Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Noticing Function of Classroom Pop Quizzes and Formative Tests in the Uptake of Lexical Items of EFL Intermediate Learners

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

The Noticing Function of Classroom Pop Quizzes and Formative Tests in the Uptake of Lexical Items of EFL Intermediate Learners

Article excerpt


The main concern of the present research was to examine the effect of classroom testing in bringing up the noticing of learners using pop quizzes and formative tests. Following the noticing hypothesis by Schmidt (1990, 2001) and backwash effect of testing on teaching, we specifically tested whether noticing through testing might result in better uptake of lexical items by Iranian EFL learners. Following MacKey and Gass (2005), a comparison design study was conducted using three groups of learners with intermediate level of language proficiency. Based on the results of Oxford Placement Test, 77 female EFL students in Iran were selected and randomly assigned into three groups. The first group took pop quizzes, the second group took formative tests, and the third group was incidental learning. Since the data were not normally distributed, non-parametric tests were applied to test the hypotheses formulated for the purpose of the study. The results of the statistical tests revealed the probable positive effect of noticing function of testing on the acquisition of lexical items. The research results might be helpful for teachers to include cognitive tasks to bring up noticing and awareness of learners to facilitate input-to-intake process.

Keywords: noticing, testing, pop quiz, formative test, lexical items

1. Introduction

The conscious versus unconscious controversy has always been a core issue in the field of second and foreign language pedagogy, and different approaches regarding the role of consciousness have appeared. Regarding consciousness in language learning, Baddeley (1976, 1997) argues that "a continuum of consciousness mediates our selection of input and that it ranges from being a largely unconscious process to a highly conscious one" (cited in Combs, 2004, p. 5). According to Krashen's (1981) acquisition-learning hypothesis, language acquisition is a subconscious process. On the other hand, Schmidt's (1990) Noticing Hypothesis maintains that the subjective experience of noticing is the necessary and sufficient condition for the conversion of input to intake.

To Cook (2008), raising awareness of language in general facilitates second language learning. Learning a second language and developing effective communication requires the mastery of all four skills: speaking, writing, listening, and reading. Vocabulary and grammatical structure are central to mastery in all the skills as well. Vocabulary helps language learners continually improve in four skills at all levels of language learning. According to Nagy (1988), increasing vocabulary knowledge is believed to be central to the process of education both as means and as an end. An area problematic for many students now seems to be lack of enough vocabulary knowledge, and the number of these students is expected to grow. In the literature concerned, research results reveal contradictory issues, and no clear direction regarding the most effective way to teach vocabulary is agreed upon.

Schmidt (2001) claims that "language learners who take a totally passive approach to learning, waiting patiently and depending on involuntary attentional processes to trigger automatic noticing, are likely to be slow and unsuccessful learners" (p. 30). Hulstijn (2001) points out that most vocabulary is learned from context, but learning vocabulary through reading and listening alone is not very sufficient (cited in Schmidt, 2001).

In recent years, some second language researchers have stressed the effect of noticing on learning different aspects of language including vocabulary. According to McCarten (2007), an important vocabulary acquisition strategy, which Nation (2001) calls "noticing", is seeing a word as something to be learned. In his view, know-ing what to learn is a necessary prerequisite to learning. Teachers can help learners get into the habit of noticing by making it clear in classroom instruction and homework assignments. Regarding the importance of noticing, McCarten (2007) suggests making personalized groups and teaching students to notice the new information for better learning. …

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