25 September 2012

Michel Thomas vs Direct Instruction

So I popped in to check for new comments the other day and there were none, but there was a spike in reader numbers.  Checking the stats, I spotted that most were views of the post Talent Schmalent, so I had a look at the traffic sources and found it was coming from a post on the How-To-Learn-Any-Language.com forum about Michel Thomas and Engelmann's Direct Instruction.  I'd exchanged a few emails with Owen Richardson after he commented on my blog, but at the time I was finishing a job at the Ionad Chaluim Chille Ìle, on the beautiful island of Islay, and preparing to travel a thousand miles across the continent to the equally beautiful island of Corsica, where I'm now teaching.

It's a shame that he sent me links to the scans of the preface to the book (also in the thread), because it was actually massively off-putting.  The whole thing is just too passionately enthusiastic, with the air of having been written by a cult disciple rather than a rational intellectual.  So I read it, and didn't read anything more.

Fortunately, when I saw the thread on HTLAL, I decided this time to read the online module on Direct Instruction from Athabasca University.  It's a third party item, so it's pretty neutral.  It doesn't therefore tell us how great and wonderful it is, but dispassionately tells us that it was empirically more successful than other methods in independently monitored trials.  And it even makes clear that this was a study of complete methods, so wasn't tracking independent variables.  So the conclusion of the study was that Direct Instruction was the best of the tested methods, not "the best method ever".  Having read that, I was more open to reading further on the subject.

However, it did remind me why I hadn't looked into Direct Instruction further after reading about it in Jonathan Solity's book on the Michel Thomas Method -- because it's really fundamentally rather different.  Solity's book diverged far too far from the actual Thomas method when he started talking about exemplars and non-exemplars in the DI manner.  The example he gave was of "over" vs "not over" with a ball or a table.  Thomas rarely, if ever, used examplars and non-exemplars.

To use examplars and non-exemplars in a language course would be far too abstract, and you would be back to learning about the language rather than learning the language.

Many professional Spanish teachers, on first hearing the MT Spanish course, would probably be horrified that he taught "es" as "it is", with no explanation of the difference between "ser" (to be for permanent characteristics; I am Scottish) and "estar"(to be for temporary conditions; I am tired).  He taught purely by exemplar, and not by non-exemplar.

How would we teach "ser" and "not ser"?  Would it be like this?
  • I am a teacher.  Ser or not ser?
  • I am tired.  Ser or not ser?
  • I am hungry.  Ser or not ser?
Because Direct Instruction calls for the widest possible variation in exemplars and non-exemplars, I cannot see any way of doing it while actually manipulating the language itself, as this would involve introducing far too much new information in one go.

Solity's justification for claiming Thomas's taught by examplar and non-exemplar was weak, because after introducing one thing, several hours later he would teach a different (but related) concept by exemplar, and then contrast the two.  That isn't a non-exemplar, as we are never asked to define it by what it's not, only by what it is.  What Thomas does here is far better defined as "integrative reconciliation", a term defined by the late David Ausubel, a pivotal figure in the development educational psychology and cognitive science after the behaviorist* years.  (I've written a bit about him before on several different occasions.)

Ausubel talked about what he call "reception learning", where the information was given, as opposed the better-known "discovery learning" proposed by one of his contemporaries, Jerome Bruner.  He argued that given information was not necessarily rote, and that discovered information was not necessarily meaningful, and I would personally agree with that.

Two of the key items in meaningful learning, he suggested, were "progressive differentiation" (the studying of a concept initially at a simple level then increasingly breaking down the concept into more and more complex subdivisions) and "integrative reconciliation", by which he means constantly comparing and contrasting new concepts to previously-learned ones to remove any ambiguity or confusion.

So when Thomas eventually does compare ser and estar, he's reconciling two potentially conflicting pieces of information with each other -- ie "es is he is" and "está is he is".  That's integrative reconciliation, not exemplars and non-exemplars.

Perhaps language teaching could be done better if it follow the principles of DI, but I can't see how.  After all, Thomas's teaching-by-exemplar-only works extremely well, because the prompts he uses are (mostly) individually unambiguous.  Notice that he doesn't constantly ask what "it is" is in Spanish (that's not unambiguous) but keeps asking for "it's possible", "it's improbable" etc.  The exemplars and exercises don't seem to provide much opportunity for overgeneralisation (as long as you complete the course, that is!), so he doesn't actually need to use any non-exemplars.

So rather than DI being able to improve on Thomas's techniques, I'd really say it's more likely that Thomas's techniques can be used to improve on DI.

That said, I've found a lot that I like in DI.  In particular, Engelmann wrote an interesting polemic against the guys that dismiss him out of hand, called Socrates on reading mastery (another of Owen's links), where he has an imagined debate between the philosopher and an educational guru who refuses to see the value in DI.  While he does seem a bit bitter at times, he demolishes the complaints against him fairly resoundingly.  In truth, a lot of education isn't methodology, but ideology.  We convince ourselves that something is best without any evidence, and then we dismiss empirical evidence on the grounds that our unproven principles aren't followed.  You'll hear the same thing in criticism of Thomas -- "it can't work because you have to translate," "there's too much English," "you can't 'learn' a language, you have to 'assimilate' it," etc etc ad nauseum.

And Engelmann is an ardent supporter of "basic skills"/"bottom-up" teaching, which is something I think is only logical.  Starting from large-scale problem solving increases task complexity significantly.  In algebra or in science, you have to control for one variable at a time, and in bottom-up teaching you control for one variable at a time.  But when you are trying to manage multiple variables, you need a lot more information before you have full control of even one variable, and in the meantime, you risk drawing false conclusions and making overgeneralisations about the data/formula/language features.

This is a point that Engelmann makes in the Socrates story.  He points out that an evil person could make a bad course that follows Rosenthal's principles of what makes a good course, and Rosenthal agrees.  He then extends that to it's logical conclusion:
If it is possible to design a failed program on purpose, isn’t it possible for some program designers to create a failed program because of bad judgement...?

This is a point that I often try to make myself, and it's something that a lot of people find hard to accept.  Just because something works for one person doesn't mean it's good -- the goal in all teaching is to eliminate the possibility of misinterpretation.  This is true on the level of materials themselves just as much as on the level of guidelines for producing materials.

Another interesting difference between Thomas and DI is that DI relies on chorusing, but Thomas instead makes everyone take the time to think about it, but then he lets only one student answer.  Would chorusing be possible in an MT-style course?  Would it be desirable?  My gut reaction is "no", because it would take some of the life out of the language.  Rationally, I could back that up by pointing out that the responses from the students are often slightly halting, so they're not going to be able to do it simultaneously.

