LINGUIST List 30.4389

Tue Nov 19 2019

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: DeKeyser, Prieto Botana (2019)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <>

Date: 23-Aug-2019
From: Ozge Guney <>
Subject: Doing SLA Research with Implications for the Classroom
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Robert M. DeKeyser
EDITOR: Goretti Prieto Botana
TITLE: Doing SLA Research with Implications for the Classroom
SUBTITLE: Reconciling methodological demands and pedagogical applicability
SERIES TITLE: Language Learning & Language Teaching 52
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2019

REVIEWER: Ozge Guney, University of South Florida


Chapter 1: Current Research on instructed second language learning: A bird’s eye view

This edited book presents a collection of empirical studies, classroom observational studies, and laboratory experiments on instructed second language acquisition (ISLA) with pedagogical implications for actual language classrooms. The studies were conducted in the U.S., Canada, Chile, and Japan, and the second language (L2) was English, Spanish, and French. The last chapter by Nina Spada offers an overall discussion of the preceding chapters and their contribution toISLA.

Chapter 2 Observing language-related episodes in intact classrooms: Context matters!

This observational study aimed to explore (i) the type, frequency, characteristics, and resolution of language related episodes (LREs) and (ii) contextual factors that influence the LREs during communicative activities. The data consist of field notes, task materials, informal interviews with teachers, and 607 LREs audio-recorded in three intact classes in Quebec with 87 twelve-year-old intermediate level English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students. Seventeen different tasks were observed in 11 periods that lasted 60-90 minutes each. The corpus included 310, 931 words that spanned 55 hours of interaction. The findings revealed that the frequency of LREs varied widely from every 2 minutes to every 36 minutes depending on the task. As for the characteristics of LREs, the initiator was mostly students (64%) followed by peers (32%) and teachers (4%). Most LREs focused on vocabulary features (80%) followed by grammar (14%) and pronunciation (6%). Also, the participants were able to resolve most of the language issues themselves (80%) without getting any help from the teacher- especially in student-centered classes. As for contextual factors, different teachers’ pedagogical approaches and students’ familiarity with one another respectively influenced what language features students focused on and who initiated the LREs.

Chapter 3 Methodological strengths, challenges, and joys of classroom-based quasi-experimental research: Metacognitive instruction and corrective feedback

This study aimed to investigate how metacognitive instruction (MI) about the importance of corrective feedback (CF) affected the way learners benefited from CF. There were four intact EFL groups (B1 level) exposed to one of the following conditions: (i) MI plus input-providing CF (recast), (ii) input-providing CF only, (iii) MI plus output-prompting CF (learners’ self-correction), and (iv) output-prompting CF only.

The data were collected from 83 L1 Spanish learners at a private university in Chile. There were two target structures: third person singular -s (3SG -s) and possessive determiners (PDs). Picture description tasks were employed before and after the intervention to elicit the target structures. The findings showed that the scores of learners in three groups other than input-providing CF only improved significantly, meaning MI and output-prompting CF promote the development of both 3SG -s and PDs. Also, the positive effect of MI was visible particularly for input-providing CF. MI did not have a positive effect on output-prompting CF for target structures. The study suggests that, as input-providing CF promoted target structures only when it was introduced through MI, teacher training of CF (i.e., frequency and employing the right type of CF in different contexts) for pre- and in-service teachers is of paramount importance.

Chapter 4 Integrating instructed second language research, pragmatics, and corpus-based instruction

This quasi-experimental study aimed to compare two different types of corpus-based classroom instruction on teaching pragmatics (more specifically agreement, disagreement, and self-clarification) in eight EFL classrooms (Level 5) with 54 participants. There were two experimental groups and one control group. The first experimental group included corpus materials (CM) developed by teacher-researchers using authentic data from MICASE (Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English). In the second experimental group, students did hands-on corpus searches (CS) using MICASE. The data were collected through a pre-test, a post-test, and finally a questionnaire. The results showed that all groups improved their scores in the post-tests; however, the control group scored lower than both of the experimental groups. Thus, teachers may enhance their instruction benefiting from the authentic data from corpora and incorporating CM and CS exercises in their classes in the most appropriate way based on the context and the level of students.

Chapter 5 The roles of explicit instruction and guided practice in the proceduralization of a complex grammatical structure

This experimental study aimed to compare the effects of metalinguistic explanation (ME) and a guided story reconstruction (SR) task on the acquisition of English past counterfactual conditional. The study adopted skill-learning theory where the teacher first provides learners with metalinguistic information and then controlled exercises which are followed by the production stage/communicative activities. The participants (n= 121) were economics majors at a Japanese university and their level varied from low to intermediate. The students were randomly assigned to one of the following four groups: (i) ME+SR task, (ii) SR only, (iii) ME only, and (iv) a control group. The experimental groups participated in seven sessions which took place in a computer laboratory. The data were collected through Error Correction tests and SR tasks applied both before and after the treatment. The overall findings of the study revealed that ME+ SR task condition was the most influential followed by the ME only and the SR only condition. There was no significant improvement with the control group. The study suggests that explicit instruction is helpful when combined with productive practices particularly with low proficiency learners.

