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Exploring Inductive and Deductive

Methods in Teaching Reading

Skills in Finnish and Hungarian
Eszter Tarsoly and Riitta-Liisa Valijrvi
University College London
School of Slavonic and East European Studies
Sustaining a Global Society: Languages of the Wider World
SOASSchool for Oriental and African Studies
29-30 March 2012

2008-2010: the draft of two ten-unit graded
readers was written, one in Finnish and one in
Hungarian, with support from CEELBAS;
the Finnish reader adopts predominantly the
inductive, the Hungarian reader the deductive
both readers are intended for ab-initio researchfocused learners;
both course books take the task of a reader
seriously, no productive skills are taught;
But what is the best way to teaching reading?

The aim of our research

and this paper is...
to explore two different methodological and
pedagogical approaches to the teaching of
reading skills in morphologically complex
to invite students and practitioners to think
about the process of reading, especially L2
reading, and processing information taken
from written texts in a new language

Deductive vs. inductive method

In deductive (rule-driven, top-down) teaching the
teacher introduces and explains the concept and
the rules relating to it. Then the teacher lets
students to practice the new concept.
In inductive (example-driven, bottom-up) teaching the
teacher gives students the data and lets students
draw their own conclusions from the data. The
students notice how the concept is used and figure
out, and verbalise the rule.
(Stern, 1992)

Previous research by Shaffer (1989):

Inductive: 1. the students attention is focused on the structure being
learned; 2. the students are required to formulate for themselves and
then verbalise the underlying pattern; students deduce
Deductive: students are given an explanation (Shaffer, 1989:397) and
varying amout of time is spent on practice; students induce
Shaffer compared the two approaches from the following
perspectives: 1. student ability v. approach; 2. difficulty of structure
v. approach; 3. the teachers preference for either approach v.
students performance;
the research was carried out in Spanish and French foreign
language classes in secondary education;
the two approaches were tested in teaching various areas of the
lexicon and grammar;
The correlation between student ability and approach was not
significant, and that the inductive approach can be used with
difficult structures as well, thus rehabilitating the inductive method;

Both methods have been shown to work in language

learning (e.g. Fotos, 1994; Erlam, 2005).
Deductive method is the more traditional one of the two
and generally believed to be more suitable for teaching
beginners. It is efficient and clear (Thornbury, 1999:5455).
Inductive method has been said to be better suited for
more advanced learners (Mohamed, 2001), it activates
and involves students and prepares them for autonomy
(Thornbury, 1999:54-55).
There are individual differences between students: some
prefer the deductive method, whereas others benefit
from being taught with the inductive method.
(Thornbury, 1997; 1999:54-55; Ellis, 2008:882-883).

In our current research we compare the two methods,

and explore their advantages from the learners
We are interested in the learners perception of the
various approaches that are used in the language
classroom in the teaching of reading;
Our informants (20 students) are from a different age
range from Shaffers informants: all in higher education,
mostly at Masters level;
Language learning is a creative, cognitive process and
learners of our students age are adults who are able to
understand abstract concepts;
We compare the two approaches with a view to teaching
reading and not a particular area of lexicogrammar;

Reading and deductive/inductive

Reading deductively:

Grammar and difficult vocabulary are explained in advance.

A vocabulary list is provided.
The students are briefed on the content of the text.
The text can be modified, adapted and not authentic.

No prior explanation is given with the text.

A vocabulary list is not necessarily provided.
Reference to a grammar book may be provided.
The text is authentic.

Reading inductively:

Deductive reading Pre-taught method

Inductive reading Discovery method

Our questions to students in structured

qualitative interviews were therefore:
What are the various approaches that were used in the
teaching of reading?
Which were the two fundamental approaches?
What is the most rewarding part of your learning
experience when you are taught through either of these
Do you like receiving vocabulary lists before you start
reading a text?
Do you want to be taught the grammar that occurs in a
text before reading it?
We conducted interviews in six focus groups

Students perception of approaches to

teaching and learning reading
Students were usually unable to distinguish the two methods:

Reading comprehension and summary I dont understand the question.

We have read and listened to a recording of native speakers and read it again.
Each unit was similar... Scary... that there is this difficult text again, and so much
grammar to absorb. I noticed no difference between units, methodologically they were all
the same. See, this made a difference to me, I think I can see how units were different,
in that they were all geared towards a grammatical point.

But some gave it a try:

Generally every unit started with a text that forced us to tease out the grammar. In
English teaching at school it is different because we do miriads of routine exercises from
simpler to more difficult. This teaching forced us to go down the reading rout. The units
model how an academic life would work.

Pro inductive
Enhances memorisation

If you do the work by yourself, the hard way, you get a certain conception, there are good
chances it is not totally right, but still it kind of helps you to see the logic of a language
construction. So, afterwards, when you have explanations, it is kind of more solid
I think it helps if you dont know some of it because you learn by making mistakes and I
think, I dont know what its like with other people, but things sort of stick in my head if I
have to go and look it up I just remember it more.
[Remembering] is easier once you figured it out by yourself. But there is a difference
between figuring it out and being able to use it actively by yourself.
I remember better with discovery but probably I am biased because I learnt all my
languages, German and English in this way, through a text. Starting with the grammar
might require students to change their thinking, I dont know.
Yes, when it clicks inside, and because something clicks inside you remember it.
I think its better to look things up by myself because if Im given then on a list Im not
making as much effort, and itll stay in the head.