Which leads to a question: are Thomas's students on the CD struggling because he went too quickly?  Does DI say we should slow it down?  Maybe.  Is absolute mastery of these at full speed required before moving on?  Maybe.  But regardless of how well we know Thomas's material, it's only an introduction to the language, and there's a lot still to be learned after, so you've still got a fair learning path to get fully up-to-speed before you're going to be able to really use the language anyway, so there's going to be plenty of opportunity for ongoing practice as you continue.  Also, it may not really be desirable to have complete mastery of the grammar with virtually zero vocabulary.

But that's all conjecture.

But the most troubling conclusion that Engelmann reaches is that a script is better than an independent teacher.  Troubling, because it's likely true.  When I did my CELTA course, it's amazing how many of my questions about methodology and task selection were answered with "Use your judgement as a teacher."  Well, sorry, but I couldn't have that judgement until somebody taught me how to be a teacher, and that is why I was on a teacher training course in the first place.  Teacher judgement does indeed open up the possibility of making errors of judgement.

And I have to ask myself whether there is any point in me teaching Spanish MT-style, or if I should just tell everyone to buy the CDs, which already exist and probably teach the language a bit more effectively than I do.  (Which is just one of the reasons I'm not currently teaching Spanish to English speakers, but English to French speakers.)

That isn't to say that Engelmann's scripts, or Thomas's recordings, are universally optimal -- I sincerely doubt they are (and, in fact, I know that Thomas's are not) -- just that they are better than most teaching, and applying judgement risks introducing errors of judgement.  Perhaps many teachers would do better teaching from a script initially and trying to internalise the logic and the process of teaching before ever being forced to operate independently.

But I don't believe DI is the be-all-and-end-all of education, and I don't believe the MT method can be improved by the blind application of DI principles.

The MT method is not well-enough understood, and I think not even MT himself knew what it was -- there are pretty fundamental differences between some of his courses, and despite "telling" his method to two people, there is no document that adequately describes it, and the courses claiming to follow his principles have surprisingly little in common with his teaching.  DI may give us an extra frame of reference within which to view and discuss Thomas's teaching, but no more than that.


*Yes, I distance myself so far from behaviorism that I even spell it in US English. ;-)

45 comments:

Owen Richardson said...
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Owen Richardson said...

(Please note that my response, while long for a comment, contains just 25 more words than your original post. (1880 vs 1855.)

I just checked cuz I was like "man I didn't write THAT ridiculously much did I?". XD)

Owen Richardson said...

It just occurred to me that it would have been better to just link to a google doc with my response in it in the first place.

That way all the links are clickable and I can fix typos and grammatical detritus accidentally left behind in sentences that got rewritten.

Nìall Beag said...

I'm afraid I can't say I'm surprised at people's reactions there -- you would have been much better kicking off the discussion with a link or two.

Anyway, I'm in the same camp as Einstein and Feynman when it comes to explaining. Einstein said that if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it, and Feynman said if he couldn't write a first year university "introduction to..." course he didn't genuinely understand the topic.

If Athabasca's module is genuinely that incomplete/wrong, then clearly Engelmann et al. didn't explain it well enough to be understood even by experts, and we have to then conclude that even Engelmann doesn't truly understand what he is doing.

As far as I can see, what is genuinely clear about DI can be summed up as follows:

1) A fully scripted course is more effective than a course independently produced by a teacher.

PROVIDED THAT:

2) The course is rigorously tested and all student errors are used as feedback to improve the course.

Now, 2 should be logically inassailable, but it is tainted by association with the unpopular first premise.

Learning from Engelmann doesn't necessarily mean adopting DI wholesale. If I had to select one thing to extract it would be this:

Student errors indicate weaknesses in the course structure. No course should be released without intensive trialling and revision to eliminate students errors. (Or at the very least common ones.)

Even that is a pretty hard sell, but by isolating it, there's a far better chance that people will take it seriously.

Even the posthumous MT courses didn't stick to it -- the series editor admitted on the old MT forum that many student errors were edited out of the Russian etc courses.

Nìall Beag said...

(PS: I am in no way putting down Engelmann's teaching ability when I claim he doesn't understand what he's doing -- there are plenty of very good teachers, course designers, actors, etc, etc who don't know why they're good at their jobs.)

Owen Richardson said...

Feynman also said, Hell, if I could explain it to the average person, it wouldn't have been worth the Nobel prize."

Which is a less catchy sentiment, but in many situations more realistic.

The Athabasca module is explicitly an *introduction*. It's *supposed* to be incomplete coverage of the first little bit of the subject, because its function is to make it easier for the reader to sink their teeth into more in-depth material later.

So no, we DON'T "have to then conclude that even Engelmann doesn't truly understand what he is doing", just because YOU don't truly understand what he's doing after reading a brief overview of the first ~15% of the text.

You can see, in retrospect, what a ludicrous argument that would be, right? You don't stand by that, right?

And a statement like: 'Courses should be rigorously tested and all student errors are used as feedback to improve the course' completely fails as a useful 'summary'.

And it's pretty simple to demonstrate how it fails.

In any course, there are going to be N different concepts you need to teach. That means N factorial different orders for introducing them. Each concept, when introduced, will need to be taught through X examples, and there are X factorial ways of ordering those.

The order of concepts and teaching examples for concepts are just two of the many variables in course design, and already the number of possible course designs is BIG.

A brute force search for the more efficient designs is just *not doable*.

You *obviously* need some systematic shortcuts for narrowing in on the tiny subset of course designs that are even worth testing.

So you see how that "summary" doesn't work now?

And you raised the possibility that while Engelman and crew might know something that lets them consistently teach significantly better than anyone else (and the empirical evidence from studies of comparative effectiveness suggests pretty strongly that they *do*), they might not *understand* what they know.

And that *would* be at least plausible...

IF it weren't for the fact that *comparative effectiveness studies are not the only class of empirical evidence we have*.

Owen Richardson said...

But they aren't. Besides comparative effectiveness studies, there are also:

1) Studies showing that the TOI leads to correct, detailed predictions where other "theories" have nothing to say.

Again, the TOI text (Section IX "Research and Philosophical Issues" starting on page 337) and "Research on Direct Instruction" are good places to start for more detail, but Engelmann himself wrote about it in "Teaching Needy Kids" for a more popular audience.

