Archive for February, 2013

AUTHOR: Alison Mackey
TITLE: Input, Interaction, and Corrective Feedback in L2 Learning
SERIES TITLE: Oxford Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ferit Kilickaya, Kocaeli University

SUMMARY

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.

EVALUATION

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.

REFERENCES

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

Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) has been recently growing as a flourishing area of research and rising as an outgrowing practise in the field of second language teaching and learning. Thanks to its wide promises for language learners, such as providing them with the chance to learn anywhere and anytime , the potential benefits of using these technologies have been researched on different language skills. This study investigated how it consolidates L2 learners’ vocabulary in comparison to two other means and compared the effectiveness of supplementary vocabulary materials delivered via mobile phones (in the form of multimedia messages), on web pages and in print form. With a quasiexperimental research design,  it looked at whether there is an improvement in the post- tests and in the delayed post- tests after these treatments. The research questions were as follows:

1.What is the effect of the use of mobile phones for supporting language learners’ vocabulary acquisition?

a. Does the gain scores (the difference between post and pre- tests) in the vocabulary achievement tests differ among the three groups: mobile, web and paper-based?

b. Is there a significant difference between three groups’ (mobile, web, and paper-based) English language vocabulary retention?

The participants were 103 students attending English preparatory classes at a university in Turkey.  To compare the effectiveness of these three means, 6 groups were formed such that 18 students in the elementary level and 17 students in the pre-intermediate level composed the mobile group, 17  students in the elementary level and 17 students in the pre-intermediate level formed the two paper-based groups and 18 students in the elementary and 16 students in the pre-intermediate level formed the two web groups. The English words used in these supplementary materials were chosen from the vocabulary items in the regular classroom instruction. These materials were not used in the class but rather used to supplement the classroom activities. In all these groups, the same content was used which consisted of the definition of words, exemplary sentences, related visual representations, information on word formation and pronunciation of these words. For the web groups, a SQL database was used to register the participants into the system and track their logs. The treatment lasted for four weeks. To administer the study, a pre-test was carried out before the treatment. A post test was distributed after the treatment and it was followed by a delayed post test one month after the post test.  One Way Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to compare these six groups. The results indicated that the mobile groups in both elementary and pre-intermediate groups outperformed all the other groups not only in post- test but also in delayed post-test. The findings are striking so that they, by and large, provide promising evidence to support  the use of mobile tools in language learning  and teaching and paves the way for further research on the potential benefits of these for different language skills.

The study, I beleive, is a valuable one since it offers new perspectives concerning the language tools used in L2 classes and sheds light on new ways to improve L2 learners’ vocabulary. Considering that nearly every individual owns a mobile phone and is quite occupied with using it in their daily lives, it may be a practical way for them to use these devices to develop their language skills. The time and place constraints are also eliminated with these tools, which is also a great advantage for language learners.

References

Saran, Muran & Seferoğlu, Gölge, Supporting Foreign Language Vocabulary Learning Through Multimedia Messages via Mobile Phones. “Hacettepe University Faculty of Education Journal”, 38, (2010), p.252-266.

 

 

 

As educators, we are all teachers, researchers, learners, material developers, writers, and evaluators in educational systems; so we have different roles and sometimes we have to see who we are and what we are doing from different perspectives. This article is completely on this issue and it reminded me to evaluate my teaching style from the students’ perspective or my researching skills from a teacher’s perspective.

In this study, the findings of a project, titled “A student-teacher made teaching materials project: looking at teaching from the other side of the fence” and carried out at the Institution of English Language Education, Assumption University, Thailand, were presented in detail. The project was carried out with 11 MA students and each student conducted a demonstration lesson for their friends and the other students evaluated this demonstration lesson using a checklist. The teachers were also responsible for preparing supplementary materials for the course. The aims of the project were listed as raising the critical awareness of student-teachers concerning the classroom effectiveness of their planned activities and materials, producing a set of sample texts made by student-teachers to be modified and used for teaching writing and increasing awareness of the value of self- and team-resources when designing teaching materials in addition to published materials. After the project, the supplementary materials prepared by the participants were collected, compiled and utilized in real classroom settings.

