Author Archive

EDITOR: Marie-Noëlle Lamy
EDITOR: Katerina Zourou
TITLE: Social Networking for Language Education
SERIES TITLE: New Language Learning and Teaching Environments
PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Ferit Kilickaya, Mehmet Akif Ersoy University

Review’s Editor: Helen Aristar-Dry

SUMMARY

Edited by Marie-Noёlle Lamy and Katerina Zourou, the volume aims to explore whether and how social networking promotes language learning. Through various chapters that focus on not only theoretical insights but also empirical data obtained from a variety of methodological approaches, the book touches upon issues such as the relationship between social networking, language learning and teaching, and how socialization in social media contributes to language education. The volume is composed of four parts, entitled ‘The Wider Ecology of Language Learning with SNS’, ‘Pedagogies and Practitioners’, ‘Learning Benefits and Challenges’, and ‘Overview’; it contains 10 chapters in total.

In Part I, ‘The wider ecology of language learning with SNS’, Chapter 1, by Jonathon Reinhardt and Hsin-I Chen, is entitled ‘An ecological analysis of social networking site-mediated identity development’ and investigates the social networking site (SNS) practices in Facebook and RenRen of a Chinese student doing her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics in the USA. Through an ecological approach and a qualitative perspective, how this participant invested in a new identity was analyzed. The results of the study indicated that the participant used Facebook and RenRen to make new friends and as a means to socialize with other students to create her own identity as a Ph.D. student. As for the socialization process, the participant developed and presented her intercultural and multilayered identities (human, friend, girlfriend, student, teacher, and cultural and community participant).

In Chapter 2, entitled ‘Architecture students’ appropriation and avatars- -relationships between avatar identity and L2 verbal participation and interaction’, the authors, Ciara R. Wigham and Thierry Chanier, analyze the verbal interactions in SecondLife and VoiceForum of architecture students learning in L2. This chapter, like the previous one, focuses on identity construction in addition to the contribution of avatar appearance and nonverbal means of communication. The participants included eight female and nine male students aged 21 to 25 years old. The data were collected from group reflective sessions, recorded screen and audio output, and pre- and post-course questionnaires, as well as text-chat logs saved from reflective sessions. The results indicated that the participants attributed great importance to the use of avatars for L2 communication and that avatar appearance changed the way they addressed each other as well as their interaction in L2, suggesting that when the participants do not rely on their first world identity, their verbal interaction increases.

Chapter 3, ‘Online reading groups and network dynamics’ by Chris Lima and Marie- Noёlle Lamy, responds to how online reading groups (ORG) relate to historical reading groups, the role of online media in this relation, the online networking features of the ORG and how these features affect English Language Teaching (ELT) teachers’ professional development. One hundred twenty-six members of the ORG site participated in the study, and the data collection instruments included the documentation stored on the website, online survey, and the short pieces of writing provided by some of the participants on their participation in the ORG. The results revealed that the traditional practices of reading groups, such as sharing ideas and reading materials, were well suited to online media and that some members extended their online activities to offline activities and vice versa. The results also indicated that SNS such as Facebook does not seem to serve ELT teachers for professional development better than traditional websites such as forums.

In Part II, under the theme of ‘‘Pedagogies and Practitioners”, Chapter 4, ‘Bridging design and language interaction and reuse in Livemocha’s culture section’, is engaged with Web 2.0 language learning communities, particularly Livemocha, focusing on the section in which users can see other members’ cultural photos and/or share their own photos, in order to explore places around the world. The authors, Katerina Zourou and Mathieu Loiseau, examine whether different designs of Livemocha’s culture section affect language interaction and try to specify technological and pedagogical designs that will lead to an active social networking site. To this end, 105 culture threads in the culture section were randomly selected, and only the data that were open to public were subject to analysis. Following the data analyses, several design suggestions were made regarding social learning and feedback, one of which proposed including feedback loops in the design to sustain new users’ activities.

In Chapter 5, ‘Profiles in social networking sites for language learning- Livemocha revisited’, Richard Harrison aims to determine the role of user profile in SNS, focusing on how it affects the interactions between learners and peer experts. In this regard, he revisits a previous study conducted by Harrison and Thomas (2009) that discussed how user profiles and identities affected language learning and points out that in Livemocha, because of the lack of users that could help others, the users were in search of ‘experts’ to help them. The participants of the study included seven students in postgraduate applied linguistics, which deals with the use of technology in language teaching and learning. The study benefited from an enthomethodological approach and focused on how users interacted in Livemoacha. The data were collected from classroom observations, discussions, and presentations. The results showed that user profiles were at the very heart of interactions as they reinforced initial relationships that fostered learning.

Chapter 6, ‘It’s not just the tool: Pedagogy for promoting collaboration and community in social networking in CMC’, brings a different perspective to the use of technological tools in collaboration. The authors, Carolin Fuchs and Bill Synder, use the SNS Google Wave in their study, whose participants include pre-service language teachers in the USA and in Taiwan; they propose that how learners use the tool beyond pedagogical tasks matters more than which tool they use. Based on action research, the study focused on the participants’ collaborative exchanges, and the data were collected from the questionnaire where the participants were asked to reflect on the tools they used and on their exchanges. According to the results obtained, the participants highly valued Google Wave as it provided them with immediate communication and the opportunity to discuss projects; however, the results revealed limited evidence of social networking, leading to the conclusion that including a SN tool into the curriculum or a course did not ensure social networking.

Part III, under the theme of ‘Learning Benefits and Challenges’, opens with Chapter 7, ‘A study of the use of social network sites for language learning by university ESL students’, which focuses on examining the online communities Busuu, Livemocha, and English Café. The authors, Min Liu, Matthew K. Evans, Elianie Horwitz, Sunjung Lee, Monica McCrory, Jeong-Bin Park and Claire Meadows Parrish, investigate how university ESL students use these SNS for language learning and their perceptions regarding their experiences. The participants included twenty-one ESL university students from 11 countries that attended an Intensive English program in a southwestern University. The data were collected from the three ESL courses in which the participants used the aforementioned sites over six weeks to perform structured learning activities in class as well as outside. The findings demonstrated that all three sites allowed the participants to communicate with others, to make friends, and to collaborate with other users. However, the participants said that the main aim of using these sites was to practice language skills, rather than only socialize.

In Chapter 8, ‘Online and offsite: Student-driven development of the Taiwan-France telecollaborative project beyond these walls’, the authors, Meei-Ling Liaw and Kathryn English, examine how groups of students in two different countries construct meaning, present themselves, and develop their relationships with each other. The participants included forty-eight English majors in Taiwan and eighteen students of engineering or management in France. These two groups of students aimed to develop their intercultural communication skills in addition to learning through text-, audio-, and video-based exchanges. The data collected included the texts published by both groups on the official website of the project and the Facebook site created by the students. The results of the study revealed distinctive differences in the two sites, the official website, and the Facebook site, regarding the participants’ attitudes. On the official website, the interaction was mostly unidirectional since the participants only posted the tasks assigned by the instructor and focused on the assignments. However, on the Facebook site, initiated by the students, the exchanges were informal and more interactive.

Chapter 9, ‘Formative assessment within social network sites for language learning’, moves the discussion to how formative assessment is conducted on SNS. The authors, Paul Gruba and Cameron Clark, reflect on their own experiences as learners in Busuu, Livemocha, and Babbel and discuss how they go through three areas “placement”, “progress”, and “interaction”. The participants included the authors as beginner learners of Spanish. The results indicated that the participants considered peer assessment unsatisfactory and unrewarding, and the assessments on these sites were rather short and were provided in a model answer. Moreover, the responses provided as feedback by other users lacked consistency.

In Part IV, under ‘Overview’, Chapter 10, ‘Social media-based language learning: Insights from research and practice’, reviews all the previous contributions of the book in terms of research (types of research, themes explored, and data collection issues) and design and pedagogy (mediation, types of networking and community building, forms of interaction, genres, formal and informal learning). The authors, Marie-Noёlle Lamy and François Mangenot, reconsider all the contributions in the aforementioned perspectives and suggest different ways to make use of social networks, such as class-based exploitation of informal practices from the social web, small-group collaborative projects, and the introduction of learners to sites that include verbal productions and genres as models.

EVALUATION

This collection is a useful textbook for postgraduate courses in foreign/second language learning as well as researchers in the field of language teaching and learning willing to analyze learner exchanges as well as learning experiences on online platforms, SNS.

The major strength of this book lies in the empirical investigations into learner experiences on SNS. We have a variety of books recently published on the use of technology in language learning and teaching (just to name a few, Thomas, 2009; Stockwell, 2012; Thomas, Reinders, & Warschauer, 2012; and very recently, Toetenela, 2014). This book builds on and extends the knowledge collected through these books and articles through data-based investigations using a variety of methods.

Each chapter in the book provides an effective overview of the issue being investigated with summaries of the points in key readings; this is followed by the study described in detailed. The studies discussed in each chapter are either researcher manipulated or naturally occurring. Moreover, the issues discussed include a variety of disciplinary resources such as sociology and educational technology, following qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

Another strength of the book is the fact that the studies presented use a variety of research methodologies. For example, Chapter 9, entitled ‘‘Formative assessment within social network sites for language learning’, benefits from an autoethnographic survey of the researchers’ own experiences on some of the SNS, which will give some researchers the courage to conduct studies using this approach as most have difficulty accessing subjects. In this regard, the book also provides ‘food for thought’ for those interested in the application of a variety of research methodologies in their current and/or future studies on the use of technology in language learning and teaching.

Regarding improvements for the future editions of the book, I suggest that the effect of SNS on learner motivation be addressed. The editors, in the introduction part, explained that they did not receive any contributions, although the call for chapters also asked potential contributors to address this issue. Another suggestion is the inclusion of a glossary at the end of the book, including the terms that are specialized or newly-introduced.

Overall, this collection is an invaluable source of empirical studies for researchers, teachers, and graduate students interested in using social networking tools in language learning and teaching. Thus, the book will be of utmost value for those in search not only of studies that will inform them about recent literature but also of empirical investigations that can be used as a model for future studies.

REFERENCES

Stockwell, G. (Ed.). (2012). Computer assisted language learning: Diversity in research and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thomas, M. (Ed.). (2009). Handbook of research on Web 2.0 and second language learning. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference.

Thomas, M., Reinders, H., & Warschauer, M. (Eds.). (2012). Contemporary computer assisted language learning. New York, NY: Continuum.

Toetenela, L. (2014). Social networking: A collaborative open educational resource. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 27(2), 149-162.

This review appeared originally in the LINGUIST List at http://linguistlist.org/issues/25/25-4901.html

EDITOR: Michael Thomas
EDITOR: Hayo Reinders
EDITOR: Mark Warschauer
TITLE: Contemporary Computer-Assisted Language Learning
SERIES TITLE: Contemporary Studies in Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Ferit Kilickaya, Mehmet Akif Ersoy University

SUMMARY

This book, edited by Michael Thomas, Hayo Reinders, and Mark Warschauer, explores the parameters of contemporary Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), focusing on different areas of CALL, how these different areas shape CALL, as well as how the latest research approaches help explore different areas. The book of composed of three parts and 19 chapters in total. Readers are provided the opportunity to read chapters independently of the other chapters as the structure of the book is organized thematically, with the parts entitled ‘The CALL Context’, ‘CALL Learning Environments’, and ‘CALL in Language Education’. 

Chapter 1, by the editors, is entitled ‘Contemporary computer-assisted language learning: The role of digital media and incremental change’, and serves as the introduction to the book, touching briefly upon the main themes of CALL, aspects of contemporary CALL, and how digital media and social CALL have evolved. This chapter supplies the foundation for the next chapters by providing a brief and effective introduction to CALL. 

In Chapter 2, ‘Historical perspectives on CALL’, the authors, Graham Davies, Sue E. K. Otto, and Bernd Rüschoff, provide a rich overview of developments in CALL and how these developments have shaped CALL during the last three decades. The authors also take into consideration the technologies available, second language acquisition, and theories of language education. In this perspective, the authors not only discuss the origin of the term ‘CALL’ with a detailed history from the 1980s to the present but also enable readers to reconsider technology and second language learning by portraying past and recent developments. 

In Chapter 3, entitled ‘Researching language learning in the age of social media’, the authors, Carla Meskill and Joy Quah, highlight the varied perspectives and approaches in CALL research used in online and social environments, focusing on the online environment and its specifications, online social and affective dimensions, as well as pedagogical processes. While presenting this review of perspectives and approaches, the authors provide a solid discussion of the current methodological approaches and techniques. 

Chapter 4, ‘Second language teacher education for CALL: An alignment of practice and theory’, deals with how teacher education for CALL can be aligned to sociocultural theory and argues that CALL training should be geared more towards an educational perspective. The authors, Gary Motteram, Diane Slaouti, and Zeynep Onat-Stelma, provide a concise review of the field of teacher education, and highlight how sociocultural theory can contribute to teacher education for CALL through a study that explores the practices of adult teachers of languages using technology in General English, TOEFL, and TOEIC exam classes. 

In Chapter 5, ‘Research on computers in language testing: Past, present and future’, the author, James Dean Brown, focuses on the role of computers in language testing. He examines the developments in computer-based language testing, considering trends, developments and directions in both the past and the future, with particular emphasis on current practices such as testing vocabulary, speaking or oral skills, writing, listening and reading. 

