The Problem with Non-Targeted, Targeting 1, and Targeting 2

In 2013, Stephen Krashen wrote an article, The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input, about the problems of the traditional “rule of the day” grammar syllabus. Krashen not only wrote how this “targeted” grammar and vocabulary has disadvantages, but also how TPRS reduces such problems, even ending the section with:

“Although TPRS probably succeeds in reducing the problems of the grammatical syllabus, there is another possibility: Non-targeted comprehensible input.”

At this point, it appears that the “targeted” nature of TPRS and non-targeted are—probably—on par, and that it’s really just an option of what appeals to you…

Technically, though, Krashen does first state that TPRS “attempts” to reduce the problems, yet not fully succeeds. However, those shortcomings concern just 2 of the 5 problems (i.e. the unteachable/untaught grammar problem, and denial of i+1). The reason for these shortcomings was attributed to translation (i.e. a first language equivalent), as Krashen wrote:

“It is quite possible that teachers include some aspects of grammar in the input that are not in the curriculum. The insistence, however, on total translatability (e.g. Ray and Seeley, 2008) makes this unlikely.”

Then, in 2016, Krashen wrote a blog post on how judicious use of the first language will help if it results in more CI. That right there should’ve placed TPRS and non-targeted right back up to being on par, but it didn’t…

Teachers had already begun to misinterpret and misuse the article, and probably never saw that blog post encouraging the use of the first language (which, if I’m correct, was after Krashen himself attended a demo of Chinese in which he felt how helpful it was to have meaning established in his native English). At that time, then, teachers who were TPRS-hostile probably used the first article as support for why they didn’t use the method. After all, aside from the first block quote I’ve shared, the article does leave off with a TPRS score of 3/5 and non-targeted 5/5 when it comes to reducing the problems of the grammatical syllabus. However, that seldom-read 2016 post brought them both up to 5/5. Either way, there was already an X vs. Y fight brewing, which had a disastrous effect of teachers beginning to consider targeting bad, and non-targeting good. Some might have seen Justin Slocum Bailey’s attempt to educate, and possibly bring everyone together. However, most still haven’t read that, otherwise there’d be less debate. Moving on…

Four years later, in 2017, Krashen wrote a blog post with some updated definitions. He divided targeting into 2 different types, for which there was at least one previous draft that mentions targeting of grammar alone, and not that of vocabulary. Krashen wrote how the very first article was an argument against Targeting 1, like using TPRS to teach a textbook syllabus. However, he also wrote that acquirers will receive non-targeted input in what he referred to as Targeting 2, the traits of which are summarized from the blog post as follows:

“Targeting 2 (T2):
Unlike T1, the goal of T2 is comprehension of the story or activity, not full mastery of the targeted item in a short time. It can be done in a variety of ways, e.g. via visual content (e.g. pictures), translation.”

So, let’s stop right there, because if the above paragraph describes your TPRS, then you’re also providing non-targeted input! At this point, everyone should’ve started making the claim that bad targeting is bad, and good targeting is good. But the damage has already been done, right? There have been teachers dismissing certain practices or entire methods thinking that they do non-targeted input instead of whatever, or vice versa, but it turns out most teachers are providing a bit of everything…

Taking things further, later in 2017, Eric Herman shared the most teacher-friendly definitions of this convoluted debate I’ve seen yet:

Non-targeted = spaced reps
Targeting = massed reps

This shows how even teachers claiming to be non-targeted will use massed reps whenever sheltering language in order to be more comprehensible (which all comprehension-based teachers do to some degree). This also shows how teachers who target do provide non-targeted input as words are recycled over time.

So, there really is no debate. The scholarly pursuit of Krashen, once again, was misunderstood, and teachers haven’t caught on to the distinctions affecting their daily practice. Krashen proposed certain definitions in his blog posts. I propose that it’s time to move on and focus on making the target language more comprehensible, whatever you want to call it.

2 thoughts on “The Problem with Non-Targeted, Targeting 1, and Targeting 2

  1. The problem I still see that is we keep trying to jam our teaching practices into binary boxes. Teachers choose all kinds of things to focus on, and to continually sort these into just one of just two categories forces readers to ignore a lot of vital features in what a teacher is doing , and what ends up in the input.

    One example is from Blaine Ray’s Methods Update session at the National TPRS conference this year (2018). He said (I’m paraphrasing here): “We should stay on one verb and just that one verb in sentence after sentence with student actors and with the audience, with all possible time tenses, and don’t move on to another verb until we have used that one verb for a very long time.” This was interesting to me because linguists know that verbs govern the other words in a sentence, that is, an intransitive verb will disallow an object, a transitive verb will allow just one object, and a ditransitive verb will require two objects. The morphemes attached to the other words also have to agree with the verb (first person, etc.).

    Blaine’s account implies that only a verb is targeted, while the remaining words and grammar are used used freely (non-targeted), even maximally (“unshelter grammar” in TPRS terms). Current binary thinking would miss out on these finer distinctions, and quickly pull readers away from possibilities for potentially new and more optimal conditions for acquisition. We should all keep trying new approaches, and binary thinking only serves to erode that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.