Aim to Please

    Tania Ruiz overcomes the fear of change to adopt a new teaching methodology

    Accelerative Integrated Methodology (AIM) is an intensive second-language-learning system designed to accelerate the development of language proficiency and fluency at the beginning stages of learning. This “post-method methodology” devised by Canadian teacher and author Wendy Maxwell is enabling teachers to consistently and coherently put into practice a combination of often discussed but scarcely implemented language-acquisition techniques fused with original elements in AIM. To read the full story, click here.


    1. Readers should note a few things about A.I.M.

      a) there is no published quantitative research– using control groups, etc– which supprots Maxwell’s assertions abotu AIM’s effectiveness. Wendy Maxwell’s MA thesis also lacked a control group. Stefania Scott told me they have a Canadian trial underway but no data as of late 2013. (Other methods have more, and good date– eg TPRS 13 studies as of 2012)

      b) Research (Krashen, Van Patten, etc) does not support early output, one of the central elements of AIM. Orl output is generally recognised as the result, not cause, of acquisition.

      c) TPR-based methodologies usually run into walls fairly quickly, due to grammar limits on TPR, ambiguity issues, etc. TPRS for example now recommends no use of TPR unless with kids 11 and under.

      d) AIM has a “lock-step” curriculum which is fairly rigid in what happens when. This contradicts research, which says that there is no fixed order of acquisition of a second language. It also ignores word-frequency data. It is also problematic in that curriculum, not students, drives the instructional process, which is the opposite of what should happen.

      e) AIM are for-profit. You have to spend appr $600 to attend a workshop (vs $300 for intense 3-day TPRS workshop), $1000 min on materials, etc. Plus, they don’t openly share their methods (unlike TPRS, natural approach, etc). Fair enough– but it’s a steep invesment for an individual, and their approach is clearly to try to brng whole schools on board (more $$). There’s no freely available AIM text that shows you the method– they are very proprietary.

      BUT…kudoes to Maxwell for trying something new.

    2. Thanks for taking the time to read the article, Chris. You have brought up a number of points I am happy to address.

      I developed the second language methodology we call AIM after I found that the resources with which I was provided did not help students reach a basic level of proficiency, even after many years of instruction. I had also observed that students were not as engaged and excited about language instruction as they could be.

      This initial in-class action research process lasted over ten years and is still being refined today. AIM Language Learning, the publishing company, was established in 2004 in response to feedback from teachers who saw the incredible results in my classroom. It was evident that there was a need for me to create resources that would support teachers through the implementation of my methodology.

      As a publisher, AIM invests heavily in research and development, as well as in the production of our training tools. Let me give you an example: producing one kit requires six to 12 months, involves more than a dozen individuals and as you can imagine these costs are significant. This does not account for ongoing printing, warehousing, fulfillment or shipping costs for our products.

      Keep in mind that AIM provides a diverse series of second language products in four languages; we are now proud to introduce Mandarin! We feel our kit MSRP of $475 is a very good value, and is in fact, less costly than other publishers’ products. In addition, once purchased, each kit is used for the lifetime of the materials without additional annual or hidden costs. I designed it this way, from my perspective as a teacher, to ensure that the methodology would be as affordable as possible.

      AIM offers a variety of options for professional development. We have a self-paced online teacher training site with unlimited access for only $110 per annum. We offer a foundational training series that works directly with new teachers over the course of their first six months for only $290. We offer in-school direct training and traditional single- or multi-day workshops, in addition to a Summer Institute in two Canadian locations.

      AIM is a small Canadian company and we encourage research of our methodology. In regards to questions of published research on AIM, please review the variety of available materials on our AIM Language Learning site.

      What might be of most interest is the research and studies that were done on AIM by Mardi Michels, MA, who has more than 15 years of teaching experience worldwide, and the highly recognized Groningen University in the Netherlands. Both studies involved control groups and contained quantitative data.

