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Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations The Graduate School

2011

Relative Effectiveness of Corrective


Feedback Types in Computer-Assisted
Language Learning
Sandra Kregar

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THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

RELATIVE EFFECTIVENESS OF CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK TYPES IN

COMPUTER-ASSISTED LANGUAGE LEARNING

By

SANDRA KREGAR

A Dissertation submitted to the


Department of Modern Languages & Linguistics
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.

Degree Awarded:
Spring Semester, 2011
The members of the committee approve the dissertation of Sandra Kregar defended on April 1,
2011.

_______________________________________
Michael Leeser
Professor Directing Dissertation

_______________________________________
Michelle Kazmer
University Representative

_______________________________________
Gretchen Sunderman
Committee Member

_______________________________________
Lara Reglero
Committee Member

Approved:

_____________________________________
William Cloonan, Chair, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics

_____________________________________
Joseph Travis, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

The Graduate School has verified and approved the above-named committee members.
ii
I dedicate this to my mother and Sierra, who have always shown me unconditional love.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I would like to acknowledge the professors who guided me in the formation of this
dissertation: Dr. Michael Leeser, Dr. Gretchen Sunderman and Dr. Lara Reglero. Likewise, I
would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Michelle Kazmer for serving on my dissertation
committee. In addition, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Dr. John Gathegi for
his abundant kindness, sound advice and treasured friendship. Finally, I would like to thank my
family and dear friends, who always believe in me and never fail to offer words of support and
encouragement.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Tables ............................................................................................................................... viii
List of Figures ................................................................................................................................ ix
Abstract ............................................................................................................................................x
1. INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................................1
The Role of Feedback in Instructed SLA ................................................................................1
Types of Corrective Feedback .................................................................................................2
The Role of Input, Output and Interaction in SLA ..................................................................4
Theoretical Positions on the Facilitative Role of Feedback ....................................................5
Positions in Support of CF .............................................................................................5
Positions in Opposition to CF ........................................................................................7
Significance of Present Study ..................................................................................................9
Organization of Dissertation..................................................................................................10
Definition of Terms ...............................................................................................................10

2. MOTIVATION FOR THE PRESENT STUDY ...................................................................12


Corrective Feedback in CALL ..............................................................................................12
Possible Reasons for Conflicting Findings ..................................................................15
Target Structure: Aspect ........................................................................................................16
Tense-Aspect Distinction .............................................................................................16
Lexical Aspect .............................................................................................................17
Grammatical Aspect.....................................................................................................18
Theoretical Perspectives on Acquisition of Aspect ...............................................................19
Generative Grammar and Universal Grammar ...........................................................20
Lexical Semantics and the Aspect Hypothesis ............................................................22
Feedback Types .....................................................................................................................25
Metalinguistic Feedback ..............................................................................................25
Studies on Metalinguistic Feedback ............................................................................27
Input Enhancement ......................................................................................................30
Text Enhancement .......................................................................................................30
Studies on Text Enhancement ......................................................................................30
Research Questions and Hypothesis ......................................................................................32

3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY .................................................................33


Research Design ....................................................................................................................33
Participants ...................................................................................................................35
Materials ......................................................................................................................37
Procedure .....................................................................................................................41
Scoring and Analysis of Data ................................................................................................47
Coding and Scoring......................................................................................................47
Analysis........................................................................................................................51

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4. RESULTS ..............................................................................................................................53
Results for the Production Data .............................................................................................53
TL Forms .....................................................................................................................54
NTL Forms...................................................................................................................56
IL Forms.......................................................................................................................58
Results for the Recognition Task ..........................................................................................59
Overall Score ...............................................................................................................60
Analysis by Verb Category ..........................................................................................60
State Verbs ...................................................................................................................61
Activity Verbs ..............................................................................................................62
Achievement Verbs ......................................................................................................64
Summary of Analyses ..................................................................................................65

5. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, LIMITATIONS, AND CONCLUSIONS ......................67


Discussion of the Findings ....................................................................................................67
Production Data ...........................................................................................................67
Recognition Data .........................................................................................................70
Theoretical Implications ........................................................................................................72
Pedagogical Implications.......................................................................................................74
Limitations of the Study and Directions for Future Research ...............................................75
Conclusion .............................................................................................................................76

APPENDICES ...............................................................................................................................77
A. Informed Consent Form....................................................................................................77
B. Internal Review Board Approval ......................................................................................79
C. Language History Questionnaire ......................................................................................81
D. Items for Treatment Activity ............................................................................................84
E. Production Task Version A ...............................................................................................86
F. Production Task Version B ...............................................................................................88
G. Production Task Version C...............................................................................................90
H. Binary Choice Task Version A .........................................................................................92
I. Binary Choice Task Version B ..........................................................................................96
J. Binary Choice Task Version C ..........................................................................................99

REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................102

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................................................................................110

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LIST OF TABLES
2.1 Feature analysis of Vendler‟s verb classes ............................................................................18

2.2 Developmental stages in the acquisition of aspect (Anderson, 1986) ...................................23

3.1 Variables for the study...........................................................................................................34

3.2 Schedule of tasks ...................................................................................................................35

3.3 Group size by assessment measure........................................................................................36

3.4 Percentage of participants producing each number of tokens by video version ...................51

4.1 Descriptive statistics (%) for TL forms by group and test ....................................................54

4.2 Descriptive statistics (%) for NTL forms by group and test .................................................56

4.3 Descriptive statistics (%) for IL forms by group and test .....................................................58

4.4 Descriptive statistics (raw score) for recognition task by group ...........................................60

4.5 Descriptive statistics (raw score) for state verbs by group ....................................................61

4.6 Descriptive statistics (raw score) for activity verbs by group ...............................................63

4.7 Descriptive statistics (raw score) for achievement verbs by group .......................................64

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LIST OF FIGURES
1.1 Superset to subset relationship of null subjects permissible to explicit subjects only ...........6

2.1 Syntactic tree representing grammatical and lexical aspect ..................................................21

3.1 First screen of guided video retelling task .............................................................................38

3.2 First segment of binary choice cloze passage........................................................................40

3.3 Sample time allotment per slide ............................................................................................44

3.4 Treatment task .......................................................................................................................45

3.5 Metalinguistic feedback for incorrect response .....................................................................46

3.6 Metalinguistic feedback for correct response ........................................................................46

3.7 Text enhancement feedback ..................................................................................................46

3.8 Categorization of verb sample for a context requiring the Spanish imperfect ......................50

4.1 Graphic display of mean target-like responses by group and test .........................................55

4.2 Graphic display of mean nontarget-like responses by group and test ...................................57

4.3 Graphic display of mean interlanguage forms by group and test ..........................................59

4.4 Graphic display of means for state verbs by group ...............................................................61

4.5 Graphic display of means for activity verbs by group ..........................................................63

4.6 Graphic display of means for achievement verbs by group ..................................................65

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ABSTRACT

For several decades, research in instructed second language acquisition (SLA) has
focused on identifying the facilitative role that interaction plays in second language (L2)
development (e.g., Gass, 1997; Long, 1996; Pica, 1996). Within this area of interest, a
considerable amount of attention has been directed toward the feedback that learners receive
though the interactional processes and how this information may serve to modify their
interlanguage system. In fact, through a detailed analysis of the literature, Russell and Spada
(2006) found 56 studies that examined the effects of corrective feedback (CF) on L2 learning.
However, few studies have explored the effects of different types of corrective feedback on
learner performance or the conditions in which feedback is most effective. These aspects of
feedback are of particular importance in computer-assisted language learning (CALL)
environment where the L2 learners do not receive individualized feedback tailored to their output
nor do they have the opportunity to seek further clarification regarding their incorrect language
usage. Not only do few studies exist that have explored feedback in CALL (Nagata & Swisher,
1995; Nagata, 1997; Sanz, 2004; Sanz & Short, 2004), but they have failed to reach a consensus
regarding the effectiveness of feedback within this context.
This dissertation explored possible reasons for these conflicting finding and to address
the need for additional research on the relative effectiveness of feedback types examining the
effects of two different types of feedback (text enhancement and metalinguistic information) on
the improvement of learner performance of three uses of the Spanish preterite and imperfect
(preterite with achievements, imperfect with state verbs, and imperfect with activity verbs).
Eighty seven native speakers of English enrolled in a fourth semester Spanish course at a large
public university in the United States were randomly assigned to one of four groups, of which
two groups received corrective feedback (metalinguistic or text enhancement) as part of the
treatment task, one group performed the treatment task but receive no type of corrective
feedback, and one group will served as a control group who performs only the pretest and
posttest assessments. All participants completed a pretest, immediate posttest and delayed
posttest that consisted of language production task (structured video retelling) and a time-
controlled language recognition task (binary choice). The treatment groups also completed 42

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task-essential multiple choice items for which they selected the verb that best completes the
sentence. Feedback was supplied immediately following each response.
Analysis of the pretest/posttest measures revealed that text enhancement resulted in
significant improvement for both the production and the recognition task, but only for state
verbs. This finding is interpreted in relation to Pienemann‟s Teachability Hypothesis (1984) and
suggests that learner readiness to acquire a syntactic structure may play an important role in the
effectiveness of feedback. In addition, both feedback groups exhibited a decrease in gains from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest, suggesting that there are limits to long-term effects of
corrective feedback.

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

The Role of Feedback in Instructed SLA

For several decades, research in instructed second language acquisition (SLA) has
focused on identifying the facilitative role that interaction plays in second language (L2)
development (e.g., Gass, 1997; Long, 1996; Pica, 1996). Within this area of interest, a
considerable amount of attention has been directed toward the feedback that learners receive
though the interactional processes and how this information may serve to modify their
interlanguage system. In fact, through a detailed analysis of the literature, Russell and Spada
(2006) found 56 studies that examined the effects of corrective feedback (CF) on L2 learning.
Although they concluded that CF in L2 instruction plays a facilitative role in improving language
production, the conditions and attributes of feedback can vary widely from one instructional
setting to another. Consequently, researchers have examined a variety of factors pertaining to CF
in attempt to better understand its role in the restructuring of the interlanguage system.
Examples of these studies include research on the characteristics of the feedback (Ammar
& Spada, 2006; Loewen & Philp, 2006; Lyster, 2006), the amount of the feedback (Havranek,
1999), the explicitness/implicitness of the feedback (Carroll & Swain, 1993; Lyster & Ranta,
1997) and learner characteristics such as developmental readiness (Ishida, 2004; Mackey &
Philp, 1998), proficiency level (Iwashita, 2003; Lin & Hedgecock, 1996) and learner preference
for feedback options (Brandl, 1995). Despite this proliferation of research, few studies have
explored the relative effectiveness of different types of CF on learner performance or the
conditions in which CF is most effective. These aspects of CF are of particular importance in an
asynchronous computer-assisted language learning (CALL) environment where real-time
interaction does not exist and the L2 learners often do not receive individualized feedback
tailored to their output nor do they have frequent opportunities to seek further clarification
regarding their incorrect language usage. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to examine the
relative effectiveness of two feedback types (metalinguistic and text enhancement) on L2
Spanish learners‟ subsequent recognition and production of the preterite and imperfect.

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Outline of the Chapter
The goal of this chapter is to define and describe the types of CF which frequently occur
in L2 instructional settings, to provide a theoretical basis for the current study, to present the
opposing viewpoints on the role of CF in SLA, and to evidence the motivation for this research. I
will begin by differentiating between explicit and implicit feedback, and offer examples of how
each type is manifested in leaner interactions. Next, I will discuss the role of input, output and
interaction, and provide the theoretical arguments in support and opposition of the facilitative
role of CF in SLA. Lastly, I will discuss the significance of the current study in relation to the
existing literature, present an overview of the organization of the dissertation and provide a
definition of terms used throughout the study.

Types of Corrective Feedback

Corrective feedback is any type of oral or written comment, information or question


provided to learners that indicates that there is an error in their usage of the L2. This information
can be explicit or implicit in nature and can come from any source. Explicit feedback can be
overt error correction, the provision of a grammatical explanation (metalinguistic information) or
a combination of the two. Examples of these types of explicit CF are demonstrated in 1 (a), (b),
and (c) respectively:
(1) L2 learner: My father work every day.
(a) No, you should say works, not work.
(b) The verb needs to agree with the subject.
(c) Father is the subject of the verb. So, you should say, “My father works, instead of my
father work.”
According to Lightbown and Spada (2006), metalinguistic feedback typically contains
grammatical terminology that refers to the nature of the error, as in example 1b, or provides the
definition of a word for lexical errors. However, such metalinguistic feedback may also be
offered in the form of a question that attempts to elicit the correction from the learner, such as,
“What is the “he” form of the verb “to work?”

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Unlike explicit feedback, implicit feedback signals incomprehensible language or a
misformulation without interrupting the flow of the interaction. In addition, rather than serving
solely as a correction effort, its primary function is often an attempt to clarify meaning and
prevent a breakdown in communication. Thus, implicit feedback includes negotiation strategies
such as confirmation checks, clarification requests and comprehension checks. Confirmation
requests are an attempt to confirm that an utterance has been heard correctly, whereas
clarification requests elicit explanation or elaboration of the interlocutor‟s utterance. Examples of
these are demonstrated in the exchange below (2) between a non-native speaker (NNS) and a
native speaker (NS):
(2) NNS: I bought a basen of flowers.
NS: a basin? (Confirmation request)
NNS: a base
NS: a what? (Clarification request)
NNS: a base …. a glass of flowers
NS: oh, a vase
NNS: yes, a vase of flowers
In contrast with confirmation checks and clarification requests which refer a preceding
statement, comprehension checks attempt to anticipate and circumvent possible confusion
through questions such as, “Do you understand?”
Another common type of implicit feedback is recasts. As defined by Nicholas, Lightbown
and Spada (2001), recasts are “utterances that repeat a learner‟s incorrect utterance, making only
the changes necessary to produce a correct utterance, without changing the meaning” (p. 733).
Although a recast may include the L2 speaker‟s entire utterance, this is not always the case as in
shown in (3).
(3) NNS: I don‟t know much people here.
NS: many people here
If the entire utterance is included in the recast, emphasis is often placed on the correction to
enhance its salience.
In summary, CF signals an error in the usage of the L2. It can be either explicit or
implicit and provided in either a written or oral form. Explicit feedback directs the L2 learner‟s
attention specifically to the error through the provision of overt correction and/or metalinguistic

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information. In contrast, the primary function of implicit feedback is not always error correction,
but rather may serve as an attempt to clarify a miscommunication. As such, it includes
negotiation strategies such as confirmation checks, clarification requests, comprehension checks
as well as recasts. Having provided a description of CF and examples of the various forms that it
can take, the next section presents an overview of several key hypotheses that provide the
foundation for a large number of empirical studies on the role of CF in SLA.

The Role of Input, Output and Interaction in SLA

Within all major theories of SLA, input is regarded as an essential component for L2
learning (e.g. N. Ellis, 2007; Gass & Mackey, 2007; Van Patten, 2007; White, 2007) because it
provides the evidence from which learners can develop linguistic hypotheses. However, simple
exposure to a L2 is not sufficient for acquisition, as can be witnessed by immigrants who never
develop language skills in the L2 despite intensive exposure to the language via television, radio
and numerous forms of print materials. For language input to be useful for a learner it must be
comprehensible. In fact, the basic claim of Krashen‟s Input Hypothesis (1982, 1985) is that
comprehensible input combined with learner attention is not only a necessary condition for
language learning to take place, it is the sufficient condition.
However, since the inception of the Input Hypothesis, there has been a considerable
amount of empirical research that calls into question the claim of the sole sufficiency of
comprehensible input. One important source of data that is frequently cited is the research of
Merrill Swain (1981, 1985, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2005), who found that L2 students in
Canadian French immersion programs attained native-like abilities in reading and listening
comprehension, but not in terms of production skills. She attributed this skill differential to the
fact that the class activities focused primarily on reading and listening tasks, for which the L2
students could rely on lexical and contextual clues to obtain understanding of the content.
However, because there was not an expectation that the students speak or write in French at a
correspondingly high level, the students were not as successful in their development of L2 syntax
and morphology. As a result, she proposed that the essential component that was lacking was
sufficient opportunities for language production.

