Instructional aids may be defined as all the illustrative material which is used during the teaching-learning process.
It may include visual aids such as pictures, main objects, and things that must be studied first drawings and real objects, audio aids such as radio, tape-recorder, a Linguaphone, etc.
Another term for instructional aids is audio-visual aids which though more commonly used, is old-fashioned.
Instructional aids are employed to take the place of the first-hand experience which cannot be provided in the classroom due to many reasons.
Comenius was the exponent of “sense realism” which means, when all the senses are engaged in learning, learning becomes more clear and long-lasting.
Comenius made a rich contribution to educational theory. Many of his principles and practices are in common use even today. In his book “Great Didactic” published in 1632, he recommends attractive classrooms, maximum sense-appeal, and illustrated textbooks.
His principles of ‘sense appeal’ and good textbooks led to the production of textbooks with pictures and diagrams.
He introduced and recommended the use of pictures, charts, and models in teaching which is quite a significant contribution.
In his famous book “Orbic Pictus” he presented ideas that are still effective in teaching foreign languages. “Orbic Pictus” was the first illustrated book. Its subject is the teaching of Latin to foreign learners.
The pictures given in this book are not only interesting but they also employed three other important principles for effective language learning:
(a) The foreign language should be taught as a living language.
(b) The vocabulary should consist of every-day words and expressions to make the child acquainted with natural phenomena, daily life, and occupations.
(c) The text in the foreign language and its translation in the vernacular were placed side by side. This old-age method has only recently come into vogue again.
In his book “Java Linguarum Resarvata” “The Gate of Language Unlocked”, Comenius outlined the ideas and theories
about teaching a foreign language.
The important key principle of his procedures is that of environmental vocabulary, which means the learner must see the objects, persons, and activities immediately around him.
He laid emphasis on visual experiences. His theories pertaining to the teaching of foreign languages were rediscovered by the exponents of the direct method, nearly three hundred years after his death, and were put into practice.
Audio-visual Aids and Learnings
The use of instructional materials increased the effectiveness of learning because they help the students to understand the ideas more clearly and easier to assimilate them. They make learning meaningful and interesting.
These objectives can only be best achieved if the most appropriate materials for a given learning situation are selected and the students are prepared in advance.
Foreign language learning in a classroom situation is very much different from learning the same language in a natural environment.
In a classroom situation, a host of factors in the language learning process are absent.
We are forced to do without a good deal of stimuli that operate in natural conditions.
Therefore, any audio-visual aid is a substitute for real experience.
Although nothing can replace the first-hand experience of real objects and situations, the use of instructional materials is an attempt to reduce the gap between the verbalism of the classroom and real-life situations.
Effective learning is dependent on accurate concept formation.
Sensory experiences serve as the basis of all understandings which the learners acquire in classroom situations.
First-hand sensory experiences form the sound foundation for all learning.
In a foreign language learning process where the first-hand experiences of many objects and situations are not available, the audio-visual materials are a contrivance to replace them.
The specific objectives of audio-visual materials
Focussing pupil interest and attention: the oral presentation of a lesson is not sufficient because pupils have different backgrounds as a result of which new learning fails to form clear concepts common to all.
The use of a picture, a drawing, or a sketch will not only assist in focussing attention on the subject but will stimulate the learner for further reading, discussion, and research as it may bring new aspects of the object or the situation under focus.
Read More: Techniques of the audio-lingual method
Hence the use of audiovisual aids helps to build up cohesive concepts and stimulates their interest.
Relating abstractions to concreteness: The learner’s imagination is not developed enough to make correct mental pictures of the concepts which he has been learning about. He cannot imagine things clearly.
Through verbal explanation, he may form blurred vague, and sometimes faulty mental images.
Therefore, it is necessary for the teacher to relate the general concept to actual reality. This is possible through some kind of visual material.
For example, the concept of an English home will be very vague in the mind of a Pakistani child. If a picture of an English home and an English family is shown, the concept would become very clear.