On a teachers’ mailing list, the comment was posted:
But these [TPRS skills] are training wheels, the “CI teaching¬†FUNDAMENTALS,” so that teachers can internalize the ART of communicating comprehensibly.
When you are talking about a large number of people, it’s not really realistic to expect all of them to master the art of anything. Let’s give them all piano lessons. Certainly they can all get to the point where they will be able to play music that sounds good and entertains people. But art? Maybe only one of them is likely to have whatever that is. I play the cello. So does Yo-yo Ma. But my job is to play the music that comes up in our local community orchestra. Which is lucky, because if I were held to Yo-yo Ma’s standard, I would abandon the cello entirely. What would the point be? It would be needlessly discouraging, and it wouldn’t really impact the idea that I could be an effective cello player in my community without grasping the “art”, but merely following the notation on the page. Will I ever be a soloist? Probably not. But not every piece is a concerto.
Do we want new TPRS/CI teachers to believe that delivering comprehensible input in a competent way, a way that does yield good acquisition, is not “good enough” because it’s not “art”? I don’t think so. That’s certainly not the message I want teachers to take away from a workshop, even though I have a hard time sometimes analyzing what I’m doing because it is fairly natural to me at this point.
There is a divide between theory (what would happen in a perfect situation) and practice (what can happen in the real world).
ALL teachers have restrictions that do not permit the use of true free-range CI to get students to proficiency. The biggest one is time. CI cannot be natural in the classroom; there isn’t nearly enough time. We need to optimize it. And optimization means being selective — aka, targeting.
Let’s also please be careful about telling folks they need to strive for a goal (internalizing the “art” of CI) which has not been shown to yield significantly better results for significant numbers of students. The goal of the theory is perfect acquisition. The goal of best practice in the classroom is maximizing acquisition for the mass of students in the existing situation in a realistic way that is achievable for the mass of teachers. They are different.