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From these observations, Swain developed the Output Hypothesis (1985, 1995), which
emphasizes the relationship between language use and language learning. Through language
production, learners are pushed to rely on grammatical processing rather than on the semantic,
strategic processing used for comprehension. Thus, output plays a “significant role in the
development of syntax and morphology” (1995, p. 128) because it requires learners to utilize
syntactic structures to communicate their message in a coherent manner. Such language
construction may promote self-awareness of deficiencies in language abilities and linguistic
knowledge when L2 learners are unable to express the information that they wish to convey. This
may be a critical element for learning because it promotes noticing of what Swain (1995, 1998,
2000) commonly refers a „hole‟ in their interlanguage.
Oral production in the form of conversational interaction also plays an important role in
L2 development, albeit in a slightly different manner. When L2 learners participate in
interactions they receive valuable information from their interlocutor about the correctness, or
more importantly, about the incorrectness of their utterance. Through an unsuccessful attempt to
convey a message, the L2 learner and the interlocutor strive to manipulate the language and
negotiate for meaning in order to reach a mutual understanding. According to Long‟s Interaction
Hypothesis (1983, 1996), these collaborative efforts to resolve communication difficulties may
result in language learning by focusing learners‟ attention on the problematic part of their
discourse and creating an awareness of the mismatch between their interlanguage and the target
language. The negative evidence and corrective feedback that emerge from such negotiation
tactics encourages learners to manipulate their interlanguage to make a message more
comprehensible and in doing so, may facilitate L2 development “at least, for vocabulary,
morphology and language-specific syntax, and is essential for learning certain specifiable L1-L2
contrasts” (Long, 1996, p. 414). However, not all researchers share this view. The next section
examines the opposing theoretical positions on the facilitative role of CF in L2 development.

Theoretical Positions on the Facilitative Role of Feedback

Positions in Support of CF
As discussed in the previous section, both Swain and Long maintain that CF plays an
integral role in SLA by focusing L2 learners‟ attention on the mismatch between their

5
interlanguage and the target language. The importance of such awareness is the foundation of
Schmidt‟s Noticing Hypothesis (1990), which contends that in order for something to be learned
it must first be noticed. As a result, for input to become intake, some degree of noticing must
occur and CF serves as the catalyst for this process because it increases the saliency of the forms.
This view is supported by Gass (1991), who argues that without direct or frequent CF in the
input, fossilization might occur. Likewise, Chaudron (1988) proposes that the information
available in CF allows L2 learners to confirm, disconfirm and possibly modify their internal
representation of grammatical rules. In fact, a number of researchers maintain that the process of
noticing, comparing and integrating is facilitative to L2 development (e.g. Ellis, 1991; Gass,
1988, 1990, 1991; Ohta, 2001; Pica, 1994, 1996; Schachter, 1991).
Not all claims for the beneficial role of CF are seated within the Interactionist
perspective. White (1989, 1991) bases her argument upon the Subset Principle (Berwick, 1985)
which proposes that when the native language has a broader grammar (superset) than that of the
L2 (subset), this will lead to overgeneralizations in hypotheses about the L2 grammar. An
example of the superset to subset relationship is the existence of null subjects in Spanish, but not
English. As demonstrated in Figure 1.1, Spanish (S) has a broader grammar than English (E).

S
Null & Explicit subjects

E
Explicit subjects only

Figure 1.1: Superset to subset relationship of null subjects permissible to explicit subjects only
(Adapted from White, 1989, p.144).

Thus, the L2 learner of English will make the incorrect conjecture that because Spanish allows
for both explicit and null subjects, English does as well. This is because correct English input
will always be compatible with the L2 learner‟s interlanguage and there will be no indication to

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the L2 learner that (s)he should believe otherwise. As a result, White asserts that negative
evidence is required for situations where the positive input alone will not generate examples that
would lead a disconfirmation of the hypotheses.

Positions in Opposition to CF
The discussion up to this point has suggested a positive view of corrective feedback in
the development of L2 skills. However, not all SLA theorists regard CF as necessary or
beneficial. For example, some advocates of Universal Grammar (e.g., Cook, 1991; Schwartz,
1993) argue that negative evidence, which includes CF, has little impact on the innate linguistic
mechanism that allows a learner to construct the L2 grammar. One of the strongest proponents of
this view is Schwartz (1992) who argues that “the grammar-building process cannot make use of
NE (negative evidence) to restructure Interlanguage grammars - irrespective of logical need” (p.
1).
Likewise, Krashen‟s Monitor Model (1982, 1985) posits that SLA is the result of
subconscious processes that occur only when a L2 learner is exposed to comprehensible input.
As a result, error correction in the form of explicit feedback is not beneficial. Although
conscious processing of this type of information results in learning about the language, language
acquisition and learning are separate processes and “learned competence does not become
acquired competence” (Krashen, 1985, pp. 42-3). Learning only affects language production in
that it serves as a monitor that edits the output after it has been initiated by the acquired language
system.
Although not based within a theoretical framework, one additional researcher who
challenges the beneficial role of CF in L2 instruction is Truscott (1996, 1999, 2004, 2007;
Truscott & Hsu, 2008). The main tenet of Truscott‟s argument is that grammar correction results
in pseudolearning, a term which he uses to refer to “a superficial and possibly transient form of
knowledge, with little value for actual use of the language” (1996, p.345). In a debate that has
lasted for almost a decade over the value of CF for written production, Truscott and Hsu (2008)
do concede that correction plays a beneficial role in the improvement of learners‟ grammatical
accuracy in the revision of written work. However, they maintain that error reduction in written
revisions is not a predictor of success in subsequent writing tasks and argue that in order for

7
researchers to substantiate their claims of the beneficial effects of written correction, their studies
need to include an independent writing task.
Clearly, there is not a consensus regarding the facilitative role that CF plays in the
development of the L2. Despite the fact that a large number of researchers argue in favor of CF,
the opposing position that asserts the need for empirical studies on its effectiveness for
subsequent tasks is a point well taken. This call for additional research concerning the factors
related to the efficacy of CF is also emphasized by Russell and Spada (2006) in the concluding
remarks of their meta-analysis that yielded support for the beneficial role of CF in SLA. They
urge research to “focus on those CF variables that appear to be particularly fruitful for future
investigation (e.g., context, type of CF, focus of CF)” (p.32).
One context in which an examination of CF types would be particularly insightful is
CALL based on the unique characteristics of this instructional setting. As previously mentioned,
opportunities for L2 learners in an asynchronous instructional setting to receive individualized
feedback from their instructor or peers, or to clarify their incorrect language usage are often
minimal at best. Although some courses do require students to submit lengthy forms of written
discourse, which are similar or identical to writing tasks completed in a traditional instructional
setting, the absence of direct instructor contact when the assignments are returned diminishes the
likelihood that students will seek explanation of errors.
An additional characteristic of the CALL environment is that many of the practice
activities consist of short written response exercise corrected by the computer. These tasks offer
the advantage of providing immediate written feedback, which unlike immediate oral feedback,
allows the learner unlimited time to evaluate the information. Furthermore, the provision of
feedback immediately following the submission of each item allows the learner to identify
discrepancies between his/her language production and the target language (L2) before the
misinformation becomes instilled in the interlanguage system. This is crucial based upon the
research finding that such erroneous cognitive constructions are frequently persistent and
difficult to unlearn (Rea-Ramirez & Clement, 1998). Thus, feedback in the CALL environment
offers the potential of providing valuable input during the introduction and practice of syntactic
structures. As a result, research in this area is of particular importance not only for asynchronous
language courses, but also for any type of instructed SLA environment where computer-
mediated activities are performed.

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Significance of Present Study

Despite the unique conditions of this learning context, few studies exist that have
explored the relative effectiveness of feedback in a CALL environment (Nagata, 1997; Nagata &
Swisher, 1995; Sanz, 2004; Sanz & Morgan-Short, 2004). In addition, the for the ones that do
exist not only is there a lack of consensus regarding what constitutes effective feedback, but
there also is conflicting evidence regarding the potential benefits of any type of feedback in this
setting. As will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter, one possible for reason for this
lack of consensus in the literature may be the characteristics of the feedback employed in the
studies. Although several studies have examined the role of metalinguistic feedback in CALL,
there are obvious differences in the nature of the explicit information provided. Another
contributing factor may be the instructional methods used by studies. Finally, it is also possible
that the difference in the findings could be due to the relative difficult of the linguistic form used
as the target structure in the studies.
As a result, this study is designed to address the possible reasons for the conflicting
evidence found in the literature by examining the relative effectiveness of two different types of
feedback (metalinguistic and text enhancement) on the production of three uses of the Spanish
preterite and imperfect representing various levels of difficulty. In doing so, the present study
contributes to the growing body of literature on CF by attempting to offer insight into the
following questions:
 Does feedback within CALL play a facilitative role in language development?
 If so, for what types of tasks is CF most beneficial?
 Is metalinguisitic feedback more beneficial for complex grammatical structures?
 Is increased saliency in feedback beneficial for complex grammatical structures?
Answers to these questions will offer not only important pedagogical implications, but may also
contribute to the field of second language acquisition in general by offering additional insight
into the effects of corrective feedback on language development. The specific research questions
and hypotheses will be presented in the next chapter following a discussion of the studies that
motivated this research.

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Organization of Dissertation

This current chapter provides foundational information for the study. Chapter two begins
by presenting a review of the literature pertaining to feedback in CALL and follows with a
discussion of possible reasons for the conflicting findings of the studies. This is followed by a
description of the targeted grammar structure and the feedback types utilized in the current study
and a justification for their selection. The chapter concludes with the research questions and
hypotheses that guide this investigation. The third chapter outlines the methodology employed in
the study, including information about the participants, the materials, the procedure, the feedback
types, assessments and scoring. The results and statistical analysis of the data will be presented
in the fourth chapter. Finally, the fifth chapter will discuss the findings, the implications and
limitations of the study, and offer suggestions for further research.

Definition of Terms

Acquisition: The process of internalizing the elements of a linguistic system (e.g. lexicon,
morphology, phonology, pragmatics, syntax, etc.).
Aspect: the different perspectives that a speaker can take regarding temporal course of an event;
whether a situation can be considered as on-going or having an endpoint.
Explicit information: overt information about the language and detailed explanation about how it
works.
Feedback: information that a L2 speaker receives about the correctness of his/her output.
Fossilization: a permanent cessation of progress of the interlanguage before reaching native like
attainment of the L2.
Grammatical competence: implicit knowledge that a speaker has about what grammatical
structures are possible in a given language.
Input: the language that a learner is exposed to in a communicative context.
Intake: a filtered subset of input that consists of the language a learner attends to and holds in
working memory and for comprehension processing. Thus, it includes grammatical information
as it relates to the meaning that a learner has assigned to it.
Interaction: the conversations that leaner participate in using the L2.

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Interlanguage: the language system constructed by a nonnative speaker of the language.
Metalinguistic information: knowledge that a speaker has about how a language works (e.g. part
of speech, grammatical rules, verb conjugations, noun declensions, etc.)
Negative evidence: any type of input that lets a learner know that a particular form is not
acceptable according to target language norms.
Output: production of the L2 in a written or spoken format that is meant to convey a message.
Parsing: the assignment of syntactic structures to the elements of a sentence when a person
engages in comprehension.
Performance task: an activity that requires the individual to produce the language.
Recognition task: an activity in which the individual is only required to select the correct
response (e.g. binary choice, multiple-choice, true/false, etc.).
Tense: the placement of a situation or action along a continuum of time in relation to some other
point in time, with that reference point usually being the present moment in time.

11
CHAPTER TWO

MOTIVATION FOR THE PRESENT STUDY

The purpose of this chapter is to review the literature related to corrective feedback in
CALL and to discuss how the findings of these empirical studies motivated the present study. In
addition, the chapter will discuss the targeted grammar structure and the feedback types utilized
in this investigation, including the justification for their selection. The chapter will conclude with
the research questions and hypotheses that guide the current study.

Corrective Feedback in CALL

Nagata and Swisher (1995) is one of the few studies that examines the relative
effectiveness of different types of feedback in a CALL environment. Their quasi-experimental
study compared the effectiveness of „traditional feedback‟ and „intelligent feedback‟ on the
performance of 32 L1 English students‟ production of Japanese passive structures. After
receiving a 20 minute introduction to the Japanese passive construction using the particles ga, o,
wa, ni, and de, the participants completed a written communication task in which they were
given a context in English and instructed to provide a response to a Japanese sentence produced
by an imaginary conversation partner. The participants received either traditional or intelligent
feedback immediately following their response depending on the treatment group to which they
were assigned.
Traditional feedback was limited to a simple error message indicating only missing words
or unexpected words in the learner‟s response, such as „de is missing‟ or „ni is not expected
here.‟ In contrast, intelligent feedback included additional information about the nature of the
error by utilizing a parsing technique to provide detailed grammatical explanations for the source
of the learners' errors. The researchers found intelligent computer feedback to be more effective
than traditional computer feedback for this production task. They concluded that intelligent
feedback is beneficial for improving the learners' grammatical proficiency in the use of complex
structures. In addition, they reasoned that traditional feedback resulted in repetition in the same

12
type of errors because without meaningful grammatical explanations, learners were confused and
did not understand why their responses were incorrect.
In a follow-up study, Nagata (1997) examined the relative effectiveness of deductive
feedback and inductive feedback in acquiring the Japanese particles ga, o, wa, ni and de.
Following explicit instruction on the grammatical form, 30 first-semester students performed
written practice exercises identical to the ones utilized in Nagata and Swisher (1995). However,
for this study they received either deductive or inductive feedback. Deductive feedback
presented both a description of the error as well as an explanation of the grammar rule. Although
inductive feedback also identified the error in the learner‟s response, it supplied only examples
of correct usage. Examples of the error messages for deductive and inductive feedback type are
shown below in (1) and (2) respectively.
(1) You used the particle GA to mark NIHONGO as though it had the role SUBJECT
(the one who performs the action). But the correct role is INSTRUMENT (the one, by
means of which the action occurs). Use DE to mark it.
(2) You used the particle GA to mark NIHONGO, but the correct particle is DE.The
following examples show how the particles DE and GA are used.
(a) particle DE:
i. Waapuro de kakimasita.
„(I) wrote (it) with a word processor.‟

ii. Kuruma de ikimasita.


„(I) went by car.‟
(b) particle GA:
i. 1) Tanaka-san ga ikimasu.
„Mr./Ms. Tanaka will go.‟

ii. Tomodati ga tukurimasita.


„My friend made (it).‟

13
As with the previous study, Nagata found feedback containing metalinguistic information to be
more effective for acquiring complex grammar structures, which they define as possessing “fine
semantic distinctions that may not be made in the first language” (p.49).
Although the findings of both of these studies do support the claim that detailed
metalinguistic feedback specific to the source of the error does lead to improvement in
subsequent output, care must be take when generalizing these findings to claims that
metalinguistic feedback is beneficial for improving the learners' grammatical proficiency in the
use of complex structures. In fact, due to the controlled nature of the language production task
and the attempt to focus the learners‟ attention on the target structure, it may be more accurate to
state the specific metalinguistic feedback is beneficial for improving learner‟s performance on
metalinguistic tasks or at least, on controlled written production tasks in which the learner is
given an indefinite amount of time to formulate a response. Further research in this area that
examines the effects of metalinguistic feedback for time controlled assessments may yield more
insight into role that metalinguistic feedback plays for spontaneous, or at least time-controlled,
language use.
Sanz (2004) also explored the role of explicit information as an effective means of
feedback in a CALL environment, but with the added component of Processing Instruction (PI).
In this experiment, 28 first- or second-year Spanish students were randomly assigned to an
explicit feedback group or an implicit feedback group. Similar to previous research, explicit
feedback consisted of the presentation of metalinguistic information whenever an error occurred.
Implicit feedback was limited to „OK‟ if the participant entered a correct response and „sorry, try
again‟ with no additional information for an incorrect response. Both groups performed input-
based activities in accordance with PI guidelines. Contrary to the researcher‟s hypothesis and the
findings of Nagata (1997; Nagata & Swisher, 1995), there was no statistical difference in the
performance of the two feedback groups. Sanz proposed that the discrepancy between her
findings and those of previous research were due to the instructional method and practice tasks
utilized in the other studies. She suggested that the pedagogical methods employed in other
studies may not have been based on sound second language acquisition theory and research,
leading to the necessity of explicit feedback for learner success in acquiring the grammatical
form presented.

