Scholarly article on topic 'The Effect of Incidental Focus on Form and Scaffolding on SL Learners’ Accuracy'

The Effect of Incidental Focus on Form and Scaffolding on SL Learners’ Accuracy Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Hassan Asadollahfam, Davud Kuhi, Asghar Salimi, Shirin Mirzaei

Abstract One of the central issues in SLA which has recently attracted the attention of SLA researchers is the type of feedback and their effectiveness on improving EFL learners’ accuracy. There have been lots of studies done on the topic to date investigating the effectiveness of different types of feedback on EFL learners’ language development. However, there has rarely been a study investigating the two types of implicit focus on form in the form of repetition and clarification request in the form of negotiated feedback on L2 learners’ accuracy. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of these two these two types on 36 elementary male learners studying English at Iran National Language Institution, Miyandoab Branch. These participants received one term of instruction (17 sessions). One group received scaffolding negotiated feedback while the other group received implicit focus on form on their erroneous utterances. A post-test and a delayed post-test were administered to collect data. T-test was used to analyse the data. The findings of the study proved no significant difference between two types of feedback and L2 learners’ accuracy. However, in delayed post-test, the participants receiving negotiated scaffolding treatment outperformed the implicit group. This study carries significant implications for SLA researchers as well as syllabus designers.

Academic research paper on topic "The Effect of Incidental Focus on Form and Scaffolding on SL Learners’ Accuracy"

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Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

ELSEVIER Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 46 (2012) 663 - 671

WCES 2012

The effect of incidental focus on form and scaffolding on SL

learners' accuracy

Hassan Asadollahfama *, Davud Kuhi b, Asghar Salimi c , Shirin Mirzaei d

aIslamic Azad University, Bonab Branch, Bonab, East Azerbaijan, Iran bIslamic Azad University, Maragheh Branch, Maragheh,East Azerbaijan, Iran c Payam Nour Universsity, Shahindej Branch, Shahindej, West Azerbaijan, Iran dIslamic Azad University, Maragheh Branch, Maragheh, East Azerbaijan, Iran

Abstract

One of the central issues in SLA which has recently attracted the attention of SLA researchers is the type of feedback and their effectiveness on improving EFL learners' accuracy. There have been lots of studies do ne on the topic to date investigating the effectiveness of different types of feedback on EFL learners' language development. However, there has rarely been a study investigating the two types of implicit focus on form in the form of repetition and clarification request in the form of negotiated feedback on L2 learners' accuracy. The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of these two these two types on 36 elementary male learners studying English at Iran National Language Institution, Miyandoab Branch. These participants received one term of instruction (17 sessions). One group received scaffolding negotiated feedback while the other group received implicit focus on form on their erroneous utterances. A post-test and a delayed post-test were administered to collect data. T-test was used to analyse the data. The findings of the study proved no significant difference between two types of feedback and L2 learners' accuracy. However, in delayed post-test, the participants receiving negotiated scaffolding treatment outperformed the implicit group. This study carries significant implications for SLA researchers as well as syllabus designers.

© 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu Keywords: Incidental focus on form, scaffolding, accuracy, feedback, sociocultural theory

1. Introduction

Corrective feedback supplied by teacher and to a lesser degree by students has attracted considerable attention from researchers (Ellis 2003, 2008; Mitchell & Myles, 2004; Long & Doughty, 2005). The theoretical motivation for this interest lies in the claim that L2 learning (unlike L1acquisition) requires negative evidence as well as positive evidence. Further, theoretical supports for the role of corrective feedback can be found in Schmidt's (1994) claim about the importance of noticing and noticing the gap in L2 acquisition. Corrective feedback may help learners to notice linguistic forms that the learners might otherwise ignore and to identify how their utterances differ from the linguistic norms of the language.

Swain's claims about noticing within the Output Hypothesis draw on the work from (Schmidt, 1990; Schmidt & Frata, 1986) who claims that learners need to notice a form before they can acquire it. Noticing can take place when learners in the process of generating output perceive that they do not know how to express their intended meaning.

