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Inductive vs Deductive Methods in TEFL


In or Out – which direction do your students learn?

In the TEFL‏‎ classroom, inductive and deductive teaching methods are two different approaches used in teaching grammar.

Inductive teaching (sometimes known as inquiry or discovery teaching) involves giving the students examples of language and working with them to come up with grammatical rules. It is a more student centered approach to learning.

Alternatively, deductive teaching begins by giving students the rules and working with them to produce language. This is more teacher centered.

As a practical example, in an inductive classroom the teacher might give the students a number of examples of, say, the passive voice. The students then have to work out how a passive sentence differs from an active one. They can then be encouraged to convert active to passive by themselves. On the other hand, in a deductive classroom the teacher explains the process of converting an active to a passive and then gives the students a set of sentences and asks them to convert them.

Inductive vs Deductive

The inductive approach is generally accepted to be more efficient in the long run than the deductive approach. Inductive activities are generally more stimulating and require greater student participation. Since students are more actively involved in acquiring knowledge (rather than just passively sitting and receiving information) in the end they end up learning with deeper understanding.

However, although the inductive approach is generally accepted to be more beneficial to students it can sometimes take a little longer. Many more traditional classrooms rely heavily on the deductive approach and so bringing in a more radical inductive approach can sometimes be difficult both in terms of getting the students to think for themselves and work out the rules as well as persuading the management that this is the best approach in the long run.

Teaching an Inductive Class

As a teacher you do not explicitly state any rules, but rather your job is to guide the students towards the rule getting them to become aware of it. Firstly you need to have clearly in your mind the concept or rule which needs to be discovered. Then you create a series of clear examples which demonstrate use of the rule.

Suppose you are getting the class to work out how to convert a passive to an active sentence. You might begin by writing up:

The window was broken by the boy.

Encourage speculation. Get students involved in looking for the rule, brainstorming ideas and suchlike. Of course they may well come up with alternative ideas or radical observations which are nothing to do with the rule, but that doesn’t matter as long as they are participating and thinking for themselves (or, in other words, learning to think).

There are 4 words in the sentence.
It begins with a capital letter and ends in a full stop.
There’s no object.
We don’t know who broke the window.

And so on. Then add further examples which either confirm or deny previous observations:

My car was stolen yesterday.
The cake was eaten by Elsa.

As a teacher you then need to guide them to the rule so they become aware of it. In other words, get the class to “notice” a particular rule. In the passive example above the students need to be aware that the usual SVO‏‎ order has not been followed and that the subject is not always present.

Once the students have “noticed” this you can put a couple of sentences next to each other and encourage the class to work out the pattern from one to another:

The boy broke the window.
The window was broken by the boy.

Finally you can explicitly confirm the rules the students have discovered. You will not have told them these rules, you will have merely guided the class towards them.

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