Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Grammar Teaching

What is the difference between inductive and deductive grammar teaching?

This blog post tries to describe the difference between the inductive and deductive approaches to grammar teaching. It starts by distinguishing between implicit and explicit grammar teaching. Then, a description of inductive and deductive reasoning is provided. Merits and downsides of each approach are discussed.

Explicit or implicit grammar teaching?

Teaching grammar can be explicit or implicit. Implicit grammar teaching advocates think that grammar conscious grammar learning is useless. What is needed for language acquisition is just enough comprehensible input. Proponents of explicit grammar teaching believe that focus on formal grammar teaching is essential for language learners. When teachers choose to teach grammar explicitly, they follow either an inductive or a deductive approach.

Grammar teaching

Inductive and deductive approaches to grammar teaching

Inductive and deductive approaches to grammar teaching

In the inductive approach, teachers start with contextualized examples of the target language and elicit the rule from the learners. Alternatively, the teacher may proceed in teaching grammar through a deductive approach by providing the learners with the grammar rule and asking them to come up with examples that demonstrate their understanding of that rule.

Inductive grammar teaching

Inductive reasoning draws conclusions from individual experiences and observations. The truth of these conclusions depends on the truth of the evidence available. For instance, the assumption that there are numerous black ravens may support the conclusion that all ravens are black. However, once we discover a raven that is not black, our generalizations become invalid.

In grammar teaching, inductive reasoning can be of great value. It promotes experiential learning and trains learners to actively try to discover grammar rules by themselves. Once these rules fit their mental structures, they become more memorable because of the effort deployed. The inductive grammar teaching, however, is time-consuming and requires so much effort in the preparation and organization of the lesson.  It may also disappoint the type of learners who prefer traditional ways of teaching where the teacher presents and explains the rules.

Deductive grammar teaching

The deductive reasoning originates from Aristotle’s syllogism.  Basically, it is a conclusion that is based on two or more propositions that are asserted or assumed to be true:

All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man.

Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Teaching grammar deductively is teacher-centered. Grammar rules are explained to the learners and then tested. There are advantages and disadvantages to deductive grammar teaching. To start with, this type of teaching is time-saving and straightforward. It is easier for the teacher to present and explain a rule and ask the learners to apply it than to elicit it from them. This can also be appealing to many adult learners who prefer analytical learning to discovery approaches. The deductive reasoning, however, can pose many problems to young learners who are not equipped enough with the appropriate metalanguage. Consequently, rule-driven teaching and grammar explanations may confuse and demotivate them.

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