* Hassan Asadollahfam. Tel.: +0098-914-176-3275 E-mail address: Asadollahfam@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer review under responsibility of Prof. Dr. Huseyin Uzunboylu doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.05.179

A specific aspect of noticing, noticing the gap, occurs when learners receive corrective feedback and notice that it differs from their original output.

Built on the current understanding of Sociocultural Theory (Lantolf,2000) which believes in the social, dialogic, and interactive nature of learning in which the interaction between novice and expert would lead to movement of the learner from actual to potential development created by scaffolding, the study aims to consider the effects of scaffolding on L2 performance and construct a theoretical framework of how these issues impact on L2 performance and promote L2 grammatical acquisition and accuracy. It is hypothesized that interactional feedback provided by scaffolding would lead to more accuracy.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Focus on form background

One of the important aims in TBLT is to consider how learner's focus on formal aspects can be elicited despite engaging in meaning-focused activities. "Focus on form often consists of an occasional shift of attention to linguistic code features by the teacher or one or more students triggered by perceived problem with comprehension or production" (Long & Robinson, 1998:23). There is a considerable body of research on the focus-on-form model constructed by Long (1991) and Schmidt (2000, 2004). Long (1991) defines focus-on-form as overtly drawing learner's attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication. Although it is not necessarily an essential component in other focus-on-form definitions (e.g., Ellis, 2001; Doughty & Williams, 1998), a key to Long's original theorization is its incidental nature, considering learner's built-in syllabus and its conformity to their psycholinguistic readiness to acquire L2.

2.2.1. Incidental focus on form

In incidental focus on form, the focus of attention is given to linguistic problems as they occur continuously in the course of instruction and have not been explicitly chosen for teaching. In incidental focus on form, unfocused communicative tasks are used and designed to elicit general patterns of the language rather than specific forms (Ellis, Basturkman & Loewen, 2002). Incidental focus on form is considered to be a possible way to gain an integration of meaning focused on form - focused activities in the second language (L2) classroom (Ellis, 2001).

2. 2. Scaffolding background

The famous sociocultural theory (SCT) which is grounded on the work of Lev Vygotsky (1978), a Russian psychologist, is a theory of the development of higher functions which establishes strong connections between culture, language, and cognition. Some educators highlight the uniqueness of socio- cultural theory in contrast to the prominent conceptualizations of L2 learning, because those approaches do not address directly the interactive, reciprocal, and dynamic features of language. According to Wood et al. (1976 in Ellis, 2003) scaffolding assistance has these functions:

Recruiting interest in the task, simplifying the task, maintaining the pursuit of the goal, marking critical features and discrepancies between what has produced, and the ideal solution, controlling frustration during problem solving, demonstrating an idealized version of the act to be performed.

2.3. Focus on form studies

Focus on form has received considerable attention of recent studies (Doughty & Williams, 1998; Ellis et al., 2001; Long & Robinson, 1998; Lyster, 1998; Lyster & Ranta, 1997), as researchers and theorists have attempted for an integration of meaning-focused and form-focused instruction in the L2 classroom (Ellis, 2001; Hulistijn, 1995; Losckhy &Bley Vromn, 1993; Skehan, 1998). According to Long (1997, 1996) one type of form-focused instruction is a focus on forms consisting of pre-planned attempts to describe discrete linguistic items. Additionally, another

type of form-focused instruction is focus on form, which integrates with meaning-focused instruction. A look at recent research in the area of second language acquisition reveals that focus on form instruction has been empirically evaluated using a variety of methodologies. In this section, a number of studies are presented indicating the priority of attention to explicit and implicit focus on form. Several empirical studies have found that the provision of explicit information is more effective to second language acquisition (Alanen, 1995; Carrol & Swain, 1993; de Graaff, 1997; Dekeyser, 1995; Ellis, 1993; Nagata, 1993; Robinson, 1996, 1997; Rosa, 1999). Other studies conducted by (Rosa & O'Neill, 1999; Van Patten & Oikkenon, 1996) present evidence that explicit information does not necessarily play a facilitative role for SLA.

