Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Development and Validation of Materials for Isolated Form-Focused Instruction

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Development and Validation of Materials for Isolated Form-Focused Instruction

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Grammar places itself as one of the central elements of language teaching manifested by the proliferation of grammar-based syllabuses (Fox, 1998). Along with vocabulary, it is the building block in developing skills in listening, reading, viewing, writing, and speaking for effective communication (CPDD, 2010). With this in mind, grammar teaching becomes one of the central activities in any language program. The idea that formal teaching of grammar benefits language learning is a generally accepted claim among SLA community practitioners and researchers (Borg & Bums, 2008). There is also growing evidence confirming the effectiveness of grammar instruction provided that learners are ready to acquire the target linguistic items (Ellis, 1994). For example, in a meta-analysis conducted by Norris and Ortega (2000), they concluded from the 49 experimental and quasi-experimental studies that focus on form significantly contributes to second language learning and that explicit teaching is better than implicit form.

Despite this general acceptance, grammar pedagogy continues to face fundamental issues. The first issue relates to the timing of teaching grammar. According to Ellis (2006a), there are two views as to when it should be taught. The first view claims that grammar must be taught at an early stage of L2 development. The second view is that it must be taught after the learners have formed their interlanguage from meaningbased instruction. For Ellis (2006a), he favors the second contention. This was supported by Celce-Murcia and Olshtain (2000) who posited that there is a consensus already that formal grammar instruction (e.g., discourse-based instruction) does not benefit these learners as it is very challenging for them. However, they acknowledge that it may be helpful.

Ellis (2006a) also raised the concern on which between intensive and extensive grammar teaching is more effective. Intensive grammar teaching is justified by the mantra "practice makes perfect" and is aligned to PPP (presentation, practice, production) approach. Though intensive grammar teaching helps learners progress more efficiently in the sequence of developmental stages (Spada & Lightbown, 1999) and use their partially acquired structures more accurately (White, Spada, Lightbown, & Ranta, 1991), some earlier studies show that its effectiveness does not spill over when spontaneous production is used as a measure.

Durability of learning after grammar teaching has also been a matter of concern. It is well-established that after grammar instruction, its effects decline (Truscott, 2007), a claim that various studies have proven (e.g., Harley, 1989; Lightbown, 1987; Pienemann, 1998; White, 1991). This phenomenon is popularly known as pseudolearning. However, pseudolearning is not deemed completely insignificant as it can serve useful for editing (Truscott, 1996).

The issue on inductive versus deductive approach has long been a debate in language teaching (Williams, 1999). Deductive teaching involves the direct explanation of structures prior to practicing and production. This implies the adherence of such approach to PPP model. Inductive teaching, on the one hand, allows learners to formulate metalinguistic generalizations from the exemplars given to them. Both of these methods are considered explicit instruction in which the former involves selfdiscovery of rules while the latter involves the explicit presentation of rules (Hulstijn, 2005). With inductive approach, it allows the teacher to gauge the level of learners' understanding of a particular linguistic item; hence, providing ideas on how to adjust the lesson (Larsen-Freeman, 1991). It also allows learners to notice forms in relation to their functions focus on form via input enhancement which is a type of inductive learning (Robinson, 1997). However, in a study conducted by Mohamed (2004) on the preference of 51 adult ESL learners between deductive and inductive tasks, the findings revealed that learners do not have strong preference for a particular task as they consider both equally useful. …

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