At the end of the project, it was concluded that this kind of project which include demonstration lessons and peer evaluation helped the participants to gain insights and benefits and these were categorized in five groups as (a) experiencing both teaching and learning, (b) becoming a learning community, (c) taking risk and trying out new ideas (d) benefits from peer- and self-evaluation and (e) benefits gained from the materials development.

  • Experiencing both teaching and learning:

Many people have suggested the focus of peer observation for professional growth should be on the observer and not on the observee (p.255).

When I read this sentence, I remembered the days when I observed my students while they were teaching in practice teaching course. They presented such creative and interesting techniques and activities in some classes that I admired and used their activities in my own courses. The observers usually compare themselves with the observee and this helps them to improve their teaching strategies. In other words, the observee is like a mirror for the observer.

  • Becoming a learning community:

A learning community is an intentionally developed community that promotes, stimulates, and maximizes the group’s and group members’ learning (p.256).

It was claimed that the project encouraged the student-teachers to help each other while improving their teaching profession. This is one of the characteristics of learning communities. Helping, sharing and caring for each other are quite important terms in this kind of communities.

The project also enabled them to learn from each other, discover and value the diverse teaching ideas and expertise of their peers (p257).

While they were designing learning materials, demonstrating the lesson and participating the lesson as students, the main purpose was to improve the quality of the course. As they had a common purpose for being there, they really helped each other during the demonstration lessons. They all felt that they were members of a learning community and they really learned.

  • Taking risk and trying out new ideas: As the situation was not a real classroom setting and just a simulation of a classroom environment, the student-teachers were more courageous enough to try out new techniques and activities. The students were willing to help to the student-teacher to find out an effective teaching style. During the project, there were some situations in which the techniques failed at first but needed just a few modifications. In these cases, the students had some recommendations and this helped to design an effective course. In this kind of situations, mistakes could help to improve. Here, I really like what one of the participants stated about taking risks:

I like it here, because this project witnesses my failure and success. I still remember clearly, how sad I feel because of a lot of complaints from my first demo lesson. That kind of experience should not be forgotten;however, I also remember that excited feeling when I finish my second demo lesson successfully, this kind of experience is memorable forever! (pseudonym, Maria) (p.257).

  • Benefits from peer- and self-evaluation: Although evaluation causes a bit more threatening atmosphere, it helps both the observer and the observee. In this article, it was also mentioned that teachers usually prefer to be evaluated by their peers instead of their supervisors. Here, the participants used a checklist for the evaluation and this made the evaluation more objective and effective. Instead of just saying “it was good” or “it was poor”, the participants evaluated their peers in detail.
  • Benefits gained from the materials development: As a result of the project, the participants developed materials for a real class, English One. As they recognized that their audience was not an artificial audience and they were working for a real classroom, they were more motivated. Moreover, as they participated in demonstration lessons as students, they found the strengths and weaknesses of the materials both from a teacher’s perspective and a student’s perspective. This showed that if the teachers took parts in curriculum design, materials development and course design, the courses would be more effective.

Finally, several implications of this project were presented. First of all, this project helped the student-teachers to look at their teaching from different perspectives. They had different roles during the demonstration lessons, such as teaching, participating as a student, evaluating, developing material, etc.; and this helped them to evaluate their teaching styles from a wider perspective. Secondly, the student-teachers noticed the importance of demonstration lessons before teaching a real classroom. Although this is not always possible to rehearse for all courses, it would be very useful if we have the chance. Finally, student-teachers became aware of the fact that they could develop supplementary materials and they could modify the exercises in the published book. Their objective is not only conveying what the book says but also to design new supplementary materials.

Actually, not only in teaching but also in many situations, it is quite useful to change your perspective and your point of view in order to better see the situation. Most of the time, teachers claim that their students, administration, chairperson do not understand them; however, it would be better to look at the situation from their perspective and this would make our profession much easier and enjoyable.

Reference: 

Tan Bee Tin. 2006. Looking at teaching through multiple lenses. ELT Journal 60/3: 253-261.