Since Monitor Theory is the primary theory that informs the MAST methodology, I want to take some time here to focus on different ideas and tools that will expand our understanding of this theory. Following are seven such theories or hypotheses.
Least Restrictive Environment: Create an environment free of restrictions or stresses that would slow down or stop learning. This includes removing barriers to learning. Did you know too much material information can actually inhibit learning? On effort MAST makes from the very beginning is to give information in small receivable chunks as it becomes useful to the process. We do not want to create a restrictive environment by supplying to much information too quickly, or from expecting our learners to assimilate information at an unreasonable rate. Creating a least-restrictive environment also includes removing physical and sensory distractions whenever possible. Regular breaks for stretching the body, climate control when possible, snacks and plenty of water are all ways of removing restrictions in the learning environment.
Four theories from Stephan Krashen:
- Affective Filter: The filter in our brains through which new information flows; it can get clogged with outside issues and emotions and prevent learning. Consider the following example. Imagine you are in church on Sunday, listening intently to the message when suddenly a phone call comes into your cell. (Of course the ringer is off, but you can’t help noticing the call since you are using your Bible app.) You see that the call is from your sister who is normally also in church at this hour. Even though you decide not to take the call, you find that you can no longer concentrate on the previously-engaging message. It isn’t the message that has changed. Rather, your sister’s phone call has raised questions and concerns–distractions–that are clogging your affective filter, and inhibiting your ability to focus on the message. Here are a few examples of things that clog the filter:
3. Input/output theory: Comprehensible and consistent input must be a part of acquisition. Keeping in mind the need to limit information in a learning episode to what will be necessary and useful, it is still essential that input be comprehensive. In other words we have to be careful not to cut off information before the learner has everything they need in order to produce output. Generally output will be less than input. Think of it like what happens when you make a pot of coffee. The grounds and water are input. The output then is a hot, dark, flavored liquid. The grounds are then removed and disposed of. It isn’t that their input wasn’t necessary or was wasted. Rather it was assimilated. So it is with input in language acquisition. Some of what is input will be assimilated and used but the original may never be reproduced exactly in output. When information comes out the learner solidifies that new information. The process of output gives the learner confidence in what he now knows. The educator/facilitator sees that the input has been processed and resulted in actual learning.
4. Acquisition order: There is an order in which language is naturally acquired. Infants demonstrate this in their first language. The normal order of skills is:
listen, speak, write, read. Often in the acquisition of a second language this order is not followed. Students are expected to speak before they have had opportunity to listen. If we understand input/output, we will quickly see that this is an expectation of output without comprehensible input.
5. Pleasure Hypothesis: People learn more and retain more of what they learn when they find enjoyment in the new learning, and have a positive learning experience. This includes discover. Learners who are guided to discover the value of the newly acquired material, feel good about themselves, the material they now mentally own, and the opportunities that new learning will afford them. This also provides motivation for further learning and work. In the MAST workshop we can facilitate this kind of joy and enjoyment by group readings of finished portions, making a chart where translators can check off portions they’ve completed, asking for volunteers to share short testimonials with the large group about their learning experience, and praising the efforts of everyone involved.
Two Theories from Lev Vygotsky:
1. Scaffolding: Creating a framework of support for the learner to progress. The educator/facilitator provides support by demonstrating the process, then by stepping back and offering support as the learner attempts the process for himself. Scaffolding means that the learner feels supported in his attempts, but is challenged to actually do something with the information he has received. Scaffolding provides the framework for the learner to acquire information and progress to a higher level. In other words, it fosters progression and independence.
2. Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): Imagine three circles–a large one with a smaller one embedded in it, and a smaller one still embedded in that one. The smallest circle is the “I can” circle. It represents what the learner can do on his own, without a guide. The second circle is the “I can with help” circle. It represents what the leaner is capable of with the support of a mentor, a guide, someone who will walk through the learner with him and help him to apply it. The final circle is the “I cannot” circle, and it represents all that is outside of the learner’s capability even with a mentor. The idea is that an individual can go one step further with the help/support of a +1. He moves out of his circle into the zone of proximal development with that guidance. And once he has mastered the skills of that circle, the sphere of learning widens. The idea is in harmony with scaffolding, suggesting that a learner with support will progress to the point where he no longer needs that support, but is ready for support at a higher level.
- Have you experienced the expansion of your own learning through a plus 1 as described in ZPD?
- Where do you see Scaffolding in the MAST process?
- Where might you have some control in creating a least restrictive environment at a workshop?
- What kinds of experiences have you had with translators who have a clogged affective filter? How have you attempted to “unclog” it?