Introduction To The Human Information Processing Education Essay

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It is worthwhile exploring the relationship between cognitive processes and the development of a second language. This study will look at human information processing under the following subheadings: Human information processing, information-processing ability, information handling procedures, the routinization of skills and requirements in second language learning.

Human Information Processing

As Barry McLaughlin (1983) mention, humans are limited capacity processors: since humans are limited capacity processors, there is need for an integration of a number of different skills, each of which has been practiced and routinized. The in which humans process information can be described using two dimensions. The first relates to the focus of attention and is largely a function of task demands. The second relates to information processing ability, and is largely a function of how the individual deals with the information on the basis of past experience.

At present cognitive psychologists tend to use a multi level system in which, for example, attention may be divided into brief buffer storage, with connections to various memory systems such as the sensory register, short-term memory and long-term memory (Blumenthal, 1977). Whether this multilevel system is conceptualised in terms of specific components (e.g. Baddeley, 1978), or in terms of types of levels of processing (e.g. Craik and Lockhart, 1972), allowance is made for the fact that not everything reaching the organism through various input channels becomes an object of attention. Some scanning system selects one line of input over others and gives it direct access to the central cognitive system; other input resources remain on the periphery of attention. The central cognitive system can be thought of as an executive central system (Baddeley, 1981): Carr (1979), that has its functional goal setting nd task organization (Shallice, 1972). The above references are cited in "Language Learning, Vol. 33, No. 2 (1977).

Information Processing Ability

The success of the system in dealing with a given input depends on the characteristics of the input and the information processing ability of the perceiver. If for e.g. one is exposed to a rapid flow of speech in a language one does not know well, the effect is that information-handling capacity becomes overloaded and one eventually "switches off". In short, humans are limited capacity information processors, both in terms of what they can attempt to do at a given point in time and in terms of what they can handle on the basis of knowledge and expectation.

Attention focus - what the person can attend to at a given point in time - can be focal or peripheral. Information processing ability - how the individual deals with incoming information is a function of past experiences and characteristics of the input as suggested by researchers.

This leads to the next point as to how the individuals process large amount of information and develop complex social, linguistic and cognitive skills.

Information Handling Procedures

According to Miller (1956), short-term memory is limited to 7+2items. Yest Miller went on point out that items in short-term memory are not equivalent to 'bits' of information as defined by information theory. This means that the items in memory can contain more than minimal amounts of information depending on the individual's learning history and on the characteristics of the input. What is crucial here is, how information is organized so that it can be utilized in short-term (working) memory and transferred into long-term storage. According to Craik and Lockhart (1972), there are various levels at which information can be processed and the likelihood of long-term retention depends on the depth of processing involved. Learners use different strategies to handle input, some of which involve deeper levels of processing and result in superior long-term retention. While this approach is vulnerable to criticism on empirical grounds (Baddeley, 1978), the levels of processing framework is helpful in that it suggests that poor learners may not suffer from inherent storage or capacity deficits, but rather need to apply different learning strategies. The organization of long-term memory systems is another factor that affects the manner in which information will be handled. The predeterminations of relations between elements reduce the amount of cognitive effort required to handle isolated bits of information. By dealing with related units of information rather than isolated bits, more efficient processing becomes possible.

In recent years, researchers have investigated the effects of practice, rehearsal and familiarity on information processing. A particularity important variable appears to be the degree of attention involved. If more attention is required to process information, more resources are consumed and make the processing slower. If there is practice, rehearsal, or familiarity with the material information processing is faster.

Theoretical Notions and Assumptions of Teaching and Learning

A brief description of some of the basic theoretical notions and assumptions on which the present study is based are presented in this section. The study begins keeping the wider goals of education in view to facilitate and enable the learner to learn for personal meaning.

