Suggestopedia: Theories, Methods & techniques of Teaching
- Georgi Lozanov, the creator of this method, believed that language learning, like Caleb Gattegno’s Quiet Path, could happen much faster than usual. Lozanov points out that the reason for our inefficiency is that we put psychological barriers to learning. We are afraid that we will fail, that our ability to learn will be limited, that we will fail. One consequence of this is that we are not using all the mental strength we have. It was born in the seventies with the psychologist professor Georgi Lozanov (Bulgaria) who thought about the use of suggestion through music, relaxation, deep breathing, imagination and “concert sessions” to achieve that the learners acquire a second language of a fast, entertaining and efficient way. This method could be described as an adaptation of Eastern religious philosophy, focused on meditation and relaxation programs, to the new demands of today’s postmodern society. Undoubtedly, this approach to relaxation is seen as a very attractive product for any student who experiences stressful processes in an increasingly competitive society. Previously, any disciplinary study of any subject was linked to the idea of ”effort, sweat and blood” but with Suggestopedia this vision is buried to give way to a method that champions fun as a learning process. When a person laughs more and makes mistakes, the more he learns. This is the same way in which children amaze us by the high learning speed, is that they do it while they play.
- Proponents of this method argue that Suggestopedia frees students from the inhibitions and mental limitations imposed by social norms. Example: A student may think: “I don’t have time” “It is too difficult”, “I am too old”. Suggestopedia contemplates these negative suggestions that inhibit human potential and release natural potential by replacing negative suggestions with positive ones:
- “You can”, “everything is possible”. It is intended to give confidence to the students through active suggestion. Here, the teacher plays a fundamental role since it is he who must encourage (encouragement view) the learners to believe in them. For this, the teacher develops a series of playful activities reinforced by material resources (posters, drawings, dim light, music, videos, etc.) where the student activates the right hemisphere of the brain, the creative part, and not only the conscious part of the left hemisphere brain.
- The suggestive effect on the students will depend on their behavior. Verbal and non-verbal elements are given great importance in the classroom, thus, the intonation of the voice; body movements, orientation, and the creation of dynamic exercises play a fundamental role in this learning process creating positive stimuli between the students.
- The center of Lozano’s philosophy was to create a kind of spiritual teacher or even a psychoanalyst, who could show confidence to the apprentices, so that the acquisition process was carried out more effectively. Emotions, sensations and feelings (inner behaviors) are closely related to learning: if the learning experience is positive, the emotion will be pleasant, the feedback will be positive and the desire to continue learning will be awakened. Therefore, the key to learning is the stability of the emotional climate that is established in the interpersonal relationships of the class.
- It is true that the image to which the teacher was traditionally associated was exclusively that of “transmitter of knowledge.” This image is not entirely false, but it is simple. Obviously, when society makes new resources available to teachers, their reporting activity is limited, that favors theirs` dedication to other activities such as organizing and evaluating. With this I want to point out that the teacher must consider his responsibility to his students. Treat them as individualized clients so that the teaching activity comes to fruition.
- In the mid-twentieth century, Frederic Skinner focused his research on the field of school learning and tried to show that, through threats and punishments, much lower positive results are achieved and with much worse side effects than with the positive reinforcement system. Its principle for the progress of the classes and for its maximum use is based on the activity of the of the students, its best known application is programmed teaching in which successes in certain tasks act as reinforcement for subsequent learning.
- He based his theories on the analysis of observable behaviors. He divided the learning process into operant responses and reinforcing stimuli, which led to the development of behavior modification techniques in the classroom. He treated the behavior in terms of positive reinforces (rewards) versus negative reinforces (punishments). The positives add something to the existing situation; the negatives remove something from a given situation. In the experiments with the two types of reinforces, the responses were increased.
- Skinner was the one who laid the psychological foundations for the so-called programmed teaching. He developed his principles of behavior analysis and argued that a behavior change technology was indispensable. He attacked the contemporary custom of using punishment to change behavior and suggested that the use of rewards and positive reinforcement of correct behavior was more socially attractive and pedagogically effective.
- A Suggestopedia teacher will hardly use threat or repression as conducive to teaching. It is true that conflict resolution in the classroom is sometimes a very arduous task, although from the point of view suggested here, the creativity and responsibility of the teacher must seek a balance that improves the activity educational.
- “It is necessary for the teacher to become aware of the tensions and conflicts that are experienced in the school field and have the courage to recognize the anxiety that this causes in order to preserve their mental balance.
- Although they recognize that their work brings them enriching human contacts, at the same time they express their discouragement, the fact that they do not hold them in ‘high esteem’ and that everywhere they find a deep misunderstanding … despite the love they feel for his work, criticism and pessimism prevail about his profession.
- In the language classroom, the joint participation of all the individuals that make up said classroom is essential. Stage fright, distrust, fears of doing it wrong or of punishment, impedes participation and reduces student improvement.
