If Only….

I won`t start  this last post with the words “this Week” or “the article discusses”, neither will I share my thoughts on what I  think on this or that topic…I`ll share one of my favourite authors` thoughts instead…They are much more powerful, than what I`ll be able to write…

our educational system tells us
that we can all be
big-ass winners.

it hasn’t told us
about the gutters
or the suicides.

or the terror of one person
aching in one place
alone

untouched
unspoken to

watering a plant

Charles Bukowski.!!

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Assessed Levels of Second Language Speaking Proficiency & Error‐Tagged EFL Learner Corpus

Authors;Assessed Levels of Second Language Speaking Proficiency: How Distinct?-N. Iwashita(2008)

Capturing L2 Accuracy DevelopmentalPatterns: Insights From an Error‐Tagged EFL Learner Corpus- J. Thewissen(2012)

 

After reading these two articles then having them discussed  in the class I found some similarities between them, thus decided to express  my thoughts on both articles in one blog post.

I found several common things in  two articles . First of all they both contribute to Applied linguistics by providing with  helpful insights about such an important area of language, as L2 proficiency. Both articles focus on the  means  through which L2 speaking or writing proficiency can be investigated and defined.These articles also provide with methodological implications as to how the testing of  ESL learners proficiency and also thorough understating of acquisition process  of grammatical forms and structures as well as vocabulary and other linguistic features can help us to more clearly  distinguish  proficiency levels and thus build our methodology to teach certain aspects of language in a more elaborated way. In both articles the ways that help us  to investigate  L2 proficiency  are discussed. This is done  by  comparing  the performances of learners` of different proficiency levels, and by analyzing different categories both in written and spoken language.The first article concentrates on second language  accuracy developmental  patterns and shows how they can be captured through Error-tagged EFL corpus. The second article  focuses on exploring the nature of speaking proficiency in larger context, specifically in high stake tests, especially in English for Academic purposes, in TOEFL IBT. So this process is done through comparison of  five different proficiency levels and through analysis of different categories, such as grammatical accuracy, vocabulary, pronunciation, and fluency. Both articles show that different categories seem to have an impact on overall performance of the learner, The studies discussed in articles also show that development of some linguistic patterns take place in certain proficiency levels(mostly intermediate) and are less visible in higher levels. In case of error analysis it was shown that learners` developmental patterns undergo both progress and stabilization processes, the main visible progress being seen  between adjacent  B1-B2 levels.

What refers to speaking proficiency, it was found out that the most recognizable features of speaking proficiency are vocabulary and fluency. Thus from this we can infer that as teachers when trying to develop speaking we should not only  focus on grammar forms and structure, on developing grammatical accuracy, but also on vocabulary and production.

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The Effects of Repetition on Vocabulary Knowledge; Ph. Durrant(2009)

Have you ever experienced “tip of tongue” diligently trying to remember the exact word or have you ever experienced a situation when looking at the word you realized that you looked  its meaning in the dictionary  thousand times , yet cannot remember what it means. I`m pretty sure you did. I did as well. Well, what`s the problem, then ? Why does our memory betray us in the most important moment ?

Perhaps because writing down  strings of words  in the  notebook and then translating them one by one isn`t the most effective way to help us  memorize/ acquire words and thus enrich  vocabulary in that way. Even if you`ll “meet’ those words two or three times and write and memorize them over and over won`t  have any tangible result.

What steps should we take then to solve such an important issue. According to the study conducted  by Webb(2007), in order to acquire the full meaning of a certain word, we should encounter this word in different types of contexts at least ten times.Although this is quite a significant finding, and the repetition of word over time can really be helpful, still this method is less plausible. The reason is that there are different types of words, such as high frequency and low frequency, words that are specific to certain areas and spheres.Thus it makes our work really hard, a big challenge.It`s takes  enormous efforts and long hours of  work to design such materials, or provide learners with such texts where even low frequency words can be encountered 10, or even 6-7 times.

In this case  the only way that will help us more or less will be   returning to  old traditions, relying on contextual clues, grammatical forms and structures, and/or background knowledge.

 

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Investigating the viability of a collocation list for students of English for academic purposes: P. Durrant(2009)

For this week our discussion topic was academic collocations.

Throughout years many professionals in the filed tried to create  lists/ strings of collocations that would be used by EAP students. However their attempts to do that failed in most cases. This is because of the nature of cross-disciplinary collocations. Most of the words/ collocations/ terms that are used in a specific academic field will be irrelevant to another, such as collocations used in arts and humanities may  have either a totally different meaning or no meaning at all in engineering or other field.Thus the creation of most common academic collocations is not a piece of cake. . To solve these issues various kinds of lists and corpuses analyzing  the occurrence and frequency of words  have been created. Among them the most “famous “ones   like Coxhead’s Academic Word List (AWL) with combination of 570 word families,COCA(Corpus of Contemporary American English) and BNC(British National Corpus),  with 450 million and 100 million word and text samples respectively.

