Lesson 3: Inductive Approaches to Teaching Grammar

Defining Induction on a Continuum

Introduction to Lesson 3

Duration: 00:32


The dictogloss reviewed in the previous lesson was an example of a data-driven approach to analyzing language. A data-driven process is part of an inductive process that goes from examples to generalizations, as opposed to a deductive approach that goes from generalizations to examples. Is there one single definition of an inductive approach to learn a second language? In this section, we will analyze several possible definitions of induction and, in particular, the notion of guided induction.

The dictogloss activity from Lesson 2 was an example of inductive learning. In this section, we will explore the meaning of induction.


Major elements of an inductive approach to learning.

Duration: 02:31

Definitions of Induction

The following shows how the definition of inductive learning has evolved over the years.

  1. Seliger (1975): Teacher presents the grammatical rule at the end of the session.
  2. Shaffer (1989): Students' attention is focused on the structure being learned; and the students are required to formulate for themselves and then verbalize the underlying pattern.
  3. Decoo (1996): Exposure to instances of language use, from which learners gather patterns of use, "goes from the specific to the general, namely first the real language use, from which will 'emerge' patterns and generalizations."
  4. Herron & Tomasello (1992): Students learn best when they produce a hypothesis and receive immediate feedback because this creates maximal conditions under which they may cognitively compare their own developing system to that of mature speakers.
  5. Erlam (2003): Students take an active role in hypothesis testing but do not search for rules or an underlying pattern. Neither teacher nor students state grammatical rules.

Analyze the definitions of inductive learning (in chronological order) and write up your own preferred definition of inductive learning. You can use components from various definitions.

Language Teachers' Perspectives

Let's look in more detail at the definitions proposed by Erlam (#5) and the one from Shaffer (#2). What is the main difference between these two definitions? Does it make a substantive difference or not?


Language teachers share their perspectives on the definitions.

Duration: 02:12

Continuum: Deductive to Inductive

Decoo (#3) classified inductive approaches into different types of processes. This idea can be classified and organized further on a continuum as shown in the following graphic.


Defining various levels on the continuum.

Duration: 02:02

The Consequences of Choosing One Approach Over Another

Erlam (2003) conducted a study in which she tested the pedagogical benefits of inductive and deductive approaches. She operationalized the constructs in the following way:

"The present study compared ...

  1. deductive instruction, which involves rule explanation, and
  2. inductive instruction, in which the learner takes an active role in hypothesis testing, but does not search for rules or an underlying pattern. Neither the teacher nor the learners stated grammatical rules."

Erlam's study did not find any advantage that can be attributed to inductive instruction. Would that constitute empirical evidence against the benefits of inductive learning discussed in the previous section? HINT: Could guided instruction produce a different result than purely deductive or inductive instruction?


A discussion of induction in practice.

Duration: 01:48