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Grammar Instruction and Processing Instruction 8 th November 2010 Seminar Programme: University of Oxford Department of Education Alessandro Benati

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Presentation on theme: "Grammar Instruction and Processing Instruction 8 th November 2010 Seminar Programme: University of Oxford Department of Education Alessandro Benati"— Presentation transcript:

1 Grammar Instruction and Processing Instruction 8 th November 2010 Seminar Programme: University of Oxford Department of Education Alessandro Benati University of Greenwich, UK

2 Topics of discussion Overview on the role of instruction in SLA research Input processing Processing instruction Empirical Evidence New trends

3 Overview on the role of instruction in SLA research SLA is a research field that focuses on learners and learning rather than teachers and teaching Gass and Selinker (2008) define second language acquisition as “the study of how learners create a new language system” A sub-field within SLA research emerged ‘Instructed SLA’ Unlike general SLA research, which focuses on the learner and the development of language over time, instructed SLA focuses on the degree to which external manipulation (e.g., instruction, learner self- directed learning, input manipulation) can affect development in some way (VanPatten and Benati, 2010) One key issue in SLA is: Does instruction make a difference?

4 Overview on the role of instruction in SLA research a) Instruction is constrained Instruction cannot alter the route of acquisition (i.e., acquisition orders and developmental sequences) However, the more researchers learn about what learners do with input and how they do it, the closer they come to understanding the possibilities of instructional effects b) Instruction could be beneficial Research is investigating the conditions under which this would be so

5 Overview on the role of instruction in SLA research Since the 1990s, researchers began to seriously examine the issue of how learners interact with input asking questions such as: “Why do they skip over some things in the input?” and “What makes some features harder to process than others?” Such questions drove researchers to examine the effects not of instruction more generally but of particular kinds of instructional interventions; those that were both input oriented and meaning-based (input enhancement techniques, processing instruction and others...) It is not clear whether these more acquisition-driven approaches to instructional intervention actually affect SLA in any significant way, but it is clear that the field has shifted from the more global “Does instruction make a difference?” to the more specific: Does manipulating input make a difference?

6 Input processing Input processing is concerned on how learners initially perceive and process linguistic data In input processing, learners might encounter their first problems in dealing with the properties of the new language We must come to some understanding of what input processing looks like!! Input  Intake  Input is the language we hear or read Intake refers to the linguistic data in the input that learners attend to and hold in working memory during online comprehension.

7 Input processing Input provides the primary linguistic data How learners get linguistic data from the input? a) they are driven to get meaning while comprehending b) they have a limited capacity for processing and storing information c) they make use of certain universals of input processing but might also make use of the L1 input processor (or parser) When learners notice and process input and comprehend the message a form-meaning connection is made Form-meaning connection is the relationship between referential meaning and the way it is encoded linguistically When learners hear ‘I talked to my teacher’ and understand that ‘talked’ means that the action is in the past a form-meaning connection is made Learners cannot just notice the form. They need to comprehend the meaning that the form encodes!

8 Input processing Research (sentence interpretation tasks and eye tracking) on input processing attempts to describe: What linguistic data learners attend to during comprehension Which ones they do not attend to What grammatical roles learners assign to nouns How position in an utterance influences what gets processed

9 Input Processing Input processing is concerned with those psycholinguistic strategies and mechanisms by which learners derive intake from input Principle 1. The Primacy of Meaning Principle. Learners process input for meaning before they process it for form Sub-principle: Lexical preference principle ‘‘Yesterday I called my father’’ Principle 2. The First Noun Principle. Learners tend to process the first noun or pronoun they encounter in a sentence as the subject or agent. ‘‘The cow was kicked by the horse’’

10 Misunderstanding Input Processing is a model of SLA Input Processing discounts a role for output Input Processing is about pedagogy

11 Processing instruction We now have some idea of what learners are doing with input when they are asked to comprehend it We can begin to develop a new kind of grammar instruction-one that will guide and focus learners’ attention when they process input Traditional instruction consisting of drills in which learner output is manipulated and the instruction is divorced from meaning or communication is not an effective method for enhancing language acquisition What is needed is a new pedagogy of grammar instruction that takes as its point of departure what we know about how grammatical forms and structures are acquired This pedagogy needs to work with input

12 Processing instruction How can this approach be implemented? Present one thing at a time Keep meaning in focus Move from sentences to connected discourse Use both oral and written input Have the learner do something with the input Keep the learner’s processing strategies in mind (always address a processing problem- correcting an inappropriate processing strategy or instilling an appropriate processing strategy) Structured input activities consist of two broad types: Referential activities are those for which there is a right or wrong answer and for which the learner must rely on the targeted grammatical form to get meaning Affective structured input activities are those in which learners express an opinion, belief, or some other affective response and are engaged in processing information about the real world

13 Processing instruction Processing instruction effectively consists of two basic components: Learners are informed about a particular processing strategy that may negatively affect their picking up of a form or structure during comprehension Learners are pushed to process the form or structure during activities with structured input- input that is manipulated in particular ways to push learners to become dependent on form and structured to get meaning

14 Processing instruction Input  Intake  Developing System  Output Processing Strategies Focused Practice

15 Processing instruction Structured input activities Supplying information Binary options Ordering/ranking Selecting alternatives Matching Surveys

16 Empirical Evidence The purpose of processing instruction is to alter how learners process input and to encourage better form-meaning mapping that results in grammatically richer intake. This is turn should have a positive effect on the nature of the developing system.” (VanPatten 1996: 8) Does it work? Processing instruction compared to other treatments (traditional instruction, meaning output- based instruction…) Processing instruction compared to its components Structure-input enhanced Processing instruction measured at interpretation and production sentence and discourse-level Processing instruction immediate, medium and long-terms effects Main Findings (Lee and Benati, 2009): Sentence-level and Discourse-level Interpreting and producing Different languages Different processing principles Different forms/structures Different participants

17 New Trends Processing instruction Transfer-of-training effects ( Benati and Lee, 2008) Would learners receiving training on one type of processing strategy transfer the use of the strategy to other forms? Primary effects (train on a specific form and you measure the effects on that form) Transfer-of-training effects (train on a specific form and you measure effects on some other forms related to that form) 3 experiments Italian (25 English Native) English (26 Korean Native) French (30 English Native) English simple past (-ed-) and third person singular (-s-) French subjunctive and imperfect Italian future tense and noun/adjective agreement

18 New Trends pretesting + training + post-testing primary + secondary interpretation + production repeated measures ANOVA Time (pre-test = T1; post-test = T2) Treatment (PI vs. TI vs. C)

19 New Trends Results: As a result of Processing instruction training learners change the way they work with new language data Learners receiving Processing instruction seem to apply a particular processing strategy to another form affected by the same processing problem (English data-French data) Interpretation = PI > (TI = C) improvement = 20%-25% Production = PI > (TI = C) improvement = 10%-11%

20 New Trends Learners receiving Processing instruction seems to develop an L2 driven intuition about the way language works (Italian data) Interpretation = PI > (TI = C) improvement = 25% Production = PI > (TI = C) improvement = 8%


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