Thursday, May 8, 2014

Before and After the introduction of Maurice Hazan's visual method - research results in Chilean elementary schools

A few years ago, the scholars Ruth Juset Miranda Fuenzalida and Noelia Paz Trecaman Cayunao conducted academic research in three different elementary schools in Valdivia, Chile. Their study measured the effectiveness of Maurice Hazan's visual teaching method, in its earlier version called Symtalk. The purpose of the research was to document and determine the reasons for the method's effectiveness, in this case with Grades 5 through 8 for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classes.

The results of this study, published in 2011, determined that at the beginning, the Chilean students were not able to speak English, even though they had been receiving formal instruction in the language. The teaching method was a traditional one, with teachers speaking a large majority of the time, and class "activities planned by teachers were mainly based on students' books, emphasizing writing and reading skills rather than speaking and listening."

Here's what the researchers found (in a nutshell):

As is typical in traditional Level 1 language instruction, the EFL teachers in these elementary schools spent a great deal of class time explaining contents of lessons rather than providing activities to prompt students' speaking and communicating. As a consequence, students' ability to communicate in English was extremely limited.

Following the introduction of Maurice Hazan's visual method (his earlier version, called Symtalk), results were perceived immediately by the researchers. When students were given the majority of class time to speak and interact, with the teacher remaining in the target language, it was readily observed that students' vocabulary increased, the ability to understand and speak in complete sentences was demonstrated, and the students were observed to be enjoying their lessons.

Think about your school's language program. Even when teachers have the materials and tools to use the QTalk (or Symtalk) method, or a complementary immersion method such as TPRS, it's very important for the teachers to avoid slipping into the familiar habit - when a teacher is explaining, no matter how necessary this seems to be, the teacher is not following  the method.

It's a fascinating study, 93 pages, and is now posted publicly on the Internet. Check it out at and let us know what you think.