Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Guide to methods part 3: What Richards and Rodgers don't tell you.

I always had something of a soft spot for Suggestopedia with it's comfy chairs, baroque music and meditation. It always seemed to me like the cool kid of methods, taping straight into the brain and speeding up learning. I even continued to look at it affectionately after starting this blog because I remember reading in Richards and Rodgers that Lozanov accepted that his method was a placebo but tried to actually use the power of the placebo effect in his teaching. (it later turned out that was not true). 
That said, Suggestopedia would clearly bring up lots of red flags on my education 'baloney detection kit'. It makes extravagant claims of efficacy such as the claim that learning can be accelerated 5 - 50 times using suggestopedia or that “…1,000 words [can be] learned in a day" (Ostrander & Schroede 1979:15). 

It makes claims about things which are vague or hard to test“the method appeared to improve health and cure stress-related illnesses” (Ostrander & Schroeder 1979: 33). Also we can commonly see claims that “[suggestology] is a method of…making use of the unknown reserves, powers and abilities of the human mind” (Lozanov 1971:292), ah, those unknown reserves! Any guesses what percent of the mind Lozanov thinks people are currently using

With its 'double-planedness', 'elaboration', 'concert sessions',  'primary activation' and 'pseudo-passiveness', jargon or sciency sounding words are liberally employed. Richards & Rodgers note that “The method has a somewhat mystical air about it…partially because of it’s arcane terminology and neologisms, which one critic has unkindly called…  pseudoscientific gobbledygook’” (2014:317). 

It also has little evidence to back up it's claims. The few experiments done to tests its efficacy did not produce encouraging results.  Wagner & Tilney tested it, finding “no significant improvement across the five-week experimental period" (1983:5). And even Bancroft, a supporter of the method admits that:
Very often the exact means by which [Lozanov's] results were obtained remains obscure. Statistics, as has been pointed out by more than one reviewer, are often faulty or incomplete; the evidence from several experiments tends to be fused (or even confused).(1999:51)
All that said, it would be easy and rather pointless to pull apart and poke fun at suggestopedia here. What I'm more interested in looking at here is how much respect this approach received and why certain facts about the method were glossed over or ignored in the literature. 

What Richards and Rodgers don't tell you. 
I wanted to know more about Suggestopedia so I got hold of a copy of another book that details Lozanov's work called 'psychic discoveries behind the iron curtain'. Unlike many EFL books, this actually features interviews with Lozanov, and he gets to explain directly his beliefs. Here are a few things I learnt:

1) Lozanov was a Pioneer of parapsychology and believed that "everyone is psychic" (1971:281)

2) he ran the suggestopedia and parapsychology research centre in Bulgaria and 20 years work on precognition  

3) he believed that Telepathy is an inexpensive and promising communication system” (1971:293) 

4) he believed that he could render people unconscious with telepathy. 

Now, none of this means that he was necessarily wrong about Suggestopedia, (as the TEFLology guys point out that would be the 'genetic fallacy') but this information is nowhere to be found in any of the TEFL sources I've ever come across.Is it. The fact that someone claiming people can learn 1,000 words a day also claims that he put people to sleep with his mind seems to me, at least, relevant.

And it's not just Richards and Rodgers who don't feel this is important information. in Byram's encyclopedia of language learning (entry by Baur) Lozanov is credited as working in a state run centre of 'suggestology' when in fact he ran the "institute of suggestology and parapsychology". 

These omissions in the literature and the seeming way his slightly weirder beliefs are ignored  interests me. Take Baur's insistence that
Lozanov discovered that certain yogic techniques of physical and mental relaxation could be used to produce a state of analgesia, or relief from pain, on the one hand, and a state of hypermnesia, or greatly improved memory and concentration, on the other...
Did Lozanov actually discover this? Or did he claim to discover it, -there is a whole world of difference. It just seems that Baur is happy to accept Lozanov's claims without question. But don't 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?
These are not isolated incidents, almost everywhere Lozanov appears there is no mention of any of this kind of thing and his claims are either taken on face value or just ignored. Brian Tomlinson's is equally generous. In his 2011 book on materials development he writes:
The complexity of Lozanov's method is due to a lifetime's research into the hidden language and territory of the unconscious, in particular the nebulous area where it meets the conscious, which he calls the 'para-conscious'    
He then goes on to talk about 'left brained and right brained learners'Another example is Diane Larsen-Freeman  who in this video tells viewer to keep an open mind and don't dismiss things 'ask yourself instead, is there anything valuable here that I can adapt to my own circumstances.' 


