Author Norashikin Mohamad
Title The use of deductive and inductive approaches in teaching subject-verb agreement in grammar
Institute Thesis (M.Ed.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2013
Supervisor Wee, Bee Geok
Call no. PE1112 Nor

This study aims to determine which approach in grammar teaching – deductive or inductive - helps students in a secondary school classroom to subsequently apply the grammar rules in a more accurate manner. This study has its specific focus in the teaching of subject-verb agreement.
The teaching of grammar has undoubtedly been a key focus area for language teachers and researchers alike. The deductive approach requires teachers to first explain the grammar rules. After this is done, students then complete pen-and-paper exercises which aim to put to practice the rules learnt. This approach has often been associated with words such as ‘boring’, ‘disengaging’ and ‘ineffective’. Over time, an alternative approach to grammar teaching has surfaced in an attempt to address the issues related to the deductive approach. This alternative, known as the inductive approach, starts with teachers showing students examples of sentences which illustrate the usage patterns of target grammatical items. Students then infer the grammar rules through observations of these patterns. This approach includes the use of grammar games and puzzles that are administered in both print and non-print forms. A balanced grammar programme should include a good selection of grammar activities that support teaching using both approaches.

A typical grammar lesson designed in the deductive approach starts with the teacher introducing the grammar rule(s) to the class. Students then complete exercises of a drill-and-practice nature and feedback is often provided at the end of the lesson or in the subsequent lesson either by the teacher or the peers.

A typical grammar lesson designed in the inductive approach starts with the teacher introducing students to sentences which contain a specific grammatical item. Students are to observe how this grammatical item functions in these sentences and infer the grammatical rule from the usage pattern. The sentences can be presented in print or online and the activity can comprise a grammar game, puzzle and/or exercise. Feedback on the students’ responses is provided during the course of the lesson or at the end, depending on the nature of the activity. This is done either by the teacher or through the computer software. This approach introduces grammatical rules implicitly. Students are to articulate the rules through observation and discovery.

This study has one objective. It seeks to investigate the approach – deductive or inductive – that enables students to learn subject-verb agreement in a more effective manner and thereafter apply the rules of subject-verb agreement more accurately. The measure of accuracy in this study is student achievement.

The sample in this study comprised two groups, one with forty-one students and the other with forty-two students. They were Secondary Two students from the Express stream in a typical neighbourhood school in Singapore. The instruments used in this study included pre- and post-tests, grammar assignments and grammar tests. These instruments were administered either in print or online, depending on the group that it was intended for.

The findings of this study show no clear indication as to which approach – deductive or inductive – enables students to learn subject-verb agreement in a more effective manner. This conclusion is derived from the mixed results observed in the performance of the two groups in the different assignments and tests administered in the study, i.e. in some activities, the group that underwent the deductive approach fared better than the other and in other activities, the results were the opposite. Hence, it can be concluded that both approaches are essential in any grammar programme in order to provide a balance to cater to the different learning needs of the students.