- From Cognitive learning we have observed that we learn from experience but it is the subject who builds knowledge of the external world based on his internal cognitive organization, the subject interprets reality and projects the meanings it builds onto it. Thus, a bad student experience, such as fear, anguish, etc., helps to interpret education as something heavy and tedious, where the effort becomes increasingly uphill. Therefore, it is the teacher who has the responsibility of increasing the positive stimuli in the students, showing them confidence through positive reinforcement and enthusiastic tasks.
- Many Suggestopedia teachers use meditation and visualizations to suggest positively to the student. An example of this tactic might be the following:
- Through soft music and soft lighting, the student is encouraged to sit relaxed in the chair while doing breathing exercises to bring about a state of relaxation. This is followed by the visualization phase: The teacher, using a soft and calm voice, encourages the students to imagine that they are walking in a forest. As they stroll through beautiful valleys, the idea of relationship and wholeness is transmitted. Then they imagine that they are sitting in front of a box where they deposit all their fears and worries. Once the box is closed with all those negative feelings, it is proceeded to bury said box or to `enable it in a river so that the current can carry it away. Once this process is finished, the teacher opens up ideas about the freedom that feels like not having fears that impede our educational development: “Now I am a free man” “I can do whatever I want because there are no limitations in our life” etc.
Creating a Concentration State of Psycho-relaxation
- An important task for any Suggestopedia teacher is to try to bring the student to a state of mind called “concentration psych-relaxation. Lozanov describes it as an optimal state of brain activity for learning where the level of relaxation is neither so deep nor so smooth but the optimal and necessary for the mind to be able to effectively perform the tasks performed in the classroom. In the teacher’s creativity lies the stimulus to achieve an optimal state in the classroom. The choice and implementation of activities must be interdisciplinary and motivating. With the accomplishment of several and different tasks the student’s capacity to learn is stimulated, leaving behind tedious thoughts such as “It’s boring but you have to do it to learn.” It can be learned in many ways, but the ideal, from the point of view of Suggestopedia, is the one based on positive emotional stimulation.
- Techniques such as role playing (through dialogues), comprehensive reading, quizzes, etc., are all effective. Work on grammar is done by introducing physical movements, voice changes, funny cards, etc., which stimulate the subconscious area of memory called “peripheral perceptions. These activities are connected within a harmonizing structure orchestrated by a soundtrack. That is, music, especially Baroque (relating to or denoting a style of European architecture, music, and art of the 17th and 18th centuries that followed Mannerism and is characterized by ornate detail), must be a unifying element of the different tasks that can be performed in the classroom.
- Between 1900 and 1950 the creator of rhythm and music therapy was Emile Jacques Dalcroze. He argued that the human organism is capable of being effectively educated according to the impulse of music. He united the musical and corporal rhythms, being his pioneering disciples of Rhythmic Educational Therapy. Dalcroze broke with the rigid traditional schemes allowing the discovery of the rhythms of the human being, the only starting point for communication with the patient. Edgar Willems, pedagogue, educator, and therapist, has carried out in-depth studies that revolve around the concern to investigate and deepen about the man-music relationship through different times and cultures. Karl Orff took as the basis of his musical education system, body movement, using the body as a percussive element and language in its most elementary form. For Orff, creativity coupled with the pleasure of musical performance allows for better socialization and establishment of a good relationship with the therapist, as well as an increase in confidence and self-esteem.
- Lozanov realized this relaxing and stimulating effect that music possesses and its effectiveness on sensory memory, both iconic (records images) and echoic (records sounds). In addition, music helps students find a reinforcing rhythm or melody and aids in intonation. In teaching any language, we know that the production of messages is not about meaninglessly repeating single phrases or expressions without any meaning, but that there has to be a certain melody in the production of messages so that it can be easily encoded by the receiver.
- Normally a Suggestopedia lesson is divided into four parts or sessions: the introduction, concert sessions (active and passive), elaboration and finally a review or summary.
Part 1st: Introduction of the topic
- As we have already seen, the method based on Suggestopedia is framed and defined as a creative and suggestive art in order to stimulate students towards learning. According to Dr. Lozano’s theory, all human beings are exposed at all times to a complex network of suggestions. With this statement based on psychotherapy, it is intended to explain the enrichment of all those peripheral perceptions that an individual receives unconsciously when we consciously look at a selected object. All this peripheral information can provide us with more data that can improve and enrich that conscious primary information. It is already known by those who are dedicated to teaching that students often develop more so-called visual memory, instead of trying to understand and assimilate all the information they receive in the classroom. Therefore, the introduction of a certain topic through the visual arts or through music or body language can be more effective than traditional behavior on the part of the teacher. At this point we could remember Guilford for whom learning is not storing, but discovering information on the part of the learner. The student will tend to more similar the information given if it is suggested to them, drawing their attention and curiosity. Here is the key, from my point of view, to motivate students: curiosity to know. It is not an easy task, but it can be quite satisfactory to see that the evolution of the dicents is optimal.