In this context, according to Carl Rogers (1969), a teacher's role should be less didactic and more of a facilitator. Rogers condemns didactic and expository methods of education. According to him, teaching and imparting of knowledge makes sense in an unchanging environment. As one lives in an environment, which is continually changing, the goal of education ought to be the facilitation of change and learning. Hence the only man who is educated is he who has learnt how to learn and how to adapt and change. He also hints that no knowledge is secure and learning is a lifelong process straddling several areas simultaneously- physical, physiological, psychological and emotional.

Furthermore, one has to be mindful of the plethora of different contexts of learning, difference across individuals in the way they learn items or differences within any one individual. While people exhibit inherently human traits of learning, every individual approaches a problem or learns a set of facts or organizes a combination of feelings from a unique perspective. It is apparent that cognitive and effective variables must be channelled into an understanding of the total learning process. Hence, individualized learning would be of great help.

In this context, H. Douglas (1987) mentions that no learner can be pigeon-holed into cognitive type. With many styles and strategies operating within a person, hundreds of cognitive profiles might be identified. Hence, there is a need to recognize and understand a multiplicity of cognitive variables active in the learning process and to make appropriate judgements about learners, meeting them where they are and providing them with best possible opportunities for learning. In such circumstances it seems sensible then to organize the curriculum in such a way that individual needs, interests and proffered learning needs can be catered to.

Cameron and Pierce (1994) are of the opinion that verbal praise and positive feedback enhance learners' interest in learning. They further consider that rewards can have a negative impact on intrinsic motivation when they are offered for tasks that have no consideration of any standard of performance. Hence, argue these researchers, rewards offered in educational and other settings should be delivered contingent on performance.

Theoretical methodological foundations for the study

Enlightening the intricate relationship among what teachers believe and what they do actually in the classroom, the social context of teaching, and the mediating agent of INSET and its effect require a method that enables one to assess the interaction level of these factors. Therefore this section will examine how different schools of thought have understood the study of human behaviour, with their underlying assumptions. The two fold purposes of such an examination are: first to examine which perspective can provide the methodological foundation to the present study, and second, such discussions would provide a rational basis for the methodological choice made and show that it is not a random one.

The perspectives of three different schools will be discussed in the following paragraphs. They are: the positivist perspectives, the cognitive perspectives and the humanistic perspectives.

The Positivist Perspectives


Early psychologists abandoned their focus on the human mind in their attempts to understand and predict human behaviour, because they believed that it was the responsibility of natural sciences and not the social sciences. The result is an adherence to an experimental methodology which is known as' logical positivism' (which encompasses 'school of behaviourism,') a part of philosophical form of inquiry.

J. B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) are the two principal propagators of behaviourist approaches to learning. Watson believed that human behaviour results from specific stimuli that elicited certain responses.

Watson's basic premise was that conclusions about human development should be based on an observation of overt behaviour rather than speculation about subconscious motives or about latent cognitive processes (Shaffer, 2000).

Behaviourism, a branch of positivism, is primarily concerned with observable and measurable aspects of human behaviour. In defining behaviour, behaviourist learning theories (for example, Law of use and dis-use, Law of exercise,) emphasize changes in behaviour that result from stimuli-response associations made by the learner. Behaviour is directed by the stimuli.

Behaviourists assert that the only behaviours worthy of study are those that can be directly observed; thus it is actions, rather than thoughts or emotions, which are the legitimate objects of the study. Behaviourist theory does not explain abnormal behaviour in terms of the brain or its inner workings. Rather, it posits that all behaviour is learned habits, and attempts to account for how these habits are formed.

Methodological Views

In assuming that human behaviour is learned, behaviourists also hold that all behaviours can also be unlearned, and replaced by new behaviours; that is, when behaviour becomes unacceptable, it can be replaced by an acceptable one. A key element to this theory of learning is the rewarded response. The desired response must be rewarded in order for learning to take place (Parkay & Hass, 2000).