I scanned the section and put it in this gdrive folder. (It's the last paragraph of p 262 onward that are key, although the preceding material might be useful for context.)

But the gist is that, writing the TOI text, they kept predicting, from the logical analysis of the theory, behavioral outcomes that apparently had never been studied empirically. So Carnine planned out the controlled experiments, and they had like ten grad students running around testing them.

They did ten studies alone just on the details of the basic template for teaching a "non-comparative concept" (a template you saw in the AthabascaU module).

The effects of dynamic vs static conversion of examples, the effects of the number of differences between positive and and negative examples, the effects of juxtaposing examples from the same set in different configurations, the effects of variations in teacher presentation wording and consistency, the effects of irrelevant features (which are very often thrown in to conventional instruction with little thought), etc...

(Only one experiment of this type ever came out differently than expected, and only under certain circumstances:

This prediction was that a sequence of examples starting with negatives would be faster for communicating the concept to the learner. It was found that while this did hold with more sophisticated older learners, more naive younger students simply interpreted the, 'This is not [whatever]' to mean, 'This is not important, so don't attend to this'.

Once specifically corrected on this misunderstanding, the logic prevails.
)

So emphatically NO: they've empirically proven that they have a *very* detailed understanding of exactly what is is that they're doing that makes them better than anyone else.


2) Studies showing that the TOI leads to correct predictions while other "theories" lead to WRONG predictions.

For instance, I already mentioned that they disproved Piaget's developmental "theories". They taught concepts to preschoolers that Piaget said should be *impossible* to teach to children until they "enter the stage of formal operations" at about *twice that age*. (Trained Piagetian researchers tested the children). Furthermore they taught without doing the things Piaget claimed were necessary for learning to occur.

(See pages 173 to 175 in this this gdrive folder (sorry, didn't crop them as close as the others).)

This obviously calls into question any model that integrates the Piagetian paradigm. And for models that *don't* integrate it, you have to ask, "Why didn't THEY predict this anti-Piagetian outcome?"


I say this is all plenty evidence that Engelmann and co know something no one else does, and *understand* what they know.

It's plenty evidence that TOI is worth looking into in more depth.


Now, you think Ausubel is worth looking into, right?

I asked you, why?

What evidence is there that Ausubel was able to consistently teach significantly better than anyone else?

I'm not demanding hugely extensive *scientific* evidence like DI has. The kind of not-scientific-but-still-rational evidence that supports Michel Thomas would also be acceptable (ie, "anecdotal but consistent and well-substantiated enough that you'd be an idiot to bet against him").

Nìall Beag said...

In reality, what you're saying isn't that he Athabasca module is incomplete, it's that it's wrong. It gives the impression that one thing is a central tenet (exemplar/non-exemplar), and you're telling me it's not. That makes the module wrong, doesn't it?

If I'm starting with false premises, it's inevitable that I'll reach false conclusions, and if you react to that aggressively, the debate goes nowhere.

And so maybe I don't understand. Why do you feel the need to attack people who don't understand? Ignorance isn't a sign of demonic possession, so repeating yourself endlessly, either here or on HTLAL, isn't going to exorcise anything -- it's just going to turn people against you.

As for Ausubel, I haven't seen any figures on his work, but my father (a chemistry teacher) studied Ausubel's theories at teacher training college and applied them in his day to day work. I saw first-hand how this resulted in increased understanding, and the ability to explain otherwise difficult concepts. I have also seen many teachers who don't know the name Ausubel, but who naturally apply successful techniques that can be described in terms of Ausubel's theories.

Owen Richardson said...

Aggressively? I wouldn't claim that I NEVER show frustration, but nothing in that post at least (technically, two posts in a row) should have been aggressively. What sounded aggressive to you?

Maybe my use of *asterisks* and CAPITALS to add emphasis could be interpreted as exasperation?

Now that I'm thinking about it, in informal writing, I tend to use them to try and capture some of the stress and rhythm of natural speech, where we stress words and phrases as an aid to the listener.

But most people tend to use emphasis a lot less in writing.

So maybe when I write, "A brute force search is just *not doable*", where most people would write, "A brute force search is just not doable" (despite the fact that even a definitely friendly spoken version would contain such stress!), it seems to, I dunno, imply something like, "DAMNIT PAY ATTENTION YOU NITWIT!".

(And don't ask me why I use asterisks in one place but capitals in another. There's some vague pseudo-orthographic system for it that seems to be developing semi-consciously.)

Then again, I can see how something like THIS might be called "objectively" aggressive, even with the capitalization-stress removed:

"So no, we don't "have to then conclude that even Engelmann doesn't truly understand what he is doing", just because you don't truly understand what he's doing after reading a brief overview of the first ~15% of the text."

Well... That is, quite frankly, a stupid idea, and it needed to be made clear just how stupid it is.

But I didn't intend it personally.

...It seems I slipped into acting as though you had declared Crocker's Rules, when you have not.

Sorry, I don't want to make you feel bad, or attacked, or etc.

But see, from my point of view, I've already directed you towards more than enough empirical evidence that DI is worth looking into further.

Nothing else in the field of education comes CLOSE to having such dramatic, extensive, and consistent empirical support.

There is simply no logic by which you could honestly believe Ausubel is worth reading and Engelmann is not.

From my perspective, you seem to be jumping to very over-simplified/incomplete/wrong conclusions very quickly, and the reasons you give for not simply reading much more until you actually start to understand things (before writing silly things like "DI relies on chorusing"), well, some of your reasons and reasoning seem... odd.

Like excuses, I mean.

I don't mean to attack you but I don't know how to say it gently and still make it clear!

I suspect that part of the problem might be that a part of you has already noticed that the evidence implies a "dilemma of identity" you might have to face, and is trying to avoid getting too near it.

I'm definitely not abdicating my own responsibility to explain things as well as I possibly can!

But I do suspect that *part* of the problem *might* be on your end, with a part of your mind that has a reason to want NOT to understand.

I'm not using that as an argument, of course! Actual arguments have to be about evidence and logic related to the subject itself.

But, well, it's just something you might consider.

Nìall Beag said...

If the problem is that I don't want to understand, perhaps it might be at least in part your fault...? By stating that the other person's views are stupid, silly or just plain ill-informed, you make agreeing with you impossible without accepting the implication that the other party is stupid. This makes the "dilemma of identity" far worse. If you present the alternative as a threat to identity, you incite ignorance.