Chapter 6, entitled ‘Materials design in CALL: Social presence in online environments’, discusses how material design and the choice of tasks can affect social presence in online environments integrated into CALL, CMC-based teacher education, and learner participation in online interaction. The authors, Mirjam Hauck and Sylvia Warnecke, examine the findings of a study involving a tutor training class in teaching English for Academic Purposes, making use of the Community Indicators Framework by Galley et al. (2011), which includes four broad aspects related to participants’ online presence: participation, cohesion, identity, and creative capability. 

In Part II, under the theme of ‘CALL Learning Environments’, Chapter 7, ‘Telecollaboration and CALL’, examines online communication tools that bring students of different countries together overcoming geographical restrictions. The author, Robert O’Dowd, provides a critical review of the models and configurations of online communication and exchange in foreign language classrooms. He suggests that we should reconsider the role of telecollaboration in formal education and current classroom practices with respect to several factors such as observable and assessable student activity, tasks that can be integrated into classroom interaction, as well as the advantages of telecollaborative activity. 

In Chapter 8, ‘Distance CALL online’, Marie-Noëlle Lamy discusses the diverse nature of distance CALL and highlights the fact that it can be delivered in various forms such as online and in a blended approach. Taking the flexibility of distance CALL into consideration and building around a learning design approach, the author provides an integrated model of distance language learning. 

In Chapter 9, ‘Language learning in virtual worlds: Research and practice’, Randall Sadler and Melinda Dooly bring a different perspective to social presence (cf. Chapter 6) and discuss the opportunities that virtual worlds provide to language learners. The authors provide an overview of the research on and development of virtual worlds followed by a discussion of language and content learning. They draw on their research projects on the use of virtual worlds that provide children the opportunity to observe, interact, and explore by using a virtual art gallery. 

In Chapter 10, ‘Digital games and language learning’, Chun Lai, Ruhui Ni, and Yong Zhao move the discussion to a very interesting and attractive perspective in CALL: digital games. The authors review current developments in digital games, examine pedagogical issues in several commercial games, and discuss what the future holds for digital game-based language learning. They focus on the balance between playing games and maximizing learning through these games. 

In Chapter 11, ‘Mobile-assisted language learning’, Glenn Stockwell discusses the role of mobile technologies in language learning. It is widely acknowledged that distance language learning and CALL have taken one step further with innovations such as mobile devices. In this chapter, the author reviews how mobile devices affect language learning, advantages of using mobile devices, and issues of concern that need to be taken into consideration while utilizing mobile devices such as MP3 players, PDAs, and mobile phones. 

Dafne Gonzalez and Rubena St. Louis deal with an important issue in CALL in Chapter 12, ‘CALL in low-tech contexts’: technology-limited contexts and how to overcome these limitations. The authors enrich the discussion on low-tech environments through the findings of a survey conducted in several countries where technology is not widely available, reflecting their use of CALL in their own contexts. The findings indicate that slow internet access proves to be an obstacle that can be overcome by doing activities that do not require fast internet access such as creating blogs and sending emails, and by helping teachers in technology-limited contexts to gain experience through online communities and special interest groups. 

Part III is ‘CALL in language education’. Chapter 13, ‘Intelligent CALL’, is engaged with the contribution of artificial intelligence to CALL, focusing on resources for both language learning and researchers. The authors, Mathias Schulze and Trude Heift, frame their discussion on Intelligent CALL within second language acquisition, taking interaction and noticing (that is, consciously registering the input) into consideration. The authors also enrich their discussion by providing resources for researchers, focusing on learner and reference corpora. 

In Chapter 14, ‘Technology-enhanced reading environments’, Youngmin Park, Binbin Zheng, Joshua Lawrence, and Mark Warschauer present an overview of reading supported by digital media such as visual-syntactic text formatting and blogging. The first part of the discussion is allocated to major components of reading such as word decoding and language comprehension, leading to a summary of research on computer-assisted reading in each component, while the second part focuses on the use of digital materials/technologies that enrich second language reading. 

Chapter 15, ‘The role of technology in teaching and researching writing’, deals with writing and the available technological tools. The authors, Volker Hegelheimer and Jooyoung Lee, summarize various technological developments and tools such as automated essay evaluation and online environments for collaborative writing that inform teaching second language writing, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these technological tools. 

In Chapter 16, ‘CALL and less commonly taught languages’, Richard M. Robin examines the impact of the latest technologies, particularly web-based tools, on the less commonly taught languages. He considers specific features of these languages and the tools available in the Web 2.0 environment such as Google translator, Google as a corpus and concordance, as well as the courses available in distance and hybrid environments. 

