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Teaching and Research: Options in Grammar Teaching Author(s): Rod Ellis Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 1 (Spring, 1998), pp. 39-60 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/09/2013 12:44
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in and Research: Options Teaching Grammar Teaching

ROD FTI.JS Philadelphia University, Temple

how form-focussed A substantial body of researchhas investigated but therehas been very to languagelearning, instruction contributes of how the knowledge littlediscussion providedby thisresearchcan research thataddresses This reviews article inform languageteaching. motiin terms of fourtheoretically can best be taught how grammar instrucvatedinstructional input,(b) explicit options:(a) structured feedback.Giventhe and (d) negative tion, (c) production practice, a number basedon this firm conclusions ofreaching research, difficulty oftheinformation itmakes forthepedagogicutilization ofpossibilities betweenteachers' based on the distinction availableare considered, are (a) These possibilities and technical knowledge. knowledge practical to be experias provisional theresearch specifications findings treating and (c) actionresearch, mented with (b) conducting teaching, through and researchers teachers research involving conducting participatory how The need forresearchthatinvestigates working collaboratively. intotheir teachers technical personal pedagogical knowledge integrate is also recognized. systems

his articleaddresses the relationshipbetween language teachingand research. It also examines what currentsecond language acquisition of different (SLA) research has to say about the effectiveness ways of teaching grammar. These two purposes are related. An account of instructionaloptions serves as a basis for proposing how SLA research and teaching mightbest informeach other. The social worlds of the teacher and the researcher are often very different(Crookes, 1997). Teachers operate in classrooms where they need to make instantaneousdecisions regardingwhat and how to teach. where a system of Researchers,more oftenthan not,workin universities, rewardsprizes rigorous contributionsto a theoreticalunderstandingof issues. Teachers require and seek to develop practical researchknowledge; ers endeavor to advance technicalknowledge. This distinction, then, encapsulates the divide that often existsbetween the two. T

TESOL QUARTERLY Vol.32, No. 1,Spring 1998


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PRACTICAL VERSUS TECHNICAL PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE The distinction between technical and practical is comknowledge' monin theliterature with the of suchas dealing practice professionals and teachers doctors, 1988; Eraut,1994). (see Calderhead, lawyers, Technical isexplicit; ina declarative that form that is,itexists knowledge hasbeencodified. Forthese itcanbe examined reasons and analytically Technical is acquireddeliberately disputed systematically. knowledge either about theobject ofenquiry orbyinvestigating byreflecting deeply theuse ofa well-defined for it empirically, setofprocedures involving the andreliability oftheknowledge obtained. Technical ensuring validity in nature; is general that theform ofstatements is,it takes knowledge that cases.Forthis itcannot can be appliedto many reason, particular in the kind of be off-the-shelf decision making easily applied rapid neededin day-to-day living. SLA research has provided a substantial Overthe years, bodyof in how learn an This is reflected technical about L2. knowledge people usedtolabelthis setoftechnical terms theever-growing knowledge-for
and transfer order and seerrors, fossilization, example, overgeneralization evidence and and intake, noticing, negative positive input ofacquisition, quence

and the in R. Ellis,1994).Thistechnical (see theglossary knowledge that are terms that labelitconstitute by constantly being goods produced SLAresearchers. and intuitive. Individuals In contrast, is implicit knowledge practical I For notawareofwhatthey know. are generally example, practically I of little the but have awareness know howtotiemy shoelace, sequence notdescribe I must to do thisand couldcertainly ofactions perform actualexperiis acquired well.Practical them through knowledge very areonly understood. that ofprocedures encebymeans Similarly, poorly it maybe possible, it is fully although onlyin practice, expressible of to codify reflection, aspectsof it. The greatadvantage through on can be drawn and thus it is is that proceduralized knowledge practical cases. to handle and efficiently particular rapidly action with are concerned involving Practicing professionals primarily on practical draw this reason and for cases, extensively they particular how describes in their Freidson work. (1977),forexample, knowledge medical operate: practitioners
1The distinctionbetween technical and practical knowledge,found in discussions of

between explicit and implicitL2 professionalexpertise,is analogous with the distinctions both ofwhichare common and proceduralL2 knowledge, knowledgeand betweendeclarative in the SLA literature. 40 TESOL QUARTERLY