You can keep on about the sources you've pointed me to, but one of the basic principles of DI (and MT) is that the learning is the teacher's responsibility, so there's no point blaming me for not understanding, or shouting me down for "jumping to conclusions". I reached conclusions based on the evidence at hand.

I won't apologise for misunderstanding someone else's poorly-presented material, whether that's Athabasca's introduction or the abhorrent toadying of the introduction to the book.

"There is simply no logic by which you could honestly believe Ausubel is worth reading and Engelmann is not."

There is a very simple logic behind it. I have read Ausubel, so I know it's worth reading; I haven't read Engelmann so I don't. I understand Ausubel's principles and have seen them in action, live; I don't understand Engelmann's principles (as you so delicately point out) and have never consciously seen them live.

Nìall Beag said...

With regards to chorusing, you are probably right in saying (as you have here and in HTLAL) that they are not a defining feature of DI.

BUT...

You say on HTLAL that "They're used in DI programs because of a specific instructional problem you have to deal with in schools where, surprise surprise, you have more students than teachers"

The distinction appears to be entirely academic. What you are saying, as far as I can see, is that DI doesn't need chorusing... in a one-to-one session. Any other time, it does.

Chorusing, for me, is a bit of a no-no if you're trying to get decent, natural, spontaneous language. The videos I've seen of Engelmann in the classroom feature typical primary school chorusing, with unnatural sing-song intonation. This is fine for a maths class, as the language is the medium of instruction, not the end goal, but that is not the case in a language classroom.

It also limits the complexity of the prompts that the teacher can use in a classroom; so unless you take the hard line that any hesitation is unacceptable, you're effectively going to end up with two syllabuses -- the individual tuition version (allowing fraction-of-a-second hesitation) and the class group (allowing no hesitation whatsoever).

That's not to say that I won't be reading more on DI when I get the time, so please don't put me off bothering (which you are doing by calling me an idiot for not instantly agreeing with everything it has to say).

I personally agree that there's an awful lot to be said for carefully planned, ordered teaching and I'm intending to work on something in that area once I've got a handle on my "day job" workload.

I don't expect to agree with everything he has to say, just as I don't expect anyone else to agree with everything I have to say.

Owen Richardson said...

I mean, you're perceiving aggression that wasn't intended? Well, I'm perceiving motivated cognition that... may or may not be happening. I couldn't directly observe it in your brain anyway, so I'm not jumping to the conclusion that my perception is definitely valid. It's just a possibility. I've seen cases in the past. I don't know whether or not it will turn out to be productive to direct your attention to the possibility, even if it is what's happening. Just, neither of us is perfectly rational, but I wanted to remind you that we do both care very strongly about the same goals.

You wrote stuff in your original blog post like, 'The Michel Thomas Method and DI are really fundamentally rather different.'

That... honestly strikes me as astoundingly arrogant.

Like, you already have enough evidence to notice that the Zigcrew knows how to engineering optimized instruction.

Maybe they have a good explicitly articulated understanding of what they know, maybe they don't.

But they do know it.

And you don't.

You have never engineered reading, math, and language programs that can succeed with even the most ridiculously disadvantaged ghetto kids.

They have.

You don't know how they did it.

And you know that you don't know.

And whether or not Michel Thomas really 'understood' what he knew, he demonstrably did know how to make his courses.

You don't know how to do that either, and you know you don't know.

So how can you say whether or not the MT Method and DI are fundamentally different?

Fundamentally, you don't yet know what either of them are.

And you know you don't know that.

You liked "Socrates on Reading Mastery".

You said that Socrates "demolished" Rosenthal, "fairly resoundingly".

Can you see how you're currently making the same kind of mistakes as Rosenthal?

You have more than enough evidence to notice that there are a lot of important things to know here, and that you don't know them.

You have more than enough evidence to guess that those important things are likely explained in the "Theory of Instruction" text.

So something about your behavior is strange.

Owen Richardson said...

And I remember this from out email exchange:

Me:

So, to be clear, the claims made about the MT method are:

- "MT demonstrated that it was possible to teach things in a few DAYS which are only covered (ie, 'covered' but not really learned) in over a YEAR of traditional classes."

- "And do so consistently with all students; Failure to teach would not be excused by appealing to some ill-defined hypothesis of an innate lack of capability to learn on the student's part. Instead, specific misunderstandings would be tracked down and fixed until the problem was resolved and the student could continue learning."

- "The MT method is unique in so clearly demonstrating such superior levels of efficiency and effectiveness."

And you agree that those claims are the reason we should be interested in the question "What really makes the MT method work?"?


You:

I agree with the claims entirely, and yes, they make the mechanics of the MT method very important.

You definitely care about education.

So something about your behavior doesn't make sense.

You are making assertions that, if you read TOI, you would see as embarrassingly (I'm not being aggressive here; It's useful information I can't otherwise communicate clearly) arrogant and ignorant .

Whereas you "should" be excited to shut up and read everything about DI that you can get your hands on, until you actually start to understand the theory well enough to see the engineering skills we are going to need to teach ourselves.

(You "should" be doing that as in there is model that predicts you would, but I know what places to check to determine more exactly why it fails.)

But instead you continue to make ignorance-based assertions while I run around playing whack-a-mole with them (which I'm doing because I'm learning things from it, not for your benefit).

So I'll explain stuff like why the distinction between "relies on/uses chorus" is not "entirely academic", and why the AthabascaU module is indeed incomplete but not wrong in giving the correct impression that positive and negative examples are central to understanding TOI... for my own benefit at least.

But your behavior, with the information you've been given, is currently not consistent with your stated values.

Nìall Beag said...

Again, whether intended or not, there's still an implied insult in your posts, and it's very difficult to
agree with something that comes bundled with an implied insult.

Now, perhaps I am jumping to conclusions, but then so are you. You are concluding that my adherence to Ausubel is a rejection of Engelmann -- it is not. What I was really trying to propose was not Ausubel as an alternative to Engelmann's conclusions, but as an alternative way of reasoning about Engelmann's process (and by extension his conclusions). If the Athabasca module mangles his message so badly, then there needs to be another way of discussing it that clarifies important points. Criticise me for jumping to conclusions all you want -- call me arrogant and ignorant -- but my judgement comes from two sources, because Jonathan Solity presents DI in almost the exact same way as Athabasca in his MT book. Secondary sources, yes, and not the foundations for a reliable academic paper, but this is just a blog.

As for knowing what MT was doing, well no, I don't fully understand it, but I believe I understand it better than most, including Thomas himself. Arrogance? Perhaps.

