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
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.