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One whose workrequirespracticalapplicationto concretecases simply thesameframe ofmindas thescholar cannotmaintain or scientist: he cannot in the absence of incontrovertible evidence or be action of skeptical suspend his experience, his workand itsfruit. ... Dealing withindividual himself, or on general conceptsor cases, he cannot relysolelyon probabilities the he mustalso rely on his ownsenses.Bythenatureofhiswork principles: forpractical clinician mustassumeresponsibility action,and in so doinghe mustrely on hisconcrete, clinical experience.(as citedin Eraut,1994,p. 53) teachers,in the act of teaching, relyto a large extent on their Similarly, practical knowledge (Calderhead, 1988). Of course, teachers do make use of technical knowledge in planning lessons, choosing and writing teaching materialsand tests,and deciding what methodological procedures to utilize.This corresponds to whatvan Lier (1991) has referredto as the planned aspectof teaching. However, there is also an improvised side. To accomplish a lesson, teachers are faced withthe need to make countless unplanned decisions about what and how to teach. As van Lier describes it, "In any lesson, planned and interwoven"(p. 47). improvisedactions and interactionsmay be tightly in integratingtechnical Teachers, however,often experience difficulty and practicalknowledge. Pennington and Richards (1997), forexample, report on the failure of five novice Cantonese teachers of English in Hong Kong to implement in their classroom teaching the communicative teaching principles and practices they were taught during a BA course. They suggest that one reason for this failure was the teachers' preexistingschema for teaching based on theirlearning experiences as studentsin the Hong Kong school system. In otherwords,faced withthe need to survivein the classroom, these teachers rejected theirtechnical knowledge and instead relied on their practical knowledge. More experienced teachers may be more successful in interweavingthe two makes typesof knowledge but, as the literatureon professionalactivity clear, this is no easy task.2 The crucial issue, then, is the nature of the relationship between technical and practical knowledge. To what extentand in whatwayscan the technical knowledge derived from research influence actual teaching? How can technical knowledge be utilized in the creation of the kind of practical knowledge withwhich teachers must necessarilyworkwhen theyimproviselessons? Can practical knowledge contributeto technical knowledge?How? Before turningto these questions, I examine research that has addressed the effects of form-focussedinstruction on L2
2 of language pedagogy(e.g., syllabus testconstrucHowever,otherpractitioners designers, tors,and materialswriters)may find it less problematicto integratetechnicaland practical as those practitioners' activities knowledgethando classroomteachers, relymore on planning than on improvisation.



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acquisition. I have chosen thisarea because it is one of obvious potential relevance to language teaching.




studies (e.g., R. Ellis, 1984; Pienemann, 1984) Early focus-on-form inwere primarilyconcerned with finding out whether form-focussed struction worked (i.e., whether it enabled learners to acquire the structures theyhad been taught). These earlystudies did not distinguish instruction. kinds of form-focussed different Instead, theytended to treat focus on formas a generic phenomenon to be contrastedwithfocus on researchershave turnedtheirattention meaning. Subsequently,however, to another question-What kind of form-focussedinstructionworks best?-that accords more closely,perhaps,withthe teacher's perspective. It is this question that motivatesthe followingsurveyof research. One way of characterizing differencesin instructionis in terms of options. Stern (1992) sees the identificationof options as a way of proceeding beyond the concept of method, which is now generally recognized as too crude a concept on which to base either research or teaching (Kumaravadivelu, 1994). One set of options Stern considers is It is possible to describe a number what he refersto as teaching strategies. instructionbased on what is known of such strategiesfor form-focussed about how learners acquire an L2. The particular model of L2 acquisition that will serve as a basis for these options is derived from a computational metaphor. identifying There are, of course, other metaphors,which doubtlesslysuggest other instructional options. However,the computational metaphor is currently dominant in SLA (see Lantolf, 1996, fora discussion). According to this metaphor, L2 learners are viewed as intelligentmachines that process input in a mental black box. This contains wired-in or previously acquired mechanisms thatenable learners to internalizenew knowledge foruse in output tasks.The particularcomputational model thatinforms the discussion of options below is shown in Figure 1. instrucThe model indicates a number of points where form-focussed case of Point In the in intervene can tion A, interlanguagedevelopment. instructionis directed at input (i.e., attemptsare made to contriveoral textsin such a waythatlearners are induced to notice specific or written to comprehend the texts).FollowingVanPatten targetfeaturesas theytry be referredto as structured will (1993), thisoption input.Point B involves learners' to instruction (i.e., attempts develop explicitunderstandexplicit learn about a them linguisticfeature). Point C ing of L2 rules-to help entails production practice(i.e., creating opportunities for learners to practice producing a specific target structure). Point D consists of

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FIGURE 1 Model of L2 Acquisition A Computational A B C D

L2 knowledge Explicit \ Input I Negative feedback


Intake i(implicit

- Interlanguage system L2 knowledge)


showing learners when they have failed to produce a negative feedback, structure correctly.Whereas Point A provides learners with positive evidence (i.e., examples of how a particular grammatical structure works), Point D offersnegative evidence (i.e., indications of erroneous use and perhaps also corrections). Two general comments are in order. The firstis that form-focussed lessons typically involve combinations of these options. For example, explicit instruction,production practice, and negative feedback are oftencombined. This makes good sense fromthe teacher's point of view as it optimizes the potential effectof the instruction.However, it is to problematic fromthe researcher'spoint of view because it is difficult determinewhich specificoption is responsibleforanylearningthattakes place. The second general point is to emphasize that these four options constitute macro-options. Each one can be broken down into more delicate micro-options.For example, there are many waysof delivering production practice depending on whether the pedagogic aim is to carefullycontrol learners' output or to provide opportunitiesfor relativelyfree production using the targeted structure.Both teachers and researchers have to decide what micro-optionsto use. The problem is thatalthough the choice of macro-optionscan be theoretically motivated by the kind of computational model shown in Figure 1, there is oftenno theoretical basis in SLA for selecting micro-options. For example, structuredinput can require studentsto demonstratetheirunderstanding by matching sentences to pictures or by responding to commands throughactions, but there is no obvious rationale in SLA forpreferring

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one micro-optionover the other.Such options have a pedagogical status but no obvious psycholinguistic justification. Below the macro-optionsare illustratedwithsample teaching materials, and recent research relatingto each option is reviewed.In the case of the structured-input option, a fairly comprehensivereviewis included as this is an area that has attracted considerable interest from SLA researchers and that also offersan innovativealternativeto traditional grammarteaching. Research directed at the other options is examined forreasons of space. One of the purposes of thisreview more selectively, is to demonstratesome of the problems teachersmayhave in makinguse of the technical knowledge provided by the research.

