What are the similarities and differences between inductive and deductive approaches of teaching English language grammar?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In grammar instruction, two prevailing ideas guide how one should teach. Inductive and deductive reasoning refers generally to how one comes to an understanding of what is true or probable.

In inductive reasoning, commonly referred to as the scientific method, one makes an observation and tests it against multiple instances of like circumstances. In deductive reasoning, one begins with an accepted truth and discovers multiple instances of it in other instances.

With grammar, we would use inductive reasoning by looking at multiple sentences containing grammatical instances in common and derive a rule from these (sentences with two independent clauses and a coordinating conjunction are routinely divided by a comma; therefore, we might derive a rule that says a comma should always be used in these cases). Alternatively, we would use deductive reasoning by accepting a rule as a given and then finding that every time we have a compound sentence joined by a coordinating conjunction, we should use a comma.

In other words, inductive reasoning builds to truth or rules by aggregating individual instances. Deductive reasoning builds from truth or rules to individual instances. People who learn grammar almost intuitively by being metacognitive about how language works use an inductive approach to grammar, whereas many people need to learn the rules and then apply them deductively.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The inductive approach focuses on providing evidence from which you derive a conclusion.  It is full of hypotheses and "hopeful" conclusions, but you cannot prove your conclusion beyond doubt.  When this is applied to teaching English grammar, it means that you provide your students with a lot of specific examples (i.e., spelling/grammar rules, parts of speech, sentence structure types, etc.).  Afterwards, you explain to them that they can use that evidence to come to a conclusion about how they should write or say something, but that their conclusion will not always be right (because of the many exceptions in the English language).

Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, begins with a generally accepted truth, such as "English grammar is difficult to master and has many different nuances because of the contributions of so many other languages.  From that point, your students will know that this is the type of grammar with which they'll be working, and then you provide rules/suggestions for various situations and teach them how to apply those rules/suggestions for grammar in very specific scenarios or contexts.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial