Some Approaches of Language Teaching


Approach is a set of correlative assumptions dealing with the nature of language and the nature of language learning and teaching.[1] In addition, Approach is the level at which assumption and beliefs about language, language learning, and language teaching. According to Anthony’s model, Approach is the level at which assumption and beliefs about language and language learning is specified.[2]

Base on the statements above, Approach relates to the assumptions and beliefs in language, language learning and teaching. In language teaching, people have different agreement in assumption and belief. Therefore, there are some approaches base on people belief and assumption in language teaching. Those assumptions and beliefs are supported by the theory of the expert in language, language teaching and learning. In other word, Approach refers to theories about the nature of language and language learning that serves as the source of practices and principles in language teaching.


A.     Classical Behaviorism by Pavlov

In the 20th century, Ivan Pavlov, the psychologist from Russia conducted a research by training a dog trough a procedure that he called as classical conditioning. In his researched, Pavlov trained a dog to dripping it saliva following the sound of bell. Then he called the response of the dog as unconditioned response. Then, in his researched, he used the smell of meat, until the dog got the conditioned response. In the term of human learning, when someone doesn’t give a correct response to a stimulus, it is called by unconditional response. Meanwhile, when someone gives a correct response, it is called by conditional response. In conclusion, in the classical behavior, the term of teaching and learning are conducted by giving a stimulus and giving a response.


B.     Operant Conditioning Skinner

In the book titled verbal behavior (1959), Skinner captures the essence of the behaviorist approach to language. Language is not mental phenomenon: It is behavior, like other forms of human behavior. It is learnt by process of habit-formation.[3]

BF. Skinner with his Operant Conditioning wants to try explaining a part of human learning and human behavior. In operant conditioning, someone behavior can be operant or respondent. Operant is the classes of response, while someone behavior causes a response from the other people it is called by operant. The example of this phenomenon is when a baby cries then it causes the baby’s mother gives him a breast or milk, it is called by operant. While, respondent is a set of response that is induced by recognized stimulus. If someone behavior is a response of a stimulus it is called by respondent. The example is a boy that is punched by his friend, feel hurt and then cry. If he cries because of the punch and hurt, it is called by respondent.

Operant and respondent common happen in language teaching and learning. In the class room, there are usually some smart students and some weak students. Respondent commonly happen when the teacher asks the students a question then one of the smart students answer it. While the weak students usually just be quiet, or give no response. If the behavior of weak students causes the teacher gives them extra time to learn, it can be called by operant. Because, the weak student’s behavior causes the teacher gives them extra time for learning.

In addition to operant and respondent, skinner also proposes reward and punishment in the Language learning. According to skinner reward and punishment have a strong influence in the teaching and learning success. Reward tends to increase students motivation in learning. But, punishment is usually harming the students. Punishment doesn’t build student behavior well. And it usually makes the students lost his motivation to learn.

In the term of punishment, skinner offers a way out that punishment is better to be erased. Skinner offers to change the punishment with giving motivation or suggestion. Motivation and suggestion will build student’s behavior well. Therefore, if the students cannot answer the teacher question, the teacher should not give the students punishment. In other hand, the teacher must give them motivation that can make them repair their mistake.

In 1993, Omaggio Hadley summarized the characteristics of behaviorism approach as follow:

  1. Human learning and animal learning are similar;
  2. All behavior is viewed as a response to stimuli;
  3. The mind of the student is tabula-rasa;
  4. Conditioning involves the strengthening of association between a stimulus and response through the reinforcement;
  5. Human language is a sophisticated response system acquired through operant conditioning.[4]


C.     Subsumption Ausubel

David Ausubel states that language learning happens through a meaningful process which is connected between the new knowledge or experience and existing knowledge or experience. In his theory, Ausubel emphasize mental structure or organization. Therefore, the focus of human learning is not stimulus-response bonds but mental events. This theory is the opposite of behaviorist theory in which emphasizes human learning on Habit-formation.

The cognitive theory that is proposed by Ausubel can be understood by contrasting rote learning and meaningful learning. Rote learning is recalling items without connecting it with a system or existing cognitive data. While, meaningful learning is studying new knowledge by integrating and importing it in the contextual system in to existing knowledge. Meaningful learning only happens when the new knowledge or experience can be integrated in to existing knowledge by the learners. In other word, it is not be able to be conducted if the learners have no previous knowledge or experience that related to the new knowledge.

In the rote learning, knowledge acquisition and experience acquisition are treated as separated units that are randomly integrated in the cognitive system. Therefore, rote learning involves a performance of memorizing items that are not related to the existing cognitive units.

Meanwhile, meaningful learning can be applied as a process of connecting and integrating between new knowledge or experience and the existing knowledge or experience. In this kind of learning, while the new knowledge and experience entering cognitive field, it will interact with, and be integrated appropriately to the broader conceptual system.

In addition to rote and meaningful learning, Ausubel also proposes that forget is systematic. In this matter, he states that forget in the meaningful learning is more intended rather than forget in the rote learning. It is because in the meaningful learning, the learners are integrated new knowledge with existing knowledge. While in the rote learning, the learners only perform memorizing items that are not related to the existing knowledge in the learner’s cognitive field.

Ausubel states that in the term of meaningful learning, forget are the second step after integrating new knowledge with the existing knowledge. In the forgetting step, the specific items are not considered as separated items but it is considered as integrated items. Therefore, the specific and separated concept of knowledge will be integrated become a broader concept of knowledge.

In other word, this approach shows that in language teaching process the teacher must be able to integrate the student’s new knowledge or experience and their recent knowledge or experience.


D.    Humanistic Psychologist Rogers

Carl Rogers is not considered as a psychologist of learning but he gives a big influence to the learning concept understanding. In his classical concept of client-centered therapy, he analyzes and explains human behavior and process of learning. This view brings important implication to the education system.

In his concept, Rogers states that students have full participation in the teaching and learning process. He tends to avoid teaching and substitute it by learning. Therefore, the most important one is learning how to learning. In this case the enable of students becomes very important in the learning process. Students are not anymore considered as a listener but as intact individual that must be involved in whole aspect of learning. In conclusion, all activities and learning materials in the class must use subsumption context, and all students involved in the process of learning and finding solution in the problem of learning.

[1] Jack C Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers. No Year. Approaches and Methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press. P. 19.

[2] Ibid. P 19.

[3] Hery Yufrizal, MA, Ph.D. 2008. An Introduction to second Language Acquisition (A Text book for ESL Learners and English Teacher). Bandung: Penerbit Pustaka Reka Cipta. Page 43

[4] Hery Yufrizal, MA, Ph.D. Cop. Cit. Page 44.


Further Reading


H. Douglas Brown. 2001. Teaching by Principles an Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy Second Addition. San Francisco State University.

H. Douglas Brown. 2007. Prinsip Pembelajaran dan Pengajaran Bahasa Edisi V. Pearson Education

Hery Yufrizal, MA, Ph.D. 2008. An Introduction to second Language Acquisition (A Text book for ESL Learners and English Teacher). Bandung: Penerbit Pustaka Reka Cipta.

Jack C Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers. No Year. Approaches and Methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.

Smith, M. K. (1999) ‘Learning theory’, the encyclopedia of informal education,

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