14
Additional research by Sanz and Morgan-Short (2004) performed an even closer
examination of the individual and combined effects of explicit information provided prior to a
task in the form of instruction and during a task as explicit negative feedback. The participants in
the study were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: explanation plus explicit
negative feedback, explanation without explicit negative feedback, no explanation but explicit
negative feedback, or no explanation or explicit negative feedback. Although all participants
received feedback about the correctness of their responses, only the treatment groups designated
as explicit negative feedback were provided with metalinguistic information. Of consequence for
the present study is the finding that the provision of explicit negative feedback did not affect the
participant‟s performance on Spanish preverbal direct object pronouns. Again, the researchers
attributed the findings to the structured-input activity, an essential component of PI.

Possible Reasons for Conflicting Findings


As a review of the literature demonstrates, there is not a consensus regarding the
superiority of a single feedback type on learner performance and there are conflicting results
concerning the benefits of metalinguistic feedback. One possible reason for the difference in the
findings could be the characteristics of the explicit information provided in the feedback. The
metalinguistic feedback supplied by Sanz (2004) and Sanz and Morgan-Short (2004) consisted of
a general linguistic rule such as, „remember that direct object pronouns are never the subject of
the sentence.‟ In addition, this feedback was not directed at the participants‟ output, but rather
provided during the processing phase of the experiment. In contrast, Nagata and Swisher (1995)
and Nagata (1997) individualized the response to each test item produced by the learners, and
explained both the grammatical functions and semantic relations of each component of the
sentence. Undoubtedly, differences in the way in which key constructs, such as feedback types,
are operationalized and the timing of the presentation of the feedback will impact the findings of
the studies.
An alternative reason for the conflicting findings, as suggested by Sanz (2004) and Sanz
and Morgan-Short (2004), may be the nature of the instructional methods utilized by the
researchers. In fact, the research of Sanz and Sanz and Morgan-Short is not designed to examine
the relative effectiveness of feedback types, but rather to explore the beneficial role of explicit
information within the context of a P I (VanPatten, 1996), an instructional method which learners

15
pushes to focus on the form or structure of the input in order to obtain meaning. As a result, the
present study proposes to address this limitation of the previous research by examining the
differential effect of various feedback types without the inclusion of an additional instructional
component beyond that available through the provision of the feedback. This will be achieved by
asking the participants to complete exercises for a grammar topic that they have previously
learned, but have not fully mastered. Consequently, the participants will not receive any type of
grammar introduction or review session prior to the task. Thus, the only factor affecting the
participants‟ performance will be the feedback type.
Likewise, it is possible that the characteristics of target structure used in the studies
contributed to the conflicting findings. As suggested by Nagata and Swisher (1995) and Nagata
(1997), corrective feedback may be more beneficial for the acquisition of complex grammatical
structures. This hypothesis is supported by Nagata and Swisher‟s finding that traditional
feedback was as beneficial as intelligent feedback in helping learners to correct word-level errors
(e.g. vocabulary and conjugation errors), whereas intelligent feedback yielded greater results
with correcting sentence level errors (e.g. particle errors) which involve more complex
processing of knowledge. As a result, this study examines three uses of the preterite and
imperfect which vary in the degree of complexity. The relative level of complexity for each of
these uses is determined by the proposed order in which tense-aspect development occurs in L2
acquisition as is outlined by Anderson‟s Aspect Hypothesis (1986, 1991). This hypothesis will
be discussed in greater detail in a section on the theoretical views on the L2 development of
aspect. First, it is beneficial to provide an explanation of the tense-aspect distinction and an
overview of lexical and grammatical aspect.

Target Structure: Aspect

Tense-Aspect Distinction
Tense and aspect are both expressions of temporality that are encoded implicity or
explicity on the verb (Salaberry & Shirai, 20002). Tense serves to place a situation along a
continuum of time in relation to some other point in time, with that reference point usually being
the present moment in time or the moment of speech (Comrie, 1985). In contrast, aspect does not
involve locating a situation in relation to a reference point in time, but rather is concerned with

16
the different perspectives that a speaker can take regarding the internal constituency of the
situation (Comrie, 1976). As such, aspect relates to whether a situation can be considered as on-
going or having an endpoint.
The distinction is best clarified with an example. The difference between the two
sentences she is writing and she was writing is one of tense because the is/was contrast
demonstrates different points in time in relation to the present moment. However, the contrast
between the sentences she wrote and she was writing represents a difference in how the action of
writing is viewed by the speaker, as such it reflects a difference of aspect. The action can either
be viewed in its entirety (e.g., wrote) or as a situation consisting of phases (e.g., was writing).
These viewpoints are often referred to as external view or internal view respectively (Comrie,
1976).

Lexical Aspect
Aspect can also be categorized as lexical or grammatical. Lexical aspect refers to the
inherent meaning of the verb and the properties of its internal argument and adjuncts (Verkuyl,
1994). Vendler (1967) classification system of verbs provides the foundation for lexical aspect. It
is based on the temporal properties of telicity, durativity and dynamicity. Telicity refers to the
existence of an inherent endpoint and as such, verbs are either telic (have an endpoint) or atelic
(no endpoint). Durativity pertains to the amount of time an action continues, with actions taking
place instantaneously being referred to as punctual. Finally, verbs that require input of energy are
described as being dynamic. According to this classification system, verbs are categorized as
one of four types (state, activity, achievement, and accomplishment) depending upon which of
the temporal properties they possess.
State verbs are unique in that they do not require any input of energy, but merely persist
over time. Examples of state verbs include to be, to have, to know, to need and to seem. In
contrast, activity, accomplishments and achievement verbs are all dynamic, but they are
distinguished from each other in terms of durativity and telicity. Activity verbs, such as to sleep,
to talk, to cook, to work and to write, have inherent duration in that they involve a span of time.
However, unlike accomplishment and achievement verbs, they do not include an endpoint. For
example, to write is an activity, whereas to write a letter is an accomplishment because it
involves a culminating endpoint, the completion of the letter. Other examples of accomplishment

17
verbs are to cook a meal, to run a mile, to eat an apple and to paint a picture. Lastly,
accomplishment and achievement verbs differ from one another in terms of durativity.
Achievement verbs are punctual and can be thought of as capturing the beginning or end of an
action (Mourelatos, 1981) such as the The race began or The game ended. Additional examples
of achievement verbs are to die, to leave, to notice, to recognize, and to fall asleep. Table 1
provides a summary of this comparison for further clarification.

Table 2.1: Feature analysis of Vendler‟s verb classes


Dynamic Telic Punctual Example
State − − − to be, to have, to know
Activity + − − to cook, to sleep, to write
Accomplishment + + − to write a letter, to run a mile
Achievement + + + to die, to arrive, to break
(Adapted from Shirai & Andersen, 1995)

Although the inherent meaning of the verb largely determines lexical aspect, arguments
of the verb and adverbial phrases also contribute to aspectual interpretation. For example, to cook
is typically an activity verb when used intransitively because there is no reference to telicity.
However, if the object of the verb is indicated (e.g., to cook a turkey), then the verb to cook
becomes an accomplishment because the argument of the verb establishes an endpoint. Similarly,
the addition of an adverb can alter the lexical aspect. For example, in the sentence Now I know,
the inclusion of the temporal adverb now added the component of punctuality causing the verb
know to be classified as an achievement rather than as a state.

Grammatical Aspect
Aspect can also be expressed grammatically by means of verbal morphology as is the
case of the Spanish preterite (perfective) and imperfect. Like lexical aspect, grammatical aspect
is concerned with the endpoint of the predicate and refers to whether the interval during which an
event or state occurs is bounded or unbounded (Depraetere, 1995). Bounded aspect (perfective)
views a situation externally, simply having a beginning and an end. In contrast, unbounded

18
aspect (imperfective) focuses on the internal structure of the situation without specifying the
beginning or end of the situation. The Spanish sentences in (4) and the English equivalent clarify
this distinction.
(4) a. Juan escribió una carta. (preterite/perfective)
„Juan wrote a letter.‟

b. Juan escribía una carta. (imperfective)


„Juan was writing a letter.‟
The preterite example in (4a) looks at the event of writing a letter as started and finished, with
the result of a letter. In contrast, (4b) views the activity from the inside without reference to the
beginning or the completion of the act. The imperfective only indicates that the action of writing
the letter was in progress, not whether it resulted in the completion of the letter.
In summary, both tense and aspect express the temporality of a verb. Tense situates an
action or state of being on a continuation of time in relation to some other point in time, usually
the present. In contrast, aspect does not reference a point in time, but rather refers to the
continuation or completion of the predicate. Aspect can be categorized as lexical or grammatical.
Lexical aspect classifies verbs according to the temporal properties of telicity, durativity and
dynamicity and is based primarily on the inherent meaning of the verb. Like lexical aspect,
grammatical aspect pertains to the endpoint of the predicate. However, it refers to whether an
event or state is bounded or unbounded. In addition, grammatical aspect is encoded by means of
verbal morphology. Having discussed the nature of tense and aspect, the next section examines
theoretical perspectives on the development of aspect in SLA.

Theoretical Perspectives on Acquisition of Aspect

It has been well documented that tense/aspect morphology is very difficult for L2
learners to acquire (e.g., Coppieters, 1987). Michaelis (1998) has suggested that aspect may
present particular problems for native speakers of English not only because the distinction is not
part of English verbal inflection but also because the aspectual categories do not have one-to-one
meaning correspondence across languages. Although this is an accurate observation, this
proposal may provide too simplistic a view of the nature of the problem encountered by L2

19
learners. For L1 English learners of Spanish, the difficulty may also be attributed to fact that in
Spanish all verb categories (state, activity, accomplishment, achievement) can be expressed with
the preterite or the imperfect based upon the meaning that the speaker wishes to convey (Montrul
& Slabakova, 2003). In addition, the difficulties that learners encounter can be addressed by
different theoretical frameworks: Generative Grammar and Lexical Semantics. The following
sections provide an overview of their explanations of acquisition of aspect by L2 learners.

Generative Grammar and Universal Grammar


Aspectual development can also be explained in terms of Generative Grammar and fall
within the realm of Universal Grammar (Chomsky, 1995). However, before discussing the
acquisition of tense/aspect morphology within this framework, it is important to have an
understanding of the basic tenets of this theory of second language acquisition. Briefly,
generative linguists propose that language acquisition is internally driven and that humans are
biologically predisposed with a language faculty referred to as Universal Grammar (UG)
(Chomsky, 1975). UG guides the language acquisition process by constraining what is possible
in human language; it not only limits the possible syntactic categories, but also determines how
these categories are constructed or combined (Montrul, 2004). One of the fundamental
assumptions of this framework is that UG contains invariant principles that are common to all
languages and parameters that account for structural differences among languages. As such,
principles can be thought of as general overall requirements of languages (e.g., every sentence
must have a subject), whereas parameters are language specific rules (e.g., the difference in
obligatory use of overt subjects in English and Spanish).
Within the principles and parameters framework, a distinction is made between lexical
and functional categories. Lexical categories contribute the semantic content of a sentence,
whereas functional categories provide referential and grammatical meaning to a sentence, such
as tense and aspect (Lafford & Salaberry, 2003). According to recent developments in generative
grammar (Chomsky, 1995), functional categories and their features contribute to cross-linguistic
differences because different languages may have different functional categories instantiated and
a given functional category may have different features or feature strengths. This results in
different semantic and syntactic effects across languages.

20
In terms of aspect, lexical and grammatical aspect are located in different positions within
the clause structure (Slabakova, 2001), as represented in the syntactic tree in Figure 2.1.

CP [+/− wh]

C AgrP [+/− agreement]

Agr TP [+/− tense]

T AspP [+/− perfective] grammatical aspect

Asp ProgP [+/− prog]

Prog VP

V AspP [+/− telic] lexical aspect

Asp VP

Figure 2.1: Syntactic tree representing grammatical and lexical aspect

According to this structure, lexical aspect appears in the lower functional category AspP, situated
closer to the VP where the lexical verb appears. This is where the semantic features [+/− telic]
are checked. In contrast, grammatical aspect is located in the higher AspP phrase below the tense
phrase and above the verb phrase.The features [+/− perfective] are checked here through overt
tense/aspect morphology (i.e. Spanish preterite/imperfect). It is important to note that Spanish
has the features [+ perfective] and [− perfective] associated with preterite and imperfect
morphology, whereas English has only the [+ perfective] feature, associated with the simple past

21
tense verb form. It is this disparity that accounts for the difficulty that L1English learners of
Spanish exhibit in the acquisition of the preterite-imperfect distinction.
UG provides an explanation for the difficulties that L2 learners exhibit in acquisition of
aspect, or the why of tense-aspect development. In contrast, Lexical Semantics address the
emersion of aspect, or the developmental how of the process.
As part of this framework, the Aspect Hypothesis proposes a hierarchical order of eight
developmental stages. The next section outlines the proposed sequence of acquisition.

Lexical Semantics and the Aspect Hypothesis


Within the Lexical Semantics framework, Andersen has been credited with being the first
to articulate a coherent theoretical proposal of tense-aspect development in L2 acquisition
(Salaberry & Shirai, 2002). His seminal work (1986, 1991) with two adolescent learners of
Spanish led to his formulation of the Aspect Hypothesis, which incorporates Vendler‟s (1967)
categorization of verb types. According to the hypothesis, L2 learners follow a particular
sequence in the acquisition of aspectual markers and are initially influenced by the inherent
semantic aspect of verbs in their use of inflectional morphology. Learners first exhibit the use of
the perfective with achievement verbs and gradually progress to the use of the imperfect and
expand their use of the perfective with other verb types.
For the development of past tense morphology in Spanish, Andersen (1991) proposed a
sequence of eight developmental stages. The preterite (perfective) is the first past tense marker to
appear and gradually spreads from achievement verbs in stage 2 to accomplishment verbs in
stage 4, and activity verbs and state verbs in stages 6 and 8 respectively. In contrast, the
imperfect appears later in acquisition (stage 3) and develops in the reverse order progressing
from state verbs to activity verbs, to accomplishment verbs and finally achievement verbs. These
developmental stages are depicted in Table 2.2.

22
Table 2.2: Developmental stages of the acquisition of aspect (based on Andersen 1986)
Stages States Activities Accomplishments Achievements
1 Present Present Present Present
2 Present Present Present Preterite
3 Imperfect Present Present Preterite
4 Imperfect Imperfect Preterite Preterite
5 Imperfect Imperfect Pret/Imperf Preterite
6 Imperfect Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf Preterite
7 Imperfect Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf
8 Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf Pret/Imperf
Adapted from Montrul & Salaberry, 2003.

The predictions of these stages can be broken down into four separate claims about the
acquisition of tense/aspect morphology (Shirai, 1991, pp. 9-10):
1. Learners first use (perfective) past marking on achievements and
accomplishments, eventually extending to activities and states.
2. In languages that encode the perfective/imperfective distinction, imperfective
past appears later than perfective past, and imperfect marking begins with states,
extending next to activities, then to accomplishments, and finally to achievements.
3. In languages that have progressive aspect, progressive marking begins with activities
and then extends to accomplishments and achievements.
4. Progressive markings are not incorrectly overextended to states.
Although the prescribed sequence of development is unique to the Aspect Hypothesis, the
proposal that L2 learners follow an identifiable sequence in the acquisition of aspectual markers
is not. In fact, researchers from both Lexical Semantics and Generative Grammar perspectives
have offered complementary claims regarding L2 acquisition of Spanish preterite and imperfect.
For example, Montrul and Slabakova (2003), who work within the UG framework, support
Anderson‟s (1991) assertion in the Aspect Hypothesis that it is possible for L1 English speakers
to acquire the inflectional morphemes and semantic entailments of the preterite and imperfect for

23
all verb classes. Likewise, they too maintain that the semantic contrast between the preterite and
the imperfect does not exist in the beginning levels of acquisition and only gradually develops
with increasing proficiency. An additional claim that is shared by both frameworks is that the
preterite is the first past tense marker to appear and serves as the default tense (eg., Lafford,
1996; Salaberry, 2003; Slabakova, 2001). Finally, Salaberry (2003) suggests that morphology
may be more important than lexical aspect for past tense markers during the initial stages of L2
acquisition. This proposal is consistent with the claims of Generative Grammar that tense/aspect
morphology is acquired before the corresponding semantic interpretations (Slabakova &
Montrul, 2002).
Clearly, both Generative Grammar and Lexical Semantics support the claim that aspect is
difficult for L2 learners to acquire as is demonstrated by its gradual emersion. Thus, it appears
that this target structure may be a suitable form to examine the claim that metalinguistic
feedback is more effective for acquiring complex grammatical structures. In addition, because
the tense-aspect distinction appears over time with advancements in proficiency, it may be
possible to examine the effects of feedback types its progression. Although, as previously noted,
both frameworks propose comparable claims regarding the acquisition of the tense-aspect
distinction by L2 learners, the Aspect Hypothesis was selected for the present study because it
offers a clear hierarchy of developmental stages. This hierarchy may provide a context in which
it is possible to explore the effectiveness of feedback types on the relative level of difficulty of
the grammatical item (i.e. preterite with accomplishment verbs, imperfect with state verbs,
imperfect with activity verbs) because of the proposed developmental order. Although the
Aspect Hypothesis consists of eight stages, only the first three stages will be examined in this
investigation. This decision is based on proficiency level of the participants and is supported by
the findings of a pilot of the pretest/posttest materials that evaluated the level appropriateness of
the verb types indicative of these stages.
The three uses of the Spanish preterite and imperfect are only one of the independent
variables that will be utilized in the present study. The other independent variable is feedback
type, which consists of the provision of metalinguistic information or text enhancement. The
next section examines these in detail by providing a definition of the terms and presenting an
overview of empirical studies which have explored the effectiveness of these feedback types.