However from the article it becomes obvious that lists of collocations created up to date and provided to   teachers and learners isn`t  sufficient and helpful,  because of the fact that most of the lists don`t include ‘potentially- variable items’.Therefore this fact should be considered when trying to create new new lists of collocations that will serve learners from different academic disciplines

 

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Balancing Content and Language in Instruction: The Experience of Immersion Teachers; L. Cammarata(2007)

One of my favorite articles we have discussed so far.

The article interested me as it discussed bilingual pedagogy in immersion programs and also included  the experiences of immersion teachers . First of all it would be reasonable to define the term immersion. As far as I understood it`s a way of pedagogy when school subjects(a specific content) or half of them are taught in learners` second language.So the instruction in classroom is given in a second language.

What is the most important issue  in this kind of pedagogy is the ability  to balance content and language.  However this is not that easy  task and thus many teachers are struggling because of this issue. The study discussed in the article show that immersion teachers mainly feel themselves more as content teachers, they feel  alone , isolated, as  they don`t receive support of their  colleagues, the lack of needed materials and resources also hinder their work. Thus to help teachers it would be reasonable to develop and/ or revise course materials, provide with different kinds of trainings and mentoring programs, enhance collaboration  between colleagues, etc.

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ON THE RELATION BETWEEN AUTOMATED ESSAY SCORING AND MODERN VIEWS OF THE WRITING CONSTRUCT; P. Deane (2013)

We are living in an era of rapidly changing  technologies, and are witnessing substantial changes because of integration of those technologies in every sphere . Some may consider this technological revolution as a significant achievement of mankind, whereas for some people this bring new irrevocable changes.  What is more concerning is the fact that even humans are being replaced by technologies. The field of education is not an exception. The day when classrooms will simply  become virtual platforms and computers will  substitute teachers is just around the corner.Today we can see  institutions, such as universities and schools, adopting and bringing new technological tools into classrooms to fulfill the educational needs of 21st century citizen.

Today`s article is a review of one of such technological tools; Automated Essay Writing (AES), which continues to be adopted by many educational institutions with the aim  of assessing students writing proficiency(through essays) in such high- stake tests, as TOEFL IBTGRE and GMAT, etc. The essence of AES as a “second hand’ scorer or E-rater has always been questioned and thus lead to arguments as to whether it`s a reliable and valid way of testing the complex nature of human writing.The question as to  what extent AES results correlate with human holistic scoring  has also been  the “hottest’ issues discussed, However these kind of arguments didn`t specifically intend to show the privilege of human scoring on AES.

If we  try to look at AES from different perspectives it has several advantages, such as low cost, immediate  feedback,and objectivity. Yes, AES can perfectly  evaluate essays by checking the correct use of propositions or grammar structures, punctuation or mechanics.However despite  its advantages AES is not perfect, as everything in the world. It  is believed to have drawbacks as well. First of all it violates the social nature of writing. Thus it`s more reasonable always have a human scorer who will be able  interpret the meaning, evaluate quality of argumentation and/ or natural flow of thoughts.

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The Impact of Physical Environment on Learning: Building Schools for the Future

It seems like we always forget to pay more attention to those minor yet crucial details that may have a greater impact on our personality,mood or attitude. You don`t have to know everything about Feng Shui to realize that every single thing in the room, the color of the walls or just the lighting may differently impact on your mood. Who likes to work in an environment when walls are  in dull,unpleasant colors, when there is a noise that won`t let you concentrate on your work, or the air is so stuffy that you hardly manage to stay in a room.

Well, if it`s not pleasant for you, why you think that children would feel comfy in  such an environment, moreover eager to learn and  engage in that process.It seems like we always put such a huge effort in designing a curriculum or  loading our students with homework assignments and all, but we never think of making the school, the classroom such a place where our students will always want to come back.

Image

So what are the main important factors that more or less influence students behaviour and academic achievement?

Although the opinions of researchers are controversial  about  the connection of physical environment and academic performance,it`s commonly  supposed that lighting, color, noise, temperature, ventilation and air quality, also classroom arrangement  influence students` behaviour and thus academic performance. Therefore it`s very important to take all these factors into consideration when building a school or arranging the classroom, especially when you are dealing with little kids. Some practical suggestions will be to arrange desks and tables in a “horse shoe” shape so that students can interact and collaborate, or have brighter colors in case of younger learners, to have outdoor spaces, pavements, to reduce noise to minimum, etc.

