My teaching experiences have been in elementary schools. I have used deductive and inductive teaching strategies and am comfortable using either. My decision to use a particular strategy is usually based on factors such as the ability of the students to discover the skill or strategy within a reasonable amount of time, the attention span of the students (what learning activity will keep students motivated and engaged in the task), inclusion of a variety of learning styles and modalities, the skill or strategy being taught, resources available and the time allotted for the lesson. I will probably use these same factors when deciding which strategy (deductive or inductive) to use when teaching grammar rules to ESL adult learners.
ESL beginners may not have enough language to express a rule when they recognize it or they may not feel confident enough with English to offer suggestions. Therefore, teaching a grammar point such as using pronouns with the correct form of the BE verb may be taught more efficiently with an explicit explanation along with examples related to students’ lives. The majority of class time could then be spent with the students working in groups completing an information gap activity.
This same group of ESL beginner students may benefit more from learning some grammar points inductively. An example is teaching how and when to use simple present verbs with a learning activity such as the ‘lost bag’ collection of objects. In this activity students need to identify the items in the bag and state the information each article provides about the owner of lost the bag. Items in the bag include commonly used things such bus tickets and a novel which would prompt students to say, “He rides the bus. He reads.” As students say a statement the teacher writes it on the board so students have a visual representation of the simple present verb along with the aural and oral examples. When this activity is finished, the teacher leads students to the discover a rule about the simple present; that is, it ends in a ‘s’ and the activity is one that usually or always exists. This activity is interesting and authentic which encourages students to complete it to identify the owner, not to learn more about simple present verbs. Time may be a factor in how often inductive approaches are used since they tend to be more time consuming than using the deductive strategy.
The above examples of deductive and inductive lessons include a variety of learning styles (visual, oral and aural) and language modalities (listening, speaking and reading). Resources for the learning activities are readily available, minimizing preparation time for the lessons.
The anticipated level of student motivation and their cognitive engagement in various learning activities are factors that I consider when determining which teaching-learning strategies and activities to use with a particular group of students. Students’ motivation and engagement are often heightened by using a variety of learning activities within a unit and designing lessons so students can connect the learning to their own lives. Variety and authenticity can be incorporated into a unit by including realia, (as in the inductive activity above), situational learning, as well as oral and written examples that relate to students’ goals.
Grammar points taught inductively using a situational approach can be tailored for each particular group of students. If the students are agriculture workers, then the topic could be related to tasks and problems they will encounter on the farm. This approach can include pictures, graphics or other sources of realia. Situational learning is cognitively engaging because students have a need to learn the grammar point when it is presented in a context that is connected directly to situations in their lives.
To conclude this discussion, I think using both inductive and deductive teaching strategies in each unit provides variety and enables the teacher to incorporate the most appropriate and efficient strategies and creative learning activities in the lessons while keeping in mind the students’ language levels, goals, and learning styles; as well as the grammar points being addressed, and the available resources and time constraints.