24
Feedback Types

Metalinguistic Feedback
As discussed in the previous chapter, metalinguistic feedback is a form of explicit
feedback that serves to direct L2 learners‟ attention to misformulations in their language usage
by providing information about the rules or features of the target language. As such,
metalinguistic feedback typically contains grammatical terminology that refers to the nature of
the error (Lightbown & Spada, 2006). However, Lyster and Ranta (1997) contend that, despite
its name, metalinguistic feedback does not always include metalanguage (specialized terms from
the field of linguistics used in grammar instruction). According to these researchers, the defining
characteristic of metalinguistic feedback is the inclusion of “comments, information, or questions
related to the well-formedness of the student‟s utterance, without explicitly providing the correct
form” (p. 46).
Lyster and Ranta (1997) further delineate metalinguistic feedback into three
subcategories: metalinguistic comments, metalinguistic information, and metalinguistic
questions. Metalinguistic comments afford the least amount of information and simply indicate
the presence of an error. This type of feedback may take the form of a general statement about its
existence, such as, “That‟s not how you say it,” or it may pinpoint the location of the error, as is
demonstrated in (5). In this example, taken from Leeman (2003, p. 49), R directs the attention of
the NNS to a gender mismatch between the masculine form of the adjective rojo and the
feminine noun taza.
(5) NNS: En la mesa hay una taza *rojo.
„On the table there is a *red cup.‟
R: Um hmm, pero tu dijiste „una taza *rojo.‟ ¿Qué más?
„Um hmm, but you said „a *red cup.‟ What else?‟
Like metalinguistic comments, metalinguistic information provides an indication of the
existence and/or location of an error. In contrast, it generally includes some type of
metalanguage that is intended to assist the L2 learner in remedying the error. As with
metalinguistic comments, metalinguistic information can vary from general comments which
identify the type of error (e.g. You used the wrong pronoun) to more specific suggestions for

25
resolving the misformulation (e.g. You need to use an indirect object pronoun with the verb
gustar).
The third type of metalinguistic feedback identified by Lyster and Ranta (1997) is
metalinguistic questions. Although this type of feedback also directs the L2 learners‟ attention to
the nature of the error and may include metalanguage, unlike metalinguistic information,
metalinguistic questions attempt to push the L2 learners to reconsider hypotheses they may have
formed about a target language form. An example of this is shown in (6), where the
metalinguistic question encourages the L2 learner to evaluate the appropriateness of le elephant.
(6) St: Euhm, le, le elephant. Le elephant gronde.
„Uhm, the, the elephant. The elephant growls.‟
R: Est-ce qu‟on dit le elephant?
„Do we say the elephant?‟
(Lyster & Ranta, 1997, p.64).
Because this type of feedback is posed as a question, the L2 learner is given the opportunity to
respond either with a reformulation of language in question or with an analysis of the form.
With advances in technology, metalinguistic feedback supplied by language learning
programs has moved increasingly from metalinguistic comments (e.g., Sorry!, Try again) to
metalinguistic information. As described by Heift and Nicholson (2001), the most advanced
computer-delivered feedback is generated by Intelligent Language Tutoring Systems (ILTS),
which are parser-based CALL programs that identify the error and provide error specific
feedback. However, as demonstrated in (7) the metalinguistic feedback contains only a detailed
explanation of the error without supplying the correct response in an effort to guide the learner in
formulating a possible correct answer.
(7) A learner has typed: Klaus hat den Kuchen backen.
Feedback: You made a mistake with the verb backen. You need the
past participle here.
(Adapted from Heift, 2004, p. 421 )
By providing only the metalinguistic information that guides L2 learners in formulating a
possible correct answer, the feedback may enable the learners to recall partially acquired forms
and access the target-like form from their own interlanguage. As previously noted, additional
research in this area is still needed to validate this idea. Despite this fact, empirical studies do

26
exist that explore the effect of metalinguistic feedback on SLA. This is the topic of the next
section.

Studies on Metalinguistic Feedback


Although few comparative studies exist that specifically explore the effectiveness of
written feedback in CALL, several studies performed within this learning environment do exist
that have yielded some relevant findings. Heift (2004), for example, examined the effects of
three types of corrective feedback (metalinguistic, metalinguistic + highlighting, and repetition
+ highlighting) on learner uptake, which she defined as a learner‟s attempt to correct a mistake.
For this investigation, 177 L1 English learners of German enrolled in university courses
representing three language levels (beginner, advanced beginner, and intermediate) were
randomly assigned to one of the three feedback types to complete vocabulary and grammar
exercises. Metalinguistic feedback identified the error and provided a detailed explanation of the
error. The metalinguistic plus highlighting feedback displayed identical information in addition
to the learner input with the error highlighted. In contrast, the repetition plus highlighting
feedback contained only a duplication of the learner‟s response with the error highlighted.
During a 15 week period, the participants completed four types of exercises (build-a-sentence,
dictation, fill-in-the-blank, and translation) using a parser-based CALL system that allowed the
learners to resubmit their answers, view the correct answer, or continue to the next exercise.
Although the primary interest of the study was to investigate if the feedback types played a role
in the learners‟ decision to revise their input, an additional finding revealed by the data was that
the metalinguistic plus highlighting group provided the most correct responses and that the
repetition plus highlighting produced the greatest number of errors. This finding suggests that
metalinguistic feedback plays a facilitative role for self-correction within the CALL
environment.
Similar findings were reported in a later study by Heift and Rimrott (2008), who
investigated learners‟ responses to three types of corrective feedback (meta-linguistic with
emphasis, meta-linguistic, and repetition) for misspellings produced by L1 English learners of
German. This study considered a corpus of misspellings from 28 beginner and intermediate
students, who used an online parser-based system that recorded the students‟ interactions over a
15 week period. Each participant received all feedback types, but the order of each feedback type

27
was randomly assigned to each participant and each chapter. As in Heift (2004), the feedback
types utilized various combinations of metalinguistic information and highlighting. The meta-
linguistic with emphasis feedback offered suggestions for the misspelled word in addition to
displaying the incorrect sentence and highlighting the error. In contrast, the metalinguistic
feedback did not reproduce the incorrect sentence with the error highlighted, but rather displayed
only the incorrectly spelled word and provided a list of suggestions. Unlike the metalinguistic
feedback types that listed possible word choices for the misspelled word, the repetition feedback
indicated that a spelling mistake may have occurred and displayed the incorrect sentence with the
error highlighted. Results indicated that learners provided the most correct responses with the
most explicit and prominent feedback type, meta-linguistic with emphasis, while students were
least successful at correcting their misspellings with the repetition feedback type. This provides
support for the claim that learners do utilize metalinguistic feedback provided in a CALL
environment for revision. However, no assessment was performed to determine whether such
revision yielded lasting results and thereby, served to modify the interlanguage system.
The benefit of explicitness in written feedback was also found by Bowles and Montrul
(2008) as part of a study on the effectiveness of grammar instruction involving explicit rule
presentation and practice with explicit feedback within the context of a hybrid course. The
participants for this study were 60 L1 English students of Spanish enrolled in a fourth-semester
hybrid language course, in which the students studied grammar concepts and completed practice
exercises online prior to face-to-face class meetings, where they engaged in communicative
activities. For the targeted structure, half of the participants received an explicit grammatical
explanation of the a-personal, followed by a practice exercise which included immediate,
explicit corrective feedback. The other 30 students served as a control group and performed only
the pretest and posttest measures, which consisted of grammaticality judgment task. The results
of the study indicated that the participants in the treatment group became more accepting of
grammatical sentences and less accepting of ungrammatical ones. Thus, the researchers
concluded that explicit instruction and practice involving explicit feedback are beneficial.
However, the study does not separate the effects of the instruction from the effects of the
metalinguistic feedback.
Although not a CALL study, Carroll & Swain (1993) is included in this review of
relevant literature because it is one of the few investigations designed to explore the differential

28
effects of various feedback types. In this study, 100 ESL learners received training on the
English dative alternation and then were assigned to one of four different feedback groups or a
control group. The feedback options consisted of: (a) the presentation of metalinguistic
information, (b) an indication that the response provided was incorrect without any further
information, (c) a replication of the incorrect response along with implicit negative evidence in
the form of the correct response, or (d) a request for the participant to verify the correctness of
his/her response. The control group did not receive any type of feedback regarding their
performance. An analysis of the data from the initial session and two recall sessions revealed that
groups receiving any type of feedback outperformed the control group. Consequently, the
researchers concluded that both direct and indirect forms of feedback are beneficial in acquiring
grammatical forms. More importantly, they reported that metalinguistic information yielded
superior performance results in comparison with the other feedback types for both new and
previously encountered items. Despite these promising findings regarding metalinguistic
feedback, it is important to note that the assessment tasks were metalinguistic in nature and did
not require any production measure. Thus, additional research is needed in this area.
In summary, several empirical studies do exist that have yielded positive results for the
inclusion of metalinguistic feedback in instructed SLA. However, the beneficial effects may be
limited to tasks in very controlled settings or that rely on the use of metalinguistic information,
such as revision tasks. As a result, additional research is needed in this area to determine if
metalinguistic feedback is also beneficial for tasks that require a spontaneous (time-controlled
response) and for free production measures. Thus, this metalinguistic feedback will be examined
under such circumstances in the present study.
The other form of feedback that will be explored in the current investigation is text
enhancement. As previously noted, Heift (2004) and Heift and Rimrott (2008) found
metalinguistic feedback combined text enhancement to be the most effective feedback type for
self-editing tasks. However, neither study explored text enhancement as a feedback type
independent of metalinguistic information. In order to isolate the effectiveness of text
enhancement, it is essential to compare the relative effectiveness of text enhancement in
comparison with metalinguistic feedback. This is also an important consideration because studies
that do explore text enhancement as an independent variable, albeit not in a CALL environment,
have yielded mixed findings As a result, it is beneficial to provide an overview of text

29
enhancement, which is a type of input enhancement, and to discuss some of the relevant
literature before presenting the research questions and hypothesis.

Input Enhancement

The idea that saliency in input facilitates acquisition is based on Schmidt‟s (1993)
Noticing Hypothesis, which as previously noted, purports that learners must attend to (notice)
items in the input before they can be integrated into the interlanguage system. Based upon this
premise, Sharwood Smith (1993) first utilized the term consciousness raising to refer to what he
later designated as input enhancement. Input enhancement is any attempt made to drawer the
learner‟s attention to the formal properties of the L2. As noted by Gascoigne (2006), input
enhancement can take any number of forms including “explicit discussion of the target forms,
recasts, clarification requests, processing instruction, garden path techniques, metalinguistic
feedback, negative evidence through overt error correction, input flooding, and textual
enhancement via typographical alterations” (p. 149). For this study, input enhancement will refer
to text enhancement, the characteristics of which are discussed in the next section.

Text Enhancement
Text enhancement is a visual form of input enhancement that increases the perceptual
salience of the target form by means of various formatting techniques including the use boldface,
italics, underlining, capitalization or change of font color. As described by Doughty & Williams
(1998), it is an implicit and unobtrusive means to draw the learners‟ attention to form contained
in the written input. Wong (2005) further explains that it “render[s] salient particular features of
written input that learners normally may not notice and make form-meaning connections for” (p.
49). Thus, the motivation for use of text enhancement is to increase the L2 learners‟ awareness of
forms and thereby, promote acquisition of the targeted forms. However, as will be discussed in
the next section, research on effectiveness of this technique has yielded mixed findings.

Studies on Text Enhancement


Researchers who have examined the effect of text enhancement on SLA have not reached
a consensus on what role, if any, the increase of visual saliency may play in helping L2 learners

30
to develop language skills. In fact, a review of the studies produces mixed results with some
researchers having found minimal (Alanen, 1995; Robinson, 1997; J. White, 1998) or no effects
(Loew, 1997; Jourdenais, 1998), and others reporting a facilitative role for TE (e.g. Doughty,
1991; Williams, 1999). The disparity of these findings may be the result of design differences
that require the participants to perform a task that focused on the form of the language. For
example, Williams reported positive effects when TE was used with a verbatim recall task.
Similarly, Doughty‟s (1991) treatment involved various forms of comprehension. Likewise, as
previously discussed, Heift (2004) and Heift and Rimrott (2008) included text enhancement
(highlighting) in their studies as part of a self-editing task.
However, as with empirical studies on metalinguistic information, caution should be
exercised when making generalizations about this feedback type. One of the few empirical
studies that isolates TE as a variable in CALL is offered as an example. Doughty (1991)
included highlighting in a study that compared meaning-oriented instruction with rule-oriented
instruction. In this study, 100 adult ESL students were assigned to one of three treatment types:
exposure only, meaning-oriented group (MOG), or rule-oriented group (ROG). Over a period of
10 days, all participants read three stories presented sentence-by-sentence on a computer screen.
Although all of the sentences contained the target structure (relative clauses), the MOG treatment
group received only lexical support and sentence clarification. In contrast, the ROG treatment
received instruction regarding relative clauses as well as highlighting of the structure in the text
that they were reading. The researcher found that learners who read texts in which relative
clauses were highlighted outperformed learners whose texts did not include any type
enhancement. These results were exhibited both on measures of comprehension and use of
relative clauses. However, the gains cannot be attributed solely to text enhancement due to the
instructional component included for both the MOG and ROG treatments.
Based on the lack of consensus regarding the beneficial role that TE may play in SLA, it
appears to be a suitable feedback type for the present study because this research may contribute
to the debate by including a meaning-focused task without the inclusion of an explicit
instructional component. In addition, this study builds upon the research of Heift (2004) and
Heift and Rimrott (2008) by examining the effectiveness of text enhancement independent of
metalinguistic feedback in effort to evaluate the effectiveness of this feedback type within a
CALL environment.

31
Research Questions and Hypothesis

Based on the conflicting findings of the research on the effectiveness of feedback types in
CALL and the limitations of the studies reviewed in conjunction with the proposed feedback
types, the following research questions guide the present investigation:
1. Does corrective feedback play a facilitative role in SLA in a CALL environment?
Hypothesis 1: Corrective feedback will lead to improved performance on the recognition
task and production task. This is based on the findings of Russell and Spada‟s (2006)
meta-analysis of the 15 studies that examined the role of feedback in SLA, in which they
concluded that corrective feedback is beneficial overall.
2. If corrective feedback does play a facilitative role in a CALL environment, what is the
relative effectiveness of two types of feedback (specific metalinguistic information and
text enhancement) on learners‟ production of three uses of the Spanish preterite and
imperfect (imperfect with state verbs, preterite with accomplishment verbs, and imperfect
with activity verbs)?
Hypothesis 2: Metalinguistic information will result in greater gains on the posttest
measures. This hypothesis is suggested by the findings of Nagata and Swisher (1995),
Nagata (1997), Heift (2004), and Heift and Rimrott (2008) who found metalinguistic
feedback to be beneficial for controlled production and self-editing tasks. In addition,
CALL studies included both metalinguistic feedback and text enhancement (Heift, 2004;
Heift & Rimrott, 2008) found that the group that received only text enhancement
produced the greatest number of errors.
3. Does the relative difficulty of the grammatical item (preterite with accomplishment verbs,
imperfect with state verbs, imperfect with activity verbs) play a role in the effectiveness
of the feedback type provided?
Hypothesis 3: Both feedback types will be more beneficial for the development of the use
of the imperfect with state verbs and activity verbs. This hypothesis is supported by the
findings of Nagata and Swisher (1995) and Nagata (1997).

