Creative Discussion using Plain Pair Groups

Creative Discussion – a key to insight and change

William Plain
Emeritus Professor, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies

Plain Pair Group Teaching (Plain PGT)
- for universities and schools
Plain Pair Group Discussion (Plain PGD)
- for decision making and staff development
- for informal or community creative discussion

A flash of insight is the spark of cosmic intelligence.
Small group sharing of insight can change the pattern of human intelligence.

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Abstract of Research Project, Grant-in-aid
for Scientific Research (C)(2)

A New Theory of Language Learning to Encourage the Adoption of a Communicative Curriculum in Japanese Universities

1. Research Institute Number: 33925
2. Research Institute: Nagoya University of Foreign Studies
3. Category: Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (C)(2)
4. Term of Project: 1999-2003
5. Project Number: 11680285
6. Title of Project:  A New Theory of Language Learning to Encourage the Adoption of a Communicative Curriculum in Japanese Universities.
7. Head Investigator:        Registered Number: 40229133       Name: William Plain
8. Institution: Nagoya University of Foreign Studies       Department: English Department       Title of Position: Professor

9. Summary of Research Results:
Overview of research project: Under a previous Gakushin grant, a practical method of communicative teaching for Japanese universities was developed called Plain Pair Group Teaching (Plain PGT). The present project builds on this research and provides a theoretical basis for an understanding of first and second language learning which will lead to a wider use of communicative teaching methods in Japanese universities. The major goals of this four-year project have been successfully attained. Future research will look at the application of Plain PGT method and theory to teacher development and the wider education for public awareness.

Overall results:

Over the four years of this project I have: examined highly efficient learning to obtain a new view of man’s learning potential; developed a new understanding of first language acquisition which can be transferred directly to the second language classroom; made a multi-disciplinary search for ‘paradigm breaking’ theories which can be applied to the area of educational linguistics and language learning; considered the important problem of mental conditioning due to prevalent school learning methods; developed a theoretical basis to classroom management which can reactivate a latent quasi-universal talent for highly efficient language learning; applied these results to teacher development in Japanese universities; presented results of research in seminars and academic exchanges with colleagues at universities in Australia, Singapore and the UK, with ongoing collaboration with academics at the University of Adelaide.

Specific results:

A previous Gakushin project saw the development of a new teaching method which could bring a strong communicative element to traditional lecture or text explanation classes. A simple classroom management process uses interaction within and between permanent groups to create a learning dynamic which is easy to apply and maximises learning.
During the present project, a new understanding of first language learning has been developed which sees the young child as a fully aware, highly efficient and independent learner. It has been discovered that such learning is frequently reproduced in the adult in ‘natural learning’ situations. Several elements which characterise ‘natural learning’ have been found and appropriate models developed (esp. ‘learning space’, ‘attentive silence’, ‘awakeness’, ‘light’ and ‘heavy’ learning, language ‘internalisation’). Such models have now been applied to a theory of learning which in turn has provided an understanding of how a ‘natural learning’ environment can be created in the classroom.
The ‘natural learning’ underlying efficient first and second language ‘internalisation’ draws on the creative insights of an emerging trans-disciplinary ‘world view’. This new paradigm reflects the dynamic interrelationship among all members of a community and leads to a consciousness of the inherently holistic nature of the physical, social and psychological worlds. This study of major paradigms in modern thought has highlighted the need to move from a reductionist ‘separation paradigm’ to a new, dynamic, holistic ‘participation paradigm’.


A growing crisis in global human systems at all levels calls for a fundamental change in education. The tendency towards unreflective, conditioned, group-directed learning or decision-making should be replaced by communicative, reflective and insightful interaction, thus promoting individual, creative responses to the multiple needs of humanity. The present research attempts to respond to the specific needs of the classroom while remaining fully attentive to the much wider concerns of a ‘planetary species’.

Future research:

Application of the Plain Pair Group method has recently been successfully experimented with in teacher development seminars. Future research will examine possible use in promoting an approach to professional development, decision-making and general awareness raising which combines fully interactional participation (‘all-together-everyone-thinking-and-talking’) with individual insightful awareness.

10. Key Words:

(1) Plain Pair Group Teaching (2) Communicative methodology (3) Permanent groups (4) Natural learning (5) Participation paradigm (6) ‘Space’ and ‘silence’ (7) International exchange research (8) Australia

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