Using behaviourist theory in the classroom can be rewarding for both students and teachers. Behavioural change occurs for a reason; students work for things that bring them positive feeling, and for approval from people they admire. They change behaviours to satisfy the desires they have learned to value. They generally avoid behaviours they associate with unpleasantness and develop habitual behaviours from those that are repeated often (Parkay & Hass, 2000). The entire rationale of behaviour modification is that most behaviour is learned. If behaviours can be learned, and then they can also be unlearned or relearned.

In terms of the concept of learning, the process tends to be positive with regard to the behaviourist theory. The learner uses low level processing skills to understand material and the material is often isolated from real-world contexts or situations. Little responsibility is placed on the learner concerning his/her own education.

Behaviourism and structuralism are approaches to psychology that has its roots in positivism, and has had a profound influence on language teaching. The theory of Stumulus-Response has given rise to s structural/audio-lingual approach to language teaching.

Typical classroom interaction consistent with the behaviourist theory includes: rote memorizations, and drill and practice of one structure at a time.

Teacher/learner Education

In spite of its shortcomings, the Structural Approach has dominated language teaching because of several reasons.

In many countries teachers are not provided with professional training. So, it can be quicker and easier to teach teachers to use steps involved in this approach. Teachers who are less confident tend to be less frightened in using this approach because allowing language to develop through meaningful interaction in the classroom can be a challenging experience to less confident teachers.

The major concern of this school is that, it is only concerned with observable behaviour, thereby; it denies the importance of a fundamental element in the learning process- the cognitive or mental processes.

The macro functionalist perspective with its deterministic view seems unable to grasp the dynamics of human agency in the production of action. It does not seem to provide and adequate treatment of the relationship between individual and society, and in turn, an adequate framework to study human behaviour and the changes therein.

The gap revealed in the functionalist conceptualization of human behaviour because of its failure to account for human reflectivity in the production of action , led to the rise of other perspectives attempting to address these gaps. Notable among them are the Cognitive and Humanistic views. The cognitive perspective will be examined in the section.

Cognitive School

Cognitive psychology is concerned with the ways in which the human mind thinks and learns. Therefore, the emphasis is on mental processes which include how people build up and draw upon their memories and experiences and get involved in learning processes.

In an attempt to arrive a theoretical framework or the present study, the several theories of teaching/learning English which fall under the cognitive school of philosophy, some of these theories are: L. Festinger's (1957) Cognitive Dissonance Theory which can be applied in all situations involving attitude formation and change, decision-making and problem-solving. Next, Cognitive Flexibility Theory was looked at, which builds upon constructivists theories of Bruner, Ausebel and Piaget. 'Experimental Learning Theory' proposed by Rogers is found to be effective as it advocates that 'self-initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.

'Vygotsky's 'Social Interaction Theory' plays an important role on the 'social interactions' in

accelerating learning which is similar to Bandura's (1986) 'Social Learning Theory' according to which, observing and modelling the behaviours of others is important in learning. The other theory that examined was the 'Transformation Learning Theory' proposed by Mezirow. This theory is described as being constructivist, an orientation which holds that the way learners interpret their experiences is central to meaning-making and hence learning (Mezirow, 1991).

From this fabric of theories of teaching/learning, the contributions made by Piaget, Bruner and Kelly were chosen for the present study which will give a clear picture of the cognitive school perspectives on human learning.


Piaget (1953) called his theoretical framework 'genetic epistemology' because he was primarily interested in how knowledge developed in human organisms. The concept of cognitive structure is central to his theory. These cognitive structures are patterns of physical or mental actions that underlie specific acts of intelligence and correspond to child development. He identified four cognitive structures - sensori-motor, pre-operations, concrete operations and formal operations.

Cognitive development is a process of maturation within which genetics and experience interact. The developing mind is constantly seeking a balance between what is known and what is currently being experienced. This is accomplished by the complementary processes of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation involves the interpretation of events in terms of existing cognitive structures. Accommodation refers to changing cognitive structures to make sense of the environment in which the event is taking place.

The application Piaget's cognitive developmental theory suggests that:

It is very important to take account of the learner as an individual.

The development of thinking and its relation to language and experience become a central focus of learning.