32
CHAPTER THREE

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

This chapter describes the research design and methodology used for this investigation. It
begins with a general overview of the characteristics of the design, including a list of the
independent and dependent variables. This is followed by individual sections that describe in
greater detail the participants, materials, and data collection procedures along with the rationale
for their selection. The chapter concludes with a description of the procedures used for data
scoring and analysis.

Research Design
The purpose of this study is to examine the relative effectiveness of two feedback types
(i.e. metalinguistic feedback and text enhancement) on the improvement of the learners‟
performance of three uses of the Spanish preterite and imperfect (i.e preterite with achievement
verbs, imperfect with state verbs, imperfect with activity verbs) presenting different levels of
difficulty as proposed by the Aspect Hypothesis. Improvement was measured by a comparison of
performance on pretest, immediate posttest and delayed posttest assessments that consisted of
recognition (time-controlled binary choice) and production (guided video retelling) tasks. Thus,
the independent variables for this investigation are feedback type and the linguistic targets, and
the dependent variable is the assessment measures. This information is summarized in Table 3.1.

33
Table 3.1: Variables for the study
Independent Variables Dependent Variable
● Linguistic Target: ● Recognition task:
○ Preterite with accomplishment verbs ○ Time-controlled binary choice
○ Imperfect with state verbs ● Production task:
○ Imperfect with activity verbs ○ Guided Video Retelling

● Feedback types:
○ Metalinguistic
○ Text enhancement

The investigation used a quasiexperimental design in which the participants were


randomly assigned to one of four groups: metalinguistic feedback (Meta), text enhancement
(TE), no feedback, (NF) or the control group (Control). All participants in
the study completed a language history questionnaire, an informed consent form, a pretest, and
an immediate and a delayed posttest. In addition, the participants that comprise the three
feedback groups will complete a treatment activity and a retrospective questionnaire. With the
exception of the informed consent form, which was signed at the time the researcher introduced
the study and invited the students to participate, all tasks were completed on the computer. These
tasks took place over a five week period according to the schedule shown in Table 3.2. As
previously mentioned, not all groups completed all tasks. The control group attended all sessions
but did not complete a treatment task or a retrospective questionnaire. Before discussing these
tasks in detail, the next section offers information about the individuals who performed these
tasks.

34
Table 3.2: Schedule of tasks

Week 1 Week 2 Week 5

● Language History ● Treatment Task: ● Delayed Posttest:


Questionnaire ○ Binary-choice ○ Guided Video
Retelling
● Pretest: ● Immediate Posttest ○ Time-controlled
○ Guided Video Retelling ○ Guided Video binary choice
○ Time-controlled binary Retelling
choice ○ Time-controlled binary ● Retrospective
choice Questionnaire

Participants
The participants for the study were 108 native speakers of English enrolled in a fourth
semester Spanish course at a large public university in the United States. This level was selected
based on several important considerations. First, the majority of the students had completed three
semester-long Spanish courses that employed a computer-enhanced format and therefore, were
proficient in using web-based assessment tools. In addition, the students were of comparable
proficiency level based on the registration restriction that only students who have completed the
third semester course with a minimum grade of 70% or have demonstrated similar proficiency on
the university administered placement exam are allowed to enroll in the course. Finally, the
grammatical form targeted in the treatment is one that is covered in second semester language
courses and consequently, the participants had some prior knowledge of it. This is an important
consideration because the treatment did not include any type of instructional component in an
effort to isolate the benefits of feedback on performance.
Of the original pool of 108 participants, 87 completed the pretest, immediate posttest and
delayed posttest measures. Although every participant in the data pool performed all of the
assessment measures, only the data from participants scoring a maximum of 85% on the pretest
measures was included in the data analyses. This criterion was established to ensure that the

35
participants had not yet attained complete mastery of the targeted item to avoid any possible
ceiling effect. In addition, only data from participants who speak English as a first language was
included in the analyses of the study. This requirement eliminated the possibility that the
language in which the metalinguistic explanations were presented could have inhibited the utility
of the feedback.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups, of which two groups
received corrective feedback as part of the treatment task, one group performed the treatment
task but receive no type of corrective feedback, and one group will served as a control group who
performs only the pretest and posttest assessments. As a result, the four groups of participants
can be summarized as follows: metalinguistic feedback (Meta), text enhancement (TE), no
corrective feedback (NCF), and control group (Control). The group size for each treatment
varied by task type (recognition N=81 and production N=87) because some participants
exceeded the maximum score on the recognition task, but met the requirement for inclusion of
their production data. In addition, not all participants completed every section of the assessment
measures. Some completed only the recognition tasks, opting not to provide responses for the
production measure. The group sizes by assessment type are summarized in the following table.

Table 3.3: Group size by assessment measure

Recognition Task Production Task

Meta n=22 Meta n=24

TE n=20 TE n=23

NF n=20 NF n=20

Control n=19 Control n=20

36
Materials
All participants in the study will completed a language history questionnaire, an informed
consent form, a pretest, and an immediate and a delayed posttest. In addition, the participants
that comprised the three feedback groups completed a treatment activity and a retrospective
questionnaire. The language history questionnaire was used to assess first language, home
language, study abroad experience and travel to a Spanish-speaking country. The retrospective
questionnaire was included as the final section of the immediate posttest to determine if any
additional factors (e.g., not reading the feedback) may have contributed to the findings. The
participants were asked (a) if they knew the vocabulary used in the activities (b) if they read the
feedback and (c) how they rated the effectiveness of the feedback type used in the treatment
activity.
The pretest/posttest measures consisted of two tasks: a language production task and a
language recognition task. Like many studies that have examined the acquisition of aspect (e.g.,
Bardovi-Harling, 1995, 1998; Bergström, 1995; Hasbún, 1995; Salaberry, 1999), an excerpt from
a silent movie was employed as a means of eliciting the target structure for the language
production task. The video clips used for this task were edited from the silent film The Snowman.
This movie was selected because it contains a series of discrete, easily identifiable action
sequences as well as some simultaneous actions. In addition, the setting of each scene is depicted
in detail and the physical sensations and emotions of the characters are emphasized. Thus, this
video provided sufficient context for the participants to generate sentences in both the preterite
and imperfect and consequently, opportunities to examine the encoding of tense and aspect. One
additional benefit of using this movie was that the majority of words and phrases needed to
adequately recreate the events and scenes depicted in the video clip are vocabulary that the
participants had studied in their language courses, resulting in longer, more detailed responses.
Three two-and-one- half minute clips were edited from the movie to create intact
episodes and to maximize the number of target structures elicited by the participants. Although
the clips were matched as closely as possible in length and number discrete actions, they were
counterbalanced for the pretest and posttest measures to account for inevitable differences. One
excerpt depicts the story of a small boy who wakes up on a snowy morning and decides to build
a snowman. The boy is captivated by the snowman and continues peering out the window at
snowman long after he goes in the house for the night. In the second video clip, the snowman

37
comes to life and the boy invites him into the house while his parents are sleeping. The snowman
is amazed by the television set until he begins to get to warm .The video clip ends with the boy
taking the snowman into the kitchen where snowman can enjoy the cool from the refrigerator.
During the third except, the snowman takes the boy on a motorcycle ride though the countryside.
Although the snowman enjoys his adventure, he is homesick and decides to take the boy to the
North Pole where a Christmas party is being hosted by other snowmen. There they meet Santa
Claus, who gives the boy a scarf. The video clip ends with the boy waking up the next morning
to find that his snowman has melted in the morning sun. However, the boy still has the scarf that
he received from Santa Claus.
Although a video retelling task has the advantages of eliciting spontaneous language
production, this performance measure is not without its limitations. To begin with, native
speakers of English often narrate event in the past using the historical present tense (Bardovi-
Harling, 2000). To signal the use of the past tense in the video retelling, the first blank begins
with “Ayer” (yesterday), as is depicted in Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1: First screen of guided video retelling task

38
Another concern is that certain types of predicates naturally occur more frequently than
others (Bardovi-Harlig, 2000). In addition, because the participants control the construction of
free narrative, this type of task results in variations in the number of the tokens produced. To
account for these limitations, the production task consisted of a guided video retelling activity in
which the participants were asked to write narrative captions for a series of screenshots that
represented the main events of the video clip. This design was intended to encourage a similar
number of tokens as well as serve to obtain comparable language samples. In addition, the
screenshots selected for each version of the activity represent a similar number of completed
actions (4), actions in progress (3) and emotions (3) in an effort to elicit examples of the target
structure. Likewise, a list of useful vocabulary was included with each set of images to
encourage the use of the verb types selected for this study as well as to assist the participants
with the completion of the task. In a final attempt to encourage the use of the different verb
types in the preterite and imperfect, the instructions on the first screen read, “Be sure to include
details such as the emotion that the person was feeling or actions that were going on at the same
time.” The italicized words in the instructions served to elicit state and activity verbs in the
imperfect. These instructions were repeated on subsequent screens again to increase the
likelihood that the participants would include this information in their responses.
Boldfacing and italics were also used to remind the participants to include accent marks.
This is an important consideration because, as will be discussed in greater in the section on
scoring, the omission of an accent mark renders the verb form as non-target like. To avoid the
possibility that the exclusion of accents was due to typographical errors, the codes for special
characters were clearly displayed on computer monitors.
Despite these efforts to elicit comparable language samples, variations in language will
naturally occur in any type of spontaneous data production. As a result, a recognition task
consisting of a binary choice cloze test was used as a pretest/posttest measure to examine the
extent to which the participants improved in their use of the preterite and imperfect for the three
verb types examined by the study. This task type was selected because it has been used by other
researchers to control for the difference in the number of tokens produced in each aspectual class
during spontaneous production (e.g., Bardovi-Harlig, 1992; Bardovi-Harlig & Reynolds, 1995;
Bergström, 1995; Collins, 1997). However, unlike previous studies, it was a time controlled task
in which the participants had a limited amount of time to select their responses before the

39
computer screen advances to the next set of items. (This process is described in greater detail in
the procedure section).
For all items in the cloze task, the participant had to select the word that logically
completed the sentence as determined by context. The passage was divided into twelve segments
consisting of one or two sentences. Figure 3.2 shows the first segment of the passage that is
displayed on the computer screen after the opening instructions. Each sentence had multiple
blanks, resulting in a total of 41 required responses. Thirty of the blanks were test items, which
were equally divided among the three uses of the preterite and the imperfect targeted by the
study (preterite with achievements, imperfect with states, and imperfect with accomplishments).
The remaining blanks were distracter items for which the participant had to choose between the
prepositions por and para.

Figure 3.2: First segment of binary choice cloze passage

To account for participants who may have selected the first item of the binary choice as a default
(e.g. trabajó / trabajaba), the presentation of the verb forms was varied throughout the task. As
such, the preterite form was the first choice for only half of the items. Likewise, the correct
responses were alternated, with an equal number of correct and incorrect responses appearing as
the first verb choice.
To ensure that the sentences reflect authentic language usage and that the context of the
sentences requires only the use of aspectual class intended by the researcher, all items included

40
on the cloze passage were normed with ten L1 speakers of Spanish living in the United States.
These individuals were graduate student and professors from a variety of Spanish-speaking
countries including Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Bolivia working at the same
university where the research was conducted. Like the participants, they were asked to select the
verb form that best completed the sentences. However, they were also given the option of
selecting both verb forms if both choices worked equally within the sentence without the
inclusion of any additional context. Only those items for which a single verb form was selected
and at least 80% of the native speakers agreed upon the answer were included on the cloze test.
Like the recognition task used for the pretest/posttest measures, the treatment activity was
a cloze task consisting of 36 items (12 per target structure) for which the participant had to
choose between the preterite and the imperfect form of the verb. However, the treatment items
differed from the pretest/posttest recognition task in that the sentences were unrelated and
contained a single blank requiring a response. Although this reduced the context available for
the participants to draw upon when deciding which form of the verb to select, this allows for
greater control over the sequencing of the sentences. Consequently, multiple sentences reflecting
the same use of the preterite or imperfect were presented in secession to reinforce the targeted
use and provide additional exemplars. As with the pretest/posttest materials, these sentences
were normed with the L1 speakers of Spanish to ensure that the target form intended by the
researcher was the only form that the majority of the speakers deemed acceptable for the
sentence. For the sentences that did not receive a unanimous decision for the verb choice, only
the those that at least 80% of the L1 speakers agreed upon and the ones that the L1 speakers said
that they could think of only a rare instance in which either form of verb could be used were
retained for the study.

Procedure
During a regular class meeting, the researcher visited the class to briefly introduce the
study and invite the students to participate. Although the students did not receive any type of
compensation and the decision to participate did not affect their course grade, they were
encouraged to participate in the study by being told that the activities may help them to improve
their performance of grammatical concepts that are typically problematic for L2 learners of
Spanish. In addition, the experiment took place during the regular class time and, thereby,

41
eliminated any additional time commitment on the part of the participants. Attendance on the
days of the study was required to receive points typically assigned by the course instructor for
participating in class activities. However, participation in the study was strictly optional and
alternative activities were provided during the study for students who chose not to participate or
who were underage. Those students who agreed to participate in the study signed the Informed
Consent Form (ICF) during the class visit.
The advantage of having the ICF signed prior to arriving at the first session was two-fold.
First, it guaranteed the confidentiality of the participants‟ responses because the ICF and the data
were never located in the same place. To match data for the different tasks and collection dates,
participants created their own unique number consisting of their first and last initials followed by
their birthday expressed as four digits for the month and day (e.g. Jane Doe, January 2nd would
be JD0102). An additional advantage was that the researcher was able to determine the
approximate number of participants from each class section based on the number of consent
forms received. This allowed the researcher to assign an equal number of participants from each
class section to one of the four groups: metalinguistic feedback (Meta), text enhancement (TE),
no corrective feedback (NF), or control group (Control). This measure avoided any possible
teacher or time of day effect.
Due to the time constraints of some class sections that meet for a 50-minute class period,
the study was conducted as three sessions occurring during a five week interval. This timeframe
was established to accommodate the class schedule and to decrease any potential practice effect
from the pretest to the posttests. In addition, the sessions were coordinated with the course
syllabus to avoid any instruction pertaining to the past tense in general (i.e. past progressive, past
subjunctive) to prevent any possible discussions that could arise concerning the preterite and
imperfect. Likewise, the instructors were asked not to answer any questions regarding these
topics.
All sessions took place in a computer lab and all tasks were performed on a computer.
During the first session, the participants completed the Language History Questionnaire (LHQ)
and the pretests. As previously mentioned, the pretest and posttest tasks were identical in format
and the materials were counterbalanced between groups to account for any inherent differences
in the materials. In addition, the guided video retelling activity was performed prior to the binary

42
choice task to prevent any priming effect that the recognition task might have had on the
production of the target forms.
Before watching the video, the participants were told that they will be writing a
description of what happened in the video providing as much detail as possible. Because all
assessment measures were counterbalanced to account for any inherent differences, the
participants viewed the video clip that corresponded with their version of the guided video
retelling task on their computer monitor. Following the video, the participants opened the
document in which they entered their narration of the video. As previously discussed, this was a
guided video retelling activity in which the participants were asked to write narrative captions for
series of screenshots that represent the main events of the video clip. The instructions on the first
screen read, “Imagine that you are the little boy in the video. Write a sentence in Spanish below
each of the following 10 images to retell a friend what happened the day/night before. Be sure to
include details such as the emotion the person was feeling or actions that were going on at the
same time.” Instructions similar to these have been used by other researchers (e.g., Bardovi-
Harlig, 1995; Bergström, 1995; Hasbún, 1995) to elicit the use of the past tense without drawing
attention to the target form. These instructions are unique in that they specifically request the
inclusion of emotion and simultaneous actions.
Upon completion of the video retelling, the participants performed a language recognition
task consisting of binary choice cloze passage, for which they chose the word that logically
completed the sentence as determined by context. Each segment of the passage, consisting of
either one or two sentences with multiple blanks, was displayed individually on the computer
screen as a PowerPoint presentation. Participants were instructed not to return to previous
screens after they had submitted their answers for a segment. This requirement was imposed to
prevent the participants from reanalyzing their answers.
To further diminish their tendency to utilize metalinguistic information for the
assessment, each screen automatically advanced to the next screen after 8 seconds per blank
lapsed. Thus, as is seen in Figure 3.3, the amount of time that each screen was displayed
depended on the number of responses (blanks) required. Consequently, slide 2 automatically
advanced after 24 seconds because there are only three items that require a response, whereas
slide 3 displayed for 40 seconds because five responses were required. The decision to provide
eight seconds per response item was based on a pilot study of the materials. Given this amount of

43
time, the majority of the participants for the pilot study were able to select an answer for all of
the blanks, thus, indicating that it is sufficient time to respond. Likewise, when asked about the
presentation rate on the retrospective questionnaire, these participants indicated that none of the
slides advanced to slowly. However, the participants for the current study were instructed not to
return to the previous screen if the time to complete the items lapsed before they had selected
their responses.