The Structured-Input Option

This option asks learners to process input that has been specially Learners are contrivedto induce comprehension of the targetstructure. sentences or to or read texts of discrete to listen consisting required of for and to indicate their continuous discourse understanding them, out a command, drawinga picture,tickinga box, or example by carrying indicating agreement or disagreement. The learners' responses to the input stimuli are nonverbal or minimallyverbal; they do not involve actuallyproducing the structure. Here is an example of a grammar task that makes use of this option. is predicate adjectives (e.g., the distinctionbetween The targetstructure boringand bored). L2 learners have been observed to confuse these, with you (Burt, 1975). In this producing sentences such as *I am boring task,the learners have to simplyindicate whethertheyagree or disagree witha series of statements. Task An Exampleof a Structured-Input withthesestatements? Do youagree or disagree 1. Quiet people are boring. 2. I am boredwhensomeonetellsa joke. 3. People who gossipa lot are very irritating. withsmalltalk. 4. I getirritated to talkaboutyourself. 5. It is interesting talkabout themselves. in people who always 6. I am interested [etc.] rationale for the structured-input The psycholinguistic option is that in input structure to the new attend learners occurs when acquisition to produce it.A number of recent studies have ratherthan when theytry investigated the relative effectsof structured input and production

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practice on the acquisition of specificlinguisticfeatures.In interpreting the resultsof these studies it is importantto consider the kinds of tests used to measure the learning outcomes. All the studies examined below used both comprehension-based tests,which favorthe structured-input which favorthe production-practice group, and production tests, group. However, most of the studies to date have not incorporated any test of the learners' abilityto use the targetstructure in communicativespeech. A furtherissue in this research is whether the instructionincluded explicit explanation of the targetfeature in addition to practice involvor production activities. ing structured-input VanPatten and Cadierno (1993) compared traditional productionoriented practice with oral structured-input practice directed at groups of university students.Both groups also received explicit instructionin the targetstructure. The focus of thisstudywas the positioningof object clitic pronouns in Spanish (e.g., Te invitopara el sdbado). The subjects were testedby means of a discrete-item listeningtestand a discrete-item writtenproduction test. The results showed that the structured-input group outperformed the production-practicegroup on the listening comprehension test and did just as well on the written production test. These results were repeated in follow-uptests administered 1 month later. VanPatten and Cadierno suggest that whereas the productionbased instructiononly contributed to explicit knowledge, the comprehension-based instruction created intake thatled to implicitknowledge. Cadierno (1995) reportsalmost identical resultsin a studythatfocussed on a morphological feature (Spanish past tense forms). Similar resultswere also obtained by Tanaka (1996), who compared the relative effectsof structuredinput and production practice on the acquisition of English relative clauses by 123 high school students in Japan. In this study,both groups again received explicit instruction but were givendifferent kinds of practice. relatingto the targetstructure A comprehension test and a controlled production test were administered before the treatment,5 days after the treatment,and again 2 months later. On both the immediate and the delayed comprehension posttest,the structured-input group outperformedthe production-practice group. In fact, the production-practicegroup showed hardly any improvementon pretest scores. On the production tests,both groups showed gains on their pretest scores. The production-practicegroup obtained significantly higher scores than the structured-input group on the immediate posttest but not on the delayed posttest. This suggeststhat structuredinput in conjunction with explicit instructionresulted in durable learning thatwas available for use in both comprehension and production tasks. In contrast,production-based instructionin conjunction withexplicit informationresulted in learning thatwas available for use only in production and that atrophied markedlyover time.

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A limitationof these studies was the kinds of testsused to measure teststheyused do not show convincingly production. The discrete-point that the comprehension treatment was effectivein developing the implicit knowledge needed for communication. To address this issue, VanPatten and Sanz (1995) compared a group receivingexplanation of practice with a object clitic pronouns followed by structured-input control group that received no instructiondirected at the targetstructests (e.g., sentence ture. This studyincorporated a number of different in and oral versions. The and written video narration) completion their accuracy in producimproved structured-input group significantly in ing the targetstructure(cliticpronouns L2 Spanish) on all the written the control group, which showed no improvement. tests,outperforming This confirmedthe resultsof the earlier study.However,no statistically difference was found between the structured-input group and significant the control group on the oral video narration test-an integrativetest involvingunplanned production and, therefore,arguablya measure of implicit knowledge. The study thus does not provide convincing evidence that input-processing instruction led to changes in implicit knowledge. In all of these studies, the instructioninvolved two focus-on-form macro-options-explicit explanation combined withstructuredinput. A question of some importance, then, is whetherthe advantage found for the input-processing groups in these studieswas due to explicit explanation, structured input, or a combination of the two. VanPatten and Oikkenon (1996) set out to investigatethis using fourth-semester high school students. The focus was again object pronoun placement in Spanish. There were three experimental groups: Group 1 received a practice, as in grammatical explanation togetherwith structured-input and Group the earlier studies,Group 2 receivedjust explicitinstruction, On a discrete-item 3 receivedjust structured-input comprehenpractice. sion test,Groups 1 and 3 both performedbetterthan Group 2, but there was no differencebetween Groups 1 and 3. On the production test, Group 1 but not Group 3 performed better than Group 2, but the difference between Groups 1 and 3 was not statistically significant. on the VanPattenand Oikkenon conclude that"significant improvement activities of to the is due test structured-input presence interpretation and not to explicit information"and that even on the production test "the effects of explicit information are negligible" (p. 508). Note, did lead to betterperformanceon both thatexplicitinstruction however, testsand also that the testsused in this studydid not include a measure of communicativeperformance. Two recent studies have produced very differentresults. Salaberry with (1997) set out to replicate the VanPattenand Cadierno (1993) study similar subjects and the same grammatical focus (clitic pronouns in

