Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages


This course investigates the learning of foreign, or second, languages from four different perspectives: 

  1. Behaviourist approaches view language acquisition as habit formation: the teacher provides new language stimuli, learners respond by imitation, and the teacher offers feedback which reinforces appropriate responses.
  2. Cognitive learning theory views language acquisition as information processing: the learner acquires language by understanding and producing messages, with the teacher providing both input and feedback to activate subconscious learning mechanisms.
  3. Constructivism is a specific form of cognitivism which emphasises the active and individual nature of language learning: the teacher is concerned with the process of acquisition rather than its product.
  4. Socio-constructivism looks beyond the individual learner's construction of linguistic knowledge to examine the whole social process of participation in linguistic activity: the teacher fosters collaborative learning as a pre-requisite for individual progress in the second language.

The course presents each theory in terms of general learning, then as it applies to language, including major figures and key concepts for each.  The reader will complete learning activities throughout each module, including illustrations from the second language classroom.  The four theories can also be viewed chronologically via a timeline and comprehension of the material checked via quizzes.

See an overview of the site with advice for navigation, or consult the reference section.

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