A task should match the cognitive level of the learner.

It is important to consider the notions of assimilation and accommodation to learning new information.

Assimilation refers to the active transformation of information so as to be integrated into the mental schemes already available (Piaget, 1953).

Accommodation refers to the active transformation of these schemes as to take into account the particularities of the objects, persons, or events the thinker is interacting with (Piaget, 1953).

For Piaget, none of these functions can exist independently.

To assimilate an object into existing mental scheme, one first needs to take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent; for instance, to recognize (assimilate) an apple as an apple one needs first to focus (accommodate) on the shape of this object. To do this one needs to roughly recognize the size of the object.

Piaget's approach is central to the school of cognitive theory known as 'cognitive constructivism' in which the focus was mainly on the cognitive development. As a result, Piaget ignores the other factors responsible for learning like; Piaget originally underestimated the fundamental part played by language in the development of thought. He also ignored, to some extent, the significance of parent or teacher intervention in cognitive development.

Other scholars known as "social constructivists", such as Vygotsky and Bruner, have laid more emphasis on the part played by language and other people in enabling children to learn. The theories of these thinkers will be discussed in the following sections.

Jerome Bruner

A major theme in the theoretical framework of Bruner (1996) is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so. Cognitive structure (i.e. schema, mental models) provides meaning and organization to experiences and allows the individual to "go beyond the information given".

As far is instruction is concerned, the instructor should try and encourage students to discover principles by themselves. The instructor and student should engage in an active dialogue (i.e. Socratic learning). The task of the instructor is to translate information to be learned into a format appropriate to the learner's current state of understanding. Curriculum should be organized in a 'spiral manner so that the students continually build upon what they have already learned.

Bruner (1996) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects: (i) predisposition towards learning, (ii) the ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped by the learner, (iii) the most effective sequences in which to present material, and (iv) the nature and pacing of rewards and punishments. Good methods for structuring knowledge should result in simplifying, generating new propositions, and increasing the manipulation of information.

In his more recent work, Bruner (1986, 1990, 1996 has expanded his theoretical framework to encompass the social and cultural aspects of learning as well as the practice of law.


Bruner's constructivist theory is a general framework for instruction based upon the study of cognition. Much of the theory is linked to child development research (similar to Piaget). The ideas outlined in Bruner (1960) originated from a conference focused on science and math learning. Bruner illustrated his theory in the context of mathematics and social science programmes for young children (Bruner, 1973). In the original development of the framework for reasoning processes, Bruner, Goodnow & Austin (1956) described a 'focusing strategy' for learning simple conjunctive concepts. The learner is shown a sequence of instances, one at a time, each being an example or non example of the concept to be learned. The finding of the framework was that 'given a corpus of instances, the outcome of the learning is independent of the order in which they are presented. If all the examples are presented before the non examples, then the learning is free of errors.' The purpose of the focusing strategy understood a human's ability to categorise and how categories are learned.

George Kelly

Since the focus of this study is on the learning of teachers and students, it is necessary to look at the psychological dimensions of the social constructivist theories.

Though a clinical psychologist, Kelly's personal construct theory (Kelly, 1955) has thoughtful implications for teacher trainers and educational psychologists. Kelly began with the premise of 'Man-as-Scientist', constantly seeking to make sense of his world. To Kelly, learning involves learners making their own sense of information or events. Each person's individual construction of the world will depend upon their previous experiences which will also influence how they anticipate what will happen in the future.

Implications for teaching:

Language is not learnt by memorization of discrete items. Rather, learners are involved in an active process of making sense.

Teachers and learners both are involved in learning about each other, trying to achieve some kind of shared understanding of what is happening in the classroom (Salmon, 1988).

Emotions must be considered as an integral part of learning.

Personal construct theory provides possible alternating ways of looking at situations which may lead to their reconstruction.

In learning, we cannot ever achieve final answers; rather we find new questions, we discover other possibilities which we might try out. Knowledge is ultimately governed by constructive alternativism; everything can always be reconstructed (Salmon, 1988. 22).

