From its inception, INTERLINKs goals have been broader and deeper than those of typical English language programs. Fostering cultural awareness, personal growth and academic readiness has been as important to INTERLINK as improving students linguistic skills. This curriculum views learning not as the accumulation of data but as a dynamic process of personal growth.
Learning at INTERLINK is a cooperative, heuristic venture which relies on active student participation and the formation of a community of fellow learners. Each teacher accepts the challenge of establishing a caring and stimulating milieu where students can most readily take in new ideas and take risks in practicing what they have learned. Teachers serve as mentors dedicated to promoting the linguistic proficiency, academic success, cross-cultural development, and general well-being of their students.
INTERLINK teachers are selected for their knowledge and competence in the field of ESL, their extensive cross-cultural experience, and their unqualified commitment to their students. The quality and integrity of the program rely on the creativity and devotion of skillful practitioners rather than on a set of recipes or prescriptions contained in a curriculum document. The curriculum is a guide intended to provide needed structure and consistency and is formulated to allow teachers maximum freedom and control of their classes. Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of methods and approaches to mold their classes in accordance with their personal pedagogical outlooks, the needs of the particular individuals in the class, and the fundamental principles and goals of INTERLINK.
The objectives and teaching practices at INTERLINK are predicated on an underlying humanistic philosophy. By focusing not on skills alone but on the whole learner, we attempt to create for each student an experience that promotes awareness and self-knowledge. The programs goal is not so much to dispense information about language as to help students use language and interact with others effectively. We subscribe to the Rogerian thesis that "learning how to learn is more important than being "taught" something from the "superior" vantage point of a teacher..." (H. D. Brown, 1980) as well as to Gattegno's precept of "the subordination of teaching to learning."
The INTERLINK curriculum provides structure and sets standards for how we help students learn. It defines the linguistic, cross-cultural, and academic skills and competencies that students must acquire to achieve success in their post-ESL endeavors and describes content, goals, competencies, materials and strategies for each level and class. The curriculum is a dynamic, evolving statement that reflects INTERLINKs philosophy about the nature of learning and teaching and serves as a practical guide for achieving the stated goals. It is intended to assure reliable preparation for students and an orderly, consistent progression from level to level. The principles on which the curriculum is predicated are elaborated on below.
Basic Tenets of INTERLINK Instruction
CLASSES ARE STUDENT-CENTERED
* each individual
* the needs of the students come first
* students are encouraged to become independent learners
* individual learning styles and preferences are recognized, appreciated and accommodated
STUDENTS ARE BEST SERVED THROUGH HUMANISTIC, HOLISTIC APPROACHES
* a caring relationship between student
and teacher is established by treating each student as a whole person
* language is best learned as a whole system and not a collection of isolated skills
* linguistic and cross-cultural growth are inter-related and inter-dependent
* lessons integrate linguistic, cross-cultural, and academic skills
* students are encouraged to examine their own strengths and weaknesses and their own individual styles of learning
THE FOCUS IS ON LEARNING RATHER THAN TEACHING
* teachers help students discover principles
and relationships, and develop inner criteria for correctness
* "teacher talk" is kept to a minimum
* independent study is targeted towards individual needs and allows students to learn at their own pace
* students learn through "doing" (experiential learning)
* success is measured by what students can do communicatively and cross-culturally rather than by what they know cognitively
* covering specified materials in a textbook does not constitute learning
* learning takes place outside as well as inside of the classroom through continual language practice and cross-cultural contact
Student-centered learning places the learner above every other concern and consideration. Factors such as students' needs, educational backgrounds, cultural conditioning, idiosyncratic learning styles, and personal circumstances all play a role in how (and how well) students learn, and therefore, are of consequence to how we teach. A program of teaching should not be a Procrustean bed to which students must conform regardless of their individual needs and predilections, but should be flexible and responsive. Instruction must focus more on students themselves than on the materials of instruction. Textbooks are tools and not the core of a class and should never be allowed to dominate the conduct of a class. We cannot truly teach students but only assist them in their learning. The responsibility for learning belongs to the learner. The teachers role is to be a facilitator and guide who provides a nurturing context for learning (H. D. Brown, 1980) and fosters the "learner's feeling of primacy in a world of meaningful action" (Stevick, 1980).
Holistic learning refers both to teaching to the whole person (the humanistic view discussed above), and the integration of skills and materials within a given activity. These two ideas complement each other. Just as we cannot ignore the whole character of the learner, neither can we ignore the unified nature of language itself and teach such skills as grammar or pronunciation in isolation and without regard to real communication. Aiming towards holistic learning requires us to recognize the complex human nature of the learner as well as the intricate, abstruse nature of language as a medium of communication. A communicative, experiential approach promotes interaction between whole learner and whole language. The utilization of theme-based tasks is one way to emphasize the communicative use of language and allows us to present the different threads of language and of culture in a unified, contextualized, integrated manner.
Heuristic learning or learning through discovery tends to be inductive, experiential, creative, self-motivated, and dynamic. The paradigm of heuristic learning is represented by a student solving a problem rather than digesting information fed by a teacher. Gattegnos Silent Way exemplifies this concept. Concentrating on the work of the learner rather than the performance of the teacher, and seeking to help the learner to develop criteria for language use instead of promulgating rules, this approach focuses on learning how to learn and not the accumulation of discrete facts and pieces of information. A student learning through discovery learns how to master a process which can be used over and over, inside and outside of the classroom, during and after attendance at INTERLINK. Role-plays, simulations, puzzles and information-gap exercises are types of activities that promote heuristic learning. Setting up situations from which a student can learn requires more skill and patience than dispensing information, but the rewards are proportionally great. The role of the teacher is to be a guide and to devise effective opportunities for learning.