AUTHOR: Alison Mackey
TITLE: Input, Interaction, and Corrective Feedback in L2 Learning
SERIES TITLE: Oxford Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
REVIEWER: Ferit Kilickaya, Kocaeli University
This book, part of the textbook series ‘Oxford Applied Linguistics’, investigates how interaction, together with input and corrective feedback, is involved in second language learning. It reviews a considerable amount of research carried out over the last two decades as well as very recent work. The book is composed of four parts with two chapters each, for a total of eight chapters. The structure enables readers to read chapters independently of others as it is organized thematically.
In Part One, under the theme of ‘Theoretical foundations and methodological approaches’, Chapter 1, entitled ‘Introduction to the roles of input, interaction, and feedback in L2 learning’, the author provides a clear and concise overview of the interaction approach and associated constructs such as input, feedback, and output. When discussing these, the author first presents the historical development of interaction research and then focuses on studies within the framework of interaction and learning, pointing to work dealing with these constructs. This chapter lays the foundation for the next chapters by providing a synthesis of research, and brief but effective overviews of findings of studies conducted over the last two decades.
Chapter 2, ‘Methodology in interaction research’, highlights the key considerations used in interaction research. As indicated throughout the book, second language development is assured through interaction, and in this chapter, a detailed review of typical tasks used in such research has been provided. In the course of this review, these tasks are provided in categories depending on the characteristics of the tasks, such as whether they are open or closed, and whether they encourage one-way or two-way communication. The chapter also focuses on introspective methods such as stimulated recalls and think-aloud protocols considered invaluable ways of getting participants to recall their thinking.
In Part Two, under the theme of ‘Contextual and instructional factors and applications in interaction-driven L2 learning’, Chapter 3, entitled ‘Classrooms, laboratories, and interlocutors’, examines how context plays a role in interaction. It also presents a range of views based on studies conducted in laboratory settings and in classrooms. In other words, a critical perspective is provided on how interaction occurs and which factors affect interaction in both laboratory and classroom contexts such as what learners notice in the feedback provided (learners’ noticing of feedback) and interlocutor effects.
Chapter 4, entitled ‘Tasks and the provision of learning opportunities in interaction’ deals with task-based instruction and focus-on-form instruction (FFF) and how these types of instruction can foster second language learning through interaction. In this vein, the chapter focuses on tasks and interaction and how they evolve in particular settings. As mentioned with regard to previous chapters, the discussion is guided through brief summaries of the studies conducted in this area, pointing to different types of tasks and factors that might affect interaction such as planning time and familiarity.
In Part Three, under the theme of ‘Cognitive and learner differences influencing the interaction-learning relationships’, Chapter 5, entitled ‘Learner characteristics: age and interaction-driven L2 learning’, discusses what interaction-based research says about how age and interaction affect second language learning in children and older learners. It is noteworthy that the author covers a wide body of literature on both populations, drawing attention to the need for research on older adults, especially in interaction-driven second language learning.
Chapter 6, entitled ‘Cognitive processes: the role of working memory in interaction-driven learning’, focuses on the role of working memory (WM) in interactive activities in second language classrooms and it discusses different models of WM such as Baddeley’s four-part model. Several issues emerge in the discussion such as verbal working memory and phonological short-term memory and how research links these issues to language proficiency.
In Part Four, under the theme of ‘Understanding and extending interaction research’, Chapter 7, entitled ‘Negotiation, corrective feedback, and recasts in SLA’ further extends the discussion provided in the introductory chapter and focuses on how interaction can be improved through interactional modifications, implicit and explicit feedback, recasts, error correction and how learners can structure their interlanguages.
Chapter 8, ‘Driving interaction research forward’, presents social, cognitive, and pedagogical directions for future interaction research. As Mackey suggests, questions about interaction research should be geared towards how interaction can impact second language learning, rather than whether it affects learning. Although this chapter might be seen as a conclusion, it really serves as the first step toward further research to be conducted in the interaction-driven second language learning, noting gaps in the related literature and suggesting directions.
Considering the review of a wide body of research conducted for the last two decades and the suggestions on further research provided by the author, I can safely state that the author has achieved the goals with the book, dealing thoroughly how interaction, input, and corrective feedback go hand in hand within the framework of several differences and factors in second language learning. This would definitely be not only an invaluable textbook but also a must-have reference for research students and researchers alike in interaction research and in the field of second language acquisition.
In their chapter on the “Interactionist approach” in ‘The Routledge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition’ (2012), Mackey, Abbuhl, and Gass touch on the core issues of the present book clearly but briefly, including theoretical foundations. Moreover, in the same volume, chapters on “The role of feedback” by Loewen and “Age effects in second language learning” by DeKeyser further enrich the discussions presented on how feedback and age can affect communication, interaction, and learners’ attainment in language classrooms.
To fully benefit from and to utilize what is covered in the present book, readers are urged to refer to these works as well as others like these on various issues such as how to provide feedback to learners, different perspectives on interaction, and how corrective and oral feedback is perceived by both learners and teachers: Bookhart (2008), Mackey and Polio (2009), Yoshida (2010), and Lyster, Saito, and Sato (2013).
The volume is well-structured, offering independent chapters that can be studied depending on your needs and a comprehensive review of the studies that will surely interest many in the second language acquisition world. The book actually delivers a coherent sense of the discussion related to interaction, starting very first from the theoretical foundations to meet the needs of those new to the roles of input, interaction, and feedback in L2 learning to more advanced issues such as cognitive and learner differences influencing the interaction-learning relationships, cognitive processes, and the role of working memory in interaction-driven learning.
The book has quite a few strengths beyond my power of summary. Among others, one major strength lies in the book’s organization and the overviews of the key interaction-driven studies on several important issues. The suggestions provided throughout for further research and the issues noted in each chapter are especially noteworthy since the author takes great care to present challenging ideas and studies. The book stresses the need for more research to be conducted on laboratory and classroom contexts as well as older adults especially in interaction-driven second language learning. The author draws the attention to the fact that further research should be geared towards how interaction can impact second language learning considering the factors discussed throughout the book, rather than focusing on whether interaction affects language learning or not.
I cannot help wishing that the book had been published before I completed my studies. The only thing that I would suggest for a future edition would be the inclusion of a glossary of key terms at the end of the book. Overall, this will be the first book that teachers, lecturers, researchers, and students in interaction-driven second language learning should consult for previous and current research, and ideas for further research.
Bookhart, S. M. (2008). How to give effective feedback to your students. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
DeKeyser, R. (2012). Age effects in second language learning. In S. M. Gass & A. Mackey (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 24-40). New York, NY: Routledge.
Loewen, S. (2012). The role of feedback. In S. M. Gass & A. Mackey (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 442-460). New York, NY: Routledge.
Lyster, R., Saito, K., and Sato, M. (2013). Oral corrective feedback in second language classrooms. Language Teaching, 46(1), 1-40. doi:10.1017/S0261444812000365
Mackey, A., Abbuhl, R., & Gass, S. M. (2012). Interactionist approach. In S. M. Gass & A. Mackey (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 7-23). New York, NY: Routledge.
Mackey, A., & Polio, C. (2009). (Eds.). Multiple perspectives on interaction: Second language research in honor of Susan M. Gass. New York, NY: Routledge.
Yoshida, R. (2010). How do teachers and learners perceive corrective feedback in the Japanese language classroom? The Modern Language Journal, 94, 293-314.
This review appeared originally in the LINGUIST List at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-966.html