I think that what MT was doing isn't entirely applicable outside the sphere of languages, because language isn't just a series of facts and rules, it's also an incredibly complicated probability function. So you can't just teach it as logic dictates to create a flawless model, you've actually got to build a scheme that gives a statistically representative weighting to each element.

OK, so I couldn't write a first-year university module in it, so I clearly don't understand it well enough. It'd take at least a PhD for me to explore it to the point where I'd genuinely understand it, but the point is that achieving genuine mastery of every element to the point that a class can deliver answers in chorus appears to me to be detrimental in the learning of a language.

Owen Richardson said...

"Again, whether intended or not, there's still an implied insult in your posts, and it's very difficult to agree with something that comes bundled with an implied insult."

Yes, you're completely correct! And I appreciate that.

And I don't enjoy insulting people. Being mean is a loser thing to do. (It's like, what are you trying to do, mean dude? Raise your own social status by attacking others'? Get some self-awareness and compensate for the evolutionary heritage of your monkey-politics-optimized brain, man! :P )

But there is a problem here: I think the true, useful information that you must understand in order to resolve your current confusion is, to an extent, inherently... 'ego upsetting', maybe?

But the fact that I'm still making an effort to focus your attention on that information is in fact a mark of respect!

It is an implied vote of confidence in your ability to integrate useful information even if it's initially ego upsetting.

That is, I respect your intelligence and maturity. I think you are worthy of respect.

There are a number of things you said in your blog post that I think are not worthy of respect. Very silly things.

How silly?

Imagine someone who is familiar only with ancient Greek philosophy, their "physics".

Imagine they read a very brief introduction to Newtonian dynamics, and then start writing things on their blog like:

"A body in motion tends to stay in motion? That's ridiculous. If I kick a stone, it's not going to keep going. It will eventually come to a stop."

and

"Mass times distance equals energy? If you hold up a heavy weight, even though you're holding it stationary and it's not covering any distance, your arms get tired. So you're obviously using energy."

That's why my response to you is basically, "Dude, read the Principia."

And yes, the Principia Theory of Instruction is stupidly, unnecessarily difficult to read.

And since I care about getting people to actually understand it , I have a responsibility to write an "Easy Guide to the Theory of Instruction!".

But that's a Rather Large Project. And I'm just one not-particularly-qualified guy, alone. I don't have it ready yet, and won't for a while.

But I respect your intelligence, and your sincerity in caring about fixing education, and that's why I decided to just tell you, "Read the text!".

Because I think you'd be up to the challenge. And sincere enough in caring about education that you'd be motivated to take it on.

And that's why it pains me to see you writing things that are really quite ludicrous in rather the same way as those physics analogies above.

I'm telling you that the things you've been writing are arrogant and ignorant precisely because I think you're generally not, but are in fact quote the opposite.

I'm telling you that you're being an idiot because I respect your intelligence.

Okay?

Owen Richardson said...

Before we go any further, I should address a couple outstanding points. (But then I want to get away from playing logical whack-a-mole with your misunderstandings. It's an interesting challenge for me, and I'm learning useful things from it, but it's not helping you efficiently at all.)

First, the "chorusing" thing.

There is a distinction between:

- "DI relies on chorusing"

And the correct:

-"DI programs often use chorusing, but it's not a defining feature"

That distinction is not "entirely academic", because DI programs do not always use chorusing.

You are correct that chorusing is not practically manageable for all responses.

When you can use it, when you can't, and what you can use instead, are all explained logically in DI.

Often they use response prompts that are similar to what MT used.

[ie, ask a question of the group, allow think time, and then signal one student to answer (MT used eye contact, we've read). Ideally, the student you call on should be selected in such a way that no student predicts who you are going to call on, so that they are all forced to think.

(In the recorded lessons, MT seemed to alternate predictably between the the female and male student. While in that situation each student was probably still motivated to think out the answer even though they knew they weren't going to be signaled, I'd be very surprised if there weren't at least a couple occasions when the student who knew it wasn't going to be their turn slipped into just waiting for the other student to respond rather than thinking out the response themselves.)]

Owen Richardson said...

Second thing, this:

"[The Athabasca University module] gives the impression that one thing is a central tenet (exemplar/non-exemplar), and you're telling me it's not. That makes the module wrong, doesn't it?"

It is incomplete, not "wrong".

It tells you that the axioms of the theory are:

1) The leaner can learn any concept from examples.
2) The learner generalizes on the basis of samenesses between examples.

[They explained more deeply what these really mean, so I'll leave them as short statements here. But imagine how stupid and useless Newton's three laws of motion might sound to an ancient philosopher...]

Then it explains how those axioms lead to the need to construct "logically flawless" [ie, unambiguous] communications, and lists the basic principles for doing so that derive logically from the nature of that need.

Then it shows you some presentations of concepts and gets you to try and figure out whether or not each one is indeed logically flawless.

So it shows you the basic template for logically flawless communications for that kind of concept.

And that basic template, for that kind of concept, does indeed require the juxtaposition of positive and negative examples in a certain way.

What it doesn't tell you is that there are other types of concepts, and that they have different templates.

There is, in fact, a system of "Classifications for Cognitive Knowledge". It is laid out in "Knowledge Systems" (chapter 3, p 19 of the TOI text), and it looks like this:

1) Basic forms (sensory feature concepts)
- Non-comparatives (single-dimensional concepts where an example is either absolutely positive or negative, in itself)
- Comparatives (single-dimensional concepts where an example changes between being positive or negative, depending on what other example it's relative to)
- Nouns (not in the grammatical sense, but meaning a multi-dimensional absolute concept)

2) Joining forms (relationships between basic form concepts)
- Transformations (symbolic relationships)
- Correlated-features (empirical relationships)

3) Complex forms (chains of joining forms)
- Cognitive routines
(Cognitive problem-solving routines that are overtized into physical routines so that feedback, and thus teaching, is possible. You usually break them into parts, teach the students to do each part, and then chain the parts, and finally carefully covertize the routine.)
- Fact systems, or "communications about events"
(Generally, this means concepts that can be well represented through a diagram or mind map ["natural parts, natural whole", like, say, a cross section of an organ or building / "natural parts, created whole", like, say, a cladistics diagram but with pictures of real animals / "created parts, created whole", like, say, an organizational flowchart for systems of government]. Honestly I get the impression that the empirical evidence supporting their approach here is relatively weak, but I can't think of any better starting point.)

