One of the talks that I was most looking forward to was a talk from Dr. Stephen Krashen on the Net Hypothesis and “Drop-in” language classes. Dr. Krashen started his presentation by discussing an overview of some of his foundational hypotheses such as the comprehension hypothesis, and the natural order hypothesis.
Dr. Krashen discussed in length the natural order hypothesis and the pedagogical implications of it. The natural order hypothesis states that there is a predictable and reliable order in which constructions are acquired in a language be it in first or second language acquisition. What is sometimes misunderstood about the natural order hypothesis is that the natural order may not rely on what we believe to be simple versus complex constructions. In some cases, what are typically described in grammatical textbooks as complex. Dr. Krashen states that even though we know that there is a natural order, any type of grammatical based syllabus for a language class should not be used. By using any kind of grammatical syllabus, teachers would be under the assumption that the students learn what the teacher is currently teaching, which is simply not true. We still have to account for individual differences.
Within the classroom, because individual differences occur, Dr. Krashen suggests that the Net Hypothesis will take care of the individual needs of students at the appropriate time. He says that if we cast a large enough “net” of input, i+1 will be available and students will acquire language. He did also reaffirm in this talk that the ‘i’ of i+1 does not necessarily stand for anything, it was just the variable he chose to use. Dr. Krashen gave a great metaphor, as is typical whenever I have seen him speak, he said that if we have a balanced diet (compelling comprehensible input) then all of the vitamins and nutrients (i+1) will be available and one does not need to worry about adding supplements to their diets.
An issue that arose for me during this talk is that Dr. Krashen was talking about how ‘noise’ in the input, that is language that is not ready to be acquired, is fine. I did ask Dr. Krashen if he had an idea of how much ‘noise’ was appropriate in the language classroom, his response was simply ‘Let’s find out’, as though it were something that we still needed to investigate.
In the classroom, the idea of the Net Hypothesis, especially with the background in Natural Order Hypothesis allows me to view student growth in a different way. I do still use some targeted input, so I am sure I may not be casting a large enough ‘net’ for students, but perhaps when evaluating students I will take a look at what it is that I am asking them to be able to do. Perhaps the student’s individual net is not catching all of the input yet to produce what I am asking them to produce.