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Teacher- and learner-led discourse as tools for L2 grammatical development in task-based Spanish instruction. Paul D. Toth University of Wisconsin-Madison 2007 TLBT Conference, University of Hawai’i. Instruction & L2 grammatical development.

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Teacher- and learner-led discourse as tools for L2 grammatical development in task-based Spanish instruction

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Teacher- and learner-led discourse as tools for L2 grammatical development in task-based Spanish instruction

Paul D. Toth

University of Wisconsin-Madison

2007 TLBT Conference, University of Hawai’i

instruction l2 grammatical development
Instruction & L2 grammatical development
  • Provision of comprehensible L2input via:
    • Modifications to instructional speech or materials
    • Opportunities for learner negotiation
  • Attention directed to L2 form-meaning relationships via:
    • Salience in instructional speech or materials
    • Explicit, metalinguistic information about the L2
    • Feedback on learner performance
  • Opportunities for L2 output(Swain, 1985, 1995, 2000)
    • Learners “pushed” to encode meaning in morphosyntax
    • Test hypotheses about L2 form-meaning relationships
    • Notice gaps in L2 grammar
    • Conceptualize L2 grammar through “metatalk”
task based instruction
Task-Based Instruction
  • “Require[s] learners to use language, with emphasis on meaning, to attain an objective” (Bygate, Skehan, & Swain, 2001, p. 11)
  • “Focused tasks” target the purposeful use of specific L2 structures to express meaning (Ellis, 2003, p. 16)
    • Descriptions = adjective agreement
    • Narration = past tense and aspect marking
    • Requests of others = subjunctive mood
    • Explaining procedures = impersonal passive
    • Narrating spontaneous events = inchoative verbs
learner led discourse
Learner-Led Discourse
  • Strengths:
    • More like real world communication (Nunan, 1987)
    • Participatory structure more suitable for negotiation, especially during “information gap” tasks (Pica, 1987; Pica et al., 1993)
    • More discourse turns per learner = more opportunities for negotiation (Lee, 2000; Long & Porter, 1985)
    • Greater linguistic autonomy and self-regulation (van Lier, 1996)
    • Learners assist each other during task performance (Donato, 1994; Swain, 1998, 2000; Swain & Lapkin, 1995)
learner led discourse5
Learner-Led Discourse
  • Weaknesses:
    • Learners often produce minimal utterances (Seedhouse, 1999)
    • Learners are poor L2 models for each other (Prabhu, 1987)
    • Learners prefer to focus on lexical rather than morphosyntactic L2 issues when negotiating (Buckwalter, 2001; Morris, 2002; Williams, 1999)
  • Suggested Remedies:
    • Make target forms “useful” or “essential” to task performance (Loschky & Bley-Vroman, 1993; Fotos, 2002)
    • Precede tasks with pre-task warm-up to orient learners to necessary language; follow tasks with post-task activity to lend accountability to learner performance (Skehan, 1996, 1998)
teacher led discourse
Teacher-Led Discourse
  • Strengths:
    • Teacher input and support provides expert “scaffolding” for task performance (Adair-Hauck & Donato, 1994; Antón, 1999; McCormick & Donato, 2000).
    • Teacher feedback has been shown to benefit non-turn-taking listeners as well as active discourse participants (Ohta, 2000, 2001).
  • Weaknesses:
    • Far fewer speaking turns per learner (Lee, 2000)
    • IRF sequences (Initiate, Response, Feedback) often limit learner utterances and prevent development of broader interactional competence (Brooks, 1993; Hall, 1995, 2004; Leemann-Guthrie, 1984; Mehan, 1979; Nunan, 1990)
teacher led discourse7
Teacher-Led Discourse
  • Suggested Remedies:
    • Design whole-class activities as collaborative communication tasks, rather than mechanical grammar drills (DeKeyser, 1998; Wong & VanPatten, 2003)
    • Teachers should build their turns upon topical content of learner utterances, as “follow up” moves (Johnson, 1995; Toth, 2004; Wells, 1998)
    • Solicit multiple learner responses to teacher questions before moving onto another question (Toth)
motivation for comparing tld lld
Motivation for comparing TLD & LLD
  • Importance of interlocutors and interaction in L2 acquisition
  • Little previous research:
    • Pica (1987), Doughty & Pica (1986): More negotiation for LLD in “information exchange” tasks; similar amounts of negotiation in more open-ended “collaborative discussion”
    • Fotos (1993, 1994): TLD and LLD classes perform nearly equally, with TLD group “noticing” one of target structures more frequently
  • Calls for further research:
    • Pica (1994): Benefits of negotiated interaction in learner dyads need to be supported by quantitative assessments of learning outcomes
    • DeKeyser (2003), Doughty (2003), Pica (2005): Quantitative studies of learning outcomes through LLD negotiation need to be conducted in ecologically-valid classroom contexts, rather than only in laboratory settings.
spanish se
Spanish se

Se used to derive intransitive syntax from a transitive verb (Dobrobie-Sorin, 1998; Montrul, 2004; Raposo & Uriagereka, 1996)


a. Ellos prepararon la comida.


“They prepared the food.”

Ellos se prepararon.


  • “They prepared themselves / each other.”


b. Ellos prepararon la comida.


“They prepared the food.”

Se preparó la comida.


“The food was prepared / One prepared food.”

“anticausative se”


c. Ellos cocinaron la comida.


“They cooked the food.”

Se cocinó la comida.


