LINGUIST List 24.4283

Tue Oct 29 2013

Review: Applied Linguistics: Ellis (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 25-Jul-2013
From: Qin Wang <>
Subject: Language Teaching Research and Language Pedagogy
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Book announced at

AUTHOR: Rod EllisTITLE: Language Teaching Research and Language PedagogyPUBLISHER: Wiley-BlackwellYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Qin Wang, Dalian University of Foreign Languages

SUMMARYSince Chaudron’s (1988) classic SECOND LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS, much research hasbeen published on language teaching and learning in second language (L2)classrooms. In this book, Ellis synthesizes a wide range of classroom researchand aims to provide insights into language teaching, learning, and research.Each of the eleven chapters deals with a hot topic in the current languageresearch, including research methods in second language classrooms, classroomdiscourse and interaction, teaching pedagogy, second language learning andindividual learner differences.

Chapter 1, “Introduction: Developments in language teaching research”,provides a clear overview of language teaching research. The author carefullydefines language teaching research and distinguishes “language teachingresearch” from “second language classroom research”, “language classroom” from“language classrooms”, and “classroom research” from “classroom-orientedresearch”. A brief introduction to topics dealt with in later chapters is alsopresented. This concise overview lays a solid foundation for the followingchapters.

Chapter 2, “Methods for researching the second language classroom”, provides ageneral account of research methods in second language classroom. The purposeis to describe rather than evaluate methods. The chapter begins bydistinguishing between practitioner research and formal research, withexamples. Qualitative (“descriptive”) and quantitative (“confirmatory”)research methods are then discussed as two main research traditions in termsof theoretical underpinning, research design, data collection, and dataanalysis.

Chapter 3, “ Comparative method studies”, focuses on the comparative researchmethod favored by many language teaching researchers. The author synthesizes atotal of 16 studies employing this method from 1917 to 2010. Researchmethodology and research results of each selected study are presented anddiscussed. The chapter concludes with six methodological problems in thestudies.

Chapter 4, “Second language classroom discourse”, highlights classroomdiscourse as language learning process research in different discourseanalytical frameworks. The author organizes classroom discourse research interms of various discourse analytical systems, reflecting its development overthe past 40 years. Following the chronological development of the model, thediscourse analytical systems introduced are respectively early interactionanalysis systems that consist of discreet categories, discourse analyticalsystems that describes interactional structures, conversational analysis,sociocultural theory and language socialization. The author reviews studies ineach system, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the systems. A summaryof key characteristics of classroom discourse concludes.

Chapter 5, “Focus on the teacher”, examines teacher behaviors and beliefs inL2 classrooms. A focused examination of second language classroom teachers ispresented on teacher-student talk, teacher questions, teacher’s use of thelearners’ first language or code-switching, teacher’s use of metalanguage,corrective feedback, and teacher’s beliefs about language teaching. Theultimate goal is to understand how teachers can best facilitate languagelearning. At the end of the chapter, the author illustrates “focus on theteacher” from cognitive and socio-interactional perspectives in a table.

Chapter 6, “Focus on the learner”, centers on research that investigateslearners’ contribution to L2 classrooms. Although there is less research onthe learner’s contribution to classrooms than on the teacher’s, the authorreviews a number of longitudinal studies investigating the paths of learners’grammatical development, pragmatic development, and socialization. Thecharacteristics of learner talk in classroom and in small group work are alsoexamined and summarized.

Chapter 7, “Investigating the performance of tasks”, addresses the design andthe implementation of tasks in language classroom. The author carefullydefines “task” and differentiates it from “exercise” following four criteria.Design and implementation variables that influence task performance arepresented. Ellis posits that how a task is designed and implemented willinfluence learners’ language production. Research evaluating tasks concludes.

Chapter 8, “Interaction and L2 learning in the classroom”, investigateswhether and how interaction is conducive to language learning from twotheoretical perspectives -- sociocultural theory and interactionist-cognitivetheories. The author first provides clear explanations of “development” insociocultural theory and “acquisition” in interactionist-cognitive theories.Studies that examine the relationship between interaction and languagelearning in both theoretical frameworks are reviewed. Ellis’ review of severaloral corrective feedback studies provides evidence for the efficacy ofcorrective feedback in language learning. After synthesizing findings, theauthor concludes that interaction facilitates acquisition in L2 classrooms.

