Desuggestopedia is an application of the study of suggestion to pedagogy. Desuggest is the opposite of suggest. It is used to eliminate the negative feeling and Suggestopedia is used to reinforce the positive feeling and to release the full mental power.
The prime objective of Desuggestopedia is to tap into more of students’ mental potential to learn, in order to accelerate the process by which they learn to understand and use the target language for communication. Four factors considered essential in this process are: a) the provision of a relaxed and comfortable learning environment, b) the use of soft Baroque music to help increase alpha brain waves and decrease blood pressure and heart rate, c) ‘desuggestion’ in terms of the psychological barriers learners place on their own learning potential, and d) ‘suggestibility’ through the encouragement of learners assuming ‘child-like’ and/or new roles and names in the target language.
The main principles of Desuggestopedia are:
i) Learning is stimulated through a rich environment using materials from the target language such as vocabulary, language structures and so forth.
ii) Desuggesting learners’ fear and anxiety through a comfortable environment using music and colourful decoration is important.
iii) Students are expected to be “child-like” in the classroom so
that they can absorb the learning without any anxiety.
i) The teacher takes the role of authority and creates the appropriate environment for learning.
Here are some of the key features of Desuggestopedia:
(1) Learning is facilitated in an environment that is as comfortable as possible, featuring soft cushioned seating and dim lighting.
(2) “Peripheral learning is encouraged through the presence in the learning environment of posters and decorations featuring the target language and various grammatical information.
(3) The teacher assumes a role of complete authority and control in the classroom. (4) Self-perceived and psychological barriers to learners’ potential to learn are ‘desuggested”..
(5) Students are encouraged to be child-like, take ‘mental trips with the teacher’ and assume new roles and names in the target language in order to become more ‘suggestible’,
(6) Baroque music is played softly in the background to increase mental relaxation and potential to take in and retain new material during the lesson.
(7) Students work from lengthy dialogues in the target language, with an accompanying translation into the students’ native language.
(8) Errors are tolerated, the emphasis being on content and not structure. Grammar and vocabulary are presented and given treatment from the teacher, but not dwelt on.
(9) Homework is limited to students re-reading the dialogue they are studying, once before they go to sleep at night and once in the morning before they get up.
(10) Music, drama and ‘the arts’ are integrated into the learning process as often as possible.
Desuggestopedia does not provide for the majority of language teaching environments teachers typically encounter. The dim lighting, large comfortable chairs and music selections are not readily available to the majority of schools, and these ‘environmental factors’ are certainly close to impossible for very large classes. It does not take account of the fact that learners in many countries do not necessarily bring an intrinsic desire to learn the language into their English lessons, and its basic foundations in cognitive theory very much limit it to the realm of adult learning. For the same reasons, it does not seem to be very appropriate in mainstream schools in Bangladesh.
Despite its limitations, Desuggestopedia provides some valuable insights into the power of cognition and creating/employing techniques that make students feel comfortable and relaxed, and ‘suggestible’ to the material being learned. Some of its techniques such as desuggestion, or positive suggestion can be useful in increasing students’ motivation in Bangladeshi schools. Also, by creating a relaxed classroom environment, teachers can remove fear and anxiety that many students have about learning English. Thus, although not suitable in its entirety in contexts like Bangladesh, Desuggestopedia does offer some valuable guidelines for us. A teacher using CLT or GTM should consider incorporating some of these principles and techniques.