By Wim Gombert
University of Groningen
Gomarus College Groningen
We know from scientific research (e.g. cognitive psychology) that the AIM is a very effective methodology: spaced and pleasant repetition, multi-modal learning, high motivation, high exposure, low affective filter, etc. These are only some of the characteristics that make AIM effective. But, we do not only know from research but also from experience: All Dutch AIM-teachers that I have met in these past years, all share the same experience: With the AIM, Students who haven’t had a French class in 10 weeks in summer, just continue in September as if there had been no break at all while with a traditional method, a lot of rehearsal needed to be done first.
An essential activity in AIM classes is that students are invited to speak a lot with activities like routines, whole-class activities and of course the highly effective TLSE, made possible by gestures. These and other activities ensure maximum practice with the PDL and make the AIM a very effective usage-based approach. When schools are closing due to the Corona crisis, these core activities will not be possible anymore and the question arises how to solve this problem. Well, this problem cannot be solved because it is technically very complicated to generate the same amount of (quality) classroom interaction in an online setting.
But the thing is, we need not worry thanks to AIM’s effectiveness. Thanks to this effective approach, the PDL is highly activated and it will take a lot of time before it loses this level of activation. A very nice explanation of this phenomenon can be found on YouTube where the forgetting curve of Ebbinghaus is explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoUGKEtyqV8
Of course, oral and writing skills will decrease, but this will quickly and easily be repaired once schools are open again. Of course, this should not last for more than a couple of months because AIM students will start losing too much of their skills as well. Of course, language skills of AIM students need maintenance as well while schools are closed, and we should do our best to use online tools to increase input and develop video’s or online activities to make them use the language as actively as they can. Students may still work with partners by phone, Skype or Facetime on digital workbooks. And of course, story retelling and story extensions, two essential activities, are still possible both oral (students can create and share video’s) and written. And I understand from Wendy that the folks at AIM have offered Kit Portal logins for general review of the basic content and that a group of teachers is asked to create supportive video’s which will be shared on their website.
Of course, we, AIM-teachers, worry about what we can do to compensate for the absence of AIM classes, but we should worry far less about possible negative effects of this Corona crisis than teachers using traditional methods. And we, AIM-teachers, deserve to worry far less because we invested a lot of time in trying to teach according to scientific standards. I am convinced that when this crisis is over, we will get back to teaching AIM as effectively as we used to without too many problems. So, my message as a university researcher and a certified AIM teacher is: Don’t worry!