This is true with the present study. The present study will be premised in the theories postulated by constructivist perspectives.

Noam Chomsky

Languages are governed by grammatical rules. Chomsky (1965) thinks that human brain is programmed to understand these rules, which was diametrically opposite to the tenets held sacred by the behaviourist theories.

According to Chomsky, the mechanism of language acquisition is formulated from innate processes. This theory is evidenced by children who live in the same linguistic community without a surplus of different experiences and who arrived at comparable grammars. Chomsky thus proposes that "all children share the same internal constraints which characterize narrowly the grammar they are going to construct." (Chomsky, 1977. 98) Since we live in a biological world, "there is no reason for supposing the mental world to be an exception." (Chomsky, 1977. 94) And he believes that there is a critical age for learning a language as is true for the overall development of the human body.

Chomsky's mechanism of language acquisition also links structural linguistics to empiricist thoughts:

'These principles (of structuralism and empiricism) determine the type of grammars that are available in principles. There are associated with an evaluation procedure which, given possible grammars, selects the best one. The evaluation procedure is also part of the biological given. The acquisition of language thus is a process of selection of the best grammar compatible with the available data. If the principles can be made sufficiently restrictive, there will also be a kind of discovery procedure.'

(Chomsky, 1977. 117)

Chomsky mooted the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) hypothesis by what he perceived as an inflexible complexity of language acquisition, citing the notion of "infinite use of finite means" proposed by Wilhelm von Humboldt.

At the time it was conceived (1957-1965), the LAD concept was in strict contrast to B. F. Skinner's behavioural psychology which emphasized principles of learning theory such as classical and operant conditioning and imitation over biological predisposition.

Chomsky (1965) set out an innate language schema which provides the basis for the child's acquisition of a language. The acquisition process takes place despite the limited nature of the Primary Linguistic Date (PLD, the input signals received) and the degenerate nature (frequent incorrect usage, utterances of partial sentences) of that data. Given this lack of stimulus, a language acquisition model requires a number of components. Firstly, the child must have a technique for representing input signals and, secondly, a way of representing structural information about them. Thirdly, there must be some initial delimitation of the class of possible language structure hypotheses. Fourthly, the child requires a method for determining what each of these hypotheses implies with respect to each sentence.

Finally, an additional method is needed by which the child can select which hypothesis is possible with the PLD.

Equipped with this endowment, first language learning is explained as performed by a Language Acquisition Device progressing through the following stages:

The device searches the class of language structure hypotheses and selects those compatible with input signal and structural information drawn from the PLD.

The device then tests the compatibility using the knowledge of implications of each hypothesis for the sentences.

One hypothesis of 'grammar' is selected as being compatible with the PLD.

This grammar provides the device with a method of interpreting sentences (by virtue of its capacity for internally representing structural information and applying the grammar to sentences), (Chomsky, 1965).

Through this process the device constructs a theory of the language of which the PLD are a sample. Chomsky argues that in this way the child comes to know a great deal more than what she has learned', acquiring knowledge of language, which "goes far beyond the presented primary linguistic data and is in no sense an 'inductive generalization' from the data."

Thus, Chomsky's 'innate hypothesis' paves the way for this study since the present study deals with humans (teachers and the students) and understanding how the thinking processes are formed to undergo gradual changes.

The researcher derived for the study from the cognitive school perspective. These frames were: attitude formation and change, decision-making and problem-solving (Cognitive Dissonance Theory); assimilation and accommodation (Cognitive Development Theory); learning is an active process (Socratic learning).

Having derived these frames, the researcher further explored support from the humanistic perspective for a theoretical support. The following discussion presents the humanistic theories.

Humanistic School

The focus of the humanistic perspective is on the self, which translates into "YOU" and "your" perception of "your" experiences. This view argues that you are free to choose your own behaviour, rather than reacting to environmental stimuli and re-inforcers. Issues dealing with self-esteem, self-fulfilment, and needs are paramount. The major focus is to facilitate personal development.