A very cursory examination of suggestopedia turns up things that would strain the credibility of even the most credulous. For example, Bancroft notes that "Dr. Lozanov...has performed painless surgical operations using suggestion and/or hypnosis instead of anesthetic" (2005:21) And yet suggestopedia still has some degree of currency in the ELT world. It still has exactly one more chapter in Richards and Rodgers latest edition than approaches like Dogme, crazy English or Demand High. It is still a choice for some DELTA experimental lessons and some teachers still use this approach. This study for example shows just how seriously some teachers can take it. Lozanov even made an appearance as a supporting reference in an ELTJ article recently.

TEFL hoarders?

'These fragments I have shored against my ruins' -T.S. Eliot 

That this happens isn't perhaps surprising. As I noted with my final 'red flag' supporters are not moved by contrary evidence. I think I might revise this statement to 'the method is promoted despite criticism' as this rule does not necessarily apply only to supporters. Everyone seems to do it. For example, Richards and Rodgers despite listing numerous issues with Suggestopedia describe a criticism (above) as 'unkind'. They go on to write “Perhaps, then, it is not productive to further belabour the science/non-science, data/double-talk issues and instead…try to identify and validate those techniques…that appear effective” (Richards & Rodgers 2014:326). 

The quote above about taking the best techniques and keeping them is particularly curious when we note that from the same publication, on the previous page the authors note that "Lozanov is unequivocally opposed to any eclectic use of the techniques outside of he full panoply of suggestopedic science" (a quote that appears verbatim in Byram). So are Richards and Rodgers suggesting we ignore the creator's advice and try to find something among the creation? If so, wouldn't that mean Lozanov didn't really know what he was doing and had just hit upon something completely by accident?

 My question then is 'why?' Why is it necessary for every method to be examined for some small saving grace? It almost seems as if there is a hoarding tendency among the TEFL community and we are reluctant to disregard methods wholly, no matter what problems we find with them. 'Sure' people say, 'The Silent Way is not for me, but Cuisenaire Rods? Now that I can get on board with!' 

We sit surrounded by odds and ends of grammar translation, trinkets of audiolingualism and some TPR stuffed under the mattress. Is it that we are such an impoverished field it seems risky to throw anything at all away? Or is this the elusive beast 'principled eclecticism' that I've heard so much about it. It certainly seems eclectic, but I'm struggling to see what the principles are.


afterword: A note on the name

there is some seeming confusion over what exactly the method was called. Part of this is caused by lozanov himself. Lozanov himself calls the 'science' suggestology and the education part of it suggestopedia. He then switches at some point to desuggestopedia because, in his words it sounded too manipulative and he wanted to remove the negative connotations and also because his approach rid people of there previous negative learning experiences (like dethorning a rose). This may seem clear but Lozanov also says:
Although it seems a little early to talk about reservopaedia before the science reservology has been entirely established, it will be right to gradually replace the word suggestopaedia by the word reservopaedia. And the science called reservology can be developed with the initial research of the laws of reservopaedia. These laws are very typical. All we need is highly qualified and respectable scientists. (2005:11)
so really it's anyone's guess what it's called. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

woo watch: ELGazette

ELGazette is a great little publication. It exposes dodgy goings-on in the ELT world, commissions interesting articles and most importantly pays a really decent rate to its writers. I know this because they asked me to write an article last year which appeared in print a few months ago. So it's a shame to see them featured in 'woo watch'. What have they done to end up here? Well, this month they printed a response to my piece on pseudoscience by a writer called Janet Denyer and it's really this article that has landed them here. 

