Interactive learning is a foundational theory of language acquisition that has had a profound influence on many approaches/methods in TESOL. By foundational, it is meant that teaching in an interactive is an assumption for ensuring language acquisition.
This post will explain what interactive learning is as well as ways in which it is used in the TESOL classroom.
The technical term for interactive learning is the interaction hypothesis developed by Michael Long. This hypothesis proposes that input and output in language. As students engage with each other both in written and oral ways there communication skills will improve. This, of course, is obvious for most of us but credit must still be given when someone takes what is obvious and becomes the first to note it in the literature.
Communication is viewed as a negotiation between two or more people. This experience of back and forth is where language skills are developed.
Traits of Interactive Learning
If a teacher is a proponent of interactive learning. It is possible you will see one or more of the following experiences in their classroom.
- Majority of the learning happening in groups or pairs
- Generating authentic language using real-world activities
- Back and forth negotiated speaking
- Tasks that prepared students to communicate outside the classroom
This is just a partial list of learning experiences that take place in an interactive learning classroom. The primary take away may be that it would be rare for students to work alone and or spend a great deal of time listening to lectures or on non-authentic assignments.
Approaches/Methods Influenced by Interactive Learning
The majority of approaches/methods developed in the latter half of the 20th have been partial are fully influenced by interactive learning. Communicative Language Teaching is completely about interaction. Cooperative language teaching is also highly interactive. Community language learning is also heavily influenced by interaction.
Other approaches/methods may or may not be interactive. Examples include Whole Language, Competency-Based Language Teaching, Text-Based Instruction, and Task-Based instruction. If any of these were to incorporate interactive activities it would be at the discretion of the teacher.
Interactive learning is perhaps the dominant foundational theory of language teaching in TESOL today. The majority of approaches/models are at least sympathetic to learning a language in this manner. As such, a language teacher should at least be familiar with this theory or perhaps consider incorporating these characteristics into their teaching philosophy.
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