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The effectiveness of explicit grammar instruction for the young foreign language learner: a classroom-based experimental study

Hanan, Rowena E. (2015) The effectiveness of explicit grammar instruction for the young foreign language learner: a classroom-based experimental study. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Within the input-poor foreign language classroom, opportunities to draw on implicit learning mechanisms are limited. Yet little research has explored the effectiveness of explicit instruction for young learners. The current study investigated the extent to which English learners of L2 German (aged 9-11) benefitted from instruction on accusative case-marking (den) for masculine definite articles in German, a problematic feature for L1 English learners due to a reliance on word order when assigning grammatical roles (as predicted by MacWhinney’s Competition Model and VanPatten’s First Noun Principle). Two input-based interventions provided explicit information plus EITHER: Task Essential Form-Meaning Connection (TE-FMC) activities forcing attention on the article and its role-assigning function; OR Task Essential-Form (TE-F) activities forcing attention on the article only ('spot the form'). Learners were randomly assigned to the TE-FMC (n = 45) and TE-F (n = 41) treatments. A control group (n = 52) received instruction on lexical items, but no exposure to den. Two untimed written tasks (sentence matching, gap fill), three one-to-one oral tasks (act-out comprehension, act-out production, elicited imitation), and a metalinguistic task were administered as pre-, post-, and delayed post-tests to assess knowledge of der and den. Both interventions yielded large, durable gains across the written and oral tasks. The Control group made no improvement. The TE-FMC and TE-F learners’ verbalisable knowledge also improved at post-test, but deteriorated by delayed post-test. Under both conditions, learners had developed explicit knowledge of the target feature, available on untimed written tasks, as well as more automatized knowledge, accessible under time and communicative pressure. Fine-grained analysis revealed that group-level gains could be accounted for by a sub-group of learners within each condition, reflecting the influence of individual differences on instructional effectiveness. The findings contribute to previous research by demonstrating the beneficial role of explicit instruction and knowledge for child L2 learning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: explicit grammar instruction, young learners, German, foreign language learning, input processing
Academic Units: The University of York > Department of Education (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.647742
Depositing User: Miss Rowena Hanan
Date Deposited: 02 Jun 2015 15:49
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9059

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