Denyer's article is called 'making the case for NLP' (here). In it she writes that she was 'intrigued' by my article's findings but 'dismayed' by its 'lack of depth'. This is an odd criticism since as Denyer, who is also writing for the Gazette must know, the publication commissions articles of around 700 words. It's pretty hard to get depth with 700 words. If depth is what you're after, you can perhaps wait for the publication of my 5,000 word piece on NLP. I wouldn't hold your breath though as it has been 'under review' with the TESOL journal for over two years (no joke). 

Denyer goes on to encourage me to do some research on NLP. She notes 'as an expert in linguistics Russ may be in an excellent position to address the distinct lack of empirical research evidence...' Let me stop you there. Firstly, I'm not an expert in linguistics, -in fact I'd say I'm not an expert in anything at all (except, perhaps, procrastination). Just to be absolutely clear to anyone reading, I'm a teacher, with no title, no research grants and no PhD. I largely spend my days teaching.  

And secondly, I couldn't possibly address the lack of empirical research on NLP even if I was an expert in linguistics. This is not only because NLP is unrelated to the field of linguistics but also because there isn't in any way a lack of empirical research evidence about NLP. There's tons of it. NLP has been researched to death. There are even meta-analyses about it. It could be though that Denyer means here is 'address the distinct lack of empirical research evidence' which supports NLP. In which case she would be correct. But why this lack needs addressing isn't clear to me. That would be like saying 'we hope you can address the distinct lack of empirical research evidence against man-made climate change'. It can't be address because it isn't true. 

Denyer goes on to explain that she is a 35 year veteran of lecturing though it wasn't clear to me what that had to do with her following point that although some 'facts' about these practices may have been misrepresented she has personally seen the benefits of some of the things I disparage. For example, she has seen great benefits for students 'who actively use both sides of their brain'. I tried to think of something witty to say here about students only using one half of their brains but I just don't have the energy anymore. 

Denyer defends NLP noting that 'NLP is not something that you do to people' which is odd because I got the distinct impression it was explicitly promoted as a tool for doing things to people; things like persuading and influencingclosing sales, making someone love youcuring allergies, curing asthma and anxiety and on and on. 

Denyer then moves on to a defence of BrainGym which she claims has been abused by 'marketeers' in the UK and its current incarnation isn't true to 'Dr. Dennison's' original vision and his research. She may well be right. I have no idea. The problem however is that even if we're true to Paul Dennison's original vision, that wouldn't be saying much. Watch the cringe-inducing interview with Dennison below. There are some real gems in here like his stating that '[human beings] are electrical'. Is this the 'original vision' we're supposed to adhere to?

I tried to find Dr. Dennison's published output on google scholar. I found a manual for BrainGym and a couple of articles all published in the journal of 'edu-kinesthetics' I wanted to check out the journal but it's not available online...not a good sign. (ND: He does appear to have one article in a now defunct journal). 

Denyer closes this section by suggesting that 'Russ must acknowledge the positive learning environment in many classrooms today, compared with half a century ago'. I find this sentence difficult to understand and in fairness it may be editorial rather than the author but is Denyer saying that BrainGym is responsible for the changes in educational practices in the last 50 years? That's quite a claim. (And speaking of editing there is an section where she claims eye accessing cues were first identified in 1890 (sic?) by someone called 'James' (first name or last name?))

Denyer's next strategy is to make NLP seem credible through the use of adjectives. Argument adjectivium? She writes that NLP is underpinned by the work of 'esteemed family therapist Virginia Satir' and 'acclaimed author' Robert Dilts. If she had managed to find an honourable and a holy I fear I would've had to concede. This seems to be some kind of reverse ad hom. Does it really matter if the author is esteemed or not? They can still be wrong.

In the final section she appeals to me to not be so sure of my assumed facts reminding me that 'we once knew the earth was flat'. Sadly, while this fact is truthy it isn't true. She then sets up what is know as a 'false dilemma' quoting Howard Gardner (of MI fame) and saying 'Surely you would not wish to return to the days when intelligence was measured by the intelligence quotient'. In short, if I don't accept MI, then I'm promoting IQ testing for all. These are the only two choices. (on a side note, when did we stop measuring intelligence with IQ tests? -I'm pretty sure that's still what's used.)

