Efficiency & Effectiveness vs. Enjoyment

It’s my 9th year teaching, and I’m done. Finished. Kaputz. That’s it. I’m completely over the approach of talking to other teachers about efficiency and effectiveness. You won’t find me straying into a Twitter discussion circus trying to point out efficient practices for second language teaching. That ship has long sailed. The curtains have closed with me weighing in on comparing the effectiveness of Terrible Practice A and Undoubtedly Much Better Practice B. I might never update my page on Studies Showing the Ineffectiveness of Grammar Instruction & Error Correction, instead ignoring commentary on why I haven’t treated it like a formal annotated bibliography, or lit review, or part-time job. Ah yes, and 2020’s article on grammar-translation could be my final say on the matter.

I’ll be talking about enjoyment from now on.

I’m also going rogue here to say that the kids aren’t actually the priority. Teaching is a profession, and it’s time more teachers think of it that way. Underfunded and undervalued public education right now is like a plane heading straight for the water. Put your own damn mask on, first. It took all of last year to expose all the worst problems, and it should be clear by now that the mask is enjoyment. If you don’t enjoy what you do, learners in the classroom don’t stand a chance. We don’t have to be entertainers, uh uh, but kids sense a lot more than we think. Given all this, I won’t really have much to say about which conditions make a comprehension-based approach more effective than a grammar one. I won’t bring up how a communicative approach is more efficient for acquisition than immersion. No siree Bob. When asked why I do what I do, my answer will be “it’s more enjoyable.”

Enjoyment…for whom?
I’m sure someone who doesn’t teach with a comprehension-based and/or communicative approach reading this is pushing up their glasses (I wear them, too, relax) thinking “bUt My StUdEnTs LoVe ClAsS.” Sure, that might be true. Of course, that’s also like saying “my students turn in missing assignments only if I put in a zero.” Teachers who believe these do so because it appears to be true and work for the students for whom it works. However, it certainly doesn’t account for the rest of the students for whom it DOES NOT work. N.B. It’s also likely that the zero itself getting isn’t the student’s attention, but some notification and reminder from the teacher. Thus, the same holds true with enjoyment. The teacher who enjoys using a certain approach might assume it’s the approach itself that students enjoy. In reality, there’s probably a host of other factors actually causing the enjoyment, and students just have to deal with the approach.

So, you won’t find me comparing a grammar approach to a comprehension-based one. For starters, the best way to do that would be to teach two sections of Latin I using the former, and two using the latter. Sorry boutcha, but here’s no way I’m gonna do that. Of course, there’s no way another teacher using a completely different approach would do the same, either.

However, there’s a key difference.

I’m not going to use a grammar approach because I’ve been there, and it’s not enjoyable. Granted, I personally found that approach enjoyable in college as a complete nerd, but I never enjoyed the approach when I first started teaching, watching students either fail or succeed regardless of my support. Also, I’m not going to use an immersion approach because I’ve tried it, too, and it wasn’t enjoyable for me. As you can see, I’m talking about experience with different approaches. I’m not sure every teacher with a different approach can say the same about a comprehension-based and/or communicative approach. In fact, I only know of one teacher who tried, went back, but then ultimately settled on a comprehension-based approach again years later, as well as one other teacher who tried what generally has been referred to as “CI”—so who knows what that that teacher was really up to—then ditched it and went all Judas on a colleague and openly trashed the approach. I’m sure there are some others, but similar anecdotes don’t really abound. The majority follow a progression away from grammar, period. Are teachers drawn to a comprehension-based and/or communicative approach at first because they’re touted as more efficient, or effective? Maybe, but they mostly stick with it because it’s enjoyable, and the joy seems to spread to students, too. This kind of “new pedagogy” that Thomas Hendrickson refers to in his hot-off-the-press SCS blog on novellas is summed up well in a near-closing statement:”

…I’m confident that the time is better spent in reading novellas than in reading more sentences from Wheelock, which is what we used to do with that time. At the very least, the students seem to enjoy it more. And if one of your course goals isn’t to foster a love of reading Latin, perhaps it should be.”

Besides, future research on efficiency and effectiveness probably most definitely won’t lead to findings suggesting that a) the grammar-translation approach is more suitable and equitable for secondary students, b) learners somehow need less input than we thought and its comprehensibility overrated, or c) students don’t really need a meaningful purpose to communicate. No way. So, with future research all but certain to strengthen support for comprehension-based and/or communicative language teaching (CCLT), I’ll let those studies speak for themselves as I hang out over here talking about enjoyment.

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