Language Learning Roundtable*
1 September 2010 (14.30-18.30)
Interaction and second language acquisition
(University of Southern Denmark)
Simona Pekarek-Doehler (University of Neuchâtel) and Gabriele Pallotti (University of Modena and Reggio Emilia)
* The event has been made possible through a grant by the journal Language Learning
Variable Effects of Interactional Feedback as Instructional Input
This presentation will report on two studies investigating the effects of form-focused instruction delivered in tandem with different types of interactional feedback on the acquisition of grammatical gender by classroom learners of French as a second language. Participants in Study 1 were eight classes of 179 French immersion students in elementary school, while participants in Study 2 were two classes of 25 undergraduate students enrolled in a post-secondary intermediate-level French course. In both studies, classroom teachers provided form-focused instruction designed to draw attention to selected noun endings that reliably predict grammatical gender and also provided two different types of interactional feedback: either recasts or prompts. Analyses of pretest, immediate-posttest, and delayed-posttest results showed a significant increase in the ability of students in both studies exposed to form-focused instruction to correctly assign grammatical gender. In the classroom study, however, child learners in French immersion classes benefited more from prompts than recasts, whereas in the lab study, university-level adult learners benefited equally from both prompts and recasts. These results will be discussed in terms of how research setting and participants’ age interact to differentially influence the effects of different types of interactional feedback.
Interaction research: Cognitively oriented and socially informed?
In the previous twenty-five years, more than seventy empirical studies of interaction have been carried out in laboratory and classroom settings, a good number of them appearing in the journal Language Learning, which is sponsoring this round table. Recent meta-analyses of the interaction literature (Keck et al. 2006; Mackey & Goo, 2007) collectively provide empirical support for claims about the developmental efficacy of interaction. The interaction approach is dynamic, with a history of evolving in response to theoretical and methodological developments in SLA and related areas. These developments are both cognitive, in relation to recent research on the relationship between working memory, aptitude, and language learning, and social, for example, in relation to current investigations of the role of the conversational partner and context. In this presentation, I will first show some data from an experimental study of learners of Spanish, demonstrating a relationship between learners’ short term working memory scores and their tendency to modify their output following interactional feedback. This study, by Mackey, Adams, Stafford and Winke (2010) which appears in Language Learning, focuses narrowly on the cognitive aspects of interaction. I will discuss why research like this is important for our evolving understanding of interaction-driven learning. Next, I will turn to a classroom study of ESL (Mackey, 2006), which investigated whether learners learned linguistic forms that they reported noticing. I will show how learners’ introspections, used with multiple measures of noticing, and analyzed in the context of their test scores, were a critical part of the study. This research illustrates the utility of triangulating data and considering learners’ perspectives, particularly in the rich, messy context of a classroom. Finally, I will describe research investigating learners of French (Philp & Mackey, 2010), where our question was open-ended and exploratory: “To what extent do social factors impact interaction?” An extract from the interview data in this study reveals an interesting blend of the personal and the social underlying the nature of learners’ participation in interaction, including their provision and use of the types of feedback that are much investigated by researchers in this paradigm. I will conclude by arguing that to paraphrase the famous words of Kevin Gregg, we should “let all the interaction flowers bloom” in our quest to understand how second languages are learned, including the more cognitively-oriented and the more socially-informed, as well as recent attempts at blended approaches in the form of socio-cognitive interaction research.
A Holistic Approach to Task-based Interaction
This paper proposes that interaction generated by tasks has previously been very difficult to analyse because of its highly indexical nature. Task-related actions and non-verbal communication could not be related easily to talk. A technological solution to this problem is presented, using a combination of task-tracking hardware and software, video recording and transcription. This enables a holistic approach, i.e. one in which all elements of behaviour can be integrated in analysis. Micro-analyses of multimodal data are undertaken, which provide revealing insights into the processes of task-based learning. A framework for describing and analyzing task-based interaction from a holistic perspective is outlined.
Language Learning in the wild
In the paper I will describe a line of research that addresses second language learning outside of classrooms. The paper builds on the understanding that learning is pervasive. In any situation, humans experience new challenges, and new experiences sediment and add to earlier made experiences.
For language acquisition this means that classroom and everyday experiences in the second language are learning environments and can be studied as such. The paper will describe learning situations as they are created by the learners outside of classrooms and discuss ways of tracing learning progress over time.
Call for papers