Chapter 17, entitled ‘CALL and digital feedback’, looks at the issue of providing feedback in the language classroom. The authors, Paige Ware and Greg Kessler, examine the feedback provided in synchronous and asynchronous environments and critically analyze the three dimensions of digital feedback, namely, modes of feedback delivery, focus of feedback provided, and strategies for delivering feedback on the skills of writing and speaking. 

In Chapter 18, ‘Task-based language teaching and CALL’, Michael Thomas provides a brief overview of the relationship between CALL and task-based language teaching and how they inform each other, reporting on the results of a case study that was conducted with Japanese learners of English. The author questions previous research findings indicating that Asian English language learners are found to be resistant to interactive learning environments and draws attention to the importance of proficiency in activities within a task-based approach. 

Chapter 19, ‘CALL and learner autonomy: Affordances and constraints’, is concerned with the importance of the role of learner autonomy in language learning and teaching. The authors, Hayo Reinders and Philip Hubbard, provide a quick but efficient review of their topic, analyze the potential limitations of technology on the development of learner autonomy, and discuss possible ways to overcome these limitations: providing appropriate training, selecting appropriate materials, encouraging peer interaction and collaborations, and enhancing learners’ cognitive, social, and affective strategies. 

EVALUATION

The major strength of the book lies in the state-of-the-art discussions on important issues in CALL. These discussions not only remind us of past developments but also link these developments to current practices in the CALL world, providing a good sense of the relationship of CALL to second language learning teaching and learning. The chapters introduce a literature review of previous studies as well as current trends, combining theory and practice, which will be beneficial as supplementary reading to graduate students as well as to scholars interested in any aspect of CALL research. The references provided at the end of each chapter also provide the readers with the opportunity to further their knowledge. 

The chapters are organized thematically, starting by setting the context for CALL research and its history and then moving to more advanced issues such as telecollaboration and CALL, and CALL and learner autonomy. Almost all chapters consider current research practices in both low- and high-tech environments around the world, and will lead researchers in this field to reconsider their perspectives on issues such as providing digital feedback and learner autonomy. The only thing that might be suggested would be the inclusion of a chapter at the end of the book, outlining and combining what has been explored and suggested in previous chapters. 

Overall, the book proves to be invaluable reading for anyone interested in keeping up with current developments in the field of CALL. Although the title of the volume does not include the word “handbook” or imply that it is a handbook, I would claim that the volume serves the role and aim of similar handbooks which are available. Thus, the book will be of utmost value for researchers and graduate students alike to figure out how technology and specific techniques and strategies should be employed to best serve students’ needs in language learning. The volume is surely one of the most important and useful books available on the market.

This review appeared originally in the LINGUIST List at http://linguistlist.org/issues/25/25-940.html

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

AUTHOR: Keith Richards, Steven John Ross, and Paul Seedhouse

TITLE: Research Methods for Applied Language Studies
SUBTITLE: An Advanced Resource Book for Students
SERIES TITLE: Routledge Applied Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2011

SUMMARY

This book is one of the series of comprehensive textbooks, Routledge Applied Linguistics. It provides readers a step-by-step approach to the processes of research, from research questions to a complete research project, serving as are source text for students and scholars in the field of second and foreign  language learning. The book comprises eight chapters, each followed by  exploration tasks to help the reader better comprehend and apply the knowledge  and practice presented.

In Chapter 1, ‘Introduction to research in language teaching and learning’, the authors, after introducing the aim and the focus of the book, provide an overview of research and what phases it involves. The authors present a research design flow chart summarizing the processes of research, and go through these processes in turn: The research questions, how they relate to the literature, the justification for doing the research, the evidence to provide an answer to research questions, type of data, better methods of collecting data, choosing appropriate methodology, writing research proposals, getting permissions and ethical approval, data collection, analysis and relating these to the research
questions, and finally, writing up an article, dissertation, or thesis. Following the discussion of these processes, quantitative and qualitative approaches are explained in detail, with a focus on ethnographic research and
conversation analysis.

Chapter 2, entitled ‘Interaction and pedagogy’, highlights two pivotal concepts in second language (SL) classrooms: spoken interaction and pedagogical action. Noticing and repair, the two important concepts in interaction analyses,
are discussed taking into consideration the research design and findings of two prominent articles in SL research. Moreover, through using SPSS data provided the readers are guided through a test of independence conducted between ‘noticing’ and interrogative ‘development’.

In Chapter 3, ‘The classroom as a language learning environment’, the distinction between two basic approaches to research, descriptive and hypothetical-deductive, are investigated. The first part of the chapter specifically examines ethnographic observation, going into details of grounded theory and thematic analysis. The examination is enriched with several excerpts from articles published on these issues. The second part discusses intervention studies, focusing on an exemplary article discussing the impact of task-based practice on the students’ development of automaticity. The chapter ends by providing an application of t-test in a study related to vocabulary learning.

