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Integration of the Self and Awareness (ISA) in Learning and Teaching

A case study of French adult students learning English the Silent Way

Patricia Benstein

The successful acquisition of a second or foreign language requires focus, motivation, and positive feedback. This case study of French adult students of English illustrates that Gattegno’s Silent Way is more than a teaching methodology. It is a science of education that integrates the self and awareness in the learning and teaching processes. This integration facilitates the personal evolution of Gattegno’s ‘pre-human’ to the ‘universal human’ who is permanently aware of his/her awareness. The resulting experience of ‘flow’ leads to a positive feedback loop that in turn contributes to the student’s enjoyment of acquiring a second language.

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1. Introduction


If the product of teaching is a student who enjoys learning, what are the means by which a teacher can accomplish this purpose? How does one get students to enjoy learning? Here, again, the answer is in principle very simple: by enjoying learning. A teacher who is intrinsically motivated to learn has a good chance to get students to seek the intrinsic rewards of learning (Csíkszentmihályi, 2014: 177).

The Silent Way is an approach to language teaching that has been in use for more than thirty years. However, it has received relatively little attention from researchers up to now. Apart from a couple of key researchers who presented a detailed account of the Silent Way (Young, 1990; De Cordoba, 1986; Weiler, 1989), it has been treated by a large majority of researchers as an alternative language teaching method. The underlying pedagogical and psychological theories have not attracted much attention.

Caleb Gattegno, the proponent of the Silent Way, developed a model of evolution in which human beings are considered to be a particular form of energy. He also offered a detailed theory of the nature of the human self and the role it plays in the teaching and learning process. Gattegno delineated the different stages that learners have to go through while they are learning (Gattegno, 1987d). One person who worked with him for several years, David W., commented on Gattegno’s model by saying:

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