The facilitative role of a pushed output task in collaborative vs. individual performance

European Second Language Association (EUROSLA)
Reggio Emilia (Italy)

Research in SLA has provided support for the facilitative role of pushed output in the acquisition process (Swain, 2005 et passim), especially when learners carry out tasks collaboratively (Storch, 2005). Research on the noticing function of output (Izumi, 2002) is based on the premise that directing learners’ attention to form during otherwise meaning-oriented learning helps them to acquire form and meaning in an integrated way. However, a research issue which has received relatively less attention from researchers and has produced quite mixed results is whether output tasks better promote noticing and learning of a targeted linguistic form than non-output task conditions (Leeser, 2008; Song & Suh, 2008). Drawing on the psycholinguistic rationale and empirical research on output, the present experimental study set out to investigate the effect of output-input cycles on EFL learners’ noticing of a specific English morphosyntactic feature (third person singular –s) when working on a text-reconstruction task. Twenty-two (22) learners (10 male/12 female) in an intact 4th year compulsory secondary education classroom participated in the study. In order to examine the effect of production on noticing upon receiving subsequent input, learners reconstructed a passage they had listened to twice (8 students collaboratively, and 8 students individually). Then they listened to the passage a third time in order to check the reconstructed text. Six (6) learners who completed a true/false activity acted as a control group. The study revealed that pushed output does affect noticing in subsequent input. Exposure to input after production gave learners the opportunity to pay closer attention to formal aspects and the text-reconstruction did promote noticing of the target form. Additionally, results showed that the participants did not benefit from being paired in production of the target feature under study: in other words, co-constructing the passage did not enhance learners’ linguistic resources.