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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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2. The Silent Way in the Research Literature


The research literature, which examines the Silent Way as a teaching method, represents three kinds of responses to Gattegno’s work. The first group of researchers has tried to compare the Silent Way with other so-called “alternative” teaching methods, mainly Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning and Total Physical Response. The second group has concentrated on describing the Silent Way materials and on analysing Silent Way classes. The third group, which consists of only a few interested individuals, has looked at the broader picture of Gattegno’s work and tried to situate the Silent Way in a wider pedagogical context.

Most researchers in the first group restrict themselves to comparisons with other methods, both traditional and alternative, in order to understand the Silent Way. Contrasts of this kind are undertaken by Bodman (1979), who characterises the Silent Way as a “cognitive approach”, Diller (1975), who sees the Silent Way as a “direct method” variation, and Nichols (1984), who compares Silent Way lessons to Montessori language lessons. Richards & Rodgers (1986) also belong to this category of researchers who only take a superficial look at the Silent Way. The shortcomings of their comparisons with other methods have been delineated in detail by Young (1990: 551). Researchers in the first group do not consider the underlying learning theory on which the Silent Way is based. For this reason, they will not be examined in this context.

2.1. Descriptions of Silent Way Courses

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