Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Language teaching

The Effects of Teacher Pre-Task Instruction on Learners’ Attention to Form during Task

Author ChangWenJing
Tutor LiuXueHui
School Nanjing Normal University
Course Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
Keywords "focus on form" pre-task instruction negotiation
CLC H319
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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In the pedagogy of English as a foreign/second language, the relationship between "meaning" and "form" has always been a key and controversial issue. While Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which has been popular in language classrooms, could significantly improve the fluency of language use, researchers have found the accuracy of language use is not satisfactory, which becomes an impediment of the practice of CLT approach and also hinders learners’English L2acquisition. Long (1988) first proposed an option known as " focus on form" which attempts to combine communicative language use with instruction on grammar forms in context. Since then many researchers such as Ellis (2001), Long and Robinson (1998) and Doughty and Williams (1998) began to explore how to integrate "focus on form" into the communicative language classrooms.With the development of research in cooperative learning within the socio-cultural perspective, researchers have found that the use of collaborative tasks, in which learners are usually assigned to work in pairs or small groups, is one of the effective ways for learners to focus on language use. In recent years, studies on factors that can affect learner’s attention to form have been conducted a lot, such as the nature of collaboration (Swain&Lapkin,1998), task types (Storch,2001; Williams,1999), and length of task discourse (Williams,1999). However, in most of these studies, teacher’s role in facilitating students’task process has not been paid enough attention to and even been neglected. In spite of a popular preference of "learner-centered" atmosphere in language classrooms, the role of teachers is still not to be underestimated. According to the mediation theory, proposed by Vygotsky and Feuerstein, the teacher should play an important role as mediator to promote learning quality. But it is a problem for teachers to consider how to make this mediating function to its optimal condition.In view of those above, the present study was carried out to investigate the effects of the teacher’s pre-task instruction (PTI) on learners’attention to form. Thirty-two intermediate English majors from a college in China participated in the study. Among them,9pairs were in the experiment group and7pairs in the control group. Data were collected from both groups through the same procedure using a jigsaw task except for the pre-task stage, where the experiment group was given instructions about conversational devices dealing with both language and content problems, while the control group was not. During the task, all the dyads in both groups were required to describe the given pictures, and then to produce a cooperative composition. The interaction of each pair was recorded with a digital recorder and then transcribed.A total of406linguistic problems were identified in the participants’interactions, among which,266problems were attended to and generated into language-related episodes (LREs). Out of the266LREs,234problems were solved correctly. These figures were computed in the SPSS13.0program, which yields the following findings:1) Pre-task instruction has significant effects on learners’attention to form. Learners in the experiment group pay significantly more attention to formal features than those in the control group;2) More problems are solved correctly in the experiment group than in the control group, but the ratio of the number of problems solved correctly to the number of LREs is not found significantly different between the two groups;3) Participants in the experiment group get higher marks in compositions than those in the control group, mainly in terms of vocabulary range, morphology and syntax, but no significant difference is found in range of content and organization.In all, the study shows that teachers as mediators can play a crucial role in learners’ attention to form in the task-based English learning.

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