a note on knowledge

interesting post and discussion over at the secret DOS’ page; Knowledge versus skills. Seems like quite a ruckus was caused. Interestingly I was reading the fabulously well-written “why don’t students like school” by author Daniel Willingham. I recommend it. I happen across this quote which seems pertinent:

there is no doubt that having students memorise lists of dry facts is not enriching. It is also true (though less often appreciated) that trying to teach students skills such as analysis or synthesis in the absence of factual knowledge is impossible. Research from cognitive science has shown that the sorts of skills that teachers want for students-such as the ability to analyse or think critically-require extensive factual knowledge. (2009:25)

I’ve also been reading the excellent “thinking about language teaching” by Swan (buy a copy right now!) in which he notes:

Language learners already know, in general, how to negotiate meaning. They have been doing it all their lives. What they do not know is, what words are used to do it in a foreign language They need lexical items, not skills. (2012:10)

 Grabe makes a similar point:

One needs only to pick up a newspaper in an unknown language to verify that background knowledge and prediction are severely constrained by the need to know vocabulary and structure.” (1991: 380)

 Something to think about.

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