As I said about this classification system in my first response (the gdoc):

"I call it a "practical hierarchy" meaning that when you classify a concept, it automatically tells you the basic template for how to teach it."

The Athabasca University module only shows you the templates for non-comparatives, and I think one example of the template for comparatives.

I also said in my first response:

"Most of what you have to deal with in teaching languages are one of the “joining form” concepts: "transformation" concepts.

These come up in chapter 8, "Single-Transformation Sequences", p 79."


And if you consult that chapter you will find some templates that should indeed strike you as closer to what Michel Thomas did.

Owen Richardson said...

Now, I just told you what the Athabasca University wasn't telling you.

You probably found it extremely dense and difficult to follow, with a lot of new concepts introduced all at once with very short definitions and no examples, and no explanations for obvious questions.

["How did you come up with this classification system? Like, why those two 'joining forms'?", to which the answer is on page 78: "There are only two types of joining forms because there are only two ways that we can relate a given response for a specific sensory discrimination to other responses for other sensory discriminations. We can make the response to a sensory discrimination part of an orderly, logical system of responses, or we can relate the sensory discrimination empirically to some other sensory discrimination."]

If you've actually been making an effort to understand this, your head is probably spinning right now.

I just demonstrated that a short summary is difficult.

This is probably why the subject gets its own chapter in the TOI text, and it is probably at least part of the reason the authors of the AthabascaU module chose not to mention it at all. (How to give you an idea what they were leaving out a summary of without summarizing what they were leaving out a summary of?)

Remember, they did say: "What follows is a brief introduction to some of the basic concepts of Engelmann's approach. "

And I'm still thinking of other relevant details...

In my first response, I mentioned:

- "Double Transformation Programs", chapter 13, p 145.
- "Introducing Coordinate Members to a Set" chapter 10, p 109.

These are also relevant to seeing how all the successes of the "Michel Thomas Method"'s are explained as approximations of TOI.

But it's generally difficult to read any chapter without reading the preceding chapter, because, as I said in my first response:

"everything that comes later follows extremely logically from what came before. (In such a way that, as difficult as it may be to grasp any particular point, one you do, it just seems obvious, because the reason it was hard to grasp is that they just explained it by doing an exhaustive demonstration of how no other option would be logically tenable.)"

Owen Richardson said...

But am I "justified" in being frustrated with you for jumping to conclusions?

Well, here's from what I said to you in our email exchange, bold added:

"All the real meat is in the text "Theory of Instruction: Principles and Applications".

... there's an open introductory module online at Athabasca University that makes it a lot easier to crack into. It only explains the fundamental axioms of the theory and how they apply to the most basic-form concepts in the hierarchy, though ..."


Furthermore, you said you regard Solity as something of a hack, and I agreed with you at length!

His book was mostly hot air, the subtitle "secrets revealed" was a total lie, and his explanation of the connection between DI and MT sucked. I didn't get the connection from reading it either! (I doubt how well he really understood it himself...)

"At this point, when I try to come up with the simplest expression I can think of for my core idea it just comes out as: "The connection between Michel Thomas and Zig Engelmann is a HUGE deal!"

But I only realized that after a ton of study, propelled by the emotional experience of using the MT lessons ... "


That's just what I told you explicitly.

Furthermore, you saw the graphs of the results from Project Follow Through when they talked about it in the AthabascaU module.

You had very good evidence that they knew how to design programs for teaching things like reading and math far better than anyone else.

Did you think they somehow managed to teach things like reading and math from kindergarten to third grade using only templates like you saw in the AthabascaU module?

As far as the evidence you had went, you should have seen possible answers:

- "Somehow, yes."

Or, much more likely,

"As both Owen and the module itself told me, the introduction to the theory here is very basic, and there must be a lot more information in the TOI text."

But instead you felt qualified to jump to conclusions like this? :

"Probably none of that information is useful! I bet Engelmann and co, despite designing all those vastly superior programs, doesn't truly understand what he's doing! Why should I need to read the text before making that judgement? Why should it matter that I myself do not at this point have any idea how to start writing a reading program that can both a) succeed with even with the most tragically disadvantaged preschoolers from the ghetto, and b) massively accelerate kids from more fortunate backgrounds?"

And now you've seen the meta-analysis summary, which confirms that results like in Project Follow-Through are not just a fluke, but very well-replicated. And you know a lot more about the research on the details of TOI, which kills the already unlikely 'he knows how to do it, but doesn't understand what he knows, so the TOI text is useless'-idea even deader.

Owen Richardson said...

And then there's this you said:

"As for knowing what MT was doing, well no, I don't fully understand it, but I believe I understand it better than most, including Thomas himself. "

Well, that reminds me of another Feynman quote:

"What I cannot create, I do not understand." (Let's not start making arguments as though that's the literal word of God, but it's a good point.)

You can't create a DI program. You can't create a MT program.

And yet you stand by statements like this? :

'The Michel Thomas Method and DI are really fundamentally rather different.'

Despite the fact that, fundamentally, you don't know what either of them is. And you know that you don't know.

Can you maybe appreciate more why I feel frustrated with you for jumping to conclusions? And why it seems rather arrogant?

I think you're a very cool guy, and I think a lot of the things you've written are very smart. I have some of your blog posts bookmarked under special keywords so they're easy to find when I want to link people to them cuz they're brilliant, like "Translation: an unjustified scapegoat" and "The inconsistency of prescriptivism", and I was really impressed by that recent corpus analysis project with novels and series (and of course I was very impressed by your HTLAL posts on MT, which were very insightful even though you hadn't read TOI).

So... come on, dude! Be cool here too!

Owen Richardson said...

"You are concluding that my adherence to Ausubel is a rejection of Engelmann -- it is not."

That wasn't my conclusion, dude.

My point was that you had a strong interest in Ausubel, on relatively weak evidence.

The evidence for TOI is much stronger.

So your interest in TOI should be much bigger.

Furthermore, Robert Dixon's intro to the TOI text was not "toadying", but very useful information:

The Theory of Instruction is a THEORY of INSTRUCTION.

That means, anything in Ausubel (or anything else) that is valuable, TOI must subsume and explain. Instruction based on TOI must do at least as well as instruction based on Ausubel.

This is not merely a "Yay DI!" cheer.

Yes, it is saying, "DI is the best! It beats everything else!"

But it's not just praising DI above anything else.

It's also heaping massive responsibilities on it.

It's saying to DI, "And if you don't always beat everything else... WE'LL KNOW. 0_0"

It must subsume and explain and at least match all previous successes... or else it is going to have a problem.