2.4. Scaffolding studies

During the past several decades, there has been a great deal of research on how to develop student's knowledge and provide opportunities to make them proficient. An outcome of this research is a literature that stresses the need for teachers to provide extra opportunities for students by using some scaffolding strategies and, importantly, having responsibility for selecting and using appropriate strategies, guiding students' practices to enable them to be skillful learners.

Luria (1982) conducted a series of studies in which she showed how language is used to function as a means for children to mediate their own physical behavior. In this research, children were instructed to press a bulb whenever they saw a green light come on in the apparatus set before them and to stop pressing the bulb when a red light came on. Very young children were not only unable to follow the instruction, but in fact, tended to press more power when the red light turned on. Older children were able to perform the task appropriately but only under verbal direction of someone else, who cued them to press or stop pressing (the same verbal regulation produced no effect in the youngest children). Still, older children were able to regulate their own pressing behavior by externally telling themselves when to press and when not to. Finally, the oldest group of children participating in the study had internalized the meditational means afforded by language in this case and thus was able to regulate their own pressing behavior appropriately in the absence of externalized verbal utterances. In this way, Luria was able to show how language comes to play a central role in inhibiting and starting behavior-essential aspects of planning. Day & Cordon (1993) have compared 'scaffolded' and 'non-scaffolded' instruction mid showed that scaffolded instruction resulted in faster and better maintenance of learning. They took measures of individual differences such as impulsivity, achievement orientation and verbal intelligence within the experimental groups of American third grade students and showed that such discrepancies played a greater role in predicting learning success for the children who did not receive the scaffolded instruction (Stone, 1998).Drawing on sociocultural theory, Donato (1994) proposed that when L2 learners of French had the opportunity to 'scaffold' knowledge for each other they were prepared to be able to use this knowledge in unfamiliar situations. This study supported the Vygotskyian idea that learning involves a development from the interpersonal to the intrapersonal. Aljaafreh & Lantolf (1994) examined a pioneering research. In this longitudinal study, the subjects were adult learners, with English as a second language, receiving one-to-one feedback from a language teacher on weekly writing exercises. Every week, the students were asked to recasts-read their own writing and tried to identify their own errors without the teachers' help. Then the teacher and student worked together on the given assignment sentence by sentence. After identifying an error, the teacher decided to scaffold the learner to correct it. "The idea is to offer enough assistance to encourage and guide the learner to participate in the activity and assume increased responsibility for arriving at the appropriate performance" (Aljaafreh & Lantolf, 1994, p.469).

2.5 Gap

This study focused on studies that compared the effect of implicit and negotiated corrective feedback through scaffolding on L2 learners' grammatical acquisition. A number of studies have investigated separately either implicit focus on form or interactional feedback which facilitates acquisition. Long (2006), Ellis & Sheen (2008) provided reviews of the research on recast studies. In general, the recast studies demonstrated that implicit feedback of this kind can have a beneficial effect on acquisition, especially when the recasts are more explicit in nature (Doughty & Varela, 1998). Other studies have proved that explicit feedback is of value. As Ellis et al., (2009) argue it is not easy to come to clear conclusions about the results of these studies. However, Nassaji (2009), Nassaji & Swain (2000), and Mackey et al., (2002) argue that negotiated feedbacks are much more effective in developing second language

learners' accuracy. There are a number of factors that might explain the reason for these discrepancies among researchers' ideas toward the effectiveness of different kinds of corrective feedback. Given the substantial differences in the purposes and designs of the studies done in this regard, care needs to be taken in any attempt to generalize the findings. In order to contribute to the literature available on the topic and practice in language classes, the present study set out to investigate what type of corrective feedback with young adult learners might be the most effective in terms of the accuracy of young adult L2 learners' grammatical knowledge.