Promotes active learning

Well, it is a bit hard, I would say, we are all a bit lazy, so of course it is fun to have all the
words with the translations but then I suppose we tend to look at just the words and make
sense of a list of words, rather than grammatical construction, so, for our own good, it is
better not to have anything.

Prepares for real life and independent learning

Each unit has this specific grammar core, and vocabulary building, and then there are two
methods, in unit one we were given the vocab and we were taught how to analyse vocabulary,
and in later units we were working on our own, looking up words, using dictionaries and
online sources, to analyse grammar. It is a good way because once we go to COUNTRY we
dont have you or vocab lists anymore, we will be on our own, so, it is a good experience.
Im thinking if you live in Finland nobody would give you the grammar so you would have
to learn to live with the fact that you dont get grammar in advance and when you read
newspapersor somebody puts a notice on the door you will have to get used to the endings
that you dont understand.

Exciting and interesting

I remember with the past tense for example it was interesting because I could figure it out
myself, we were waiting for it for a while and then it came up and we all said, hurray, this is
the past tense, and by then we could discover it ourselves.
Personally, I prefer the inductive approach, because I love to read lots of examples first, and
then try to figure out the rules, and I enjoy the process of figuring out the rules, it is like
finding a treasure, going through different examples it is like a treasure hunt, hmm, thats

Motivating and maintains curiosity

On the other hand, the forms that you dont really know become conspicuous if you read
texts when you dont know all of it so you learn to recognise things and I guess it sort of
triggers you to work out the things that you dont already know.
If I try to make sense of it by myself, and then look at it, it helps you to try to think within
the framework of a language.

Pro deductive

Correct interpretation

I dont agree with receiving the words because I can look them up anyway but I really found
it useful the prior explanation of the grammar thing While reading the text I can guess the
meaning of the text but I cannot translate it fully. I know what word is there but I dont
know what is its form and an online dictionary or Google Translate cannot explain that to
You can look up the words later and try to learn the meaning but the grammar would help
in translating more correctly.

If I know grammar, much more grammar maybe I will not stop when I go through the text.
But then the disadvantage [of the inductive method] is that it can be quite discouraging, first
when you are on your own working on it, you feel like damn, I suck at this, especially if you
are not a language learner.
Learning a language can be quite personally personally challenging to your self-esteem,
especially because of the way we learn other things, other subjects, we are given the inductive
approach, really, you are told, this is what it is, and now lets try to apply it to something.

Saves time and effort

One would assume that its good for you for while looking up the words you are learning
but you get discouraged very easily. Theres just so much to do about this one text and it
takes ages.
Its also about pragmatism. Since we have so much to do usually and we try to squeeze
Finnish and try to be time efficient I feel like I spend too much time trying to figure out
something that could have been made a bit more easier for me to start memorising the words.
The vocab lists finished too early, and I understand that we were more advanced, but even if
not in so much detail but still it would be easier than me just spending three hours
translating, instead I could have spent those three hours to learn words. It is time
In the dictionary there are so many meanings that I am not sure which one to use.
I always get bogged down because I discover other exciting words and I keep looking at them
and I want to learn them all and I spend hours doing just that.

Helpful and supportive

You can kind of figure out what words are there Its more the grammar construction that
we need a push on because you can find words or know words yourself.
Sometimes I try to read newspapers. Its not too difficult but sometimes Im lost because I
dont know much grammar Sometimes I couldnt find the word in a dictionary because I
dont know the grammar.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I found that with the inductive it was very
rewarding to do the independent work, and stumble through it quite a lot, and feel kind of on
my own and try figure it out, maybe figuring it only half out and then come to class and be
told what the other half was, and then feel like, oh, all right, thats what it meant, I get it

Advantages and disadvantages: an



Maintaining curiosity

Enhancing memorisation

Sense of being overwhelmed

Sense of safety

Encouraging independent learning

Encouraging lazyness

A confidence boost

Excitement v. discouragement

Clarity of expectations

Danger of wrong interpretation

Conclusions and outlook:

Our results pinpoint the advantages of varied instructional techniques in
the language classroom.
Mixing methods also reflects how we treat information in real life.
If new language is introduced deductively, plenty of practise is necessary, so
that students can deduce their own rules from the examples.
With the inductive approach detailed feedback, reinforcment of the students
formulation of the rule, and further practice is essential for students to be
able to apply what they learnt.
In learning and reading: primacy of a discovery approach; there is no
authentic text which presents grammar points in isolation ~ trailers in class:
often in simpler texts students get a taste of a more complex language point,
which is treated in detail later. This, just like in read life, raises curiosity.
If the aim is language production, the mere discovery of the rule is not
enough: plenty of examples and practice (where inductive skills are used) are
needed after the rule has been discovered and made explicit.
The interference between the two methods is circular, they are present in
learning always in combination and not in isolation from each other;
The two approaches in other disciplines and languages.

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