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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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8. Awareness, the Self and Silence in Teaching and Learning the Silent Way


This chapter reports data that relate mainly to the two central concepts of Gattegno’s model: the self and awareness. The ways in which teachers made sense of these concepts, which roles they played in their teaching and the students’ reactions to an approach to teaching that rests mainly on these concepts will be explored. The chapter will thus present the role of awareness and the self from the perspective of the teachers and the students.

8.1. Awareness in Teaching and Learning the Silent Way

Awareness, as pointed out in chapter three, was one of Gattegno’s central tenets. He based his learning theories on the catchphrase that “only awareness is educable in people”. This concept was not automatically understood by the Silent Way teachers. They reported that they had to go through their own personal development to make sense of it in ever more refined ways. Gattegno’s statement that only awareness is educable in people was linked by the Silent Way teachers to a deepening process that is dependent on one’s own level of understanding (Roslyn, AC 14, A, 272–292). One teacher made the following comment:

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