3. Research

On the basis of the above literature review the following research questions and hypotheses are addressed in this study:

RQ1: What is the effect of implicit focus on form on L2 learner's accuracy in EFL context? RQ2: What is the effect of scaffolding on L2 learner's accuracy in EFL context? Null hypothesis 1: Implicit focus on form will not affect L2 learner's accuracy in EFL context. Null hypothesis 2: Scaffolding will not affect L2 learner's accuracy in EFL context.

Alternative hypothesis1: There is a significant difference between type of feedback (scaffolding and F-O-F) on L2 learner's accuracy.

Alternative hypothesis2: EFL learners receiving scaffolding will outperform those learners who receive implicit focus-on-form.

3.1. Participants

To accomplish the objectives of this study, 36 male young adult of affiliated to Iran national language institute in Miyandoab were selected randomly on the basis of their performance on a pre-test. The participants' age range 16-20 with Turkish linguistic background is considered to be homogeneous because they had followed the same level of instruction in the institute for 3 years.

3.2. Instructional materials

The materials used in this study were 5 units of Interchange 1 written by Richard (2005) which were chosen as the instructional material. The course book Interchange is widely used as a resource for teaching English as a foreign language in EFL context like Iran. A post test and a delayed post test with 2 week interval were used as tools for collecting data from the participants. The learners received one term of instruction (17 sessions) on the target structures (simple present and simple present continuous) under focused.

3.4. Procedure

Every individual participant was chosen on the basis of the performance on a pretest which had been chosen on the basis the forms under focus. The pre-test had been extracted from the book Elementary Language Practice consisting of 20 items of multiple choice and production completion tests of present simple and present continuous which were the forms under focus the present study. Then, they were divided into 2 groups of implicit and scaffolding. Both groups received instructions from the same teacher with the same syllabus and with 17 sessions of instructions. Participants in implicit group received implicit form focused feedback (recast and repetition) on the part of the teacher on their grammatical errors while other group (scaffolding group) received interactional feedback mainly in the form of (clarification request and modelling) consisting of learners utterance, teachers scaffolding in

the form of error treatment. These treatments were given for 17 sessions of instruction throughout the term. The learners (participants) received two forms of instruction while they were talking about the topics assigned by the book. In session 13, the learners received post test and in session 17 they received a delayed post test from the participants. Having been collected, the data were scored and analyzed with regard to the research question which the study set out to address.

4. Results

To test the hypotheses of our study and find out how implicit focus on form and interactional feedback affect L2 learners' accuracy, the raw scores of the participants were fed into computer software SPSS (version16) for further data analysis. T-test was employed as statistical means of analysis for comparing the means of between-subjects variables of accuracy. The results are shown in the following sections.

4. 1. Comparison of the means of accuracy between implicit focus on form group and negotiated feedback in pre-test Table 4.1 represents the means of accuracy in implicit focus on form group and negotiated feedback group.

Table 4.1. The result of the descriptive statistics of negotiated group and implicit focus on form group in pre-test.

Feedback N Mean Std. Deviation Negotiated 18 12.833 2.95555 Implicit_18_12.722_4.07006

Table4.1 shows that the mean scores of the performance of two groups in the pre-test are not so much different. According to this we conclude that the two groups are homogeneous.

Figure 4.1 shows the means differences of accuracy of the two groups which are close to each other.

12,83 12,72

Implicit FOF Negotiated Feedback

Figure 4.1. Comparison of the means of accuracy of implicit focus on form and negotiated groups

4. 2. Comparison of the means of accuracy between implicit focus on form group and negotiated feedback in Posttest

Table 4.2 shows the results of the means and standard deviation of the two groups in the post-test.

Table.4.2. The result of the descriptive statistics of negotiated group and implicit focus on form group in post-test.

Feedback N Mean Std. Deviation Negotiated 18 13.777 3.13529 Implicit_18_13.000_2.52050

Table 4.2 shows that the difference between the means of the two groups was not significant. However, learners who received interactional feedback outperformed the learners who received implicit focus on form.

Figure 4.2 shows the means of the accuracy of the two groups in post-test.

