Second language learning research to be discussed at upcoming lecture

University of Toronto Professor Nina Spada will talk about her research into second language acquisition as part of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics Lecture Series in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics in March.

Spada, a coordinator of the Second Language Education Program at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, will present “Investigating Two Types of Form-Focused Instruction: Isolated and Integrated” on Wednesday, March 4, from 5 to 6pm in S562 Ross Building, Keele campus.

Instruction is generally considered beneficial in acquiring a second language (L2); however, whether one type of instruction is more effective than another is the question Spada is trying to answer.

Left: Nina Spada

Her research looks into two types of form-focused instruction – isolated and integrated. Both are essentially meaning-based approaches to L2 learning and only differ in when the learner’s attention is drawn to form – either separately from or embedded within communicative practice.

While there is theoretical and pedagogical support for both isolated and integrated form-focused instruction, no studies have directly investigated teachers’ and learners’ preferences and opinions about each type, says Spada. There has also been no research on whether integrated or isolated form-focused instruction lead to different types of L2 knowledge and ability.

“In this presentation, I will report on two phases of research investigating isolated and integrated form-focused instruction. In the descriptive phase, we explored 50 teachers’ and 294 learners’ preferences for and opinions about isolated and integrated form-focused instruction via a questionnaire and an instructional feedback study,” says Spada. “In the quasi-experimental phase we examined the effects of both types of instruction on L2 learning.”

Four classes of adult English as a second language learners were given 20 hours of instruction on the passive construction. Two classes received integrated, while the other classes received isolated form-focused instruction. During her lecture, Spada will discuss what the research found and the benefits of both types of instruction.

Spada is co-author of the award-winning textbook How Languages are Learned. The first edition of the book won in the applied linguistics section of the English Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh Book Award. The book is used worldwide as a standard text in second language learning. The third edition was published in 2006.

A reception in the Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics lounge will follow the presentation. All are welcome.