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Spanish). He used three tests-a comprehension test, a discrete-item test based on a video. These tests production test,and a free-narration were administeredbefore the instruction, immediatelyafterthe instruction, and 1 month later. Both experimental groups improved on the comprehension testswith the production-practice group performingas well as the structured-input group. No improvementin eithergroup was evident on the discrete-itemproduction tests,but Salaberry acknowledges that this may have been because all the subjects achieved high scores on the pretest,thus leaving littleroom for improvement. Also, as in VanPatten and Sanz's (1995) study, the two groups did not differ on the free-narration test,although Salaberrynotes that this testproduced fewobligatoryoccasions for object clitic pronouns. Finally,the resultsof DeKeyser and Sokalski's (1996) studyalso failed to show an advantage for structuredinput. The grammaticalfocus was clitic pronouns (as in the previous VanPatten studies) and the conditional formof the verb in Spanish, a structure thatthe researchersargue is easy to perceive but difficult to produce. In the case of object clitic pronouns, the immediate posttests (which were highly controlled in nature) showed that the structured-input group did better on the test whereas the comprehension production-practicegroup did better on the production test.However,on the delayed posttestno difference between the groups on either test was evident. For the conditional, production practice resulted in better scores on both the comprehension and the production tests, but again therewas no difference between the groups on the delayed test. However, the pretest scores for both structures were high, leaving littleroom for further learning. It is not easy to reach firmconclusions based on these studies as (a) the resultsof the different studies are not in agreement, (b) there are obvious design differences in the studies (e.g., in the level of knowledge of the targetstructures displayed by the subjects in pretests),and (c) to date the research has not shown that structured input has any effecton use. the technical Thus, unplanned language knowledge affordedbythe research on structured is ambivalent. input Perhaps the most thatcan be said is thatit suggeststhatstructured-input practice mayprovide a useful alternativeto production practice.3

The principal choice regardingexplicitinstruction is whetherto teach explicit rules directlyor to develop activitiesthat enable learners to
3It is also worth noting that, to date, no study has investigated whether combining structured input and productionpracticeresultsin betterlearningthan using these options separately. GRAMMAR TEACHING AND RESEARCH


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discover the rules for themselves.Direct explicit instructiontakes the form of oral or writtenexplanations of grammaticalphenomena. They can stand by themselvesor can be accompanied by exercises in which learners attemptto apply the rule theyhave learned. In indirectexplicit tasksin which they instruction,learners complete consciousness-raising analyze data illustratingthe workings of a specific grammatical rule. Here is an example of a consciousness-raisingtask directed at helping learners discover when to use at, in, and on in adverbial time phrases. An Exampleof a Conscious-Raising Task 1. Underlinethetimeexpressions in thispassage. I made an appointment to see Mr.Bean at 3 o'clock on Tuesdaythe 11thof February to discuss fora job. Unfortunately, he myapplication was involved in a car accidentin the morning and rangto cancel the I made another to see himat 10 o'clockon appointment. appointment when I got to his office, his However, Fridaythe 21st of February. told me thathis wifehad died at 2 o'clock in the nightand secretary that he was not coming into the officethat day. She suggestedI reschedule forsometime in March.So I made a third to appointment see Mr.Bean at 1 o'clock on Mondaythe 10thof March.This timeI he informed me thattheyhad now actually got to see him.However, filledall the vacanciesand suggested I contacthim again in 1998. I assuredhim thathe wouldnot be seeingme in eitherthisor the next century. the timephrasesintothistable. 2. Write at at 3 o'clock 3. Makeup a ruleto explainwhento use at,in,and onin timeexpressions. Fotos and Ellis (1991) investigatedthe relative advantages of direct and indirectconsciousness-raising. We found thatboth options resulted in in statistically significantgains understanding the rule for dative alternation in two groups of college-level Japanese students. In one group, direct explicit instruction resulted in higher scores on a judgement test, but in the other the consciousnessgrammaticality In a more elaborate follow-up study, raisingtaskproved equally effective. Fotos (1994) found that indirect instructionworked as well as direct structures instructionin teaching explicit knowledge of three different (adverb placement, dative alternation, and relative clauses) to 160 students. Japanese university There are a number of reasons for favoringthe indirect option. An invitationto discover rules for themselvesmay be more motivatingto