- Lozanov, in his desire not only to direct the student’s conscious attention, but also the unconscious one, developed peripheral attentions through external elements: light, the environment, the friendly and playful environment, games, and the teacher’s attitude, Humor, surprise, songs, music, art, etc. It is intended that the sense of time disappears and that harmony abounds in the learning process. It is important that fear, fatigue and boredom are not factors that can prevent an optimal education.
- Thus, the incorporation of multiple artistic elements in a given lesson attracts the student’s curiosity, participation and attention, displacing the limitations caused by fear and boredom. We already know that many educational professionals tend to divide and classify their students into good and bad, giving no opportunity to those with concentration difficulties. But, as we have already said before, the teacher’s task should not be limited to only the transmission and evaluation of knowledge but to the interaction with the students.
Part 2nd: Concert Sessions
- The session is based on both passive and active reading of a certain text with the help of music. The reason for its use in learning is based on the satisfying and relaxing experiences that speakers feel when listening to a story or tale without the tension or boredom that other methods can cause. This exercise has multiple variations and applications that any teacher can experiment and create. For example, you can only read a certain text by means of soft music in the background, in order for the students to develop their comprehension capacity. You can also resort to more active and pragmatic exercises such as the following: In a first phase the student is explained that a text is going to be read but that the prepositions have disappeared. They will have to be the ones to find out, individually or in pairs or collectively or in groups, the missing prepositions: “Jane had a check___ 20 euros….”
- The same exercise can also be carried out with new vocabulary for the students, which will be previously explained by the teacher and written on the blackboard or by means of index cards or letters. Students will have to guess which words are missing by having them written on the board or on index cards.
- Another formula may be for the student to read short poems or jokes or famous phrases with background music. Its purpose will be to acquire fluency, learn to intonation, lose the fear of speaking in a foreign language, discover new vocabulary and make a correct pronunciation.
- A fairly covert method that can be used is the one devised by Carolyn Graham, creator of Jazz Chants. His learning therapy consists of repeating various grammatical structures with the help of jazz music. This process is reminiscent of the one used by the American army in the 1940s but that introduces playful and fun elements that encourage students to develop their learning abilities.
Part 3rd: Elaboration
- In the elaboration it is intended to put into practice what has been learned through conversations, dialogues, psycho-dramas, games, etc. The student must go from being a passive subject to being an active subject. For this, oral practices become a fundamental principle for learning. Traditionally, written exercises have been given more value than oral exercises and this means a reduction in the student’s abilities to learn and practice a second language. It should be clear that a language arises as a necessity to communicate with other people and communication will be difficult if good pronunciation is not done. On the other hand, a class based only on written exercises can be quite tedious and boring, causing the student to take no interest in what they are supposed to learn.
- My experience tells me that many more positive results are achieved if structures and vocabulary are practiced orally instead of learning through writing alone. Let’s take an example: if someone gives you their phone number and you write it down on a piece of paper so as not to forget, you may learn such a number by dialing it, but you don’t have to learn it by heart, because it is written down. , it will take much longer to remember. On the other hand, if you are given a number and you have nowhere to write it down; you will have to make an effort to remember it. This also happens in any classroom. The student tends not to exercise a memorization effort as long as he has all his notes written in a notebook. You will only make an effort, if you do, the day before the exam. On the other hand, if they are encouraged to play fun and didactic games and exercises, the student will have to make that effort of memorization in order to participate.
- In Suggestopedia, fun and games are a fundamental part of learning as well as a more cyclical than linear teaching. When we speak in our language we usually use the past, the future, colloquial phrases, formal expressions, etc. in the same conversation. Therefore, all the knowledge learned in each session should be taken into account. Most of the books are structured in a linear way, the knowledge that is supposed to be taught in class, but at the time of practice the teacher must use all the knowledge learned by the student in each session, whenever possible. You shouldn’t give an adverb class and never do recycling exercises again. Nor do we base a single class on a single knowledge because the perspective of a language, which is its multicultural dimension, can be lost.Useful pages with resources for the English language teacher:
Part 4: Summary
- In the last part of a Suggestopedia lesson, the aim is to exercise the memory of the student to try to remember in the long term the knowledge imparted by the teacher. By learning the use of visualizations, associations, and imagery, we can learn to collect and store more information.
Conclusion / Sum up
- In conclusion, we could say that any teaching method should not be subject to isolation. We have already seen that Suggestopedia collects knowledge from other sources and methods, enriching the work of teaching. But to achieve any goal we must seek and find a motivation, that is, a force that activates behavior in a positive way.