LINGUIST List 24.4283|
Tue Oct 29 2013
Review: Applied Linguistics: Ellis (2012)
Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons
From: Qin Wang <melodyqwbu.edu>
Subject: Language Teaching Research and Language Pedagogy
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2461.html
AUTHOR: Rod Ellis
TITLE: Language Teaching Research and Language Pedagogy
REVIEWER: Qin Wang, Dalian University of Foreign Languages
Since Chaudron’s (1988) classic SECOND LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS, much research has
been published on language teaching and learning in second language (L2)
classrooms. In this book, Ellis synthesizes a wide range of classroom research
and aims to provide insights into language teaching, learning, and research.
Each of the eleven chapters deals with a hot topic in the current language
research, including research methods in second language classrooms, classroom
discourse and interaction, teaching pedagogy, second language learning and
individual learner differences.
Chapter 1, “Introduction: Developments in language teaching research”,
provides a clear overview of language teaching research. The author carefully
defines language teaching research and distinguishes “language teaching
research” from “second language classroom research”, “language classroom” from
“language classrooms”, and “classroom research” from “classroom-oriented
research”. A brief introduction to topics dealt with in later chapters is also
presented. This concise overview lays a solid foundation for the following
Chapter 2, “Methods for researching the second language classroom”, provides a
general account of research methods in second language classroom. The purpose
is to describe rather than evaluate methods. The chapter begins by
distinguishing between practitioner research and formal research, with
examples. Qualitative (“descriptive”) and quantitative (“confirmatory”)
research methods are then discussed as two main research traditions in terms
of theoretical underpinning, research design, data collection, and data
Chapter 3, “ Comparative method studies”, focuses on the comparative research
method favored by many language teaching researchers. The author synthesizes a
total of 16 studies employing this method from 1917 to 2010. Research
methodology and research results of each selected study are presented and
discussed. The chapter concludes with six methodological problems in the
Chapter 4, “Second language classroom discourse”, highlights classroom
discourse as language learning process research in different discourse
analytical frameworks. The author organizes classroom discourse research in
terms of various discourse analytical systems, reflecting its development over
the past 40 years. Following the chronological development of the model, the
discourse analytical systems introduced are respectively early interaction
analysis systems that consist of discreet categories, discourse analytical
systems that describes interactional structures, conversational analysis,
sociocultural theory and language socialization. The author reviews studies in
each system, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the systems. A summary
of key characteristics of classroom discourse concludes.
Chapter 5, “Focus on the teacher”, examines teacher behaviors and beliefs in
L2 classrooms. A focused examination of second language classroom teachers is
presented on teacher-student talk, teacher questions, teacher’s use of the
learners’ first language or code-switching, teacher’s use of metalanguage,
corrective feedback, and teacher’s beliefs about language teaching. The
ultimate goal is to understand how teachers can best facilitate language
learning. At the end of the chapter, the author illustrates “focus on the
teacher” from cognitive and socio-interactional perspectives in a table.
Chapter 6, “Focus on the learner”, centers on research that investigates
learners’ contribution to L2 classrooms. Although there is less research on
the learner’s contribution to classrooms than on the teacher’s, the author
reviews a number of longitudinal studies investigating the paths of learners’
grammatical development, pragmatic development, and socialization. The
characteristics of learner talk in classroom and in small group work are also
examined and summarized.
Chapter 7, “Investigating the performance of tasks”, addresses the design and
the implementation of tasks in language classroom. The author carefully
defines “task” and differentiates it from “exercise” following four criteria.
Design and implementation variables that influence task performance are
presented. Ellis posits that how a task is designed and implemented will
influence learners’ language production. Research evaluating tasks concludes.
Chapter 8, “Interaction and L2 learning in the classroom”, investigates
whether and how interaction is conducive to language learning from two
theoretical perspectives -- sociocultural theory and interactionist-cognitive
theories. The author first provides clear explanations of “development” in
sociocultural theory and “acquisition” in interactionist-cognitive theories.
Studies that examine the relationship between interaction and language
learning in both theoretical frameworks are reviewed. Ellis’ review of several
oral corrective feedback studies provides evidence for the efficacy of
corrective feedback in language learning. After synthesizing findings, the
author concludes that interaction facilitates acquisition in L2 classrooms.
Chapter 9, “Form-focused instruction and second language learning”, further
extends the discussion of interaction and instruction. The author explores a
specific type of pedagogy in L2 classrooms -- form-focused instruction (FFI).
