This program of research, funded by SSHRC since 1998, has explored the relative effects of instruction on a variety of linguistic targets in a range of instructional contexts:
- acquisition of grammatical gender by Grade 5 French immersion students
- acquisition of grammatical gender by learners of French at the university level (with Jesús Izquierdo)
- acquisition of regular and irregular past-tense forms by Chinese learners of English (with Yingli Yang)
- pronunciation development of English /ɹ/ by Japanese learners of English (with Kazuya Saito)
- definite article usages by Japanese learners of English (with Kimiko Hinenoya)
The results of this research have consistently shown the benefits of form-focused instruction on classroom learners’ target language development and the positive effects of corrective feedback provided during communicative tasks. Specifically with respect to different types of feedback, these studies have revealed a tendency for learners receiving prompts or explicit correction to demonstrate more gains on some measures than learners receiving recasts. For example:
- In the case of young immersion students, recasts were as effective as prompts in oral production measures but less effective than prompts in written production measures.
- Adult EFL students in China benefitted equally from recasts and prompts in improving accuracy of irregular past tense forms but more from prompts than recasts in improving their accurate use of regular forms.
- With adult Japanese learners of English, recasts were more effective than no feedback for improving pronunciation of familiar lexical items but not unfamiliar items.
- In the case of undergraduate students of French receiving feedback delivered individually by a researcher in a lab rather than by a teacher in a classroom, all participants benefitted equally from recasts and prompts.
Together these results convey important nuances concerning the effects of feedback that are worthy of further research, not only because of their theoretical value but also their practical implications for second language teachers who still face the timeless questions of when, what, and how to correct.
Roy Lyster, PhD
Department of Integrated Studies in Education
3700 McTavish, Room 304
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2