Does intensive explicit grammar instruction make all the difference? : Does intensive explicit grammar instruction make all the difference? Presentation Prepared by:
Isa López Rivera All quotes are taken from:
Ernesto Macaro and Liz Masterman
Language Teaching Research 2006; 10; 297
DOI: 10.1191/1362168806lr197oa ,unless otherwise noted. Introduction : Introduction “This paper investigates the effect of explicit grammar instruction on grammatical knowledge and writing proficiency in first-year students of French at a UK university. Previous research suggests that explicit grammar instruction results in gains in explicit knowledge and its application in specific grammar-related tasks, but there is less evidence that it results in gains in production tasks. A cohort of 12 students received a course in French grammar immediately prior to their university studies in order to determine whether a short but intensive burst of explicit instruction, a pedagogical approach thus far unexamined in the literature, was sufficiently powerful to bring about an improvement in their grammatical knowledge and performance in production tasks.” What exactly is meant by teaching grammar explicitly? : What exactly is meant by teaching grammar explicitly? What exactly is meant by teaching grammar explicitly is, of course, highly dependent on the viewpoint of the person advocating it or otherwise. For the purposes of this paper, the authors define as:
Establishing as the prime objective of a lesson (or part of a lesson) the explanation of how a morphosyntactic rule or pattern works, with some reference to metalinguistic terminology, and providing examples of this rule in a linguistic, though not necessarily a functional, context. Background : Background There has been considerable focus of attention on the relationship between explicit(analysed) grammatical knowledge and implicit (unanalysed) grammatical knowledge and how this might relate to language development.
It is generally accepted that explicit knowledge is acquired through controlled processes in declarative memory, while implicit knowledge is acquired through much less conscious or even subconscious processes.
The implications of these two types of knowledge for L2 instruction are two fold. Background : Background At the same time that there is research evidence that some focus on the grammatical features of the L2 is beneficial to developing the interlanguage of a learner, the evidence with regard to the explicit teaching of grammatical features is not sufficiently conclusive to be able to influence pedagogy directly.
Particularly inconclusive is the issue of whether being taught rules explicitly leads to successful internalization of those rules. Participants : Participants 12 Participants were tested at three points over five months:
Pre-test: Intervention group – immediately before the start of the intensive grammar course (September 2003). Comparison group – as soon as practicable after starting their studies (October 2003).
Interim test: Intervention group only – one week after the end of the intensive grammar course and immediately prior to starting their studies (October 2003).
Post-test: Both groups: after 11/2 terms’ tuition (12 weeks) (February 2004).
The results were compared with a group which did not receive the intervention.
Note: Students in both groups were free to withdraw from the study at anytime, but none did so. Research questions and rationale : Research questions and rationale 1) Is an intensive course in explicit French grammar given to high-achieving first-year undergraduates a sufficiently powerful intervention to bring about
(a) an improvement in their grammatical knowledge
(b) a reduction in their written production errors ?
2) Is any immediate improvement sustained over a longer period?
3) Is any reduction in production errors brought about without a detrimental effect on other aspects of writing proficiency?
4) Is any detected improvement significantly different from the long term progress made by a comparison group not receiving the intervention? Method : Method 12 participants
The intensive grammar course
3 Grammar tests
Error correction and rule explanation
Narrative composition Tasks : Tasks Working individually or in pairs, students composed sentences incorporating que, dont, lequel, etc. (continuation of previous day’s topic) (9 minutes).
Tutor used a sentence written by a student in a previous exercise to explain the agreement of the direct object in relative clauses with the passé composé (3 minutes).
Tutor explained the use of the relative pronoun dont and set an exercise for students to compose sentences. He then coached individual students during the exercise and gave feedback to the whole class (9 minutes).
Tutor set an exercise for students to work in pairs to reconstruct fragmented sentences involving relative pronouns and the future and conditional verb tenses (15 minutes). Tutor then asked students to read out their work and included explanations of grammatical rules in his feedback. He also asked them to write the sentences in their notebooks (7 minutes).
Tutor set a computer-based exercise for students to read articles on the Website of Le Monde, identify constructions containing relative pronouns and copy them into their notebooks (8 minutes).
6. Tutor gave a dictation and asked students to underline occurrences of grammatical elements studied during this session and on the previous day, including demonstrative adjectives and agreement of the past participle (9 minutes). Discussion : Discussion The study described in this paper set out to answer four inter-related questions regarding whether an intensive course in French grammar given to high-achieving first-year undergraduates, prior to starting their degree programme proper, was a sufficiently powerful intervention to bring about an improvement in their grammatical knowledge, both in the short and long term, a reduction in their production errors without any detrimental effect on other aspects of written production, and these improvements as compared to a group who did not receive the intensive course. Limitations : Limitations The study, was not without its limitations. These were imposed largely by the:
non-random nature of the selection
the small number of participants
Both of these factors lay outside the researchers’ control due to the:
‘remedial purpose’ of the grammar course
the reliance on volunteers for participation in the comparison group
Lack of control over other variables:
such as the quantity and quality of regular language teaching received by students and individual learner differences in approaches to self-study .
This means that the could not generalize the results with confidence beyond the sampling frame of the Oxford MFL students. Conclusions : Conclusions The intensive course of explicit grammar teaching was not a sufficiently powerful independent variable in bringing about the intended structural change in the intervention group’s interlanguage. In other words, it did not ‘make all the difference’.