For the coup de gras she 'recommend[s] Russ open his mind to our potential for learning'. It always tickles me when someone suggests you 'open your mind' because you can bet what they're actually saying is 'you should agree with me.' So I'll close with the esteemed words of (not) Carl Sagan "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out". 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Do women and men process language differently? Is it neuroscience or neurosexism?

Hello internet! 

I've been crazy busy the past few months and haven't been able to blog. I presented in Canada at TOSCON2015 and then presented a new talk at NATECLA. I've met some really nice people and had a great time but I'm hoping to get back to blogging now. And to start things off is a guest blog which I'm really excited about. 

Around the time of TESOL 2015 I heard about a talk called 'Neuroscience, learning styles and teacher training.' The title worried me as I thought it might be some kind of hymn to woo. Once I saw the slides dear reader, my heart leapt! the authors, Carol Lethaby and Patricia Harries did something I'd been hoping to do. They repeat the Dekker 2012 study on neuromyths, but with EFL teachers!  

The study basically asks teachers whether or not they believe statements, like "we only use 10% of our brain" are true or false and the results are shocking! Around 93% of UK teachers believe that employing learning styles will lead to better results, despite evidence to contrary. (more info about their findings here

I wrote to Carol almost as soon as I heard about the research to congratulate her and we've been corresponding for months now. I asked her if she would consider writing a guest blog and she graciously agreed (of course, not before Mike Griffin got to her first *shakes fist*). So here it is! I'm exceedingly pleased to present Carol Lethaby writing about two topics which are of interest to me, gender and skepticism. 

Over to Carol...


A big thank you to Russ Mayne, for inviting me to guest blog - in this post I plan to uphold the tradition of debunking popular myths that has become Russ’s trademark. I've chosen to focus on the idea of women’s and men’s brains and particularly the idea that the sexes supposedly process language differently.  This is an area of considerable significance to language teachers and one that I have been tackling in both talks and articles in recent years.

The popular view is that men process language only in the left hemisphere, while women use both their right and left hemispheres to process language, which supposedly makes women better at language. This idea has been repeated again and again in the literature until it has come to be accepted as fact, giving rise to books with such ludicrous titles as:  ‘Why men don’t iron’, ‘Why men never remember and women never forget’, ‘Why men don’t listen and women can’t read maps’ and my own personal favourite, ‘Why men don’t have a clue and women always need more shoes’

This video from the entertainer, Mark Gungor, illustrates beautifully the popular idea. There is, however, one problem with this account of things … that it’s not true. Now, you may argue that this is all harmless, and just a bit of fun, – ‘laugh your way to a better marriage’ is the name of Gungor’s website and books - even a great topic for discussion in the language teaching classroom; but is it really harmless if the notion that there are pre-determined differences between the way the sexes think and use language is reinforcing self-fulfilling gender stereotypes? This has been termed neurosexism by Cordelia Fine and others, and in Fine’s awesomely readable book ‘Delusions of Gender’, she really takes researchers to task for shoddy research and rubbish conclusions based on spurious findings:
“It is appalling to me that one can, apparently, say whatever drivel one likes about the male and female brain, and enjoy the pleasure of seeing it published in an reputable newspaper, changing a school’s educational policy, or becoming a bestseller.” (Fine, 2010:  174)
I mentioned some of the appalling, blatantly sexist titles above, but there are of course also books that are taken very seriously, based on the idea that female and male brains are very different - Why Gender Matters, Boys and Girls Learn Differently, The Female Brain, to name but a few.  Supposed inherent brain differences between girls and boys have been used as a reason to separate the sexes and to teach them differently.

So, where did the idea come from that men and women process language differently and how does it fit in with supposed brain differences? Like many a good neuromyth, there was originally some, albeit dubious, research base for this claim.  It started in 1995 when Shaywitz, Shaywitz et al published a study based on neuroimaging that showed eleven out of nineteen women’s brains with activation in the left and right hemisphere while the other eight women’s brains and nineteen men’s brains activated in the left hemisphere only, when doing one particular language task (concerned with rhyming words), out of the various tasks that they were asked to carry out.