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learners than simplygivingthem the rules. Also, ifconsciousness-raising tasks are performed in groups and the target language is used as the medium for solving the problems they pose, the tasks double as communicative tasks. Learners can as well talk about grammar as talk about any other topic. of teaching gramOther research has investigatedthe relativeeffects mar deductively by means of direct explanation versus teaching it inductivelythrough controlled production practice. This comparison underlay the global method studies of the 1960s (e.g., Scherer & Wertheimer,1964; Smith, 1970), which failed to demonstratewhether or the audiolingual method) one method (e.g., the grammar-translation was betterthan another.Earlysmall-scalestudies (e.g., Hammerley,1975; Seliger, 1975), however,found some advantage for explicit instruction, was relatively when the targetstructure simple. particularly A number of recent experimental studies,based on studies in cognitivepsychology languages (see Reber, 1989) confirmthese using artificial Robinson For results. (1996) investigated 104 adult example, early students of English (mainly Japanese) learning both an easy rule (subject-verbinversionafteran adverbial of location as in Into thehouse ranJohn)and a complex rule (pseudocleftingas in Where Mary andJohn The subjects viewed the sentences on a live is in ChicagonotNew York). computer screen under varyingconditions. One group (labelled the group)was simplyasked to remember the sentences. A second implicit group)was given comprehension questions group (called the incidental about the sentences,to which theyansweredyesor no.A thirdgroup (the rule-search group) was asked to identifythe rules illustrated by the received direct and the fourthgroup (the instructed sentences, group)first them to the sentences. tried to the rules and then of apply explanations The group receiving explicit explanations outperformedall the other judgement test administered immediately groups on a grammaticality after the treatment.Other recent studies (e.g., DeKeyser, 1994, 1995; in favor of explicitinstruction. N. Ellis,1993) have produced similarresults in there are obvious However, problems applyingthe resultsof these studies to language pedagogy. One is that the studies often did not include a delayed test.It is not clear,forexample, whetherthe advantage Robinson (1996) found for the group that received explicit instruction was maintained over time. More seriously,the studies did not include testsof communicativebehaviour.For example, it can be argued thatthe grammaticality judgement test in Robinson's studyfavored the explicit instruction group because it could be answeredusing explicitknowledge. Once again, then, the results of the research do not affordconclusions that can be readily applied to language pedagogy. Fotos' (1994) research suggests that if explicit knowledge is the goal, it may be effectively taught via consciousness-raisingtasks. However, there is no

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clear evidence to date that explicit instructionof any kind leads to greater grammaticalaccuracy in communicativelanguage use. Production Practice Devices for eliciting production of target structures range on a continuum from highly controlled text-manipulation exercises (e.g., a substitution tasks,in which learners are drill) to much freertext-creation guided into producing their own sentences using the target structure (see the example below). A well-established methodological principle in currentgrammar teaching is to begin with text-manipulation and then move to text-creation activities.In this way teachers hope to push the learner fromcontrolled to automatic use of the targetstructure. Tasks Examplesof Production-Practice A. Textmanipulation Fill in theblanksin thesesentences. 1. Mr.Shortwas born 1944 a Tuesday twoo'clock themorning. 1955 a Saturday 2. Mr.Long was born five o'clock theafternoon. [etc.] B. Textcreation Find threepeople who know * theyearthey wereborn * thedaythey wereborn * thetimeof daythey wereborn Completethistableabout the threepeople. Name 1. 2. 3. Now telltheclassabout the threepeople you talkedto. Learners require time to integrate new grammatical structuresinto their interlanguage systems.Many structuresinvolve learners passing through a series of transitionalstages before they arrive at the target language rule (see R. Ellis, 1994, chapter 3). It is uncertain, then,

May November




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whetherproduction practice directed at such structures in the course of a lesson, or even a series of lessons, can enable learners to constructthe kind of knowledge needed for communication. Furthermore,learners have theirown built-insyllabus (Corder, 1967), according to which they acquire some structuresbefore others. If the production practice is directed at a structure the learnersare not yetreadyto acquire, it is likely to fail (Pienemann, 1984) or to resultin some misrepresentation of the rule (Eubank, 1987). It was problems such as these that led Krashen instructionin L2 (1982) to reject any major role for form-focussed acquisition. There may stillbe a place for production practice, however.Schmidt (1994) notes that there is a skill aspect as well as a knowledge aspect to L2 learning. Thus, although production practice may not enable learners to integrate entirely new grammatical structures into their more interlanguages,it may help them use partiallyacquired structures and more the results of the Indeed, fluently accurately. DeKeyser and Sokalski (1996) studydiscussed earlier could be interpretedas demonstudies (e.g., Harley, 1989; stratingpreciselythis. Other focus-on-form & Spada Lightbown, 1993; White, Spada, Lightbown, & Ranta, 1991), which have included plentifulproduction practice (albeit in conjunction with other macro-options), have also shown that clear and sometimes durable gains in knowledge can occur. An interesting question is whetherproduction practice based on text or on text creation is best suited to improvinglearners' manipulation control over structures. of two Castagnaro (1991) examined the effects kinds of production practice on Japanese college students' ability to produce complex noun phrases. A control group was given a picture of a kitchen and simplypracticed labelling the objects in it. One experimental group took part in a repetitionand blank-filling exercise based on the same picture and designed to practice complex noun phrases. The second experimental group was asked to work in pairs to produce theirown sentences describingthe various kitchenobjects. The learners in thisgroup did best in a posttestthatmeasured theirability to produce complex noun phrases. The resultsof the studiesreviewedin thissection suggestthatit would be prematureto abandon approaches to teaching grammarthatemphasize production practice. The task facing teachers is to decide when production practice can assist theirstudentsand when it is not likelyto succeed-a task that calls for considerable technical knowledge. Teachers also need to consider whatkind of production practice to provide. To evidence to show that one kind of practice date, there is insufficient (e.g., freepractice) worksbetterthan another (e.g., controlledpractice).



