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University students beliefs about language learning and the effect of a language acquisition course

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    1. University students beliefs about language learning and the effect of a language acquisition course Eleni Agathopoulou Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

    2. Aim of the study To investigate beliefs about language learning in a group of Greek students who were also prospective language teachers whether a second language acquisition course may transform these beliefs

    3. The importance of beliefs Beliefs about language learning influence language learning and language-teaching practices (Borg 1998, 1999, 2003; Peacock 2001). Beliefs about SLA have been called folklinguistic theories of learning (Preston 1991), metacognitive knowledge (Wenden 1986), learning culture (Riley 1997) etc. Beliefs about SLA have been called folklinguistic theories of learning (Preston 1991), metacognitive knowledge (Wenden 1986), learning culture (Riley 1997) etc.

    4. Students beliefs & language learning Students have incorrect beliefs about how foreign languages are learned, which may be detrimental on their learning (studies based on results from Horwitzs (1988) Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory, in Peacock 2001: 178).

    5. Possible effects of students beliefs on language learning Examples Belief: Learning a foreign language is mostly a matter of learning a lot of grammar rules ? Students may focus on learning grammar rules to the exclusion of other tasks. Belief: People who speak more than one language well are very intelligent ? Students may blame slow progress/failure on lack of intelligence, which may lead to more frustration (Peacock 2001: 179) Over the past 20year SLA research (e.g. Long, 1981) has offered powerful evidence that language intake is facilitated when language learners are engaged in the negotiation of meaning, as when attempting to find an outcome of a problem-solving task. Over the past 20year SLA research (e.g. Long, 1981) has offered powerful evidence that language intake is facilitated when language learners are engaged in the negotiation of meaning, as when attempting to find an outcome of a problem-solving task.

    6. Teachers beliefs may affect language teaching (& learning) Example: Assumed target: development of communicative competence (implies focus on meaning). BUT: Note teacher feedback T: What did you do yesterday? S: I played basketball. T: Thats correct. T: What time is it? S: Half past ten. T: Very good, Maria!

    7. Such feedback implies a certain belief about how languages are learned Stimulus > Response > Reward Such feedback focuses on form and does not promote communicative competence. Such feedback focuses on form and does not promote communicative competence.

    8. Language Learning beliefs are difficult to change because They may derive mainly from the many years of ones prior learning (and teaching) experience, which filters out the impact of empirically validated scientific theories (Lortie 1975; Crow 1987; Holt-Renyolds 1992 among others). Davis 2003: based on questionnaire from L&SDavis 2003: based on questionnaire from L&S

    9. Recommendation Educational institutes should contribute to the reconstruction of prospective teachers lay theories as early as possible (Peacock, 2001; Goodwin, 2006).

    10. Previous research University students changed their mind regarding behaviourist beliefs after a one-semester course in SLA (Macdonald et al. 2001). University students (incorrect) beliefs didnt change significantly after a 3-year program in SLA and methodology (Peacock 2001). Macdonald et al: BA in TESOL program, University of Stirling, 28 students out of who 17 were Greek a Chinese_English translation programme in Macao Macdonald et al: BA in TESOL program, University of Stirling, 28 students out of who 17 were Greek a Chinese_English translation programme in Macao

    11. Initial impetus for the present study

    12. Anecdotal data Example 1 Question in final term exams of an SLA course: Should primary school children start English classes before the age of eight or nine? Answer: No, because it may have negative effects on their L1. What they had been taught: The younger the better (CPH) but it depends on number of teaching hours, method etc.

    13. Anecdotal data Example 2 Question by an young EFL teacher, with previous exposure to SLA theories at university. Why do my beginner students omit ed? Ive taught them the rule for the regular past tense so many times! What she had been taught: There seems to be a "natural order" for the L2 acquisition of English morphemes and ed is a late morpheme. They were told repeatedly that morpheme acquisition studies show that ed is acquired late.They were told repeatedly that morpheme acquisition studies show that ed is acquired late.

    14. May these examples indicate beliefs about language learning not amenable to change? Need for further research in the relation between specific course interventions and student teachers belief development (Cabaroglu & Roberts 2000).

    15. The present study

    16. Method Participants: 46 students of the English D/ment, AUTH. Mean age: 19.5, 95% female. Materials: a closed questionnaire (Lightbown & Spada 1999). It included12 statements, framed in a 6 point Likert scale (1=strongly agree - 6=strongly disagree). Procedure: the same questionnaire was administered in the beginning and at the end of the course. The final selection included answers only from students who had attended the course regularly. Method of analysis: Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test, SPSS The study is modeled on MacDonald et al. 2001 with the purpose of establishing comparisons whenever relevant and possible. The study is modeled on MacDonald et al. 2001 with the purpose of establishing comparisons whenever relevant and possible.

    17. The SLA course Part of a four-year B.A. degree in English Language and Literature, Aristotle University, Greece. Students normally take this course in their third semester alongside with other courses in theoretical linguistics. Before this, they take an introductory course in linguistics in their first year of studies.