Chapter 6 The effects of recasts versus prompts on immediate uptake and learning of a complex target structure

This experimental study aimed to compare the effects of recasts and prompts on the acquisition of relative clauses when there is no explicit instruction before the treatment. The participants were 54 low- and high- ESL students in Canada who were randomly assigned to one of the following groups: (i) recast, (ii) prompt, (iii) control group. The treatment, pre- and post-tests all included similar picture-cued oral production tasks and took place outside the classroom. The findings showed that learners who received recasts scored higher than the prompt group. Also, there was no significant difference between the prompt and the control group. The study thus suggests that classroom instruction may be facilitated through the use of recasts by the instructor.

Chapter 7 The effects of multiple exposures to explicit information: Evidence from two types of learning problems and practice conditions

This experimental study aimed to compare the effects of multiple versus no exposure to explicit information (EI) under two practice conditions: task-essential (TE) and non-task-essential practice conditions. The target structures were OVS (object, Verb, Subject) sentences and ser/estar structures in Spanish and were assessed through pre- and post-tests. There were four experimental groups (-EI, -TE; -EI, +TE; +EI, -TE; and +EI, +TE) and one control group. One hundred and thirty participants were randomly assigned to these groups and attended sessions either in a regular classroom or a computer lab. The overall scores revealed that for OVS sentences, [+EI] groups outperformed [-EI] groups irrespective of TE. For ser/estar structures, only [+TE] and only [+EI] groups led to significant gains. The research suggests that explicit deductive information enhances language learning and thus should be a part of classroom instruction.

Chapter 8 CALL in ISLA Promoting depth of processing of complex L2 Spanish “Para/Por” prepositions

This study compares the effects of two versions of a videogame (one with guided induction (GI) the other one with deductive instruction (DI)) on the acquisition of 10 uses of Spanish prepositions para and por. The participants (n=15) had no or little prior knowledge of the prepositions and were assigned to two experimental groups: the GI group (n=7) and the DI group (n=8). Pre- and post-test scores pointed to a significant improvement in recognition and control written production of the two prepositions for both GI and DI groups with no statistically significant difference between these two. The study hence suggests that hybrid curricula could be created in a way to incorporate CALL in classroom instruction.

Chapter 9 Lexical development in the writing of intensive English program students

This study investigated the lexical development (diversity and sophistication) of 61 IEP (Intensive English Program) students at an American university over two semesters. The researchers compared free writing samples of this group with previous data from a more controlled context. The participants started at intermediate level and came from three different language backgrounds: Arabic, Korean, and Chinese. The results indicated an improvement in only sophistication levels of the participants. Also, there was a positive correlation between the proficiency levels and the lexical development of the participants. Researchers, thus, suggested that a metric of lexical quality be developed in addition to lexical diversity and sophistication.

Chapter 10 Discussion: Balancing methodological rigor and pedagogical relevance

Research presented in this book challenges the common conceptions on experimental and descriptive research suggesting the former lacks classroom applications and the latter lacks external validity (generalizability). Rather, the experimental studies in this volume may be replicated in regular classrooms. As for descriptive research, it may provide a foundation for prospective experimental studies, and after all, “the concept of generalizability may not be a feasible or desirable goal in ISLA research” (p. 213).


The book aimed to bridge the so-called gap between SLA (Second Language Acquisition) research (theory) and classroom pedagogy (practice). With the empirical studies conducted in either actual classrooms or computer labs by teacher-researchers, the book offers a wide range of ideas and pedagogical implications related to textbook and material development; instructional tasks, activities, and exercises in speaking, writing, vocabulary, and grammar; feedback and error correction, and finally the use of technology and computers in the language classroom. Hence, the book has proven to be an invaluable source for practitioners, language teachers, curriculum and material developers as well as the directors of language programs.

Additionally, in every chapter of the book, researchers paid particular attention to defining the stages of their study in detail such as research design, participants, setting, instruments, item construction, material and activity development, and methodological challenges and advantages of particular research designs. Such comprehensive description not only makes it possible for the other researchers in the field to replicate the studies in this edited volume but also serves as a guide for undergraduate and graduate students doing SLA research with all the take-away points addressed in each chapter.

Last but not least, each chapter addresses a different issue in a different context with different participants coming from a variety of backgrounds. The target languages include Spanish, English, and Japanese; and the setting varies from USA, Canada, Japan to Chile. In this respect, the book offers insights into SLA and classroom instruction for a wide variety of readers.

Having said that, there are some side issues that might be worth considering. First of all, most of the chapters present experimental research, and there were some limitations relating to their methodology. For example, in most of the chapters, researchers do not give information about the piloting stage of the instruments (except for Chapter 6). Also, in some other chapters (e.g., Chapter 4 (n=54) and Chapter 8 (n=15)), the sample size might be too small to run a statistical test or to reach a generalization, whereby such a small sample size might also cause validity issues. Finally, some chapters need to be complemented with qualitative data, which only Chapter 8 offers. Some research topics covered in this edited book such as LREs in Chapter 2 lend themselves towards qualitative research as well. However, although the researchers in Chapter 2 stated they conducted an observational/descriptive study with data collected through observation, field notes, and informal interviews, such qualitative data were not offered in the chapter itself.

On a final note, there is no doubt that this edited book flourishing with research ideas from a variety of contexts will attract and inform its readers with the actual classroom applications it offers.


Ozge Guney is a Ph.D. student in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies program, University of South Florida. Her research interests include identity and issues of social justice with a focus on sexuality and religion in the fields of Second Language Acquisition and English Language Teaching.

Page Updated: 19-Nov-2019