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Negative feedback shows learners that an utterance they have just produced is incorrect. It serves, therefore,to help learners notice the correct gap between their own deviant productions and grammatically feedback often in occurs with productions. Negative conjunction production practice. However, there are reasons for believing that it may if it takes place in the context of activities in which prove more effective the primaryfocus is on meaning rather than on form.Johnson (1988) has argued that "learners need to see for themselveswhat has gone wrong,in the operating conditions in which theywent wrong" (p. 93). Below is an example of the kind of correction that arises naturallyin communication. Feedbackas a Recast Negative A: I bornon 1944. B: Oh, youwerebornin 1944. A: Yeah,in 1944. It involvesan interlocutor This typeof correctionis known as a recast. a learner's utterance or part of an (such as the teacher) reformulating utterance in accordance with target-languagenorms. Lysterand Ranta (1997) found that recastswere the most common formof correctionin French immersion lessons. They also identified five other types of feedback: (a) explicit correction, in which the teacher provides the correctform; (b) clarification requests,in which the teacher indicates an utterance has not been understood; (c) metalinguistic feedback, in which the teacher uses technical language to referto an error (e.g., "It's feminine"); (d) elicitation, in which the teacher attemptsto elicit the correctformfromthe student; and (e) repetition,in which the teacher simplyindicates an error has been made by repeating all or part of a learner's utterance.A question of obvious interestto teachers is which of One wayof answeringthisis by these typesof feedback is most effective. learners' learners' attemptsto repair their own uptake(i.e., examining recasts found that were the least likelytypeof Ranta and errors). Lyster feedback to elicit student repair. Elicitation led to the most uptake, evenlydivided between successful (i.e., the student repaired the error) less overall and unsuccessful.Metalinguisticfeedback produced slightly rate. a success had similar but uptake Of course, uptake does not show that students have learned the correctfeature.To demonstrate this,it is necessaryto find out whether students avoid making the same error on subsequent occasions. Here, the results of the research are mixed. In a reviewof research into the



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effects of corrective feedback on learners' written compositions,Truscott (1996) concluded that feedback did not help learners eliminate errors from their subsequent writtenwork. However, a number of recent classroom studies suggest that negative feedback in the context of communicativeactivitiesmay promote interlanguage development. Lightbown and Spada (1990) report that when teachers corrected learners' errorsduring communicativelessons, the frequencyof at least some errors(e.g., ithas ... instead of the correctthere is .. .) was reduced. the effects of and Varela (1995) Doughty investigated negativefeedback on learners' communicativeoutput. Sixth-to eighth-grade ESL learners were given negative feedback (in the formof recasts) focussingon past tense errors in their oral and writtenlab reports of scientificexperiments.Doughty and Varela reportthatover a 6-weekperiod the learners given this feedback showed gains in terms of both their use of correct targetlanguage formsand theiruse of various interlanguageformsused to markpastness (e.g., theyused the incorrecttokewhere before theyhad used take).These gains were evident in both their oral and writtenlab reports. In contrast,a control group showed gains only in the use of lab reports (i.e., there interlanguagemarkersof pastness in theirwritten were no overall gains in the use of targetformsand no gains in the use of interlanguage past forms in their oral production). This research demonstratesthatnegativefeedback directed at errorsmade in communication can accelerate interlanguage development. There remains considerable uncertainty regardingthe value of negativefeedback. According to some theorists(e.g., Krashen, 1982), correction does not contributeto interlanguage development. However,as we have seen, there is growingevidence thatnegativefeedback can contribute to the kind of implicitknowledge used in communication.Yet very littleis known about which kind of feedback is most effective. Here is an area, then, where teachers have no choice but to relyon theirpractical knowledge. Indeed, given that error correction involvesattending to a varietyof social and affectivefactors (see Allwright,1975), technical knowledge about what works best for language acquisition can never provide a complete basis for correctingerrors.


The preceding brief discussion of four macro-optionsfor delivering form-focussed instructiontogether with examples of recent research provides a basis for examining more closely the relationship between research and teaching. How can the gap between technical and practical knowledge be bridged?

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Is the Gap Worth Bridging?