Chapter 4, entitled ‘Affect and belief in language learning’, deals with interviews and surveys. The first part focuses on types of interviews and how interviews can be conducted, discussed in detail and step-by-step analysis. The reader, as in previous chapters, is guided through exemplary articles benefiting from interviews and self-ratings as data collection instruments and statistical analyses such as multiple regression and Rasch.

Chapter 5, ‘Language learning tasks’, highlights task-based learning in pedagogy and research in SLA (Second Language Acquisition) and exemplifies how ‘tasks’ are integrated into the research process in the excerpts from two articles provided in the chapter. Discussions are enhanced with statistical analyses through ANOVA and ANCOVA.

Chapter 6, entitled ‘Interaction, context and identity’, discusses the use of qualitative approaches such as Conversation Analysis and ethnography in describing and analyzing the relationship between context and identity in spoken interaction.

Chapter 7, ‘Assessing language and accessing constructs’, discusses the constructs in language learning such as fluency, motivation and teachability, and pays special attention to implicit and explicit knowledge, and proficiency through excerpts of several articles published on these constructs. The discussion of these issues is accompanied by statistical analyses through Factor analysis and Bivariate correlation analysis, explaining each step involved.

Chapter 8, entitled ‘Mixed-methods studies and complexity’, is the concluding chapter of the book, combining the methodologies in a mixed-methods approach to analyze complex systems. After examining the characteristics of a complexity theory approach within research in language learning and teaching, the chapter elaborates on how different methods can be combined, suggesting three possibilities: Discourse analysis and corpus linguistics, SLA and corpus
linguistics, SLA and conversation analysis. The chapter further considers conceptual issues: reliability, validity (internal, external, ecological, and construct), epistemology and ontology.

EVALUATION

This would be a useful textbook for postgraduate courses in foreign/second language learning. The book will provide graduate students majoring in Applied Linguistics with an opportunity not only to analyze but also to evaluate research articles written by leading researchers in the field. The major strength of this book lies in the use of key readings published on the core areas of applied linguistics, together with key questions and tasks that combine
the pivotal concepts. The exercises and tasks provided makes this book unique as the readers have the opportunity to apply what they have acquired to proposed questions, coming up with their own reflections.

We have a variety of books recently published on research in foreign/second language learning (Mackey & Gass, 2005; McKay, 2006; Larson-Hall, 2010; Porte, 2010; Mackey & Gass, 2012). The structure of the current book is very different
from the books published by Mackey & Gass (2005) and McKay (2006). This book does not follow a linear structure focusing successively on issues in research such as data collection measures, quantitative and qualitative studies, etc. It
deals instead with the core issues in applied linguistics, and discusses research design taking these issues into consideration (excluding Chapter 1, which aims to provide a very clear and brief introduction to the steps,
summarizing the processes of research). This non-linear approach, if correct to label it this way, can be a little problematic for students used to following a linear approach. For instance, in Chapter 2, a test of independence is conducted and the readers are guided through the analysis conducted on ‘noticing’ and ‘interrogative development’, while Chapter 3 is devoted to discussion of ethnographic observation, going into details of grounded theory and thematic analysis, together with an application of t-tests in research conducted on vocabulary learning.

The analyses conducted using SPSS present screen shots of SPSS to guide the reader; however, there is no information provided on how to present the results in a scholarly way. This lack of information on presenting the results from statistical analyses persists in the following chapters, such as in Chapter 5, focusing on analyses conducted through ANOVA and ANCOVA. The readers can compensate for this through reading Chapter 13 (pp. 245-274) of the book edited by Mackey and Gas (2012), which provides example reports of the analyses conducted.

The reviewer suggests that the authors of the current book should include information on how to choose the appropriate measurement test, especially for quantitative studies, which would further enrich the book (such as the flow chart provided by Porte (2010), on pages 292-293, reprinted from Hatch and Lazaraton (1991)). As it is clearly stated that the target audience is upper undergraduates, postgraduates, teachers and researchers in the field of language learning, the book is more suitable to be used in classes where students have taken research courses on social sciences and language related issues. In order to fully benefit from the key readings and concepts, tasks and practice provided by the current book, this reviewer suggests that the readers refer to the statistical analyses provided by Larson-Hall (2010) and Pallant (2010), which present a simple, step-by-step guide to data analysis process using SPSS without focusing on the  mathematical underpinnings and to conversation analysis discussed by Liddicoat (2007).

