Is explicit formal instruction a hindrance or a facilitator?
Jul 17, 2011 Teaching Methodology 8011 Views
Is formal instruction a hindrance or a facilitator? At the height of the Communicative Approach, Task-Based Learning and approaches whose emphasis was not on grammar, to reject or even suppress explicit formal instruction became fashionable. Some (Krashen, 1982; Prabhu, 1987) even went as far as claiming that it was at best ineffectual and at worst an obstacle to L2 learning. However, Pavesi’s studies (Pavesi 1986, in Carl James 1998: 244) have shown that ‘instructed learners (adults especially) demonstrate higher ultimate achievement’. Also, Harley (1993: 245 in Carl James 1998: 244) points out another positive effect of ‘code-focused L2 instruction’, which must imply correction of error. This is, as he says, that it brings about defossilization. Rod Ellis (1993) also advocates the positive effects of Explicit Formal Instruction (EFI) on language learning. He distinguishes two types of knowledge in which the learner internalizes what he/she learns: implicit and explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge refers to the knowledge that is analysed (in the sense that it can be described and classified), abstract (in the sense that it takes the form of some underlying generalization of actual linguistic behaviour), and explanatory (in the sense that it can provide a reasonably objective account of how grammar is used in actual communication). This type of knowledge develops together with metalinguistic knowledge. As regards implicit knowledge, Ellis says that it is ‘intuitive’ as opposed to explicit knowledge. He states, ‘two kinds can be identified: formulaic knowledge, which consists of ready-made chunks of language and rule-based knowledge, which consists of generalized and abstract structures which have been internalized.’ Now, the main point of debate of this model has been whether explicit knowledge can convert into implicit L2 knowledge. Ellis argues that ‘implicit knowledge can be internalised in two ways. The main way is by deriving intake from input. A secondary way is directly from the explicit knowledge that is learned through formal instruction.’ Ellis (1993: 98) explains that there are a number of uses of explicit knowledge: 1. Explicit knowledge is available for monitoring. Monitored output constitutes one source of input. (Monitoring) 2. Explicit knowledge can help learners to notice features in the input. (Noticing) 3. Explicit knowledge may help learners incorporate features that have become intake into their interlanguage. For example, if learners know that plural nouns have -s, they are better equipped to notice the difference between this feature in the input and its omission in their output. (Noticing the gap) As we may conclude from Ellis’ contributions, grammar teaching can help develop explicit L2 knowledge, which can be utilized in monitoring, noticing and noticing-the-gap metalinguistic strategies. Explicit knowledge can also facilitate the intake of certain features of the L2 grammar by bringing about noticing and noticing-the-gap in the learners’ output. Thus, explicit knowledge becomes an essential element in such mental processes all of which can be utilised in correction as well as in self-correction contexts. Bibliography Ellis, R. 1992 Second Language Acquisition and Language Pedagogy. Multilingual Matters, Clevedon. James, C. 1998 Errors in Language Learning and Use: exploring error analysis. (Chapter 8) UK: Addison Wesley Longman Limited. Krashen, S.D. 1982 Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. Pergamon, Oxford. Prabhu, N.S. 1987 Second Language Pedagogy. Oxford University Press. Oxford.