FFI, a type of popular language pedagogy in communication-based and
content-based classrooms, has aroused increasing interest in recent years. The
author claims that the role of FFI in language learning is to “facilitate”
rather than “teach”. He proposes an options-based approach with concrete
instructional activities to investigate FFI. Early and recent FFI research
investigating FFI options is reviewed. Problems of measuring FFI effects are
then briefly mentioned. Ellis identifies the need to measure implicit
knowledge and calls for work on how to measure implicit knowledge.
Chapter 10, “Instruction, individual differences and L2 learning”, explores
how learners’ individual factors interrelate with language instruction and
learning outcomes. The author examines individual difference factors of
language aptitude, working memory, language anxiety, willingness to
communicate, and motivation. Moreover, learning strategy training is also
discussed. Learner individual factors are complex and dynamic. The author
cautions that characterizing learners as “types” can be dangerous in
individual learner difference research.
Chapter 11, “Conclusion: research and language teaching”, discusses key
methodological issues in language teaching research and suggests ways to apply
research to teaching practice. Drawing on Chaudron (1988), Ellis reexamines
the following issues: measures of classroom process and products, research
design, data analysis, and theoretical issues. He proposes that training
teachers, raising teachers’ awareness, and the promotion of practitioner
research are three possible ways to apply research findings to actual
Language teaching research and language pedagogy are complex and dynamic
topics with a rich research tradition. Ellis succeeds in this volume in
synthesizing a wide body of research, with a comprehensive overview of work
since his earlier book entitled ''SLA Research and Language Teaching'' (1997).
The author has fulfilled his goal with the book by providing valuable
information about language teaching, learning, and research. Both language
teachers and researchers can benefit from this informative volume. Teachers
can familiarize themselves with research findings and apply them into their
classroom teaching. Researchers can refer to the book for highly condensed
summary of various research issues and to assist them in their own research.
The book has several strengths. First, the author provides a holistic updated
picture of diverse topics in the field. Key constructs in language teaching
and learning are incorporated and Ellis addresses issues such as the role of
FFI, explicit and implicit knowledge, the roles of input and output,
consciousness-raising, the acquisition of pragmatic competence, task
evaluation, individual difference factors, etc. Second, the author highlights
a number of issues that need more attention from researchers. For example, in
Chapter 9 Ellis points out the need to measure implicit knowledge. To the best
of my knowledge, other than a few attempts (such as Norris & Ortega, 2000;
Ellis, 2005; Erlam, 2006; Erlam, Loewen & Philp, 2009) there is little
research on how to measure implicit knowledge. Third, the author bridges
language teaching research and teaching practice. Insights and suggestions are
provided throughout to make research findings into practical technical
knowledge for language teachers.
If there is a second edition, a concluding chapter with more evaluation of the
key issues discussed in the previous chapters would be very welcome. Critical
evaluations would contribute to the development of future research and the
practice of language teaching.
To sum up, this book is a valuable addition to language teaching research. It
contributes to second language acquisition research in both theoretical aspect
and practical aspect.
Chaudron, C. (1988). Second language classrooms: Research on Teaching and
Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ellis, R. (1997). SLA research and language teaching. Oxford: Oxford
Ellis, R. (2005). Measuring implicit and explicit knowledge of a second
language: A psychometric study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27(2),
Erlam, R. (2006). Elicited imitation as a measure
of L2 procedural knowledge:
an empirical validation study. Applied Linguistics, 27(3), 464-491.
Erlam, R., Loewen, S., Philp, J.(2009). The roles of input-based and
output-based instruction in the acquisition of L2 implicit and explicit
knowledge. In Ellis, R., Loewen, S., Elder, C., Erlam, R., Philp, J. and
Reinders, H. (eds). Implicit and Explicit knowledge in second language
learning and teaching. Bristol, Multilingual matters, 241-261.
Norris, J. & L. Ortega (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research
synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50(3), 417–528.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Qin Wang is a doctoral candidate in language development at Boston University,
USA and associate professor of English at Dalian University of Foreign
Languages, China. She has English and Chinese language teaching experience at
the college level in both China and the USA. Her research interest is in
language development and second language acquisition. Her current research is
on corrective feedback. Her work is supported by a research grant from the
Dalian University of Foreign Languages (2012XJQN10).
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