Educational researchersare committedto establishinga solid knowlThe edge base through research that is valid, reliable, and trustworthy. assumption is that this knowledge base can inform and improve lanconcernguage pedagogy. There are problems withsuch a view,however, ing both the quality of the research and the nature of the relationship between researcher and teacher. The research examined in this paper is fairlytypicalof the kind of focus-on-form investigationscurrentlybeing undertaken. The studies generallydemonstratea sophisticatedawareness of the requirementsof experimental research (e.g., the importance of pretestingand the need for control groups). Nevertheless, there are reasons for exercising caution about the findings.There are methodological problems. For example, not all the studies used random sampling,a standard requirement of experimental research,for the simple reason thatit is oftennot possible or ethical in educational research. Also, many of the studies to investigatedcombinations of instructionaloptions, making it difficult determine which option was responsible for the effectsobserved. But even if these methodological problems were to be overcome, doubts about the generalizabilityof the research would remain. It does not follow that the results obtained for a specific group of learners being taught a specific grammaticalstructureapply to all the individuals in a group, to other groups, or to other grammaticalstructures.Given the situationsand L2 acquienormous complexityof both teaching-learning sition,it is simplynot possible to advocate general solutions on the basis of 1, 2, or even 20 studies. Furthermore,the conflictingnature of the resultsso far obtained, itselfa reflectionof the complexityreferredto above, precludes firmproposals. The assumption that research can provide a knowledge base for making pedagogical decisions is also dangerous because it commonly implies a particularpower relationshipbetween researcher and teacher. It places researchers at the top of a social hierarchy,giving them the for making decisions, and teachers at the bottom, conresponsibility to implementing research-drivencurricula, a state of affairs signed commonlycriticizedin the educational literature(e.g., Carr & Kemmis, 1986). Clarke (1994) has inveighed against such a state of affairsin when teachTESOL, arguingthatcommunicationbecomes dysfunctional ers are placed in a position of receiving"proclamations"fromresearchers. He argues teachers should "keep their own counsel regardingwhat worksand does not work" (p. 23). It might be argued, therefore,that if the research cannot afford general solutions and if the utilization of research findingsimplies an inequitable relationshipbetween researcherand teacher,teachers might

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do better to rely on their own practical knowledge, as Clarke (1994) advocates. Yet this conclusion is not warranted.It derives froma failure to address how practical knowledge and technical knowledge can interact.

Models for Relating Research to Teachers' Practice

Weiss (1977) outlines three models forrelatingresearch-basedknowlthe model, edge to professional activity. According to the decision-driven of for is a or a research not L2 starting theory acquisition previous point piece of research but rather some practical issue of direct concern to teachers. The form-focussedresearch examined in this article was theoreticallydriven, but it was also motivated by issues of practical importance to teachers. How best to teach grammar is a question that different manyteachersfeel the need to address. Investigating options is a betterway of tacklingthe problem of grammar teaching than simply abandoning it in favor of communicative language teaching, as some have suggested (e.g., Krashen, 1982). Williams (1995) points out thatthe current research suggests ways in which a focus on form can be incorporated into communicativeactivities.However,research findings do not provide a basis for proclaiming solutions to practical problems. Rather,as Cronbach (1980) has argued, such findingsshould be used ratherthan applicatively. interpretatively Weiss's second model is the knowledge-driven model,in which the of is research to advance the primary goal knowledgebase of a discipline and or by developing research theories by constructing testingexplicit The on research in methodology. options grammarteaching was partly undertaken with this functionin mind. The specific options that have been studied were based on theoreticalaccounts of how learners acquire an L2. The researchon structured input,forexample, is premised on the that hypothesis interlanguagedevelopment occurs as a resultof processnot ing input, output. Krashen (1983) has argued that it is not research se that should be used to address pedagogical issues but ratherthe per derived from the research. Theory,he claims, provides teachers theory with "an underlyingrationale formethodologyin general" (p. 261) and thus helps them to adapt to different situations. The knowledge-drivenmodel has been a major influence in the development of teacher education programs in TESOL. Stern (1983), for example, has argued the case for developing a foundation of knowledge in applied linguistics, which includes SLA. He argues commonsensicallythatjudgements thatare based on "sound theoretical foundations" (p. 2) will produce better resultsthan those that are not. Most teacher educators, myself included, would concur. Thus, teachers

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who are familiarwith the research on options are better equipped to are develop valid theories of theirown (Williams,1995) and, therefore, more likelyto become effective teachers of grammar.There is, however, a major problem. The knowledge-driven model assumes that teachers willbe consumers of research-basedknowledgebut does not address how this consumption will take place. How can/do teachers make use of the research on form-focussed options? The third of Weiss's (1977) models-the interactive model-addresses this crucial issue. Here technical and practical knowledge are interreThe wayin lated throughthe performanceof some professionalactivity. which this achieved is highly complex. One way of facilitatingthis process is forteachersto treatthe resultsof research theyfindinteresting as provisional specificationsto be tested out in theirown classrooms.As Stenhouse (1975) has put it, is nottobe regarded as The crucial research) pointis thattheproposal(from but ratheras a provisional an unqualifiedrecommendation specification to the testof practice.Such claimingno more than to be worthputting than to be rather correct. claim (p. 25) intelligent proposals In a sense, then, the research serves as a heuristic to guide teachers' experimentationin their own classrooms. An example of a provisional specification is the finding that the option for teaching grammarmay resultin deeper and structured-input more durable learning than traditional production practice. To date, however,the research on this option has investigatedonly a fewpopulaAre the tions of learners and only three or four grammaticalstructures. findingsof thisresearch applicable to other groups of studentsand other structures? Accepting that the findingsof such research are no more than provisionalobviatesthe problems of generalizingresearch findings, referredto earlier. Teachers can investigatethe relevance of research out by simplytrying findingsto their own classroom either informally new ideas or systematically through action research, using their own practical knowledge of teaching to operationalize technical constructs (such as structured input). The case forusing action research in thisway in our field has been made by,among others, Crookes (1993), Nunan (1990), Widdowson (1990), and Williams (1995). Action research is seen both as a way of improving teaching and as a way of overcoming the "dysfunctionsof the theory/practice discourse" that Clarke (1994) objects to. A second way of interrelatingthe two kinds of knowledge is for researchersand teachers to workcollaboratively. However,collaboration often takes the formof researchersco-opting teachers into workingon questions derived fromtheoryor previous research. In other words,it is

