Consciousness-raising about grammar in the second-language classroom: Utilising authentic samples of learner-learner interaction in a task-based oral activity
AbstractIn recent years, the focus in second-language teaching programmes has been on task-based activities which are characterised by “a real-world relationship” (Skehan, 1998: 268) or ones that are aimed at empowering learners to use the target language with a view to accomplishing specific tasks outside the classroom situation. Where meaning is regarded as primary in task-based instruction, some researchers have argued that fossilisation of incorrect structures by learners may occur (Higgs & Clifford, 1982; cf. Richards & Lockhart, 1994: 107). More recent studies argue that linguistic support must not be omitted from language teaching programmes within a task-based, communicative approach (Swain, 1996; Doughty & Varela, 1998). The main aim of this research article is to consider how language practitioners can sensitise learners to aspects of linguistic form and provide feedback on form within task-based instruction. This article reports on the findings of a critical-reflective, Conversation Analytic (CA) study of two task-based, role-play activities undertaken at the University of the Free State in 1996. The analysis of the patterns of discourse reflected in the first activity revealed that learners were not offered form-focused input and feedback. Form-focused instruction was thus included in the second activity. In modifying the activity, the s argued that the language practitioner could heighten learners' awareness of grammatical structures in context by structuring the activity around authentic samples of learner-learner interaction generated during the role play. Once the modified activity had been implemented in the classroom, the s analysed the discourse patterns in the activity in order to verify or disprove their claim. Although the second activity included form-focused input and feedback, it did not give learners sufficient autonomy to explore the possible directions in which their self-generated discourse could have gone. Specifically, the activity did not exploit the potential within learners' interlanguages. For this reason, other kinds of form-focused input strategies are considered.
Keywords: Authenticity; Task-based oral activity; Form-focused input
(J Language Teaching: 2003 37(1): 74-91)