      AIM allows for a very unique style of output that is unlike any seen previously. In whole-class activities, from the very first day, spontaneous output is elicited by the teacher (by gesturing), rather than produced by the student. This is a very important distinction, because the output that current researchers describe also requires students’ independent thinking processes, which is not the case here.

      Oral output is indeed the result of acquisition, and AIM provides students with hours of guided practice through oral output. In an AIM classroom, students are supported by teacher and peers until they are comfortable speaking in the target language. By this time, students have been active participants in the creation of language, and through this extensive practice, gain a great deal of confidence and investment in the language, as well as a good accent—all key factors that lead to eventual success.
      Unlike other methodologies, AIM has no limitations on the acquisition of grammar. The Gesture Approach allows teachers to naturally embed grammar concepts into the gestures themselves, thus ensuring a multi-modal acquisition of grammar concepts that resembles first language acquisition. Students, see, hear and kinesthetically embed aspects of grammar.

      Due to the extensive oral/visual/kinesthetic practice with the language, AIM students naturally gain a feeling for “what sounds right” and when they are ready, AIM introduces the second phase, where we extract and highlight language patterns. First language learners naturally extract patterns, which is evident when we see a young child make an error such as “I runned”. Because AIM follows a very natural approach to language acquisition, it can work highly effectively with students as young as five or six years of age! We do not analyze the language until students have a cognitive ability and proficiency, which is developed to the point that language analysis is absolutely meaningful and desired on the part of the student!

      Furthermore, being a methodology and not a program, AIM provides teachers with strategies and techniques that allow for flexibility and opportunities for customization. In fact, the strategies and techniques that AIM provides and that are modelled through the various activities in our kits, allow teachers to be highly creative, and yet provide the support, modelling and guidance to those teachers who need it. In fact, on almost every page of our guides, teachers are constantly reminded and shown how to customize the program to meet the needs of their students—to seize those crucial, spontaneous moments that are the best opportunities to apply the AIM techniques and strategies for meaningful, authentic, spontaneous interaction!

      I hope this helps further illuminate the AIM for everyone.

      Wendy Maxwell,
      AIM Language Learning

    3. I do not wish to debate whether one methodology is better than another. Anyone can highlight the merits of their preferred method to make it appear superior to something else.

      Regardless of methodology, I think we can all agree that comprehensive input is the key ingredient to language acquisition. Both TPRS and AIM use this concept to the benefit of students, resulting in many similarities between the two. There are some distinct differences as well but to say that one is better than the other is simply a matter of personal preference.

      I’ve used both TPRS and AIM in my classroom. I really enjoyed teaching with TPRS. I enjoy AIM even more. Using AIM in my classroom encourages a level of student engagement that I just wasn’t able to achieve as successfully with TPRS. I attribute this success to the fact that AIM is more structured than TPRS. AIM provides me a solid framework upon which to teach my board curriculum and also allows the flexibility to design child centered lessons geared to meet the varied learning styles of my students.
      With AIM, my students are engaged in conversation in the target language, working cooperatively in a positive environment, using a methodology that makes them feel safe to take risks and allows them to create in the language. I don’t need a scientist to tell me it works when the evidence is right here in my classroom.

      TPRS is a solid methodology. I’ve used it with successful results. I simply prefer to use AIM because I feel that it better meets the needs of my students. If you ever have the opportunity to see AIM in action I invite you to take a look. It’s innovative, creative and exciting for both students and teacher.

    4. Wendy–

      Can you post links for your A.I.M. studies? Michels, and the Groningen? I emailed Stefania in Sept and she sent me a bunch of stuff which was not data.

      I ran into some people ths summer at a Von Ray workshop who has used AIM. One really liked it for younger kids but found it useless with older (gr8 and up) students who hated output and didn’t liek the drama aspect. Another said it was by far the best thing for her really young students (aged 6-8). Another said she preferred the flexibility of TPRS but appreciated how “organised” AIM is– she said that it would work wonderfully for novice teachers who want to provide comprehensible input but who find the “freewheeling” askepct of TPRS initially daunting.

    Comments are closed.