Humanistic approaches emphasize the importance of the inner world of the learner, and place the individual's thoughts, feelings, and emotions at the forefront of all human development. These are important aspects, if one has to understand human learning in its totality. In this direction, some of the scholars in the field of humanistic thought will be discussed.

Carl Rogers

Counselling psychologist Carl Rogers (1969) identified a number of key elements of humanistic approach to education. According to Rogers, human beings have a natural potential for learning. Significant learning can take place:

If the subject matter is perceived to be of personal relevance to learners.

If it involves feelings and cognition.

If it provides learners freedom and allows creativity.

If it involves active participation of learners.

If it keeps external criticism to a minimum and encourages self-evaluation.

The only man educated is the man who has learned how to adapt and change; the man who has realized that no knowledge is secure; that only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security.

(Rogers, 1969. 104)

Carl Rogers feels that each person operates from a unique frame of reference in terms of building 'self regard or their self concept. 'Self Concept' is one's own perception and one self. These beliefs stem, in part, from the notion of 'Unconditional Positive Regard' and 'Conditional Positive Regard.' Unconditional Positive Regard occurs when individuals, especially parents, demonstrate unconditional love. Conditional positive regard is when that love seems to only come when certain conditions are met. Rogers (1983) theory states that psychologically healthy people enjoy life to the fullest, hence, they are seen as fully functioning people.

Erik Erikson

Erik Erikson's 'Childhood and Society' (1963) discusses the fundamental epigenetic principle. In this principle, he suggests that each individual proceeds through eight stages from birth to old age, each of which poses a challenge. If these challenges are handled carefully with the help of significant people in their lives, then individuals can move smoothly on to the next stage. However, if the challenges are not dealt with adequately, they continue to appear again. Erikson's theory is important to educators for a number of reasons.

First, it provides a lifespan view of learning and development. It enables people to see that real life learning involves challenges which require help from others, in order to meet these challenges successfully. It also presents learning as a cumulative process; success in one task has influence upon how one can deal with subsequent tasks. Also, education is viewed as involving the whole person, the emotions and feelings, just not transmitting pieces of knowledge.

Abraham Maslow

Extending Erikson's theory, Abraham Maslow (1968, 1970) argued for two distinct needs of individuals. They are 'deficiency needs and 'being needs'. These are directly related to person's psychological balance. Maslow argued that if deficiency needs are not met, then it would be difficult for them to fulfil being needs.

Deficiency needs require a safe, secure environment which is aimed at creating a state of equilibrium. Being needs, on the other hand, can drive the individual into a danger zone where tension and stress can be most productive.

Maslow's ideas about human need fulfilment have significant implications for teaching and learning. Some of them are:

It is important to establish a secure environment where learners can feel that they belong. Learners should be encouraged to think, and should not be penalized for being creative. Therefore, classroom tasks should be challenging arousing curiosity in order to help learners realize their full potential, to enable learners to develop as individuals and thereby achieve self-actualization.

Through these humanistic approaches, it is understood that, the further education of teachers and the learners should be relevant, at the same time providing opportunities for their involvement in the learning processes, meeting the deficiency needs and being needs. Only then, the existing beliefs of these learners and teachers come out, giving way for new information to get accommodated and eventually internalized.

Similar concepts are also found in social interactionist philosophy which will be looked into, in some detail.

Social Interactionism

Social interactionist theories are concerned with how social interactions between people can create meaningful social experiences and, the ways in which, these experiences can, in turn, manifest the social action.

Social interactionism provides a framework which encompasses the insights provided by cognitive and humanistic perspectives. For social interactionist, children are born into a social world, learning occurs through interactions with other people. The main ideas and implications of social interactionism will be further discussed by examining the theories of some of the scholars in this school of thought.


Vygotsky emphasized the importance of language in interacting with other people, not just speech, but signs and symbols as well. It is by means of language that culture is transmitted, thinking develops and learning occurs. He advocated a holistic approach to language learning.

