for a long time before students are capable of producing and providing input to each other that is of the quality that a teacher/native speaker can provide.

So, what can teachers do?