That's what being a scientific theory means. It's falsifiable, and it hangs together logically.

In case you (or hypothetical other readers) might want to read it again...

Owen Richardson said...

[Hey, blogger comments strip out pseudo-html like (in angle brackets rather than quotes) "ominous" and "/analogy"! XD ]

I think I should spell out the "identity dilemma" that I suspect may be challenging you.

Here are two parts of your identity:

1) You care about education.

2) You also see yourself as something as an expert on education.

And before you learned about TOI, point two worked fine.

You had read the opinions of various prestigious experts on education.

You could syncretize and come up with your own opinions too.

Now it turns out that all of those experts... weren't so expert.

They were crucially lacking rigor and technical detail.

They are, generally, not true scientists and engineers at all, but silly philosophers (callback, "Ancient Greek Physicists" analogy).

And that means you're no longer an expert either.

And the only way for you to become an expert that's currently available, is to start by reading a book that has been compared in difficulty to the "Principia" (okay, it's not THAT hard!).

And all that struggle will just get you to a theoretical understanding of the principles.

Teaching yourself the engineering skills, getting really good at using those principles, will take even longer.

You've got a long way to go, and along the way you're sure to discover all sorts of things you thought were important will turn out to be silly and wrong, or meaningless, or just trivial. And horribly incomplete.

But you can't reject the first point of identity: You do care about education.

So that's your dilemma.

And there might be a part of you that can already see that, if you study the evidence and theory more, it's probably just going to become more and more clear that Robert Dixon's preface was right.

And that traitorous double-thinking part is trying to avoid all that upheaval through motivated cognition (ignoring logical inconsistencies so long as they help reach the desired conclusion, ignoring and under-weighting evidence that serious mind-changing is in order...)

Well, I can't see inside your brain, even if I could read it.

It's just a possibility that occurred to me.

I'm certainly not gonna start making arguments like, "It's plausible that you have motivation to delude yourself on this issue, therefore I'm right," cuz that'd be retarded of me.

And I'm bringing it to your attention for whatever amount of consideration you deem it worthy of just cuz I would appreciate someone doing the same for me. =]

Owen Richardson said...

Er, I just wanted to clarify that I when I said things like:

"You've got a long way to go, and along the way you're sure to discover all sorts of things you thought were important will turn out to be silly and wrong, or meaningless, or just trivial. And horribly incomplete"

and

"that means you're no longer an expert either"

I was just describing hypothetical sub-conscious fears.

Not, like, actually saying that your current experience, knowledge, and skills are literally of no significant value.

That would also be retarded of me.

To reiterate, I certainly do respect your mental resources. KINDA why I contacted you in the first place.

Owen Richardson said...

Also, when I say, 'I don't know, it's just a possibility', that's not just some rhetorical thing.

I am honestly not sure.

After all, if I throw a "maybe you're subconsciously deluding yourself" point at you... maybe I'm subconsciously deluding myself that the idea that you are is even worth much thought, just cuz I was frustrated, right? :P

So yeah, it's probably better that you don't even dignify that line of thought with a response.

We should keep to talking bout TOI and MT and stuff directly.

Nìall Beag said...

OK, let's back up a bit, and look at the confusion surrounding chorusing. You have now explained that DI proposes it in certain circumstances only. It was not Athabasca that caused me to misunderstand this. It was not Solity. It was not the preface to the book. It was you, on HTLAL.

emk tried to summarise his understanding of DI, and said "Interestingly, the students respond in unison to every question."

Your response was as follows: "Unison responses are NOT a defining feature of the TOI. They're used in DI programs because of a specific instructional problem you have to deal with in schools where, surprise surprise, you have more students than teachers."

It was your information that led me to this conclusion, so you would do well to slow down and stop calling people ignorant for believing what you write.

The "whack-a-mole" here is similarly a game of your own construction. You keep writing big long posts that jump from one thing to other, leaving one topic unresolved and making it very hard to identify specific points to respond to. In particular, constantly jumping back to figures and proof effectively blocks everyone out of the debate, as nobody else has any data (one of Engelmann's most salient points).

That leaves it less of a debate, more of a "listen to me, I'm right" kind of thing.

You keep beating the identity crisis drum very loudly, but I heard you the first time. The more you say it, the less I hear it. Say it, move on, let it settle in it's own time.

Owen Richardson said...

"You keep beating the identity crisis drum very loudly, but I heard you the first time. The more you say it, the less I hear it. Say it, move on, let it settle in it's own time. "

Yup, you're totally right. That's why I said, "It's probably better than you don't even dignify that line of thought with a response", and, "We should keep to talking bout TOI and MT and stuff directly". =]

I just wanted to get it off my chest.

Owen Richardson said...

First of all, the HTLAL thread was hijacked.

I specifically said in the opening post:

"At this point, though, all I have to offer by way of explanation is basically just to point you towards a rather extensive list of resources (some of which are *very* technically involved), and exhort you to keep reading until enlightenment starts to dawn.

I think I should probably write at least a *bit* more substantive an introduction before I do that, though.

So I just wanted to get a feel for my potential audience's level of interest, and pre-existing ideas."


I was prepared to listen to people's opinions on what they thought made MT tick and how important it was.

I said writing an introduction was a project I was thinking about later.

But I was pushed into trying to start explaining things right then and there by that Peregrinus guy, who, in what I feel was rather bad faith, googled up something I wrote for someone else, somewhere else.

I think that excuses a certain amount of disorganization on my part.

But in this case, I don't think I need to make an excuse.

I did indeed say:

"Unison responses are NOT a defining feature of the TOI. They're used in DI programs because of a specific instructional problem you have to deal with in schools where, surprise surprise, you have more students than teachers."

"They're used in DI programs".

That's all I said.

It does not follow that they're used everywhere in DI programs, or that no other types of responses are used in DI programs.

Tomato paste is used in pizza sauce. That doesn't mean it's the only thing that's used.

Heck, sometimes I add in pesto sauce too. Sometimes I use only pesto sauce and no tomato paste.

I appreciate that it was arguably ambiguous, but... You're not a deprived ghetto kid, and this blog exchange is not a DI program. You are a sophisticated learner and should be capable of noticing ambiguities for yourself and asking for clarification rather than jumping to conclusions.

Owen Richardson said...

"The "whack-a-mole" here is similarly a game of your own construction. You keep writing big long posts that jump from one thing to other, leaving one topic unresolved and making it very hard to identify specific points to respond to."

