This post is a long time coming. I want to be clear in that. Over the past year or so it has popped up throughout a variety of forums and in a number of ways. Many say that no single teaching "method" is inherently equitable... and I agree with that. However, I disagree that Comprehensible Input is a teaching method. It is a philosophy and hypothesis. Today I want to (quickly I hope) break down the six pieces and how they relate to social justice. This is not meant to be an exhaustive piece. This may turn into a much larger series of posts, but for now, let's get into it.
EDIT: As I started writing, I realised this is going to be MUCH longer than I anticipated.... So, it will be a series of 6 posts. Today's is on the first principle of Comprehensible Input: Acquisition and Learning.
Acquisition and Learning
This may be the most well known piece of the Comprehension Hypothesis. It states that language acquisition happens subconsciously when one understands the messages one receives in the target language, whether through reading or listening (Krashen, 2012). Learning refers to the explicit teaching and learning about a language: its gears and parts (Patrick, 2019). With acquisition, we are not aware of the processes happening inside our brain. With learning, we are.
The idea has been stated recently that because of this distinction, the use of CI in the classroom is actually racist on the premise that CI teachers are "dumbing down" content for BIPOC. However, this argument is built on a misunderstanding of CI principles. Nowhere in the hypothesis does it say that learning does not have a place in the classroom. What it says is that learning does not help language acquisition. When students are ready, CI teachers will employ the use of explicit learning language strategies to help them further their skills and make use of their inner monitor. The key piece, however, is when students are ready. This speaks to this principle's purpose in a culturally responsive and social justice aware classroom. Rather than holding students (any student) to a standard decided upon by adults, students get to communicate their level of comfort and readiness for explicit learning topics. They are part of the conversation. They have a voice. This is not a "dumbing down" of content, but a restructuring.
I'd like, bearing in mind that I do not want these posts to be miles long, to suggest some ways practical and real ways that this principle, when applied correctly, is socially justice minded and culturally aware.
So, I'd like to close today's post with this. If you, as a teacher, are not ensuring that your content is truly comprehensible to your students in the multitude of ways it can be, you are missing some key points about this principle of the Comprehension Hypothesis. There is work to be done. In order to use the Comprehension Hypothesis and be a "CI teacher" you do not have to be perfect. I am not perfect. You do, however, have to do the work. This is the first part of the work.
Krashen, S. (2012). The comprehension hypothesis extended. Input Matters in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 81-94. Retrieved from:
Patrick, R. (2019). Comprehensible Input and Krashen's theory. Journal of Classics Teaching, 20(39), 37-44. doi:10.1017/S2058631019000060