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the researcher's perspective that is paramount, which reinforces the hierarchical divide between researchers and teachers. However, there are other formsof collaboration. Louden (1992) describes a longitudinal project he undertook withJoanna, an elementaryschool teacher. Louden's goal was "to understand from the inside how reflection contributesto the action teachers take in theirown classroom" (p. 178). He sought to blur the distinctionbetween himselfas researcherand his subject as teacher.Thus, although he drewon his technical knowledge to propose solutions to problems thatarose in the course of teaching,itwas Joanna who decided what to accept and what to reject. Louden's work provides an example of how Weiss's (1977) interactivemodel mightbe effectively implemented. It suggestsa profitableline for applied focuson-formresearch.

In this article,I have suggested that the notion of options provides a basis for both researching and conducting form-focussed instruction. for research and However, the identificationof a common framework teaching does not ensure theirsymbiosis.To achieve this,it is necessary to consider what kinds of research are most likely to lead to interdependence. I have discussed three typesof research. One is theoretical-pedagogical in which the goal is to develop technical knowledge by addressresearch, theoretical issues of potential practical relevance to teachers. This ing of research is researcherled (although it mayalso involveteachers). type It is manifest in all the studiesof form-focussed instruction referredto in this article. Such research is of value to teachers in that it is a source (although not the only one) of provisionalspecificationsthat individual teachers can testout informally throughtheirown teaching. The second of research is action in which teachers take responsibility for research, type their own research and their own identifying questions conducting investigations.Action research provides a more systematicmeans by which teachers can investigate the provisionalspecifications provided by research. in research, theoretical-pedagogical Finally,there is participatory which a researcher and a teacher collaborate inside the teacher's classroom, pooling their expertise in a manner that gives the teacher control over decision making. Surprisingly, verylittle research has explored how teachers arrive at decisions about what grammarto teach and when and how to teach it, a notable exception being Borg (this issue). That study documents the personal pedagogical systemevident in one teacher's teaching of grammar. This systemwas derived in part from his training as a language


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teacher and in part fromhis own experience as a language learner and teacher. Such studies can also illuminate in whatwaysteachers interpret and personalize research findingsin theirteaching. For,as Eraut (1994) points out, teachers do not simply act on technical knowledge but it through action. Very little is known about how this takes transform in the grammarclass. place ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I am gratefulfor the comments provided by two anonymous TESOL Quarterly reviewers. THE AUTHOR He of TESOL in the College of Education,Temple University. Rod Ellis is Professor in thearea ofsecond language acquisition, his latestbook being has publishedwidely SLA and Language Teaching(Oxford University Press). He has also published a used in Asia and Africa. numberof textbooks REFERENCES of R. (1975). Problemsin the studyof the language teacher's treatment Allwright, in learner error.In M. Burt and H. Dulay (Eds.), ON TESOL '75: New directions DC: TESOL. second learning (pp. 96-112). Washington, language in the adultEFL classroom.TESOL Quarterly, 9, 53-63. Burt,H. (1975). Erroranalysis An investigafroma processingperspective: Cadierno,T. (1995). Formalinstruction tion into the Spanish past tense. TheModern 79, 179-193. LanguageJournal, London: FalmerPress. Calderhead,J. (Ed.). (1988). Teachers'professional learning. and action critical: Education,knowledge Carr, W., & Kemmis, S. (1986). Becoming London: FalmerPress. research. to improve packages study of twointerventional Castagnaro,P. (1991). An experimental notion student forthe Temple ofrelative Unpublishedmanuscript, position. production Tokyo. UniversityJapan, of theory/practice discourse. TESOL Quarterly, Clarke,M. (1994). The dysfunctions 28, 9-26. Reviewof Corder, S. P. (1967). The significanceof learners' errors.International 5, 161-169. Linguistics, Applied San Francisco: evaluation. Cronbach,L. (1980). Toward Jossey-Bass. reform ofprogram Crookes,G. (1993). Action researchand second language teachers:Going beyond teacherresearch.Applied 14, 130-144. Linguistics, Crookes, G. (1997). SLA and language pedagogy:A socio-educationalperspective. in Second Studies 19, 93-116. LanguageAcquisition, DeKeyser,R. (1994). Implicitand explicitlearningof L2 grammar:A pilot study. TESOL Quarterly, 28, 188-194. witha miniature DeKeyser,R. (1995). Learning L2 grammarrules:An experiment 379-410. Studies in Second 17, Language Acquisition, system. linguistic role of comprehensionand DeKeyser,R., & Sokalski,K. (1996). The differential 613-642. 46, Learning, Language practice. production



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