    18. Content of the SLA course 1) Learning a first language 2) Theories of SLA Behaviourism: The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis Innatism: Universal Grammar, Krashens monitor model Interactionism Other theories: information processing, connectionism 3) Learner characteristics affecting SLA Personality, Intelligence, Aptitude, Motivation, Learning style, Age 4) Learner language interlanguage, developmental sequences, fossilization, avoidance, cross-linguistic influence. 5) SLA in the classroom focus on form/meaning, types of teacher feedback (1) Is also part of the first-year course Intro to Linguistics(1) Is also part of the first-year course Intro to Linguistics

    19. Results: pre-test In the beginning, students agreed (mean= 2-) with 4 statements: The earlier a language is introduced in school programs, the greater the likelihood of success. Most of the mistakes which second language learners make are due to interference from the first language. Teachers should present grammatical rules one at a time, and learners should practice examples of each one before going on to another. Teachers should teach simple language structures before complex ones. They didnt disagree (mean= 4+) with any of the statements. If we take agreement to mean a rating of under two and disagreement to mean a rating of over 4, before the course started students strongly agreed with 4 statements Note that 6&7 express behaviorist views. If we take agreement to mean a rating of under two and disagreement to mean a rating of over 4, before the course started students strongly agreed with 4 statements Note that 6&7 express behaviorist views.

    20. Results: post-test After the course students agreed (mean= 2-) with none of the statements. They disagreed (mean= 4+) with 2 statements: (3) People with high IQs are good language learners. (10) Teachers should use materials that expose students only to those language structures which they have already been taught. But no difference bt pre- and post-test results in (3) and (10). Both agreed with L&S, But no difference bt pre- and post-test results in (3) and (10). Both agreed with L&S,

    21. Language learning beliefs before and after taking the SLA course * indicates p<0.000

    22. Statements reflecting a behaviorist view (1) & (2) were discussed also in a course offered in the first semester. (6) developmental stages or intralingual errors not taken into account (9) skepticism correct here, (12) is ambiguous however(1) & (2) were discussed also in a course offered in the first semester. (6) developmental stages or intralingual errors not taken into account (9) skepticism correct here, (12) is ambiguous however

    23. Statements relating to the grammatical sequencing of language teaching - ((7) with behaviorist overtones) Also behaviourist overtones, esp. (7). They are taught that language learning is not a linear process, i.e. adding one rule after another (8) correct skepticism (10) would be expected to be more on the negative sideAlso behaviourist overtones, esp. (7). They are taught that language learning is not a linear process, i.e. adding one rule after another (8) correct skepticism (10) would be expected to be more on the negative side

    24. Statements relating to learner variations Evidence for (4) is inconclusive, therefore no change is justified. (5) coincides with many peoples lay belief in this matter. Evidence for (4) is inconclusive, therefore no change is justified. (5) coincides with many peoples lay belief in this matter.

    25. Statement relating to learner-learner interaction (with behaviorist overtones) No change towards disagreement, although they were told that research does not support such a belief. Reseach here shows that when learners interact with others of their level they dont make more errors as compared to when they interact with learners of higher level (who make fewer errors).No change towards disagreement, although they were told that research does not support such a belief. Reseach here shows that when learners interact with others of their level they dont make more errors as compared to when they interact with learners of higher level (who make fewer errors).

    26. Summary of group results Significant changes : in 3/6 of behaviorist beliefs In 2/3 of beliefs relating to the grammatical sequencing of language teaching, one of which had behaviorist overtones. (However, the unchanged belief had a mean of 4.0 at the pre-test and 4.07 at the post-test, which correctly indicates disagreement). Changes indicate movement from (incorrect) conviction to skepticism. No significant changes in beliefs regarding learner variations (where evidence offered in the SLA course was inconclusive). But since group results can obscure individual learner patterns, next Im going to show you But since group results can obscure individual learner patterns, next Im going to show you

    27. Individual data analysis of significantly changed behaviorist beliefs (2, 7, 9,12) So only 50% changed their beliefs in the desired direction. Of those only 16% show a radical change.So only 50% changed their beliefs in the desired direction. Of those only 16% show a radical change.

    28. Individual data analysis (%) of significantly changed behaviorist beliefs

    29. Discussion The SLA course did have an impact on incorrect learners beliefs. Changes concerned areas of knowledge for which SLA research has offered conclusive evidence. The impact of the SLA course was not dramatic as shown by the degrees of certainty in changed beliefs the number of students who changed beliefs the lack of change of beliefs in 3/7 of the areas of knowledge for which SLA research offers conclusive evidence.

    30. Conclusion Preservice teaching programs ought to provide multiple opportunities for student teachers to wrestle with their own preconceived and taken-for-granted beliefs about teaching and learning. (Goodwin 2006)

    31. Suggestions for future research Investigation of TESOL University students beliefs in their final year of studies, after having being exposed to more courses relevant with theories about language learning and teaching. Combination of quantative & qualitative measures to assess the impact of relevant courses. Limitations of the study: Limitations of the study:

    33. References Borg, S. 2003. Teacher cognition in language teaching: a review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do". Language Teaching 36(2): 81-109. Borg, S. 1999. Studying teacher cognition in second language grammar teaching. System 27(1): 19-31. Borg, S. 1998. Teachers' pedagogical systems and grammar teaching: A qualitative study. TESOL Quarterly 32(1): 9-38. Cabaroglu, N. & Roberts, J. 2000. Development in student teachers pre-existing beliefs during a 1-year PGCE program. System 28(3):387-402. Davis, A. 2003. Teachers' and Students' Beliefs Regarding Aspects of Language Learning. Evaluation and Research in Education 17(4): 207222. Goodwin, A.L. 2006. Challenging student teachers' images of teaching. Academic Exchange Quarterly. Retrieved January 2007, from : file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/USER/My%20Documents/BELIEFSPAPER/goodwing%202006%20Challenging%20student%20teachers'%20images%20of%20teaching.htm MacDonald, M., Badger R. & White G. 2001. Changing values: what use are theories of language learning and teaching?. Teaching and Teacher Education 17(8): 949-963. Peacock, M. 2001. Pre-service ESL teachers beliefs about second language learning: a longitudinal study. System 29(1): 177-195.