From this study it was concluded that men and women deal with language differently, with men being more specialised in the left hemisphere and women being less lateralised, further generalised to suggest that men’s brains are more lateralised than women’s, inferring further that this accounts for female and male cognition differences (nicely coinciding with already accepted gender stereotypes (see Gungor above)).

Now, there are several problems with making this conclusion from the study.

Firstly, this is an example of what scientists call ‘reverse inference’ – that is drawing conclusions about what and how people think based on the physical brain.  Fine has no patience for this and she warns of the dangers of drawing conclusions about how we think based on neuroscientific data. “Inferring a psychological state from brain activity … is fraught with peril.” (2010: 151)  Brain scientists warn against making conclusions about cognition based on brain activation seen during imaging and this is precisely what the Shaywitz et al study does.

Secondly, this is a very small study (38 people) and does not address the fact that, in the other language tasks participants were asked to perform, there were no significant differences between male and female participants, nor the fact that not all women displayed the bilateral activation that was so interesting to scientists.

Note too, that all participants were adults, so how can we conclude from this that this is a hard-wired female-male difference?  As neurobiologist, Lise Eliot, points out, nearly all the evidence is based on the adult brain – “Who’s to say that such differences [in the brain] are caused by nature and not by learning?” (Eliot, 2009: 9).  Brain scientists point to gender differences in brain structure being related to the complex interrelationship between genetic factors, our experiences and our biology, in other words, what we do and what happens to us affects what our brain looks like.  “Experience can alter sex differences in brain structure” (2004:  211) says Melissa Hines, a neuroscientific researcher who has been looking at the question of gender and the brain for over 35 years.  As educators, doesn't it seem more helpful to look at how gendering in the classroom may contribute to learning differences as well as how education can remediate those differences?

Thirdly, and most importantly, neuroscientific studies done since have not shown the sex differences in language processing found in the Shaywitz study.  It has been found that most women and most men process language in the left hemisphere of the brain and that both sexes show a tremendous amount of interconnectivity between the hemispheres.  After carrying out a meta-analysis of functional imaging of sex differences, Sommer et al (2004) conclude:
“In summary, this meta-analysis found no significant sex difference in functional language lateralization in a large sample of 377 men and 442 women. Thus, the hypothesis that language functions are generally presented more bilaterally in women than in men is not supported. This suggests that language lateralization is unlikely to underlie sex differences in cognition, and their biological basis remains elusive.”
So why haven't we heard more about Sommer’s study (and others like it) saying there is no support for innate differences between how the sexes process language? Why does the popular media continue to promote the idea that male and female brains are “completely different”?  Unfortunately studies that don’t show differences between the sexes are often underreported.  Hines talks about this problem as well as the converse “overreporting of positive results” (2004: 6).  To address this issue, Janet Hyde 2005 proposed the ‘Gender Similarities Hypothesis’ after conducting a meta-analysis of 46 meta-analyses of studies concerned with sex differences. She sums up like this:
“It is time to consider the costs of overinflated claims of gender differences.  Arguably, they cause harm in numerous realms, including women’s opportunities in the workplace, couple conflict and communication, and analyses of self-esteem problems among adolescents.  Most important, these claims are not consistent with the scientific data. [my emphasis]” (Hyde, 2005:  590)
This focus on looking for sex differences continues to this day.  In 2013 there was a study splashed all over the newspapers including this headline in the Mail Online “Men's and women's brains: the truth! As research proves the sexes' brains ARE wired differently, why women's are cleverer ounce for ounce - and men can't read female feelings

Cordelia Fine responds  by pointing out that 1) the conclusions don’t take into consideration differences between larger and smaller brains (they have different structures because of size - male brains tend to be larger because men tend to be larger and larger brains are needed to control larger bodies), 2) there’s no discussion of the plasticity of the brain and the effect of our experiences on our neural structure (see above)  and 3) the study is full of reverse inference based on legitimising tired stereotypes (you can see Fine’s full response to the study here).   But the damage has already been done and the study is quoted as ‘proving’ that female-male differences are hard-wired when in reality it shows no such thing!