“The food Ø cooked / was cooked /

One cooked food.”

research questions
Research Questions
  • Question 1: Will LLD provide an advantage in grammaticality judgments for Spanish anticausative se when compared to TLD?
  • Question 2: Will LLD provide an advantage over TLD in performance with anticausative se on sentence-level picture descriptions?
  • Question 3: Will excerpts of classroom interactions reveal differences in the way learners in each group attend to the form-meaning relationships associated with anticausative se and use the target form for output?
method participants
Method: Participants

6 intact classes of 2nd semester beginning L2 Spanish in two large, public American universities with identical Spanish curriculums. Each group comprised of two classes.

  • Teacher-Led Discourse (TLD): n = 28
  • Learner-Led Discourse (LLD): n = 25
  • Control Group (C): n = 25
  • Native Speaker comparison group: n = 30
method instruction
Method: Instruction

Sequence of lesson topics for treatment groups

anticausative se

method instruction13
Method: Instruction
  • Standard 50-minute daily lesson:
    • Whole-class warm-up activity, reminiscent of previous day’s tasks (5 mins.)
    • Explicit grammar explanation for current day’s topic (5 mins.)
    • LLD: 2 passes through pre-task, task, post-task sequence, with most tasks designed as two-way information gaps (40 mins.)
    • TLD: 4-6 tasks mirroring those of the LLD group, implemented as whole-class, collaborative interaction. (40 mins.)
method instruction14
Method: Instruction
  • Spotting differences activity:
    • LLD: implemented as a two-way information gap in small groups
    • TLD: implemented as whole-class collaborative discourse
method assessment
Method: Assessment
  • Experimental Design:
    • Pre-test,
    • Immediate posttest
    • Delayed posttest (24 days after instruction)
  • Two test versions, piloted on two native speakers, and randomly assigned to learners. Then rotated over the three test administrations
    • Grammaticality judgment (GJ) task
    • Picture description task
  • Lesson on “se of unplanned occurrences” recorded and transcribed in each group
method gj task
Method: GJ Task

Sample items from the grammaticality judgment task

method picture description task
Method: Picture Description Task

Sample item from the picture description task

results picture description task
Results: Picture Description Task

increase = 0.02

increase = 0.31

increase = 0.46

results gj task
Results: GJ Task

increase = 0.09

increase = 0.36

increase = 1.07

results gj task21
Results: GJ Task
  • NS mean = 2.24
results transcripts
Results: Transcripts

1. LLD Information gap activity

results transcripts23
Results: Transcripts

2. LLD information gap activity

results transcripts24
Results: Transcripts

3. TLD whole-class collaborative discourse


results transcripts25
Results: Transcripts

3. TLD whole-class collaborative discourse (cont.)

results transcripts26
Results: Transcripts

4. TLD whole-class collaborative discourse

results transcripts27
Results: Transcripts

5. TLD whole-class collaborative discourse

results transcripts28
Results: Transcripts

5. TLD whole-class collaborative discourse (cont.)

results transcripts29
Results: Transcripts

6. LLD information gap activity

results transcripts30
Results: Transcripts

7. LLD Information gap activity

results transcripts31
Results: Transcripts

7. LLD Information gap activity (cont.)

results transcripts32
Results: Transcripts

7. LLD Information gap activity (cont.)

  • Under the best circumstances, learner’s attention to target forms may be limited in LLD:
    • Developmental needs that focus attention other areas of L2 morphosyntax
    • Widely-observed tendency to focus on lexis rather than morphosyntax, and to prioritize getting meaning across over formal accuracy
    • Preference for self-correction rather than other-correction (Buckwalter, 2001; Seedhouse, 2004)
    • Participatory roles that, while increasing turn-taking, do not authorize individuals to assist in procedures for making output
  • In TLD, attention to target forms may be more consistent
    • Provision of accurate input models and cues for using target form
    • Feedback centers on target form
    • Cumulative benefit of feedback to others, if relevance is maintained across discourse turns
    • Participatory roles allow teacher-expert to directly assist learners in formulating utterances
    • Following Ohta (2001), potential for collaborative listeners to indirectly realize output benefits if they are cognitively engaged.
  • Teachers as providers of procedural assistance in output processing:
    • Assistance with linguistic task of utterance formulation and morphosyntactic assembly, rather than conceptual or analytical “scaffolding” (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976).
    • Proactive, simultaneous assistance to learner rather than reactive and subsequent feedback, as in clarification requests, confirmation checks, or recasts. (Long, 1981, 1996).
    • Assistance utilizing L2 morphosyntax that is more complex than the learner’s extant interlanguage, OR
    • Useable metalinguistic information that can guide learners toward incorporating new forms into their L2 speech.
  • Hypothesized benefits of procedural assistance
    • Some current models of language processing hold that hierarchical morphosyntactic relationships are computed on-line, during comprehension or production (Harrington, 2001; Juffs, 2004; Pritchett, 1992)
    • Parsing, or processing, L2 form-meaning relationships may be key to a transition theory that explains how the L2 linguistic properties become incorporated into interlanguage grammars. (Carroll, 2001; Gregg, 2001; Pienemann, 1999)
    • Procedural assistance may allow learners to implement, or “proceduralize,” the declarative L2 metalinguistic knowledge they have, increasing the complexity of L2 utterances that they can process
    • If learners are able to assemble more complex utterances with the assistance of an expert, this may facilitate incorporation of these structures into the implicit L2 grammatical system.