“Cognitive Architecture” and Learning of Language Knowledge

Saturday 05 December 2015 -
09:00 to 12:00
Ateneo de Manila University

In a recent study of trends in language teaching pedagogy, I identified a major professional dichotomy regarding preferred approaches to the teaching of ‘language knowledge’. In general, it was shown that the theoretical discourse of language teaching favoured a ‘communicating-to-learn’ approach in the matter (e.g., task-based learning), whereas the practitioner ‘world’ leaned more towards a ‘learning-to-communicate’ approach (e.g., PPP). 

The purpose of this talk is to build on these findings by attempting to determine to what extent either of these pedagogic stances can be justified. In doing so, recent research and theorising on the workings of memory in relation to the learning of factual information is reviewed. On the basis of the characteristics of cognitive architecture that it describes, this literature is taken to indicate that i), long-term memorisation of knowledge is the key to skilled performance, and ii), guided or ‘direct’ instruction is superior to problem-solving or discovery-oriented forms of pedagogy in facilitating the long-term learning of factual information. 

Following this, the implications of these findings for language teaching pedagogy are discussed. In particular, they are seen to provide a rationale for current professional perspectives concerning the teaching of language knowledge to be re-conceptualised.

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Dr. Alan Waters was a senior lecturer at Lancaster University, United Kingdom. He joined the Department of Linguistics and English Language in 2001, after working in the university's Institute for English Language Education (IELE) for a number of years. He has also held posts in Sierra Leone, Kuwait and Thailand, run courses in many other parts of the world and acted as a consultant to several major ELT development projects. His publications include Interface (Longman), ESP: A Learning-centred Approach, Study Tasks in English (both Cambridge University Press), A Review of Research into Needs for English for Academic Purposes (ETS), two edited volumes of papers and a number of journal articles. He retired in September 2012.