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Theses Doctoral

Effects of Implicit and Explicit Focus on Form on L2 Acquisition of the English Passive

Jung, Ji-Yung

Learning a second language (L2) is essential in today’s globalized world. However, learners generally have low sensitivity to grammar, as L2 acquisition proceeds largely through functions. Thus, pedagogical assistance appears to be necessary to trigger learners’ attention to L2 grammar, but research shows no consensus on which type of instruction best promotes it. Moreover, few empirical studies have examined 'acquisition' of target constructions, which entails mappings between form, meaning, and function.

To address this gap, the present study investigated the effects of implicit and explicit instruction on L2 acquisition of the English passive. The passive was chosen as the target construction due to the intricate mappings between form, meaning, and function encompassed in it. The study employed an experimental design including a pretest, immediate posttest, and delayed posttest, with five treatment sessions between the pretest and posttests. Participants were 99 Korean English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) learners, randomly assigned to two experimental groups that received implicit or explicit instruction, respectively, or a control group. Implicit instruction comprised typographically enhanced passive constructions to increase perceptual saliency; explicit instruction comprised a grammar activity to raise the participants’ consciousness about the passive construction. Five measurement tasks were employed to examine any changes in the participants’ knowledge of, and ability to use, the passive: a grammaticality judgment task (GJT), a sentence pair task, a closed discourse completion task (DCT), and spoken and written production tasks.

Results from quantitative and qualitative analyses of the data yielded three main findings. First, implicit instruction had a more significant, beneficial effect than explicit instruction on the overall mappings between the form, meaning, and function of the passive. Second, the difference appeared to be more salient for meaning and function, whereas both types of instruction had almost equal benefits for form; yet, the production tasks seemed to exhibit a greater score decrease as for meaning and function over time in both treatment conditions. Finally, each type of instruction had similar effects on the performance of high- and low-level learners.

Overall, these findings suggest that both types of instruction are beneficial for L2 acquisition but implicit instruction is more effective than explicit instruction.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Han, ZhaoHong
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
January 22, 2020