The central concept in Vygotsky's (1987) holistic theory is mediation. Mediation refers to the part played by other significant people in the learner's life, who enhance his/her learning. The assumption is that effective learning takes place in the nature of social interactions between two or more people with different levels of skills and knowledge. The one with more skills and knowledge is the mediator whose role is to find different ways of helping the other to learn.

A second aspect of Vygotsky's theory is the idea that the potential for cognitive development. It is the zone of proximal development (ZPD), a level of development attained when children engage in social behaviour. Full development of the ZPD depends upon a full social interaction.

Vygotsky (1978) states that "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first on the social level and, later, on the individual level." The concept of mediation and ZPD are the most important ones in the social interaction theories.


In Feuerstein's theory, the central focus is on the strong belief that anyone can become a fully effective learner. Another important component is the belief that people's cognitive structures are infinitely adaptable.

Feuerstein also acknowledges the role of mediation as a key factor in effective learning. He also believes that mediators play a vital role in transmitting culture. His theory (1991) 'Mediated Learning Experience" (MLE) describes a special quality of interaction between a learner and a person, who is called a 'mediator'. The function of a mediator id different from that of a teacher as illustrated by the following two figures:

Figure 1

In this model the teacher provides a suitable stimulus (homework, test, assignments, etc.) and then observes the response, the teacher interacts with the learner (praise, criticise, encourage, grade, gives new assignment, etc.) and the process is continued until either the teacher or the learner is satisfied or time runs out. Teachers develop their own repertoire of methods depending upon the size of the class, the apparent ability of the learner (s) and the subject matter.

Figure 2

In Feuerstein's method, the above diagram is replaced by one in which a warm human being, indicated by the "H" in the diagram, intervenes in the process by placing himself or herself between the learner and the stimulus and between the learner and the response.

The intentionality of the mediator is different from that of a teacher. The mediator is not concerned with solving the problem at hand. Rather the mediator is concerned with how the learner approaches solving the problem.

The problem at hand is only an excuse to involve the mediator with the learner's thinking process. For the process to be successful, at least three important qualities must characterize the interaction. These are:

Internationality and Reciprocity

The mediator concentrates on understanding and helping the learner to understand how the learner is using his or her brain. Only the learner knows how the thinking proceeds. The mediator is rather a fellow explorer.

Mediation of Meaning

The mediator interprets for the learner the significance of what the learner has accomplished. The mediator also mediates feelings of accomplishment. In various the mediator causes the learner to reflect not just on the solution to the problem but also on how the solution was obtained and the generalizations which flow from it.


Transcendence means "bridging" the experience and lessons learned in the current situation to new situations.

The above three criteria are essential to in defining Mediated learning Experience. However, the mediator also plays close attention to other aspects of learning from experience, and mediates for other (affective) components of learning such as 'Regulation and Control of Behaviour, Feelings of Competency, Sharing Behaviour, Individuation/Psychological Differentiation, The Search for Novelty and Complexity, Awareness of the Potential for Change, The Search of Optimistic Alternatives, Feeling of Belonging.'

The key elements in each of these perspectives will be summarized in the next section.


The positivist perspectives on education are concerned with observable behaviour. In learning a language, it is clear that learners make use of a wide repertoire of mental strategies to sort out the system that operates in the language. However, the present study aims at the mental processes that bring in required changes in learners' and teachers' understanding of teaching and learning much against their resistance to change. Therefore, the present study focuses on the perspectives of cognitive school of thought.

Piaget's emphasis on individual development resulted in overlooking the significance of the social environment for learning. In fact, in his early works, he argues that language follows the development of thought, providing a means of encapsulating pure thought in symbolic form (Sutherland, 1992).

Burner places a great prominence on the interaction of the learner with materials and teacher. He extended Piaget's theory to suggesting that three different modes of thinking needed to be taken into account by educators. These, he termed enactive, the iconic and the symbolic modes of thinking. This requires a teacher to be aware of the ways in which language can be enhanced by using these three modes.