Peddling sex differences in brain function is clearly ‘sexy’ and sometimes lucrative, and neuroscience is a very tempting way to try to explain differences between the sexes. Isn't it time, though, that we got away from this obsession with looking for hard-wired differences between the sexes and considered the part that our experiences and especially education, play in female and male disparities?  Given the potentially harmful nature of neurosexism, shouldn't we be more critical and look more closely at what the studies should, can and do tell us, rather than merely accepting the narrative that confirms our cliché-ridden beliefs and sells yet more books and toys?


Fine, C (2010) Delusions of gender: How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference. New York: W. W. Norton.
Hines, M (2004) Brain gender. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Hyde, J S (2005) The gender similarities hypothesis’ American Psychologist, Vol 60 (6), Sep 2005, pp581-592
Lethaby, C (2014) ‘Children, gender and learning’ in Primary Methodology Handbook:  Practical ideas for ELT Richmond Publishing
Sommer, I et al (2004) Do women really have more bilateral language representation than men? A meta-analysis of functional imaging studies Brain, 127, 1845–1852

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The myth of neat histories

Pure evil!
You've probably heara version of this story of before.

A long long time ago in a place called the 1950s there lived an evil wizard called 'Skinner' who lived in a castle with his many adherents. Skinner was a cruel man who practised a version of dark sorcery called 'behaviourism' which generally involve torturing animals and turning men into machines all in the name of science. His worst torture device was the Skinner box into which he put all manner of creatures including his own children. 

Skinner believed that people were really just machines and so if you wanted some kind of response from them all you needed was stimulus. Something like an electric shock would probably do the trick. 

Poor misguided TEFL teachers were caught in the hypnotic gaze of Skinner and developed a ridiculous  style of teaching called the Audio-lingual method. This involved forcing students to sit in a classroom listening to recordings of conversations for hours on end all the while repeating  mantras like so many zombies. Skinner enjoyed this depraved form of torture. In fact it helped him stay young.

One day, a brave young hero called Noam appeared and with a swish of his sword of logic he defeated the evil Skinner. Chomsky showed that language was innate and that people didn't have to be robots. On this day pair work was born and since language was innate no one needed to teach grammar anymore. Native speaker teachers everywhere rejoiced. 

OK I'm exaggerating but this is the way the history of these events often seems to be presented. For example:

...Behavioralist accounts of language learning became popular in the 1920s and 1930s... (64) In Behaviorist theory, conditioning is the result of stimulus response and reinforcement (51)...In a book called verbal behavior, the psychologist Bernard [sic] Skinner suggested that much the same pattern happens in language learning (52)...Behaviorism was directly responsible for audiolingualism (52)" (Harmer 2007)

And Harmer is by no means alone. Wherever you look, from Richards and Rogers, Ellis or Lightbown and Spada, the story is made up of more or less the same building blocks. Behaviourism? check,  lab animals? check, habit-formation? check,   Skinner? check, Chomsky? check? The pattern of events is clear and well-known by most teachers, but is it true? 

Something about the story niggles and my own personal dislike (not very evidence-based) of everything Chomskyan led me on a journey into the odd world of one of the most famous academic debates in history. Unfortunately this project continues to sprawl horribly out of control but I would like to share with you a few interesting things I've managed to find out. So here are the top 5 myths and misconceptions about the infamous Chomsky/Skinner debate and its aftermath:

1. Chomsky's review was a forensic deconstruction of Skinner's verbal behaviour was an attempt deconstruction of 'something' - though it wasn't Skinner's book Verbal Behaviour. In fact all the evidence suggests Chomsky either didn't read Verbal Behaviour or didn't understand it. The reason we can make this assumption is that Chomsky makes several mistakes in his review, attributing, for example, classical behaviourist beliefs to Skinner, whereas Skinner wrote about 'operant condition' which was a different beast altogether. 