Figure 3.3: Sample time allotment per slide

It is important to note that before beginning the task, an introductory screen displayed. It
informed the participants that the screens would advance automatically, provided directions for
recording a response, and indicated that they will not be able to return to previous screens, but
that they would be able to continue to the next screen by pressing the “enter” key if they were
ready to proceed before the screen advanced. Likewise, the activity did not begin until the
participant clicks on the start button.
The second session consisted of the treatment task and the immediate posttest.
Participants in all groups completed both activities with the exception of the Control who will
complete only the immediate posttest. As previously noted, the pretest and posttest tasks were
identical in format and the materials were counterbalanced between groups to account for any
inherent differences in the materials. Again, the video retelling task was preformed prior to the
cloze passage to prevent any priming effect that the recognition task might have on the
production of the target forms.

44
The treatment task was similar to the cloze passage used for the assessment portions of
the study in that the participant were asked to select the verb form that best completed the
sentence. As is shown in Figure 3.4, similar to the cloze passage, each item displayed
individually on the computer screen, rather than as a list of items.

Figure 3.4: Treatment task

Unlike the cloze passage, each sentence was independent of the other sentences and did not
contribute to a cohesive narrative. In addition, the participant was able to navigate freely among
the items by using the arrow buttons (see Fig. 3.4) and to view the feedback messages for both
the correct and incorrect responses.
Although all participants who completed the treatment task received a computer
generated message immediately following each submission, only the Meta and TE groups
received feedback regarding their responses. The metalinguistic feedback consisted of explicit
rule presentation in the form of an explanation specific to the correct response.
If an incorrect answer was selected, the question mark changed to a sad face and a feedback
message appeared that stated, “Sorry!” and a feedback message appeared that provided a
metalinguistic explanation of the correct response. Similarly, if the correct response was
selected, the question mark displayed on the submit button changed to a smiley face and a
feedback message appeared that both confirmed the correctness of the response and displayed
the same metalinguistic explanation provided for the incorrect response. The metalinguistic
information was included for the correct response to ensure identical exposure to the feedback
type in the event that a correct answer was selected by chance. Examples of messages for this
feedback are shown in Figure 3.5 and Figure 3.6.

45
Figure 3.5: Metalinguistic feedback for incorrect response

Figure 3.6: Metalinguistic feedback for correct response

In contrast, the text enhancement feedback displayed only an indication of the correctness of the
response (i.e. Correct!, Sorry!) and the correct answer with the verb morpheme highlighted, as is
shown in Figure 3.7.

Figure 3.7: Text enhancement feedback

46
Finally, the NF group did not receive any indication of the correctness of the response, but only
confirmation that the answer had been recorded, and that the participant should continue with the
next item.
A post-test was administered immediately following the treatment activity. As previously
noted, the format of the posttest was identical to the pretest measures. The data from this task
was compared with the baseline data from the pretest to measure any learning gains. At the end
of the day‟s session, the participants were thanked and asked to return three weeks later for one
additional activity (the delayed posttest). They were instructed not to review any of the
grammatical structures covered during the session or to discuss the tasks with anyone prior to the
completion of the study. Likewise, the course instructors were asked not to review the preterite
or imperfect in class or to answer any related questions until the data for the final session had
been collected. During the final session, the participants completed the delayed posttest
measures, which were identical in format to the immediately posttest. As a final activity, the
participants in the treatment groups were asked to complete a retrospective questionnaire
regarding the knowledge of the vocabulary used in the activities, their use (reading) of the
feedback, and their perception of the amount and type of feedback that they received. After the
participants completed this questionnaire, they were again thanked for their participation and
were given a debriefing form that explained the purpose of the research. The procedure for
coding and scoring the data during these sessions is outlined in the following section.

Scoring and Analysis of Data

Coding and Scoring


Each participant received separate scores for the type of assessment measure (recognition
task or production task). For the recognition task, four scores were calculated: one for the overall
score, and one score for each of the three uses of the preterite and the imperfect targeted by the
study (preterite with accomplishment verbs, imperfect with state verbs, and imperfect with
activity verbs). One point was awarded for each correct response for all of the critical items,
resulting in a maximum score of 30 for the overall score and 10 for each targeted verb use.
The data produced for the guided video retelling task was analyzed and coded using a
method similar to the one utilized by Doughty and Varela (1998), in which the language samples

47
were categorized as non-target-like forms (NTL), attempted uses of tense-aspect morphology
(ATTEMPT), interlanguage forms (IL), or target-like forms (TL). The purpose of the categorizes
is to determine how closely a language sample matches target-like usage, rather than simply
labeling the language produced as correct or incorrect. This allows for a more intricate analysis
to determine if learners are moving toward target-like usage.
The coding process involved a series of decisions. First, obligatory contexts were
indentified. Although the imperfect is used for actions in progress in the past, this can also be
expressed using the past progressive. Consequently, if a participant used the past progressive for
on-going actions rather than the imperfect, this was not regarded as an obligatory context
because an acceptable verb form had been supplied. In contrast, if the preterite would have been
used in the same sentence rather than the present progressive, it would have been deemed as an
obligatory context because the participant was expressing the on-going action by means of
aspect.
After the obligatory contexts were identified, the next step was to determine if the
participant had made an attempt to supply the verb form required by the context. For example, if
the context required the use of the preterite and the participant provided the either the correct
preterite form or a form similar to the preterite, the verb was coded as ATTEMPT, as is shown in
(1).
(1) Ayer me desperté/me despertí* muy temprano. = ATTEMPT
„Yesterday I woke up early.

In order for a verb form to be considered a „similar form,‟ it needed to meet one of the following
criteria:
exhibit one of the inflectional forms required by the context (e.g. aste, ó, í, iste, etc. for
the preterite)
be clear from the context (e.g. explicit subject or subject pronoun) that the omission of a
required accent mark was a formation error rather than the use of the present tense
reflect correct morpheme usage with errors in the verb stem (e.g. stem changes in the
present tense applied in the past tense, stem changes for the preterite transferred to the
imperfect, failure to incorporate a necessary stem change).
Examples of these are shown in (2) (a), (b), and (c) respectively.

48
(2) a. El niño invitió* el hombre de nieve a su casa.
„The boy invited the snowman into his house.‟

b. La bola de nieve pego* la casa.


„The snowball hit the house.

c. El gato tuvia* miedo.


„The cat was afraid.
In addition, incorrect verb choices were coded according to the criteria for ATTEMPT if the
intended meaning of the word could easily be ascertained from the content, for example the use
of jugar (to play a sport/game) in place of tocar (to play an instrument).
However, if the verb form was something other than target-like or a similar form, it was
coded as NTL and not given any other consideration. This included the use of other verb forms
(e.g. infinitives, present tense, future tense, etc.) and the incorrect choice of aspect, as in (3) (a)
and (b) respectively.
(3) a. Ayer yo despertarse* temprano.
„Yesterday I woke up (infinitive) early.‟

b. Ayer me despertaba* temprano.


„Yesterday I was waking up early.‟

Verb forms designated as NTL were not given any further consideration, whereas ATTEMPTS
were further coded as TL, if they were target-like, or interlanguage (IL), if their form was similar
to the target-like form. The steps in this process are summarized in Figure 3.8, which
demonstrates how various formations of the verb tener (to have) would be categorized for a
context requiring the Spanish imperfect.

49
Figure 3.8: Categorization of verb sample for a context requiring the Spanish imperfect

After the language samples for each participant‟s pretest, immediate posttest and delayed
posttests were categorized, separate percentage scores were calculated for each category (TL, IL,
and NTL) by dividing the number of coded verbs by the number of obligatory contexts. For
example, 16 obligatory contexts coded as eight TL, one IL, and six NTL resulted in scores of
50%, 6% and 44% respectively. This conversion from raw scores to percentages allowed for
comparison of language samples that varied in their number of tokens.
Unlike the recognition task, scores for the production data could not be further analyzed
by verb type in order to examine the effectiveness of feedback type in relation to grammatical
complexity. This was due to the small number of tokens produced for the targeted contexts
(preterite with accomplishment verbs, imperfect with state verbs, and imperfect with activity
verbs). An analysis of the tokens by verb type (state, activity, achievement, accomplishment)
revealed not only that achievement verbs (a verb type not examined by the study) appeared
regularly throughout the language samples but that some verb types occurred very rarely despite
attempts to elicit the targeted construction. Activity verbs were the least likely to appear in the
language samples, with a maximum of three occurrences and a minimum of zero. In fact, 22% of
the participants did not produce any activity verbs and 39% of the participants provided only one
token for all assessments.

50
Although slightly more abundant than activity verbs, the frequency of accomplishment verbs
posed a somewhat different concern. Examination of the language samples disclosed a
considerable difference in the number of accomplishment verbs produced for each version of the
video clip. Table 3.4 shows the percentage of participants who produced each number of tokens
by video version.

Table 3.4: Percentage of participants producing each number of tokens by video version

Number of
Version Tokens
0 1 2 3
A 7% 26% 29% 38%
B 9% 37% 27% 27%
C 0% 10% 40% 50%

Video C elicited the largest number of accomplishment verbs, with 50% of the
participants having produced 3 tokens. In contrast, only 38% and 27% of the participants
generated 3 accomplishments verbs for videos A and B respectively. If the number of tokens for
all versions of the video had remained constant at or near 3 items, it may have been possible to
establish some type of a trend, although statistical analysis of the difference would not have been
feasible.

Analysis
The scores for all assessments were submitted to separate 4 x 3 ANOVAs with repeated
measures, with an alpha level set at 0.05. Treatment group (Meta, TE, NF, and Control) served as
the between-subjects independent variable, and Time (pretest, immediate posttest, and delayed
posttest) served as the within-subjects. In addition, a 3 x 4 factorial ANOVA was performed on
the data from the recognition tasks to partition the variance of the dependent variable into its
component parts including within group difference (preterite with achievement verbs, imperfect
with state verbs, imperfect with activity verbs) and between group differences (feedback type) in
order to address the research question of the relative effectiveness of feedback in relation to

51
grammatical complexity. Simple main effects analyses with a Bonferroni adjustment for multiple
comparisons were conducted to explore all significant Group (feedback) × Time interactions.

52
CHAPTER FOUR

RESULTS

This chapter presents the results of the analyses for the effects of feedback type on the
acquisition of the Spanish preterite and imperfect as measured by both a recognition and
production task. The research questions seek to address (a) whether corrective feedback plays a
facilitative role in SLA in a CALL environment, (b) whether various feedback types
(metalinguistic, text enhancement, and no feedback) would lead to increased performance on the
correct recognition and production of the imperfect and preterite, and (c) whether the effects
would vary by grammatical complexity as measured by three uses of the preterite and imperfect
by verb type (preterite with accomplishment verbs, imperfect with state verbs, and imperfect
with activity verbs).
The initial sample for the study was 108 native speakers of English enrolled in fourth-
semester Spanish classes at a large public university. Due to attrition and the inclusion criteria
discussed in Chapter 3, the sample size for the final analyses was reduced to 87 participants. All
participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: metalinguistic feedback (Meta), text
enhancement (TE), no corrective feedback (NF), and control group (Control).
The sections that follow present the results in two main sections. The first section reports
the results of the video retell production task. The second section presents the results of the
binary-choice recognition task, including an analysis of the scores by verb type (state, activity,
and accomplishment). The chapter concludes with a summary of the results found for the effects
of treatment type (feedback) on the acquisition of the target form.

Results for the Production Task


For each participant‟s writing samples, scores were calculated for TL, IL and NTL forms.
The statistical analyses for each of these categories are presented in individual sections. TL is
examined in the first section, followed by IL and NTL. For all data, the pretest, immediate
posttest and delayed posttest scores are displayed in the tables as Test 1, Test 2 and Test 3
respectively.

53
TL Forms
The means and standard deviations of the TL scores expressed as percentages are shown
in Table 4.1. Among the treatment groups, two general trends can be observed based upon the
provision of feedback. First, the groups that received feedback, Meta and TE, improved from
pretest to immediate posttest. Although the scores for these groups showed a decline from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest, the delayed posttest scores were still higher than the
pretest scores.

Table 4.1: Descriptive statistics (%) for TL forms by group and test

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 20 38.85 29.83 31.70 20.88 35.85 27.23
Meta 24 31.25 21.15 50.83 16.85 40.54 23.71
NF 20 24.85 26.20 24.00 22.69 27.55 24.96
TE 23 23.74 26.45 39.26 27.35 34.49 27.94

A second trend can be seen for the groups that did not receive feedback. Both Control
and NF decreased from pretest to immediate posttest and increased from immediate posttest to
delayed posttest. However, the delayed posttest score for NF was higher than the pretest score,
whereas the score for Control decreased from pretest to delayed posttest. These changes are
displayed graphically in Figure 4.1.

54
Figure 4.1: Graphic display of mean target-like responses by group and test

The ANOVA revealed a main effect for Test, F(2, 166) = 6.27, p = .002, n p2 = .07 a
significant Group × Test interaction, F(6, 166) = 5.40, p < .001, n p2 = .16, and no effect for
Group, F(3, 83) =1 .79, p = .156, n p2 = .061. To determine the effect for Test for each treatment
group, simple means analysis with a Bonferroni adjustment for multiple comparisons were
conducted to examine the differences among each test. TE exhibited a significant increase from
the pretest to immediate posttest, p < .001, and significant improvement between pretest and
delayed posttests, p = .023. Meta also improved significantly from the pretest to the posttest, p
< .001, and demonstrated an increase from pretest to delayed posttest that approached
significance, p = .051. In contrast, there was no significant difference between assessment
measures for Control and NF. The pretest-immediate posttest and pretest-delayed posttest
analyses yielded p = .24 and p = 1.00 respectively for Control and p = 1.00 for both NF
comparisons.
To explore the Group × Test interaction, a simple means analysis with a Bonferroni
adjustment was conducted. It revealed a simple main effect for the immediate posttest and no
significant effect for the pretest or the delayed posttest. For the posttest, Meta outperformed
Control, p = .034, and NF, p = .001. However, there was no significant difference between Meta
and TE, p = .469. There also was no significant difference between TE and Control, p = .358, TE
and NF, p = .165, or Control and NF, p = 1.000.

55
NTL Forms
Descriptive statistics for NTL forms expressed in percentages are shown in Table 4.2.
Similar to the descriptive statistics for the TL forms, several general trends can be identified
based on the provision of feedback. First, for Meta and TE, the number of NTL forms decreased
from pretest (Test 1) to immediate posttest (Test 2) and then increased from immediate posttest
to delayed posttest (Test 3). However, the delayed posttest reflected fewer NTL forms than the
pretest. In contrast, the groups that did not receive feedback (Control and NF) did not reflect a
corresponding trend. Control exhibited more NTL forms on the immediate posttest than on the
pretest, and a similar number of NTL forms on the pretest and delayed posttest. The NTL forms
for NF decreased slightly from pretest to immediate posttest and increased from immediate
posttest to delayed posttest to a level higher than the pretest. A final trend is that there is a much
smaller difference in the range of scores for the three assessments for Control and NF, than for
the Meta and TE. These results are displayed graphically in Figure 4.2 Thus, it appears that
feedback has an impact the number of NTL forms.