I am trying to give you a feel for how much there is to know, that you do not yet know.

I'm trying to show you why you shouldn't be responding to specific points. You don't know enough to do so yet.

Don't try to debate.

Read.

You should have more than enough evidence now to know that you should be enthusiastic about reading all the Engelmann you can get your hands on!

I'll be happy to help you with questions about what you're reading!

Right now, I'm not someone for you to debate with on this.

I am like a student who just took this difficult course last semester, which you are just beginning this semester.

Don't try to debate me. Use me as a non-expert but possibly helpful friendly social resource.

Owen Richardson said...

And just to hammer that last point home:

"... constantly jumping back to figures and proof effectively blocks everyone out of the debate, as nobody else has any data ..."

Exactly.

"That leaves it less of a debate, more of a "listen to me, I'm right" kind of thing."

B. I. N. G. O. ;)

But man, I've read like your most recent "Online education's elephant in the room" post.

Very insightful, even though you haven't studied TOI and all of Engelmann's other supplemental stuff yet.

Once you have studied, you will see how it all connects, and you will be brilliant! =D

Owen Richardson said...

Also... don't skim what I say, dude.

It aint classy.

When you say something and I can respond perfectly just by copy pasting something I already said...

Yeah, I wrote a lot, but you kinda forced me to.

Actually read it closely, and I won't have to say it again.

I'm paying close attention to what you're saying.

(You've actually raised a few very clever, insightful points, and I can't wait til you have the necessary background understanding of the details of TOI for us to have a real meaningful discussion of how it all fits together with, yeah, the "incredibly complicated probability function" aspect of language. And the "huge number of basically arbitrary labels" aspect ["The thing about the French, see, is that they have a different word for everything" XD], and SRS.)

Respect, bro. Aight?

acutia said...

Jeeepers.
This is one fractious and detailed comment stream.
Anyway just a heads up that the link to the Athabascau course is malformed. The misbehaving part was clear to me, so I was able to load the page in the end.

Nìall Beag said...

Aha -- thanks for that, acutia. Maybe I should start writing my posts in raw HTML rather than relying on Blogger to format them automatically... :-/

Owen Richardson said...

Yeah, What You See Is What You Get editors often... don't get you what you see.

I started using autohotkey to get html tags quickly while writing in any context, but I think maybe it would be easier to just write in markdown in the first place and then auto-convert it to html?

Owen Richardson said...

A very intelligent friend of mine, who has read all the major resources on the subject, recently wrote this introduction to Direct Instruction and Theory of Instruction.

Nìall Beag said...

Thanks, I'll try to give it a look when I can (it's exam time, so my life will be dedicated to marking for the foreseeable future....)

Anonymous said...

Cainntear,
Sorry to pollute your blog, but I can't figure out how to send you a message. You are invited to join us here: polydog.org
Hope to see you soon,
leosmith

Nìall Beag said...

Thanks -- I'll pop over and set up an account.

Steve Brooks (Edin) said...

I don´t know if this thread is still live or not. I started trying to learn languages fifty years ago from a set of Everyman Encyclopaedias that my father in law bought after the second world war. Since that time I have used libraries, for books, for linguaphone records (yes I am that old) Tapes, even betamax vidoes and zilch I never learned nowt - that is i learned a few sentence and phrases but little else - most important I forgot it all. About 20 years ago I heard a band in the street in Edinburgh they were from Peru - APU and thought again about language learning again. so back to the library to traunch through the usual Berlitz and Teach yourself offerings - no joy at all. I had also done night classes for a number of years and this did not get me anywhere. In 2002 our band was going to France to Graveline to take part in a music festival. So I thought I would have another go at French and in Smiths i saw the course by Michel Thomas for French so I bought the 8 hour version. Wonder of wonders - it taught me enough to hold a short simple conversation in French with French people, asking and answering questions on my own - and really that is all I ever really wanted to do. A couple of years later I bought the Spanish set beginners, advanced and the last set by Rose lee Hayden. this taught me enough to be able to read books magazines and to speak Spanish relatively well enough to be able to have weekly contact with Spanish people through Skype and have entire conversations in Spanish. I am now working my way through an OU course wwhich includes Spanish and to honest its really hard because of the tension and stress that I feel trying to do the tests and the assignments - things that were completely lacking the Mt course. AND i did learn the difference between ser and estar & also the difference between por and para from the MT course. These skills are refined in the use of the language which after all is the point of learning the language in the first place. OK so it worked for me maybe its not for everyone and just for the record all Spanish people have accents depending on where they are from but no spanish person has ever suggested that I speak spanish iwht a polish accent.

Steve Brooks (Edin) said...

The only other thing that I would add is that recently ( this year) I saw some videos by Stephen Krashen and boy do i wish he had been around fifty years ago. Comprehensible input - I believe that this is the method that Michel Thomas has been using for years. Everyone seems to agree that MT gives you little bits which are repeated until you start to build your own language structures with them. So you learn something - then MT uses that which you have learned to teach you the next bit. I would argue that this is Comprehensible Input.
Stephen Krashen's ideas and philosophy are only recently being accepted in main stream education as a way forward for language learning it will take.
These are my own opinions about these two methods no-one else.

Nìall Beag said...

MT is very different from "Comprehensible Input".

One of Krashen's central tenets is that languages can't be "taught", whereas Thomas believed firmly (and proved pretty convincingly) that they can.

Krashen believed that language was only "acquired" by hearing and understanding messages, and that the production of language was a result of acquisition -- any early production was just a conscious party trick to him, a sticking plaster to cope with immediate needs, and wasn't going to lead to long-term benefits. Thomas, on the other hand, built his entire course out of production, with practically nothing said by the teacher until it had already been said by the student. (And I could personally understand a fair amount of Spanish after the course, with little exposure to controlled spoken Spanish elsewhere.)

Krashen also believed in a "natural order of acquisition" that is roughly similar to first language, with concrete language relating to physical items and properties learned first, and abstract things like conditional moods coming later. But Thomas worked in "I would" and "If I had ... then I would have" in the first week when Krashen would have been holding that off for year two or three.

Stephen Krashen's ideas have been influential in language education for a considerable amount of time, and undeservedly so in my opinion. In fact, Krashen's opinions are basically a reboot of an educational movement from the 1880s that was abandoned in the early years of the 20th century because it simply couldn't be done in schools. Perhaps Krashen's right about the way to learn in a perfect world, but the concentration of input isn't enough in the real world.

However, I say the success of Michel Thomas basically proves him wrong.