13,77 13

Implicit FOF Negotiated Feedback

Figure 4.2 Comparison of the means of accuracy of two groups in the post-test

4.3. Comparison of the means of accuracy between implicit focus on form group and negotiated feedback in delayed post-test

Table 4.3 shows the result of descriptive and inferential statistics of comparing the means of the accuracy of the groups in delayed post-test with figures and tables.

Table 4.3. The result of the descriptive statistics of negotiated group and implicit focus on form group in delayed post-test

Feedback N Mean Std. Deviation Negotiated 18 14.888 2.56421 Implicit_18_13.000_2.11438

According to the table above the learners receiving interactional feedback with mean score of 14.88 outperformed learners who received implicit focus on form feedback with mean score of 13.

14,88 13

Implicit FOF Negotiated Feedback

Figure 4.3. Comparison of the means of accuracy of two groups in the delayed post-test

Figure 4.3 clearly represents the differences between the means and standard deviation of the two groups.

5. Discussion

Regarding the results of the data analysis on the scores of the participants in pre-test; it is clearly evident that the difference between the accuracy of the two groups of negotiated and implicit focus on form group was not statistically significant. This means that the two groups with the same mean scores were homogeneous. The analysis of the data obtained from the participants' performance on the immediate post-test revealed that the difference between the performances of the two groups was not statistically significant. However, compared to the results obtained in the pre-test both groups of the learners receiving implicit focus on form and scaffolding through negotiation outperformed the pre-test. As a result, our null hypothesis arguing that there wasn't significant difference between the type of feedback and L2 learners' accuracy in EFL context is confirmed. Although the findings were not statistically significant both groups outperformed the pre-test. The findings of this study ran against our alternative hypothesis. However, both type of corrective feedback were slightly effective. The findings of this study are parallel with research findings in the SLA literature (Alanen, 1995). This slight improvement in the accuracy of L2 learners can be attributed to Schmidt's (1994, 2000) Noticing Hypothesis. This slight rate of increase in accuracy can be attributed to the fact that input provided was not enough on terms of quality or quantity to induce noticing.

Regarding the second hypothesis, the results of the statistical analysis of T-test for delayed post-test scores revealed that there was significant difference between scaffolding and L2 learners' accuracy. As a result, our null hypothesis is rejected and the hypothesis which claims there is significant difference between negotiated type of feedback through scaffolding and L2 learners' accuracy is confirmed. These findings can be attributed to the interactive nature of feedback between teacher and learner (Nassaji, 2009) which results in negotiation of meaning (Long, 1996) which may lead to deeper processing or internalization. This also can be attributed to constructivist (Lantolf, 2000, 2004) and sociocultural principles introduced by Vygotsky (Ellis, 2003). According to the principles of sociocultural theory, this interaction and scaffolding help the learners to move from actual to potential ability (ZPD). It was also evident that passage of time was not so much effective. The findings are in line with Lantolf (2000, 2005), Nassaji (2009). The treatment was more effective in interactive scaffolding corrective feedback type than time.

6. Pedagogical Implications

The present study intended to reveal which type of corrective feedback (implicit focus on form and negotiated scaffolding) is most effective in enhancing learners' accuracy in EFL context. In the light of the research findings, the study aimed to offer ways of incorporating focus on form strategies into meaning-focused speaking classes. Considering the findings of the study, several pedagogical implications can be suggested.

The most important pedagogical implication of the study is that the learners do not need to be explicitly instructed on the grammatical features of a language, as it was the case in traditional approaches to language teaching. The findings also suggest that interactive feedback is more effective in promoting the language forms rather than meaning-centred approaches.

Another pedagogical implication that can be made in this study is that language production tasks may be more beneficial if they are done collaboratively by novice and expert. This collaborative production leads learners to reason about the correct use of language forms and thus they increase e learners' awareness of for meaning connections (Izumi, 2002). This is in line with Swain (1995) interaction production tasks enable learners to activate their own internalized language (p: 127) lead them to notice the gap between what they know and what they are supposed to know.

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