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What is Acquisition Driven Instruction?

February 14, 2018

Do you use Acquisition Driven Instruction?

I began using Acquisition Driven Instruction in 2010; I just didn't know it as that. At the time, I was teaching almost exclusively with TPRS® (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling), and I would have described myself as a TPRS® teacher. With time, I began using a wide variety of activities to provide my students with communicative input. I shifted to describing myself as a CI teacher; however, that term doesn't seem to quite fit anymore, either. CI, after all, refers to Comprehensible Input. CI is a thing, not an activity or a method.

Acquisition Driven Instruction (ADI) is a much more fitting term. I am focused on fostering students' language acquisition, not teaching them about the forms of the language. All of the instructional choices that drive my curriculum development and for which I advocate in my trainings are centered on acquisition. I'm going for development of an implicit language system, not explicit knowledge about the target language.

What is Acquisition Driven Instruction?

Acquisition Driven instruction is an approach to language education that focuses on promoting language acquisition, not language learning. Language learning implies that the student is gaining conscious knowledge about a language, such as grammar rules and vocabulary terms. Language acquisition, on the other hand, is focused on unconscious or implicit development of proficiency.

Traditionally, humans ACQUIRE their first language. It is also typical for humans to acquire additional languages; for example, children who grow up in bilingual homes, or in countries or communities in which multiple languages are spoken. In school, however, students LEARN additional languages. The classroom language learning experience has traditionally been very different than the real world language learning experience. In the real world, we do not come to know language by studying rules and memorizing vocabulary. In the real world, language acquisition happens to us, unconsciously. This is the goal of Acquisition Driven Instruction.

Who succeeds with Acquisition Driven Instruction?

The best part about Acquisition Driven Instruction is that it sets up EVERY student for success. Whereas learners come to the classroom with a variety of factors that will impact their ability to succeed as a learner (including beliefs about themselves, support at home, personal motivation, and more); all learners are able to succeed as a language acquirer. In fact, they already have! All students are capable of acquiring language.


No matter which of these terms you choose to describe your practice, I bet you'll agree with me in saying that this kind of language teaching works.

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