Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Targeting 1 and Targeting 2: working paper

I propose here that there are two kinds of targeting of grammar. My goal here is NOT to argue in favor of one or the other, but simply to state the two positions.

Targeting 1 (T1):
1.     The goal is full acquisition of a rule in a short time, so complete that the rule can be retrieved easily and used in production. Because we are talking about acquisition, this cannot be done by direct instruction, and requires comprehensible input.
2.     But if the goal is full acquisition, so complete that you can retrieve the rule after a short amount of time, there is pressure to provide concentrated comprehensible and interesting repititions until the item is fully acquired.
3.     The source of the rules to be targeted is external, from a syllabus made by others.  Our job is to find a story or interesting activity that will include lots of comprehensibe/interesting repetitions of these items. (This is why we get questions such as "do you know a story which I can use for teaching the conditional?"). Thus, Targeting 1 is a way of "contextualizing grammar," defined here as beginning with a target grammar rule and finding a context that will help make it comprehensible.
Note that the goal is not successful monitoring using a consciously learned rule, it is acquisition. Only acquired competence can result in smooth, fluent production.

Targeting 2 (T2):
1.     The goal is comprehension of a story or other CI activity.
2.     This will not require as many comprehensible/interesting reps as in Targeting 1: The goal is comprehension of the story or activity, not full acquisition of the rule in a short time.
3.     The source of the rules to be targeted is internal, from the story.
4.     This kind of targeting may result in full acquisition when used in one or just a few sessions, but it generally results in partial acquisition. Full acquisition comes when the item is used again, in another story or activity.
5.     The goal is understanding the story.
6.     Hypothesis: Grammatical rules targeted in this way are much more likely to be at the students' i+1 than items used for Targeting 1.
7. Hypothesis: At the end of the term (e.g. one academic year), Targeting 2 will result in the full acquisition of many of the rules imposed on us in Targeting 1. This hypothesis needs to be tested by research.

My previous arguments (Krashen, 2013) against targeting are arguments against Targeting 1, not Targeting 2.

Note that Targeting 1, taken to extreme, can lead to a return to the audio-lingual method: If there is major pressure to "master" a given rule so that it can be used in production, and when this cannot be accomplished in the amount of time/comprehensible reps provided, teachers may be tempted to force production, resulting in pseudo-acquisition: either highly monitored or memorized language, not genuinely acquired language.

Of course I fully understand that many teachers have no choice but to do Targeting 1.

Thanks to Karen Rowan, Jason Fritze, Linda Li and Contee Seely for comments on earlier drafts of this note.

Krashen, S. 2013 The Case for Non-Targeted, Comprehensible Input. Journal of Bilingual Education Research & Instruction 15(1): 102-110. Available at www.sdkrashen.com, "language acquisition" section.


  1. "Pressure...to provide interesting repetitions until the item is fully acquired." Pressure comes "from a syllabus made by others." I felt this daily until I just let go of that pressure! 8-3 teachers in my school and kids feel pressure from a syllabus that focuses on words to know. This changes everything for us, thank you.

  2. "Note that Targeting 1, taken to extreme, can lead to a return to the audio-lingual method..."

    This is IMO not an accurate statement at all. If a teacher is well-trained and competent in performing TPRS, I can see no reason at all why targeting would cause a return to a drill-and-kill methodology. If a teacher is using TPRS and teaching non-targeted content, that simply means that the sentences that are being circled are not pre-determined. There is no substantive difference in technique or skill set or in the way TPRS itself is utilized based on whether the sentence to be circled comes from a list, the students, or is randomly generated.

    IF teachers simply repeat the same thing hoping for acquisition, sure. But that is not, and has never been, TPRS. Please do not throw out the baby in the rush to fill the tub with new bathwater. While I am happy to see that the rash statement that "TPRS becomes AL-M" has been abandoned, still I can see no support for this statement. It is a comparison of apples and oranges when oranges are not even on the shopping list.

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