Table 4.2: Descriptive statistics (%) for NTL forms by group and test

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 20 43.90 32.97 46.55 25.55 44.19 31.55
Meta 24 47.00 27.21 27.21 11.04 37.54 22.94
NF 20 53.15 30.52 52.30 30.12 56.75 30.37
TE 23 61.30 30.60 40.22 29.01 51.00 26.35

56
Figure 4.2: Graphic display of mean nontarget-like responses by group and test

The results of the ANOVA indicated a main effect for Test, F(2, 166) = 8.19, p < .001, n
p
2
= .09, a significant Group × Test interaction, F(6, 166) = 3.39, p = .041, n p2 = .109, and no
effect for Group, F(3, 83) = 2.05, p = .113, n p2 = .07. To determine the effect for Test for each
treatment group, simple means analyses with a Bonferroni adjustment for multiple comparisons
were conducted to explore the differences among each test. For Meta, there was a significant
decrease in the number of NTL forms from the pretest to immediate posttest, p < .001. However,
NTL forms significantly increased from immediate posttest to delayed posttest, p = .05, and there
was no significant difference between the pretest and delayed posttest, p = .131.Similar to Meta,
TE demonstrated a significant decrease in NTL forms from the pretest to immediate posttest, p <
.001 and a significant increase in NTL forms from the immediate posttest to the delayed posttest,
p = .043. Unlike Meta, TE revealed a decrease in the number of NTL forms from pretest to
delayed posttest that approached significance, p = .095. There was no significant difference
between assessment measures for Control and NF, p’s = 1.00.
An analysis of the Group × Test interaction revealed a main effect for the immediate
posttest and no significant difference for the pretest and posttest measures. Meta produced
significantly fewer NTL forms than NF, p = .007 and the difference between Meta and Control
approached significance, p = .07. However, there was no significant difference between Meta

57
and TE, p = .454. There also was no significant difference between TE and NF, p = .687, or
between TE and Control or NF and Control, p’s = 1.00.

IL Forms
Descriptive statistics for IL forms expressed as percentages are shown in Table 4.3.
Although all groups produced more IL forms from the pretest to the posttest, the amount of
increase varied widely. TE and Control exhibited the largest change, although from immediate
posttest to delayed posttest TE returned to a level comparable to the pretest value whereas
Control produced a similar number of IL forms. Like TE, NF also experienced a large decrease
from immediate posttest to delayed posttest, exhibiting fewer IL forms than for the pretest. Meta
revealed the least amount of variance across all three assessments. These results are displayed
graphically in Figure 4.3.

Table 4.3: Descriptive statistics (%) for IL forms by group and test

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 20 17.40 14.28 21.80 15.94 20.15 14.54
Meta 24 21.79 16.69 21.96 15.25 22.08 13.45
NF 20 21.80 17.45 23.75 16.57 15.75 15.01
TE 23 14.96 15.60 20.61 16.00 14.57 11.45

58
Figure 4.3: Graphic display of mean interlanguage forms by group and test

The ANOVA revealed no significant main effects for Group, F(3, 83) = 254.15, p = .47,
n p2 = .75, or for Test, although the effect for Test approached significance, F(2, 166) = 2.42, p =
.092, n p2 = .03, due to the greater number of IL forms produced on the immediate posttest than
on the pretest and the delayed posttest. However, the simple means analysis with a Bonferroni
adjustment revealed no statistically significant differences among the three tests, p’s > .100. In
addition, there was no significant Group x Test interaction, F(6, 166) = .81, p = .564, n p2 = .03 .

Results for the Recognition Task

Each participant received four separate scores for the recognition task: one for the overall
score, and one score for each of the three uses of the preterite and the imperfect targeted by the
study (preterite with accomplishment verbs, imperfect with state verbs, and imperfect with
activity verbs). This section begins by presenting the data for the overall score irrespective of
verb type. The findings by verb type are then detailed. As with the results of the production data,
the pretest, immediate posttest and delayed posttest scores are displayed in the tables as Test 1,
Test 2 and Test 3 respectively.

59
Overall Score
The means and standard deviation for the recognition task are presented in Table 4.4. All
groups showed improvement from pretest to immediate posttest and a decrease from immediate
posttest to delayed posttest. However, the delayed posttest scores were still higher than the
pretest scores for all groups. The ANOVA with a Bonferroni adjustment for multiple
comparisons revealed a main effect for Test, F(2, 154) = 27.94, p < .001, n p2 = .27; no effect for
Group, F (3, 77) = 1.73, p = .168, n p2 = .06, and no significant Group × Test interaction, F (6,
154) = .64, p = .671, n p2 = .03. The post hoc analysis revealed that all groups improved from
pretest to immediate posttest, p < .001, and declined from immediate posttest to delayed posttest,
p =. 004. However, the improvement from pretest to delayed posttest was still significant, p <
.001.

Table 4.4: Descriptive statistics (raw scores) for recognition task by group

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 19 19.84 5.57 22.21 3.84 21.47 3.70
Meta 22 19.14 4.13 23.32 4.04 21.95 3.39
NF 20 17.95 4.81 21.15 3.75 19.25 3.96
TE 20 18.55 2.72 21.20 3.86 19.95 3.61

Analysis by Verb Category


To address the question of whether complexity of grammatical structure played a role in
the relative effectiveness of feedback type, additional analyses were performed to explore the
language tokens by very category (imperfect with state verbs, imperfect with activity verbs,
preterite with accomplishment verbs). This analysis begins by presenting the findings for state
verbs, and then is followed by a discussion of activity verbs and finally accomplishment verbs.

60
State Verbs
The descriptive statistics for state verbs are displayed in Table 4.5. Meta, NF and TE
exhibited an increase in scores from pretest to immediate posttest and a decrease from immediate
to delayed posttest, although delayed posttest still demonstrated improvement over the pretest.
The largest gains from pretest to immediate posttest were made by Meta and TE. Control
demonstrated the least amount of variance by assessment, with a slight decrease in performance
across all measures. Visual representation of these results can be seen in Figure 4.4.

Table 4.5: Descriptive statistics (raw scores) for state verbs by group

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 19 6.74 2.18 6.63 2.50 6.42 2.32
Meta 22 5.86 2.25 7.73 1.88 7.00 2.35
NF 20 5.80 2.02 6.40 1.85 6.15 1.90
TE 20 4.90 1.62 7.05 1.70 6.35 2.35

Figure 4.4: Graphic display of means for state verbs by group

61
The ANOVA revealed a main effect for Test, F(2, 154) = 9.63, p < .001, n p2 = .11; a
significant Group × Test interaction, F(6, 154) = 2.26, p = .040, n p2 = .08; and no effect for
Group F(3, 77) = 1.13, p = .341, n p2 = .04. The pretest was the only assessment with a
significance difference among groups, with Control outperforming TE, p = .037. This difference
did not appear in the immediate posttest or delayed posttest, p’s = 1.000.
To explore the Group ×Test interaction, an analysis of the simple main effects revealed
that Meta and TE improved significantly from pretest to immediate posttest, p = .001 and p <
.001 respectively. Although there was a decrease in mean scores for these groups from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest, TE demonstrated significant improvement from pretest to
delayed posttest, p = .019, and Meta exhibited an increase that approached significance, p <
.072. The difference in mean scores for NF did not reveal similar findings. Neither the
improvement from pretest to immediate posttest nor the improvement from pretest to delayed
posttest was significant, p = .710 and p = 1.000 respectively.

Activity Verbs
The descriptive statistics for activity verbs are shown in Table 4.6. All groups performed
equally well for on the pretest and immediate posttest, with minimal difference between the
scores of Control and Meta on the delayed posttest measures. In addition, the scores for all
groups increased from pretest to immediate posttest and decreased from immediate posttest to
delayed posttest. However, the scores for the delayed posttest remained higher than the pretest
scores. Of all of the groups, NF demonstrated the greatest increase from pretest to immediate
posttest as well as the largest decrease from immediate posttest to delayed posttest. These results
are displayed visually in Figure 4.5.

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Table 4.6: Descriptive statistics (raw scores) for activity verbs by group

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 19 5.32 2.98 6.89 2.13 6.32 1.97
Meta 22 5.50 3.93 6.95 2.40 6.23 2.07
NF 20 5.20 1.77 6.90 2.02 5.35 1.93
TE 20 5.60 1.64 6.50 2.67 5.80 2.44

Figure 4.5: Graphic display of means for activity verbs by group

The results of the repeated measure ANOVA revealed a main effect for Test, F(2, 154) =
9.75, p < .001, n p2 = .11, no significant effect for Group, F(3, 77) =.24, p = .867, n p2 = .01; and
no significant Group × Test interaction, F(6, 154) =.39, p = .885, n p2 = .02. Post hoc analyses for
Test with a Bonferonni adjustment for multiple comparisons disclosed significant improvement
from pretest to immediate posttest, p < .001, and significant decline from immediate posttest to
delayed posttest, p = .005. A comparison of the pretest to delayed posttest did not yield any
significant difference, p = .446.

63
Achievement Verbs
The descriptive statistics for achievement verbs are displayed in Table 4.7. For all
treatment groups, two general trends can be observed. First, all pretest scores reflect a high level
of attainment, with the mean scores being at or near 8 out of a maximum of 10 possible points.
Second, all groups demonstrate minimal fluctuant across assessments, with the largest degree of
variance being exhibited by Control, who improved from pretest to immediate posttest.

Table 4.7: Descriptive statistics (raw scores) for achievement verbs by group

Test 1 Test 2 Test 3


n M SD M SD M SD
Control 19 7.79 2.12 8.68 1.11 8.74 0.99
Meta 22 8.27 1.55 8.64 1.76 8.68 1.70
NF 20 7.85 3.44 7.85 1.60 7.75 1.97
TE 20 8.05 1.82 7.65 1.95 7.80 2.09

The results of the repeated measures ANOVA confirmed the similarity of scores with no
significant effect for Test, F (2, 154) = .72, p = .490, n p2 = .01; or Group, F (3, 77) = 1.27, p =
.306, n p2 = .05; and no significant Group × Test interaction, F (6, 154) = .95, p = 461, n p2 = .04.
Visual representation of these results is displayed in Figure. 4.6.

64
Figure 4.6: Graphic display of means for achievement verbs by group

Summary of Analyses

The major findings for the analyses of the production and recognition data can be
summarized as follows:
Production Task
Meta outperformed NF and Control on the immediate posttest, as measured by the
percentage of TL forms produced. Overall there was no significant difference in the
number of TL forms produced by Meta and TE.
Meta and TE improved significantly from pretest to immediate posttest on the
production of TL forms. Although there was a decrease in performance from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest, both groups exhibited improvement over the
pretest scores.
Although Meta and TE produced significantly fewer NTL forms from the pretest to
the immediate posttest, both groups increased in the number of NTL forms from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest. Only TE maintained a reduction in NTL forms
from pretest to delayed posttest that approached significance.
There was no difference among groups based on the production of IL forms.

65
Recognition Task
State verbs was the only category that was affected by treatment group.
o For achievement verbs, all groups demonstrated a high of level of attainment
on the pretest, thereby not allowing much room for growth.
o For activity verbs, all groups improved from pretest to immediate posttest and
then declined on the delayed posttest to a level comparable to the pretest level.
Meta and TE increased significantly from pretest to immediate posttest for state verbs
and then decreased from immediate posttest to delayed posttest. Although Meta
demonstrated improvement in comparison with the pretest, this increase only
approached significance, whereas TE exhibited significant improvement overall.

66
CHAPTER FIVE

DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, LIMITATIONS, AND


CONCLUSIONS

This chapter serves to interpret and explain the results presented in chapter four as well as
to discuss the implications and limitations of the findings. First, I explain the results of
production and recognition data in relationship to the hypotheses presented in chapter two and
how the findings converge and diverge with previous research. Next, I discuss the pedagogical
implications of the study. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the limitations of the study
and possible avenues for future research.

Discussion of the Findings

Production Data
This study examined the relative effectiveness of two feedback types, metalinguistic
(Meta) and text enhancement (TE), on the acquisition of the Spanish preterite and imperfect
within the environment of computer-assisted language learning (CALL). To assess the
effectiveness of the feedback types on the production of the targeted forms, the participants
completed a structured video retelling task. The results of this task revealed that both feedback
types demonstrated improved performance from pretest to immediate posttest, as measured by
an increase in the number of target-like (TL) forms produced as well as a decrease in the
number of nontarget-like (NTL) forms. Thus, it appears that these findings support Hypothesis
1 that states that feedback plays a facilitative role in second language acquisition (SLA) in a
CALL environment. This is consistent with Russell and Spada‟s (2006) meta-analysis of
feedback studies that concluded that corrective feedback is beneficial overall for SLA as well as
with the findings of previous research on feedback in CALL (Heift, 2004; Heift & Rimrott,
2008; Nagata, 1997; Nagata & Swisher, 1995).
However, the results of the present study suggest that there are limitations to extent of the
effectiveness. The analysis of the delayed posttest scores revealed a decrease in performance

67
gains over time. Both Meta and TE produced fewer TL forms from immediate posttest to
delayed posttest. Similarly, there was an increase in the production of NTL forms from the
immediate posttest to the delayed posttest for both feedback types. Thus, the overall reduction
in improvement gains over time suggests that corrective feedback may not play as beneficial of
a role as previously thought. This finding is the result of the experimental design that included a
posttest measure that allowed for both the comparison of both within and between group
factors. In fact, previous claims regarding the effectiveness of corrective feedback in CALL
were typically based solely upon a comparison of pretest and immediate posttest measures (e.g.
Nagata, 1997; Sanz, 2004; Sanz & Short, 2004). Of the studies discussed in chapter two, Nagata
and Swisher (1995) was the only study that included a delayed posttest. Although this measure
was administered three weeks after the treatment to evaluate the retention of the target structure,
only a comparison of group performance was possible because of the considerable difference in
the number of items on the immediate and delayed posttests, 20 and 4 respectively. However,
the inclusion of a delayed posttest measure that assesses learning gains over time is essential in
order to evaluate the lasting effects of the feedback type on the interlanguage system. Without
this type of subsequent assessment, it is possible that any gains from pretest to posttest could
reflect only transient knowledge as is argued Truscott (1996). Thus, the inclusion of the delayed
posttest measure in the present study provided insight into the long term effects of feedback
previously not available from other feedback studies in CALL.
The delayed posttest scores also yielded an interesting finding of the study with respect to
the relative effectiveness of feedback types in CALL. In a comparison of the pretest to
immediate posttest scores, TE exhibited significant improvement and Meta approached
significance. However, the delayed posttest measure revealed a difference that was more
pronounced. Although, as previously noted, both groups decreased in performance from
immediate posttest to delayed posttest, TE continued to demonstrate significant improvement
over the pretest. In contrast, Meta failed to maintain the immediate posttest gains and displayed
no significant difference from the pretest. As a result, text enhancement appears to be a more
beneficial feedback type than metalinguistic feedback.
This finding does not support Hypothesis 2 which states that Meta would result in greater
gains on the posttest measures. This hypothesis was based upon the previous research (Nagata
& Swisher, 1995; Nagata, 1997; Heift, 2004) that found metalinguistic to yield beneficial results

68
and as predicted by these studies, Meta did improve from pretest to immediate posttest at a level
that approached significance. However, as previously noted, these studies did not include a
delayed posttest measure that allowed for an examination of performance over time and
consequently, the facilitative role awarded to metalinguistic feedback was based solely upon the
performance of an immediate posttest measure.
Hypothesis 2 was also based upon previous research that examined both metalinguistic
feedback and text enhancement (Heift, 2004; and Heift and Rimrott, 2008) and found that the
group that received only text enhancement produced the greatest number errors. However, a
closer examination of the studies reveals that their findings do not contradict the results of the
present study. In Heift (2004), the error message for the text enhancement contained only a
duplication of the learner‟s response with the error highlighted. Thus, not only was there no
provision of the correct response, but the incorrect form was made more salient and thereby,
reinforced. As a result, it is possible that the participants in her study may have not improved in
their language skills because of the lack of positive evidence in the feedback paired with
increased attention on incorrect form. As a result, the text enhancement may have served to
reinforce the incorrect language usage rather than diminish it.
In a related study, Heift and Rimrott (2008) provided a similar type of text enhancement
which highlighted the incorrect portion of the response, a spelling error. Like Heift (2004), the
text enhancement treatment did not receive any target-like input to assist them in restructuring
their interlanguage, but rather the feedback only served to focus the participants‟ attention on
the incorrect form. Although the participants were made aware of the mismatch between their
interlanguage and the target language, they could not rely on positive evidence to improve their
performance. Thus, the manner in which text enhancement is operationalized plays an important
role in determining the overall effectiveness of this feedback type.
Finally, the beneficial effects of TE in CALL are not unique to the present study.
Doughty (1991) also reported that learners who read texts in which relative clauses were
highlighted outperformed learners whose texts did not include any type enhancement. Like the
present the study, text enhancement increased saliency of the target-like form in the input and
thereby, served to focus the learners‟ attention on positive exemplars. The beneficial effects of
this type text enhancement were found for both production and recognition tasks, as they were
for the present study.

