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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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12. The Silent Way and “Flow”


The study showed that there was a particular “Silent Way” energy in the classroom that appeared to be quite distinct from most other language teaching classrooms. Chapter ten reported the results of the Silent Way teachers’ and the students’ descriptions of the classroom climate and the students’ high levels of enjoyment and motivation as a result of the learning experience akin to the concept of “flow”.

The Silent Way teachers named as one of their major teaching aims the creation of an atmosphere in the classroom that makes learning challenging and joyful at the same time. They described the climate they aim for as one of “light-hearted discipline” (Roslyn, AC 14, A, 541–546). All the Silent Way teachers considered the most productive climate to be relaxed yet energised, moving along with effortless concentration. They stated that the combination of compassion and severity creates the positive climate in the Silent Way classrooms (Christian, AC 12, A, 351–363).

This energetic climate was created by keeping the students “on the brink between the known and the unknown” (Roslyn, AC 15, B, 613–628). The Silent Way teachers worked on the assumption that this was the only space in which learning could take place. In order to put learners in this space they did not supply answers, but constantly set up new challenges that corresponded to the learners’ skills. They stated that language learners needed to see the challenges of the language in such a way...

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