Attention to form across collaborative tasks by low proficiency learners in an EFL setting

Book Title
Investigating Tasks in Formal Language Learning
María del Pilar García Mayo
91 - 116
Mutilingual Matters

Recent studies in second language pedagogy advocate the use of tasks which require learners to produce output collaboratively (Kowal & Swain, 1997; Swain, 1995, 1998; Swain & Lapkin 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001). Collaborative focus-on-form tasks are designed to meet the need of integrating attention to language form with a communicative orientation and their study can be approached from two different but complementary perspectives (Ellis, 2000). The psycholinguistic tradition is based on a computational model of acquisition in which tasks are viewed as devices which can influence learners’ information processing. Research from this perspective attempts to explore the influence that different task types and task conditions may have on performance (Skehan, 1998). Recently, a new approach has been developed which is derived from the conviction that the processses involved in language learning can not be completeley explained from the psycholinguistic viewpoint, dominant in the field of second language acquisition (SLA). Some researchers argue for a sociocultural approach (Lantolf & Appel, 1994) which claims that knowledge is constructed through social interaction between individuals and is then internalized (Vygotsky, 1978). This view has led to an increasing interest in collaborative dialogue, where language use and language learning take place simultaneously (Donato, 1994; LaPierre, 1994; Swain, 1998, 2000; Swain & Lapkin, 2000, 2002). From this theoretical perspective, language is viewed as a social activity as well as a cognitive activity and both aspects are considered necessary for its complete understanding. Within this backdrop, the aim of the present study is to determine the effectiveness of collaborative focus-on-form (FonF) tasks as a pedagogical tool for low-proficiency learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). This chapter is organized as follows: firstly, we include a review of the literature on attention to form in collaborative tasks and how this is related to the building of knowledge in discourse. Then, we describe the study and its methodological aspects. The results are set forth in section 4, and section 5 comprises the discussion of our findings and implications for classroom practice.