Why do they call it pseudo-science?!?
May be because I was and is still interested in science that I got so much attracted to the recent studies in Neuroscience and its relationship with studying the English language or may be because it has become a fashion among ESLers and linguists!
I have recently come across Russell Mayne's session at IATEFL A guide to pseudo-science in English language teaching, in which he attacks this idea of NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) as he believed it failed to prove anything tangible about studying English. He held a comparison between NLP and Learning Styles. He thought that both are unreliable and that linguists have found no proof so far to prove their existence, point of view and credibility. He even went on to call a pseudo-science that can prove nothing!!?
I am so surprised concerning Russell's beliefs?! What is wrong with the idea that scientists are trying to help us have a broader knowledge of the working mechanisms of the brain and learner's psychology. Scientists discovered new things concerning the working of the brain while learning, so why not listen to them and attract teachers' attention to them!! We are not concerned with the detailed descriptions, which have confused me to an extent, we are mainly concerned with the working links inside the brain that help us have a better understanding of the developments in the learners' minds as they work and study.
When we have a case of Autism, ADHA or Dyslexia, we become concerned about brain images (x-rays) and how it works, so why can't we do the same with normal students!!
NLP and Learning Styles have caused a lot of argumentative movement around the linguistic and ESL field mainly for the benefit of the profession, so why should we go against them?! Nobody is asking anybody to stick to certain rules or follow them. It is the natural development that takes place with the development of everyday life. New ideas pop up or let's rather say that we start seeing things from different perspectives. People may get drifted by certain ideas, but it is all for the benefit or the profession, people responsible for it and eventually the learners!!
In one of the articles that I have come across recently, the writer said, "[that] learning and studying bring development, growth and changes in the brain function and organization. " On the other hand, I read in an article entitled 'Brain and Learning: Boosting Brain Power for Success' by Dana W.Toedtman (a learning specialist) that John Medina (writer of Brain Rules) said, "Some parts of our adult brains stay as malleable as a baby's, so we can create and learn new things throughout our lives. Peter Wiley, a psychologist, "remarked the executive functions or 'getting your act together', have become more important and challenging in schools for many reasons................. Parents and teachers must accept that they have to function as the child's frontal lobe (organizer) much longer than they may wish; they can withdraw their support as the student learns to manage, usually much later than we think."
Here is a collaboration of scientists, linguists and psychologists to help us as teachers understand what is really going on in the learners' minds. These ideas may take a long time to prove, but nevertheless, they are stepping stones to the future.
This idea would lead me to another fashionable way of teaching which Gamification or using educational games to interest students in the learning process. Here also computer technicians started interfering with new ideas for developing different educational games with the fast progress of technology. Many people are using these, yet nobody came up to say that these can't prove their worth yet!! In spite of that, we find ESLers protesting that not all educational games are beneficial and that they need a lot of adjustments based on linguistic study as Karenne Sylvester did in her session at IATEFL this April (Gamified language educational e-tivities: chocolate-covered broccoli or honeycoated peas? Karenne compared the usual Game Based Learning (GBL) to GLEES (Gamified Language Education E-tivities). She said that GLEES are much better as they are very well structured and help students to reflect on the content, be independent and do well on team work. The design of these games encourage 'competence, autonomy and relatedness'.
What I believe Karenne and Russell objected to is the 'too much' interference of scientists, psychologists and computer technicians in the learning process. I believe that those people couldn't help it. Science and technology are having vast breakthroughs that are hard to ignore!! Technological progress call for the help of human beings, it can't be stopped! What we need here is a collaboration among scientists, technicians and linguists not a dispute or rejection?!? None of them is dispensable to the other. I think that linguists have become jealous of that interference, they don't feel they have the lead alone anymore!! Collaboration among them just needs to be regulated and disciplined for the benefit of all!! Don't you think so?!??