The cognitive-code approach of the 1970s emphasised that language learning involved active mental processes, that it was not just a process of habit formation (the assumption underlying the audiolingual method that came before it). Lessons focussed on learning grammatical structures but the cognitive code approach emphasised the importance of meaningful practice, and the structures were presented inductively, i.e. the rules came after exposure to examples. There was, however, little use of examples from authentic material.

The aim of the class is for learners to understand the ‘rule of the day', which is that the past form of regular verbs is made using -ed. The teacher elicits a dialogue that includes clear examples of the structure. The learners practise it, and the teacher uses it to elicit the rules.

In the classroom
The approach included the clear and structured use of concept questions to help learners identify the limits of use of structure and lexis, and teachers still find this useful. The PPP methodology, (Presentation, Practice and Production), through which learners gain a clear understanding of a grammatical rule before they practise it in meaningful contexts, may still suit some learning contexts and teachers.

Further links:


Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletter for teaching ideas and free resources

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.