Overall, this book provides readers an advanced introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methods frequently used in research projects as well as in articles published within the field of second and foreign language learning. It is a well-structured book, offering clear discussion and explanation powered by tasks on key articles in the field and follow-up questions for anyone, not just students, interested in language related issues.

REFERENCES

Hatch, E. and Lazaraton, A. (1991). The research manual: Design and statistics for applied linguistics. New York: Newbury House Publishers.

Mackey, A. and Gass, S. M. (Eds.). (2012). Research methods in second language acquisition: A practical guide. Wiley-Blackwell. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Mackey, A. and Gass, S. M. (2005). Second language research: Methodology and design. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

McKay, S. L. (2006). Researching second language classrooms. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Larson-Hall, J. (2010). A guide to doing statistics in second language research using SPSS. New York: Routledge.

Liddicoat, A. (2007). An introduction to conversation analysis. New York: Continuum.

Pallant, J. (2010). SPSS Survival Manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using SPSS (4th ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Porte, G. K. (2010). Appraising research in second language learning: A practical approach to critical analysis of quantitative research (2nd ed.). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

This review appeared originally in the LINGUIST List at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-3069.html

Sun (2012) examined how speaking practice through voice blogs would have an effect on college students’ speaking performance and investigated the participants’ perceived gains in speaking. The participants were 46 college students (15 females and 31 males) in Taiwan, studying English as a FL with an average of 9 years. Two research questions were addressed in the study (p. 496):

  1. Does extensive speaking practice via voice blogs improve learners’ speaking performance?
  2. What are learners’ perceived gains in speaking skills after extensive speaking practice via voice blogs?

In order to address the first research question, the participants’ oral performances in their blog entries were compared through a quasi-experimental research design. To investigate the second research question, following the speaking practice conducted through voice blogs, a survey including seven Likert-type items was administered to the participants.

The English class the participants attended aimed to improve their oral and public presentation skills and was conducted for 18 weeks. During that time, as an out-of-class activity, the participants were asked to provide 30 entries in their voice blogs as well as 10 responses as reactions or replies to their classmates’ voice messages. The participants decided for themselves while providing their entries on their blogs. That is, the teacher did not provide a strict requirement for the participants to follow. Moreover, grammatical accuracy was not stressed by the teacher. The first and the last three voice blog entries provided by the participants were subject to content analysis. Two raters analyzed the entries in terms of fluency, pronunciation, accuracy, and complexity.

The results showed that 76% of the participants believed that their oral proficiency was improved through providing entries on their voice blogs (Mean =3.89, SD =0.75), which means that they showed positive attitudes towards the use of voice blogs and agreed that voice blogs had positive effects on their speaking skills. However, these perceived improvements were not supported by the analysis of their blog entries. The content analysis comparing the participants’ first and last three voice entries indicated that there was not any difference regarding accuracy, pronunciation, and complexity prevailing in these entries. As also indicated by the author, this may be attributed to the fact that as students were free on deciding what and how to say, they may not have paid attention to accuracy, pronunciation or complexity. In other words, this out-of-class activity provided them to express themselves freely without caring about what was generally taken into considering in a classroom. The author did not provide any details on whether these activities were graded or evaluated; however, as far as I understand, these activities did not count towards their course grade. As such, this might also account for the fact that the perceived positive attitudes or gains in their speaking skills were not reflected in their entries. As stressed by the author,

…. the insignificant improvement in speaking skills in the study may be due to the fact that development of speaking skills might take more practice and longer time than the development of writing skills in an EFL context. Future research employing longitudinal study could shed new light in this regard (p. 501).

References

Sun, Y. (2012). Examining the effectiveness of extensive speaking practice via voice blogs in a foreign language learning context. CALICO Journal, 29(3), 494-506.

“Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”  Dewey (1916)

Dewey stressed the importance of the quality of mental process; in other words, how thinking is evolved is considered more important than providing correct answers.  I do think that today’s instructors are well aware of the quality of mental process. However, since there are several reasons such as  the nationwide examinations which are commonly used as gatekeepers to admission to colleges, and the expectations of stakeholders, parents and students, instructors are forced to focus on the production of correct answers.

Leung and Andrews reports the findings of the study which they conducted on the role of textbooks in a high-stake assessment reform: School Based Assessment (SBA) as part of the 2007 Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination in English Language (HKCEE). The SBA reform, if briefly stated, aimed at involving students’ own teachers as both facilitators and assessors in all stages of the assessment of their students’ English, which contributed to 15 per cent of the students’ final English score in the HKCEE. As stated by the authors, this reform challenged the teachers who were used to teaching to the test. The overall aim of the study was to investigate to what extent SBA textbooks changed the way the teachers teach and use materials in their classrooms.