MacCorquodale, in a comprehensive review, notes, that Chomsky's review didn't receive a reply from Skinner or any other psychologist, not because they were 'defeated' but rather because "...Chomsky’s actual target is only about one-half Skinner, with the rest a mixture of odds and ends of other behaviourism and some other fancies of vague origin." Chomsky's review has also been criticised for misquoting Skinner and taking quotes out of context. Skinner himself said of the review:
let me tell you about Chomsky...I published Verbal Behaviour in 1957, in 1958 I received a  55 page type-written review by someone whom I had never heard of named Noam Chomsky. I read half a dozen pages, and saw that he had missed the point of my book and read no further. (see the second video 5:50)
Also interesting is that most of the other reviews of verbal behaviour at the time were positive. This by itself doesn't mean Chomsky was wrong, but it might make us pause for thought. 

And rather than 'forensic', Chomsky's review was just really really mean. MacCorquodale, described the review as "ungenerous to a fault; condescending, unforgiving, obtuse, and ill-humoured". I urge you to read a few pages and see what you think. I'm not one to be overly concerned with comments about the 'tone' of someone's argument, but Chomsky actually seems to be personally offended by Skinner's book. Skinner often commented that he couldn't understand why Chomsky seemed so angry. A sample of the language can be seen in  Virues-Ortega 2006's review:
perfectly useless,” “tautology,” “vacuous,” “looseness of the term,” “entirely pointless,” “empty,” “no explanatory force,” “paraphrase,” “serious delusion,” “full vagueness,” “no conceivable interest,” “quite empty,” “notion,” “no clear content,” “cover term,” “pointless,” “quite false,” “said nothing of any significance,” “play-acting at science” (from )
The tone isn't so much the problem as the chilling effect this kind of academic writing can have on others. When a writer's work is discussed in such a dismissive tone it can give the impression to the uninitiated that the matter is settled, -which in this case, was very far from the truth. 

2. Skinner's Behaviourism led to Audiolingualism 

This is a tricky fish to fry. In order to answer this you need to be able to authoritatively identify Skinner's behaviourism, Audiolingualism and then the link between them. First we should examine the timeline. Skinner was born in 1905 and published Verbal Behaviour in 1957. Chomsky's review came out in 1959. The first mentions of the audiolingual approach were in the mid 1950s. But it starts to really get mentioned in the early 1960s. This would mean that ALM became popular AFTER Chomsky's review. 

Another problem is that there seems to be a lot of confusion about what the audiolingual method actually was. When reading Lado's 1964 book entitled 'language teaching: a scientific approach', ALM is describe simply as the approach where (in contrast to grammar translation) speaking and listening are taught first. Yet others, like Cummins and Davidson conflate the audiolingual approach and the 'scientific approach'. 

things get more confusing as many others like Hall (here) and Lacorte suggest that ALM was synonymous with or grew from 'the army method' in 1945 (certainly before both Verbal Behaviour and Chomsky's review). While Coady and Huckin suggest that ALM is also known as 'the structural approach' by those who created it. They pin this honour on Fries in 1945. And Harmer, suggests it came from the Direct Method (p.64) There are also mentions of contrastive analysis being an important component by some authors while not being mentioned at all by others. 

As  Peter Castagnaro* notes neither Brookes, Fries or Lado (three names often associated with ALM) make much mention of Skinner at all in any of their books. True they use language associated with stimulus and response, -but why could this not  be inspired by Pavlov, rather than Skinner? (Harmer does link to earlier behaviourists Watson and Raynor). The only person who actually draws a direct link between Skinner and ALM was a critic of ALM, Wilga Rivers in "the psychologist and the foreign language teacher" and Castagnaro believes that Rivers' book is the cause of much misunderstanding, noting that it was Rivers who "saddled Skinner with being ALM’s theoretical parent"(523).

So, if we believe the literature on ALM the approach came from the Army Method, the Structural Approach, Contrastive Analysis or the Direct Method and was big in the 40s-50s (lightbown and Spada), or the 50s-60s (Richards & Rogers, Thornbury). It may or may not have been based on a book written in 1957 and then undone by a review written in 1959...even though, according to Richards and Rogers, the term Audiolingualism wasn't invented until 1964 -that's five years after Chomsky's review. Am I the only one feeling confused? 

