Dr. Dwight Atkinson's Talk on Natural Pedagogy

On May 23, 2018, Dwight Atkinson, an applied linguist and second language educator from the University of Arizona, gave a vivid, interesting and informative talk on teaching as natural pedagogy, which helped faculty and students present realize and understand the significance of “natural pedagogy” in second language teaching.

Professor Atkinson began with a brief muted video of an English class to illustrate the effects of a teacher’s facial expressions, gestures and body language in an active and successful class. Professor Atkinson pointed out that “natural pedagogy” pays special attention to teachers’ natural behaviors in class while retaining the value of traditional pedagogy at the same time.

When explaining the pedagogy, Professor Atkinson borrowed claims of Csibra and Gergely to support his opinion. The first claim is that humans are designed by nature to respond to communicative signals: eye contact, smiling, pointing, etc. The second claim is that humans are designed by nature to assume that communication is referential. The third one is that humans are designed by nature to assume that referentially communicated messages are able to be generalized. Additionally, Professor Atkinson highlighted the significance of “teaching” from the perspectives of anthropology and animal teaching.

In the end, Professor Atkinson demonstrated four types of tools in “natural pedagogy”, namely, the embodied tools (gestures, facial expressions, head movements, postures, etc.), linguistic and paralinguistic tools (speech rhythm, repetition, simplification, question-asking, etc.), structuring and framing tools (activities, games, humor, use of objects, etc.) and teaching adaptations (to social tolerance, opportunity provisioning, evaluative feedback, direct active teaching, etc.).

The faculty and students present developed a strong interest in “natural pedagogy” and asked lots of questions to discuss with Professor Atkinson. This academic talk helped faculty and students present gain a new understanding of the latest developments in the research on second language teaching with new reflections on and expectations about “natural pedagogy”.

Reported by Xu Mengying

Photographed by Guo Qianru