Chapter 9, “Form-focused instruction and second language learning”, furtherextends the discussion of interaction and instruction. The author explores aspecific type of pedagogy in L2 classrooms -- form-focused instruction (FFI).FFI, a type of popular language pedagogy in communication-based andcontent-based classrooms, has aroused increasing interest in recent years. Theauthor claims that the role of FFI in language learning is to “facilitate”rather than “teach”. He proposes an options-based approach with concreteinstructional activities to investigate FFI. Early and recent FFI researchinvestigating FFI options is reviewed. Problems of measuring FFI effects arethen briefly mentioned. Ellis identifies the need to measure implicitknowledge and calls for work on how to measure implicit knowledge.

Chapter 10, “Instruction, individual differences and L2 learning”, exploreshow learners’ individual factors interrelate with language instruction andlearning outcomes. The author examines individual difference factors oflanguage aptitude, working memory, language anxiety, willingness tocommunicate, and motivation. Moreover, learning strategy training is alsodiscussed. Learner individual factors are complex and dynamic. The authorcautions that characterizing learners as “types” can be dangerous inindividual learner difference research.

Chapter 11, “Conclusion: research and language teaching”, discusses keymethodological issues in language teaching research and suggests ways to applyresearch to teaching practice. Drawing on Chaudron (1988), Ellis reexaminesthe following issues: measures of classroom process and products, researchdesign, data analysis, and theoretical issues. He proposes that trainingteachers, raising teachers’ awareness, and the promotion of practitionerresearch are three possible ways to apply research findings to actualteaching.

EVALUATIONLanguage teaching research and language pedagogy are complex and dynamictopics with a rich research tradition. Ellis succeeds in this volume insynthesizing a wide body of research, with a comprehensive overview of worksince his earlier book entitled ''SLA Research and Language Teaching'' (1997).The author has fulfilled his goal with the book by providing valuableinformation about language teaching, learning, and research. Both languageteachers and researchers can benefit from this informative volume. Teacherscan familiarize themselves with research findings and apply them into theirclassroom teaching. Researchers can refer to the book for highly condensedsummary of various research issues and to assist them in their own research.

The book has several strengths. First, the author provides a holistic updatedpicture of diverse topics in the field. Key constructs in language teachingand learning are incorporated and Ellis addresses issues such as the role ofFFI, explicit and implicit knowledge, the roles of input and output,consciousness-raising, the acquisition of pragmatic competence, taskevaluation, individual difference factors, etc. Second, the author highlightsa number of issues that need more attention from researchers. For example, inChapter 9 Ellis points out the need to measure implicit knowledge. To the bestof my knowledge, other than a few attempts (such as Norris & Ortega, 2000;Ellis, 2005; Erlam, 2006; Erlam, Loewen & Philp, 2009) there is littleresearch on how to measure implicit knowledge. Third, the author bridgeslanguage teaching research and teaching practice. Insights and suggestions areprovided throughout to make research findings into practical technicalknowledge for language teachers.

If there is a second edition, a concluding chapter with more evaluation of thekey issues discussed in the previous chapters would be very welcome. Criticalevaluations would contribute to the development of future research and thepractice of language teaching.

To sum up, this book is a valuable addition to language teaching research. Itcontributes to second language acquisition research in both theoretical aspectand practical aspect.

REFERENCESChaudron, C. (1988). Second language classrooms: Research on Teaching andLearning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1997). SLA research and language teaching. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Ellis, R. (2005). Measuring implicit and explicit knowledge of a secondlanguage: A psychometric study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27(2),141–172.

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 andoutput-based instruction in the acquisition of L2 implicit and explicitknowledge. In Ellis, R., Loewen, S., Elder, C., Erlam, R., Philp, J. andReinders, H. (eds). Implicit and Explicit knowledge in second languagelearning and teaching. Bristol, Multilingual matters, 241-261.

Norris, J. & L. Ortega (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A researchsynthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50(3), 417–528.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERQin Wang is a doctoral candidate in language development at Boston University,USA and associate professor of English at Dalian University of ForeignLanguages, China. She has English and Chinese language teaching experience atthe college level in both China and the USA. Her research interest is inlanguage development and second language acquisition. Her current research ison corrective feedback. Her work is supported by a research grant from theDalian University of Foreign Languages (2012XJQN10).

Page Updated: 29-Oct-2013