Category Archives: Learning Concepts

Automaticity in Learning

A key prerequisite to the mastery of any skill or ability is automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to do something automatically without much thought. The avoidance of thinking is often viewed critically but in the context of developing mastery, there is a point where something needs to be done with a great deal of conscious intellectual effort.

This post will explain automaticity and provide principles to use when trying to develop automaticity in language learning students

Children and Adult Automaticity 

In comparison to adults, children are excellent at automaticity. For example, children often learn languages fairly easy because they process the language without in-depth metalinguistic thought about it.

A child’s success with automaticity in relation to language is due to the fact that children do not become obsessed with understanding all the various aspects of the grammar of a language. Instead of examining tiny bits of the language a child will focus on using the language in various context. In other words, adults focus on grammar and rules which are hard to understand and remember while children focus on using the language without caring about the details.

To provide another example, whereas an adult might see languages like an accountant with a focus on minute details and careful attention. A child sees language like a CEO who often focuses on the big picture. The child wants to communicate and doesn’t care too much for how it’s done or the rules involved.

This is not to say that focus on details is bad it simply impedes quick communication. A child learns to speak but has a superficial understanding of the language. The adult is slow to speak but has a much richer understanding of the language.  In other words, the child knows how to communicate but doesn’t know why they can say this or that while the adults often don’t know how to communicate but know the why behind what they wish they could say.

Teaching for Automaticity

If the goal of a language teacher is for students to be able to develop automaticity they should consider the following ideas.

  • There is a place for sharing language rules. However, the teaching of rules should be related to practical use so that the student is not weighed down by rules they cannot use immediately. Often, the teaching of rules is inductive in nature in most modern methods/approaches.
  • Classroom and learning time should be devoted to the function or use of language. What this means is spend less time talking about the language and more time actually using the language.
  • Developing automaticity takes a great deal of time. In other words, classroom activities that contribute to automaticity must be consistently in the lesson plan throughout the semester so that students can become comfortable using the language.

Conclusion

Becoming a natural at anything necessitates some form of automaticity. For the adult language learning, acquiring automaticity means to reduce the desire to think critically and just accept how a language is used. With the help of a teacher, it is possible to develop this ability.

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Thinking Skills

Everybody thinks, at least we hope everybody thinks. However, few are aware of the various skills that can be used in thinking. In this post, we will look at several different skills that can be used when trying to think and understand something. There are at least four different skills that can be used in thinking and they are…

  • Clarification
  • Basis
  • Inference
  • Evaluation

Clarification

Clarification, as you can tell from the name, is focused on making things clear so that decisions can be made. Clarification involves developing questions, analysis, and defining terms.

Clarification lays the groundwork for determining the boundaries in which thinking needs to take place. In many ways, clarification deals with the question of what are you trying to think about.

Basis

Basis involves categorizing the information that has been gathered to think about. At this stage, a person decides if the information they have is a fact, opinion, or just incorrect information.

Another activity at this level is assessing the credibility of the sources of information. For example, facts from experts are considered more credible than the opinions of just anybody.

Inference

Inference involves several different forms of reasoning. These forms of reasoning have been discussed in a previous post. The forms include inductive, deductive, and abductive reasoning.

Whatever form of reasoning is used the overall goal is to develop conclusions based either on principles or examples. As such, the prior forms of thinking are necessary to move to developing inferences. In other words, there must be clarification and basis before inferences.

Evaluation

Evaluation involves developing a criteria upon which to judge the adequacy of whatever decisions have been made. This means assessing the quality of the thought process that has already taken place.

Assessing judgment is near the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy and involves not only having an opinion but basing the opinion on well-developed criteria. This is in no way easy for anybody.

Tips for Developing Thinking Skills

When dealing with students, here are a few suggestions for developing thinking skills.

  • Demonstrate-Providing examples of the thinking process give students something to model.
  • Question-Questioning is an excellent way to develop thinking. Most of the thinking skills above involve extensive questioning.
  • Verbalize thinking-When students are required to think, have them verbalize what they are thinking. This provides insight into what is happening inside their head as well as allows the teacher to analyze what is happening.

Conclusion

Thinking involves questioning. The development of answers to these questions is the fruit of thinking. It is important to determine what one is trying to do in order to allow purposeful thinking to take place.