Fortunately, that are are countries,like U.S or U.K that are making little steps towards realizing this kind of projects, however much work need to be done to have more dynamic and engaging classroom settings that will help to enhance learning.

 

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Translanguaging in the Bilingual Classroom, A Pedagogy for Learning and Teaching; A. Creese, A. Blackledge(2010)

This article discusses one of the most controversial issues in Applied Linguistics, bilingual pedagogy, whether to use or avoid using  second language(native) other than English in classroom,or how to balance the use of these two languages so that the  acquisition of one language won`t suffer by  use of the other. The article was quite difficult  to comprehend for the first time, the similarity of terms discussed in the article was  so much confusing that I hardly manage to distinguish between  translanguaging, code switching, heteroglossia. The meaning of these terms was vague at first. Even during class discussion it seemed like none of my peers,really got the meaning of these terms even after googling them. What became more obvious after class discussion was that translanguaging and code switching were not the same thing as I thought before. I  understood that code switching is a form of trasnlaguaging. After reading the article once more  and  class discussion it also became obvious that bilingual instruction has indeed plenty of advantages when used in language classroom. It concentrates on the pedagogical validity of code switching which helps to  increase participation,develop relationships between teacher students, convey and transmit ideas.

 

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For What and for Whom Is Our Research? The Ethical as Transformative Lens in Instructed SLA: L. Ortega ()

When planning to conduct a research we always concentrate on research methodology and on our  own implications of a certain research ,never paying more attention to ethical issues. Many researchers, especially the so called teacher-researchers who are new to the field may be “ignorant” to  nuts and bolts of research ethics considering facts more important than values. Thus according to Ortega(2005) in order to be a truly  ethical researcher one should definitely know what the research is for and  who the research is conducted for, who it is addressed to and who benefit from that particular research.Ortega highlights three important principals that will ensure  really ethical research to take place; value free research, epistemological diversity and the social utility of research. Among these factors the most important one for me is to conduct a value free research,meaning that the researchers will work taking into consideration the societal and educational factors rather than their r own thoughts and beliefs. Though a totally value free research is  not truly possible because of some level of subjectivity in every research.. Another important issue in research that is essential and that hadn`t been taken into consideration across years is  the so called “crisis of native speaker”. The concerns about this phenomenon is that throughout years the participants of different studies have been native speakers , and thus  put other populations in the shade.

So  to sum up I would like to again  highlight the importance of presence of values in every research , we should clearly know what, who and how our research addresses important issues in our society and especially in educational contexts.

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The Contribution of Written Corrective Feedback to Language Development; Ten Month Investigation; J. Bitchener, U. Noch

Written Corrective Feedback or simply WCF

The combination of these three words is chasing me since I was admitted to AUA. If my memory doesn`t fail me we discussed this topic almost during  every  course that we covered. Hencebefore reading the article I was already familiar with two types of written corrective feedback, such as direct and indirect. I would say that I was  familiar with them since school years,  not in a direct sense of it, of course. I remember that red -pen effect, when my teachers  were vigorously crossing out or circling the wrong word, or writing the number of  wrong answers in a margin. More like a direct corrective feedback. And although many researchers claim that only direct corrective feedback is not enough and won`t impact students`  performance positively, I would say that in my case it was helpful, maybe because of my good visual memory that helped me to remember those corrections and don`t make mistakes for the next time. Of course at that time I didn`t realize that someday  I will have to “return to my roots” and start experiencing with WCF as a teacher 😀

What  about the article?

 What was new to me in this article was another type of corrective feedback,meta-linguistic explanation.I found out that there  are two types of metalinguistic explanation, oral and written, in forms of class discussions and or written explanation and revision of grammar forms,respectively. Another new thing was the implications on WCF. Our previous discussions on this topic were limited to the arguments whether this or that type of feedback is  beneficial or not. But we have never really got deeper as to what written corrective feedback is good or bad for, or what areas of writing it influence.

So in this article the main focus was on  whether WCF alongside with other types of feedback(metalinguistic explanation) impacts on writing accuracy or not and if so to what extent. From the article it became obvious that WCF does impact on accuracy, and especially on long term acquisition of various grammatical forms/ structures. And although the study  included in the article showed that there is nor a big difference between the effectiveness of various types of feedback on accuracy development, I would suggest to use  other options in form of metalinguistic explanations as well, which would result in higher accuracy even in a short period of time.

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