Four popular SBA textbooks were analyzed, including materials such as the CD-ROMS accompanying these books.  As a data-collection instrument, a teacher questionnaire with six-point Likert scale items and open-ended questions was developed and administered to 185 teachers working at Hong Kong secondary schools. These teachers were all trained in SBA.  Of the questionnaires, 93 were analyzed since some of the teachers responded that they did not any experience of teaching SBA.

The analysis conducted on the four SBA textbooks indicated that only two of them provided activities to improve students’ speaking skills, while the other two books served as a guideline to how to select suitable materials instead of providing oral activities although speaking skill is evaluated in SBA. The responses provided to the items on the questionnaire revealed that teachers did not rely on heavily on SBA textbooks as they were involved in SBA duties in their schools, and SBA encouraged them to be better evaluators of the materials and the practices involved in assessment. The responses provided to the open-ended questions indicated that the majority of the teachers developed materials for their students so that their needs and interests were also covered in the materials.

The major finding of the study regarding the discussion of SBA and a high-stake language examination is, I think, that when teachers are involved in the assessment of their students’ language proficiency, and when they become a part of it, teachers’ are more willing to contribute to assessment practices through developing materials and becoming less reliant on the textbooks. However, a word of caution is due here. Since as in this study, teachers were both facilitators and assessors, and their assessment of their students’ proficiency contributed to 15 per cent of the students’ final English score, some reliability issues may arise.

References

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. The Macmillan Company . Retrieved from http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/Projects/digitexts/dewey/d_e/chapter13.html

Leung, C. Y., & Andrews, S. (2012). The mediating role of textbooks in high-stakes assessment reform. ELT Journal, 66(3), 356-365.

Listening is one of the most pivotal skills that language learners need to improve, and thanks to technological tools such as MP3/4 players, websites such as YouTube, and companies producing language learning software such as TELLMEMORE, language learners as well as teachers have almost no difficulty in accessing listening materials, whether authentic or created for language learning purposes. Today’s teachers and students, with no doubt, are luckier than the ones in the past when it comes to listening, not to mention reading and other skills.

Research on language learners’ listening skill in L2 has looked into various aspects of listening such as speed of delivery, note-taking, and background knowledge. East and King (2012), in their article, investigates whether slowing down the tempo of IELTS-type listening materials will have any effect on the participants’ performance on the tasks given and their perceptions regarding the difficulty of these tasks. With this aim in mind,

The authors worked with 120 intermediate-level (B1 level on the Common European Framework) English language learners in New Zealand. The participants were divided into four groups considering the results of initial listening test based on the published materials of the IELTS examination and delivered once at normal speed:

a) normal speed (control group)

b) tempo reduced by 15%

c) tempo reduced by 22.5%

d) tempo reduced by 30%.

The same listening test materials were used in all these four groups. The independent variable was the speed of delivery and the dependent variable was the scores that each group had at the end of the test. In the control group, no change has been made to the speed; however, in the other groups, the listening materials were slowed down by using Audacity. The participants were also asked to provide responses to the questionnaire on the speed and the test difficult of the listening materials.

The results showed that all the experimental groups performed significantly better than the control group. However, there was no difference among the experimental groups. In other words, slowing the speed of the listening materials did affect the performance, but the degree of slowing speed (-15%, 22.5%, -30%) did not lead to any significant difference in performance. Moreover, the responses provided to the questionnaire showed that the participants in the experimental groups perceived the test less difficult. As stated by the authors, the study provided contradictory results regarding the review of the studies discussed in the literature review of the article and indicated that the speed of a listening test greatly influenced the test results and the participants’ perceptions.

I thought as much when I read the results since my own experience and the discussions that I hold with my students clearly show that although the level of the students and their listening habits play a great role in their performance on this kind of test, the speed of delivery of any listening material will naturally affect their performance. However, as also mentioned in the article, there remains a question: Since high stakes language exams such as TOEFL and IELTS include authentic listening materials; that is, speed of delivery is by no way slowed down or changed, will it be a good strategy to expose our students to listening materials whose speed or tempo is slowed down? For beginner students, the answer will most probably be ‘yes’, but what about students of higher levels?

By the way, I have included some links to popular websites that aim to provide learners of English with ample practice in listening.

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/

http://www.elllo.org/

http://www.esl-lab.com/

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/programindex.html

http://www.eslvideo.com/ For those who are willing to create quizzes using YouTube Videos.

References

East, M., & King, C. (2012). L2 learners’ engagement with high stakes listening tests: Does technology have a beneficial role to play? CALICO Journal, 29(2), 208-223.