George Kelly (Kelly, G. A. 1970) placed people's personal constructs at the forefront of learning which should take into account people's thinking, feelings, emotions and their past experiences in making sense of their world while, the humanistic and social interactionist approaches to language teaching and learning gave importance to the recognition of how important is each individual's search for personal meaning. This recognition places a burden of helping learners establish a strong sense of personal values. This aspect of learning also receives particular emphasis in the counselling psychology of George Kelly.

From the social interaction perspective, both Vygotsky and Feuerstein and Feuerstein independently broke new grounds in focusing on social context in which learning takes place and the concept of mediation as an essential element in this process. Through the concept of ZPD, Vygotsky pointed out the advantages of collaborative work which is set at a level just beyond the learners' current level of performance.

Social interactionists prefer several methods to contrast with structuralist methods such as, 'unstructured interviews', 'participant observation' and so on. Hence, social interaction has become the central focus on the present study. The social context is the INSET programme and interactions between the teacher and the taught in eliciting the deeply situated beliefs of practicing teachers.

Methodological Background

From the above discussion, it is clear that the cognitive approaches give importance to what a learner brings to any learning situation as an active meaning-maker. Thus, the learners (Students & teachers) play an important role in this study. The examination of humanistic approaches to language teaching/learning lead to consider the thinking processes, feelings and emotions of learners (students and teachers of Municipal Schools in the present study). The examination of social interactionist perspectives made to recognize the dynamic interplay between teachers, learners and tasks, and thus provide a view of learning as arising from interactions with others. So, in the present study the INSET programmes is the teacher, in-service teachers are the municipal school teachers and the opportunities to rethink their ways of teaching, and opportunities to interact between teachers and teacher educators.

Thus, the present study makes framework (3. Overall design of the study), drawing insights from cognitive, humanistic and social interactionist theories.


The main focus of this study was to find out the difficulties faced by the learners and the teachers and offer an in-service training programme in communicative language teaching assuming that there will be a change to some extent both in teaching/learning process of English at school level. As a result, the other aspects of teaching and learning, text books and syllabus were not taken into consideration. Since it was a representative sample from the municipal school teachers, observation of classes before and after INSET programme were looked into. But the other factors such as teachers' attitudes, learners' attitudes towards learning/teaching English and so on were not taken into consideration.

The study focused on finding out the problems faced both by the learners and the teachers in learning/teaching English and offer INSET programme that caters to the needs of the teachers working in municipal schools. The other organizations and institutions which offer similar teacher education programmes could not be considered for practical reasons. This has also limited the support the findings of the study could have got otherwise.


The study has emerged out of the curiosity the researcher has to find out the difficulties faced by the teachers in spite of attending number of courses offered to in-service teachers and the learners studying English for so many years, not able to say few words in English and offer an in-service training programme to the teachers. Another point that triggered off this study is the researcher's experience as a teacher of English for a decade. The researcher was interested in finding out the problems of teachers and the learners in the process of teaching/learning. This has led to the formulation of the research questions raised ( ) in this study.

This chapter provided the introduction to the study by describing the setting within which it occurs. It also discussed the learning processes, importance of teaching English in India, Andhra Pradesh, Municipal Schools, profile of a teacher, learner, the factors that affect teaching/learning. It also discussed the pre-service and in-service teacher education programmes, starting with the history, further revisions to these programmes and the development in teacher education. It justified the significance of the study followed by the different schools of philosophy to get a theoretical support and derived a methodological framework to premise the present study.

INSET is not only a very vast area, but also several factors are inter-twined in this aspect which has a great effect on the quality of teaching. As such, it was not possible for a study like this, to take into its fold all factors affecting teachers and learners. These limitations were discussed at the end of this chapter.

Having arrived at a theoretical and methodological framework, it is important to explore what has already been in this area of research. So, the relevant literature is reviewed and discussed in the next chapter.