*More than anyone else Peter Castagnaro (thanks to Harmer for this link) has attempted to unweave the knotted misunderstandings surrounding ALM. I would direct anyone to read his article for a much more concise examination of this topic.

3. Chomsky's review lead to the death of Audiolingualism 

In his ELTJ review of reviews, Alan Maley describes Chomsky's review as 'destructive' and one that 'changed the course of events'. Now while it is undeniable that Chomsky's review was influential and made his name, did Chomsky kill off Audiolingualism? 

After reading the previous section it becomes clear that this is unlikely. Not only does the timeline not work, but simply put methods and approaches are fashions and as such aren't killed off by logic of any kind. If methods are killed off, who killed off the silent way and suggestopedia? 

Almost certainly ALM just withered on the vine. In education, as Swan among others has noted, fashions rule and these fashions are often polar opposites. With Grammar translation reading and writing was paramount. Next came methods that banned reading and writing and translation of any kind. That an approach where people mechanically practiced  artificial sentences while worrying greatly about making mistakes should be replaced by an approach which allowed free 'authentic' conversation with little care for errors, should surprise no one at all. 

It's also difficult to properly perform an autopsy on the undead. As authors, like Scrivener note, many of the the techniques of 'ALM' "continue to have a strong influence over many classrooms"(38)

4. Chomsky's review led to the death of Behaviorism

Again, not true, Behaviorism carried on and continues to this day( see herehere and here). Skinners' book still sells well (better actually than Chomsky's response) and Skinner is considered one of the most important figures in psychology

Behaviorism is successful, despite the image problem, precisely because it works. It works in treating autistic children and if you've ever had any kind of therapy, it's likely it was CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) which is another.

5. Chomsky's new linguistic paradigm is accepted by most linguists today

Absolutely not. Chomsky ideas are accepted by few. The idea of Universal Grammar has been shown to be a myth, the Poverty of Stimulus argument has been rejected, and could only apply to syntax anyway. Vocabulary development in children has clearly been shown to be entirely affected by 'stimulus'. the generative grammar paradigm he created has been rewritten several times by the Chomsky himself in a failed attempt to salvage it. 

A recent scathing review by Behme describes Chomsky as not seriously engaging with criticism, misrepresenting the work of others and providing little or no evidence for his claims. She highlights, as many others have, his tendency to "[ridicule] the works of others". These claims are not surprising since they are pretty much the same claims made about his attack on Skinner 50 years earlier. 

Behme also lists Chomsky's other tactics, such as claiming his opponents are 'irrational' or have mental issues. This may seem shocking until we read papers by his former student Paul Postals who writes “After many years, I came to the conclusion that everything he says is false. He will lie just for the fun of it...It was like playing chess with extra pieces. It was all fake.” Postal also suggests Chomsky has written "the most irresponsible passage ever written by a linguist in the entire history of linguistics". 

An interesting note for all your corpus fans out there is that Chomsky has been a consistent critic of Corpus Linguistics considering them pointless and the data worthless. Rather, he suggests, Native Speakers should just sit around and think up examples: 

Chomsky: the verb 'perform' cannot be used with mass word objects: one can perform a task, but one cannot perform a labour.
Hatcher: How do you know, if you don’t use a corpus and have not studied the verb perform?
Chomsky: How do I know? Because I am a native speaker of the English language. (source)
One can 'perform magic', of course. This extract I think sums up Chomsky perfectly; unassailable arrogance.

Reality is not the neat history presented in so many EFL histories. In truth, almost every chain in the link is broken. Skinner wasn't the behaviorist he's painted as, he didn't inspire audiolingualism -whatever that is, and he wasn't overthrown by Chomsky, who isn't quite the 'hero' we might imagine. We should not be surprised that the facts about Skinner are often wrong in ELT as he is often misunderstood by psychologists too

As Hunter and Smith note ELT tend to package complex history into convenient bundles. This packaging may make digestion easier but it often involves cutting the corners off to make things fit. Sometimes the facts are fudged to give us a pleasing narrative where 'traditional' (read: dull and wrong) methods are superseded by all the great stuff we're doing these days. It's a nice story to tell ourselves but reality is more messy.