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Inductive approach and Deductive approach in TESOL

By International Teacher Training Organization

In teaching, there are many theoretical approaches that have been developed to promote the students' success in learning new information. In TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages), there are two main theoretical approaches for the presentation of new English grammar structures or functions to ESL/EFL students: inductive approach and deductive approach. They both have advantages and disadvantages.

The deductive approach represents a more traditional style of teaching in that the grammatical structures or rules are dictated to the students first, a more effective and time saving way under certain circumstances, namely monolingual classes- (Rivers and Temperley 110). Thus, the students learn the rule and apply it only after they have been introduced to the rule. For example, if the structure to be presented is present perfect, the teacher would begin the lesson by saying, "Today we are going to learn how to use the present perfect structure". Then, the rules of the present perfect structure would be outlined and the students would complete exercises, in a number of ways, to practice using the structure. (Goner, Phillips, and Walters 135) In this approach, the teacher is the center of the class and is responsible for all of the presentation and explanation of the new material

The inductive approach represents a different style of teaching where the new grammatical structures or rules are presented to the students in a real language context (Goner, Phillips, and Walters 135). The students learn the use of the structure through practice of the language in context, and later realize the rules from the practical examples. For example, if the structure to be presented is the comparative form, the teacher would begin the lesson by drawing a figure on the board and saying, "This is Jim. He is tall." Then, the teacher would draw another taller figure next to the first saying, "This is Bill. He is taller than Jim." The teacher would then provide many examples using students and items from the classroom, famous people, or anything within the normal daily life of the students, to create an understanding of the use of the structure. The students repeat after the teacher, after each of the different examples, and eventually practice the structures meaningfully in groups or pairs. (Goner, Phillips, and Walters 135-136) With this approach, the teacher role is to provide meaningful contexts to encourage demonstration of the rule, while the students evolve the rules from the examples of its use and continued practice (Rivers and Temperley 110).

In both approaches the students practice and apply the use of the grammatical structure, yet, there are advantages and disadvantages to each in the EFL/ESL classroom (Rivers and Temperley 110). The deductive approach can be effective with students of a lower level, who are beginning to learn the basic structures of the language, or with students who are accustomed to a more traditional style of learning and expect grammatical presentations (Goner, Philips, and Walters 134). The deductive approach however, is less suitable for upper level language students, for presenting grammatical structures that are complex in both form and meaning, and for classrooms that contain younger learners (Goner, Philips, and Walters 134). The advantages of the inductive approach are that students can focus on the use of the language without being held back by grammatical terminology and rules that can inhibit fluency. The inductive approach also promotes increased student participation and practice of the target language in the classroom, in meaningful contexts. The use of the inductive approach has been noted for its success in EFL/ESL classrooms world-wide, but its disadvantage is that it is sometimes difficult for students who expect a more traditional style of teaching to induce the language rules from context and that it is more time consuming. Understanding the disadvantages and advantages of both approaches, may help the teacher to vary and organize the EFL/ESL lesson, in order to keep classes interesting and motivating for the students (Goner, Philips, and Walters 129).


  • Goner, Phillips, and Walters. Teaching Practice Handbook: Structures: Grammar and Function. Heinemann, 1995. 129-138.
  • Rivers, Wilga M., Temperley, Mary S. A Practical Guide to the Teaching of English as a Second or Foreign Language. Oxford University Press, 1978. 110.

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