69
The third research question for the present study explored whether the relative difficulty
of the grammatical structure played a role in the effectiveness of the feedback type provided. As
noted in chapter four, the production data did not yield sufficient tokens for the targeted
structures to address this question. However, this question will be addressed in the next section
that interprets the results of the recognition data with respect to the hypotheses and the existing
literature.

Recognition Data
To examine effectiveness of feedback types with respect to the relative difficulty of
grammatical structures, the participants completed a binary choice (recognition) task that
incorporated three uses of the Spanish preterite and imperfect representing various levels of
difficulty. The results of this task appear to support Nagata‟s (1997) finding that the level of
grammatical complexity does play a role in the effectiveness of the feedback. This is based on
the finding that while no difference was found among groups on the overall performance of the
task, an analysis of the task by verb category did yield significant differences by group.
Although this finding does, in part, address the question of whether grammatical
complexity plays a role in the effectiveness of feedback, the results of the individual verb
categories do not completely support Hypothesis 3 which states that both feedback types will be
beneficial for the development of the use of the imperfect with activity verbs and state verbs.
The analyses of the data by verb category revealed that corrective feedback yielded beneficial
improvement for state verbs only; neither activity verb nor achievement verbs demonstrated an
effect for group. A comparison of the pretest means for each verb category offers some insight
into this finding. The mean pretest score for achievement verbs was 8 (out of 10), which reflects
a high level of attainment prior to treatment. As a result, it is possible that the lack of
improvement with the provision of feedback may be due to a ceiling effect. Unfortunately,
further analysis examining the data of only those participants with a pretest score lower than
80% was not possible due to the small number of participants who met this criterion.
The comparison of the pretest means by verb category also revealed that the scores for
the activity and state verbs were considerably lower than the achievement verb, with score of
5.4 and 5.8 respectively. These scores demonstrate that the majority of the participants have
acquired the use of achievement verbs with the preterite, but have not developed the same skill

70
level with state verbs and activity verbs in the imperfect. Although the scores reflect the fact
that the participants have not mastered these verb categories in the imperfect, they do indicate a
higher level of attainment for state verbs. These findings are consistent with the stages of
acquisition indentified by Anderson‟s Aspect Hypothesis, which purports that learners first
exhibit the use of the perterite with achievement verbs and gradually progress to the use of the
imperfect with state verbs in stage 2, followed by the use of the imperfect with activity verbs in
stage 3.
Thus, the finding that significant improvement was only demonstrated for state verbs can
be explained by Pienemann‟s (1994, 1995) Teachability Hypothesis, which states that
instruction can only promote acquisition of a new language structure if the learner is „ready‟ to
acquire it. Similarly, instruction will be most beneficial if it focuses on structures from the „next
stage.‟ Applied to the findings of the study, the participants demonstrated a high level of
mastery of achievement verbs in the preterite and therefore, were ready to acquire state verbs
with the imperefect, which represents the next stage of acquisition outlined by Anderson‟s
Aspect Hypothesis. However, similar improvement was not attained with activity verbs in the
imperfect because this verb category represents a higher stage in the acquisitional sequence. As
a result, the Teachability Hypothesis provides a viable reason for the observation that feedback
was more beneficial for the development of state verbs in the imperfect than for activity verbs,
despite the fact that both verb categories represent complex grammatical structures for the
purpose of this study.
The results for state verbs also can be interpreted with respect to other hypotheses of the
study. Similar to the trends for the production data, both Meta and TE improved significantly
from pretest to immediate posttest. Although these gains decreased somewhat from immediate
posttest to delayed posttest for both groups, TE continued to exhibit significant improvement
over the pretest measure and Meta showed improvement that approached significance. This
trend in improvement mirrors the findings of the production data for TL forms and thereby,
yields additional support to Hypothesis 1, that corrective feedback is beneficial in a CALL
environment.
Also like the results of the production data, the recognition data suggests that text
enhancement is more beneficial than metalinguistic feedback. This claim is based on the
observation that only TE maintained significant improvement from the pretest to the delayed

71
posttest. In addition to the possible reasons for this finding discussed in the section on
production data, a contributing factor may have been that this activity was designed to minimize
the use of metalinguistic knowledge by only allowing 8 seconds per response. Because this task
reduced the reliance on metalinguistic knowledge, metalinguistic feedback may not have been
as beneficial. Finally, the beneficial effect of text enhancement is supported by Schmidt‟s
Noticing Hypothesis (1983) which purports that learners must attend to (notice) items in the
input before they can be integrated into the interlanguage system. Thus, the text enhancement of
the verb morphemes promoted acquisition by increasing the participants‟ attention to the verb
forms.

Theoretical Implications

Although the results of this study clearly offer pedagogical implications, the findings of
this research are not limited to classroom applications, but also offer additional insight into the
effects of corrective feedback on language development. As such, this study contributes to the
growing body of literature on corrective feedback in second language acquisition (SLA) and
enters into the debate regarding the facilitative role that it may play. As previously noted, the
findings of this study lend support for the claim that corrective feedback plays a facilitative role
in SLA. This is reflected in the significant improvement from pretest to posttest scores
demonstrated by the text enhancement group. This claim is consistent with Russell and Spada‟s
(2006) meta-analysis of feedback studies that concluded that corrective feedback is beneficial
overall for SLA as well as with the findings of other researchers (eg. Chaudron, 1988; Gass,
1991; Carroll & Swaim, 1993; Long, 1996).
However, the results also suggest that corrective feedback may have the largest impact on
performance immediately following the presentation of the feedback, with some decrease in
performance gains over time. This finding is noteworthy because it may serve to bridge the
opposing views on the role of corrective feedback in SLA by demonstrating both the benefits and
the limitations of its effectiveness. For example, the decrease in performance by both feedback
groups from immediate posttest to delayed posttest appears to support Truscott and Hsu‟s (2008)
argument that error reduction on one task is not a predictor of equal success on subsequent tasks.
Yet, this observation does not indicate that feedback is without merit. Although subsequent

72
performance does not parallel the level of achievement demonstrated immediately following the
presentation of feedback, it also does not regress to pretest levels. Consequently, the findings of
this study do not support Truscott‟s (1996) claim that grammar correction results in
pseudolearning, a term which he uses to refer to “a superficial and possibly transient form of
knowledge, with little value for actual use of the language” (p. 345). On the contrary, the
significant improvement demonstrated by TE from pretest to delayed posttest for both production
and recognition tasks suggest that corrective feedback plays a beneficial role that, although not
absolute, is not superficial. Similarly, the fact that Meta reached a level of attainment that
approached significance suggests that any gains resulting from feedback are not temporary. This
argument in support of corrective feedback is further substantiated by the fact that Meta
exhibited performance gains from the pretest to delayed posttest on all assessment measures
whereas NF and Control did not demonstrate similar improvement between assessment
measures.
Despite the superior performance of Meta in comparison with NF and Control, the
findings of this study diverge from the findings of other researchers who clearly found a
beneficial role for metalinguistic feedback (e.g. Carroll & Swain, 1993; Nagata & Swisher, 1995;
Nagata, 1997). One possible reason for the difference in the findings may be that the assessment
tasks utilized in the other studies were metalinguistic in nature. In contrast, the present study
attempted to prevent the participants from relying on metalinguistic knowledge by imposing time
limitations for their responses on the recognition task. Likewise, the amount of time available to
complete the production task was constrained by the time limits of the class in which the data
was collected. Consequently, this finding that metalinguistic feedback did not result in
significant improvement from pretest to posttest measures, is consistent, in part, with Krashen‟s
Monitor Model, which posits that information about the language serves as a monitor that edits
the output after it has been initiated by the acquired language system. However, the fact that
Meta reached a level of attainment that approached significance on the time-constrained
recognition task appears to suggest that such metalinguistic knowledge may, in fact, lead to
acquisition. This claim is in accordance with the Skill Acquisition Theory, which purports that a
large amount of practice is required to decrease error rate and that such practice leads to gradual
automation of knowledge (DeKeyser, 1997; 2007). A future study that provides additional
exposure to this feedback type during the treatment may yield greater insight into this conjecture.

73
Finally, the beneficial role of text enhancement revealed by the significant improvements
for both the production and recognition tasks lends to support to the claim of some researchers
(e.g.Smith, 1993; Wong, 2005) that the increase of perceptual saliency through visual
enhancement draws learners‟ attention to the formal properties of the L2 and aids them in
making form meanings connections. This finding is also consistent Schmidt‟s (1993) Noticing
Hypothesis, which as previously noted, purports that learners must attend to (notice) items in the
input before they can be integrated into the interlanguage system as well as with the findings of a
number of researchers maintain that the process of noticing is facilitative to L2 development (e.g.
Ellis, 1991; Gass, 1988, 1990, 1991; Ohta, 2001; Pica, 1994, 1996; Schachter, 1991). Thus, the
next step is to determine how these finding can be applied in an instructional setting. This is the
topic of the next section.

Pedagogical Implications

As noted in chapter one, CALL is a unique learning environment for second language
instruction. One advantage of this environment is that many of the practice activities are
immediately corrected by the computer. This offers the potential of providing valuable input
during the introduction and practice of syntactic structures, which allows the learner to identify
discrepancies between his/her language production and the target language (L2) before the
misinformation becomes instilled in the interlanguage system. However, the development of
these practice activities is very time intensive, especially when corrective feedback beyond
“Sorry” or “Try Again” is included. Consequently, the most important pedagogical implication of
this study is that the development of feedback with detailed metalinguistic explanations not only
is not essential, but it will not lead to increased language development. Although metalinguistic
information did not hinder the acquisition of grammatical forms and appeared to help for short-
term improvement, there was no evidence of lasting benefits of this feedback type. An equally
important implication is that text enhancement of the significant characteristics of the correct
response (i.e. verb morpheme) appears to lead to improvement in language usage. Thus, the

74
inclusion of text enhancement may be more time effective than the provision of metalinguistic
feedback.
A second pedagogical implication is that the provision of feedback does not appear to be
beneficial for learners who have attained a high level of mastery of the targeted form. Likewise,
feedback does not appear to facilitate the acquisition of structures that are beyond the learner‟s
developmental level. It appears that feedback, like instruction, is most beneficial if it is provided
for structures from „the next stage.‟ Thus, the timing of the feedback in terms of „teachability‟
appears to be as important of a consideration as the type of feedback that is provided to the
learners.

Limitations of the Study and Directions for Future Research

One limitation of this study is that the results are confined to three uses of the Spanish
preterite and imperfect. Therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to other grammatical
structures or languages. In addition, despite efforts to elicit the different verb types in the
structured video retelling, the small number of tokens produced for each verb category prevented
analysis of the data based upon the relative difficulty of the grammatical structure. To address
this concern, a future study could examine gender agreement. For this grammatical structure,
production tasks could more easily be designed that would elicit a sufficient number of targeted
items.
A related limitation resulting from the use of the Spanish preterite and imperfect as the
target structure is that this study was unable to provide sufficient insight into the role that
grammatical complexity plays on the effectiveness of feedback types. Again, the use of gender
agreement as the target structure would be a viable option based upon the observation that
gender agreement is a difficult structure for non-native speakers of Spanish to master despite the
fact that students are introduced to this concept early in their studies. The relative difficulty of
the grammatical complexity could be explored by comparing this target structure with the
preterite and imperfect or by utilizing noun phrases with varying degrees of distance between the
noun and its modifier.
An additional limitation of the study is that it was not possible to assess whether or not
the participants read the feedback messages that were displayed after each practice item.

75
Although Heift (2004) found that participants did access supplemental help activities available to
them in a CALL, this does not confirm that L2 learners utilize unsolicited information. To
address this concern, the present study incorporated a retrospective questionnaire in which
participants were asked to indicate on a likert scale how frequently they read the feedback.
However, the limitation of this type of assessment is that it is very subjective, especially in light
of the fact that the participants were aware that it was an expectation of the researcher that they
read the feedback message. As a result, future research could be designed to measure the amount
of time spent on each feedback screen. This would yield a more objective and quantifiable
measure that could be used in determining the effectiveness of feedback types.
One additional area of research would be to examine learner preference for feedback type
with respect to effectiveness of the feedback. For this type of study, participants could first be
asked to rate the perceived effectiveness of different feedback types and then be assigned to
feedback groups based on +/- preference. This would yield insight into the role that individual
differences play in the effectiveness of feedback types.

Conclusion
This dissertation provided further insight into the effectiveness of corrective feedback for
SLA in a CALL environment. Keeping in mind the limitations, the findings of this study confirm
that feedback is beneficial overall for practice activities performed within this instructional
setting. In addition, text enhancement appears to yield greater improvement than metalinguistic
information for the acquisition of syntactic structures. It is the hope that this research will serve
as the catalyst for future studies that further investigate the effectiveness and use of feedback
types for additional grammatical structures in a variety of other conditions.

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APPENDIX A

INFORMED CONSENT FORM

The study “Relative Effectiveness Feedback Types in Computer-Assisted Language


Learning” is part of research intended to provide information about the way people learn
language.
If you agree to participate in this study, you will be asked to perform 7 tasks during three
30-40 minute sessions. Four tasks will consist of multiple-choice questions for which you will
select the word that best completes the sentence. For three tasks, you will view three short video
clips and write captions for 10 pictures to retell what happened in the video.
All tasks will be conducted on a computer, with the presentation of the sentences,
pictures and video appearing on the screen. The computer will record your answers, and your
confidentiality will be protected. In addition, you will also complete a questionnaire asking
about your past experience learning language and about the procedures of the study. You may
decline to answer specific questions.
Your participation is totally voluntary and you may stop participation at anytime. There is
no expected risk during the session. However, you have the right to terminate the session at any
time without any penalty.
Your performance and any information obtained during the course of the study will
remain confidential, to the extent allowed by law. Your name will be replaced with a number for
the purposed of coding and analysis of data. Only the primary researchers will have access to the
codes and this will be destroyed after data analysis is complete.
You are encouraged to ask any questions that you might have about this study before,
during and after your participation in the study. However, answers that could influence the
results of the experiment will be deferred to the end of the experiment. You will also receive a
debriefing form upon completion of the study, fully explaining the goals of the research.
There are benefits for participating in the research project. First, you may increase your
awareness of your second language abilities. Also, you will be providing second language

77
acquisition researchers with valuable information about how individuals acquire a foreign
language. This knowledge will assist researchers to improve second language learning methods.
If you have any questions about this research or your rights as a participant in this study
or if you feel you have been placed at risk please contact Sandra Kregar or Dr. Michael Leeser
Florida State University, Dept. of Modern Languages and Linguistics. You can also contact the
Chair of the Human Subjects Committee, Institutional Review Board, through the Vice President
for the Office of Research at (850) 644-8633.
________________________________________________________________________

I understand the above information and voluntarily consent to participate in this study of my own
free will. I am 18 years of age or older and a student at Florida State University.

I understand that I am free to discontinue participation at any time without explanation. I


understand that this form will not be used in conjunction with the results of the study so that my
identity will be protected. I understand that I will receive a signed copy of this consent form.

_____________________________________
Signature Date

78
APPENDIX B

INTERNAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL

Office of the Vice President For Research


Human Subjects Committee
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-2742
(850) 644-8673, FAX (850) 644-4392

APPROVAL MEMORANDUM

Date: 3/4/2010

To: Sandra Kregar [sjk06d@fsu.edu]

Address: 302 E. Georgia St. #3F, Tallahassee, FL 32301


Dept.: MODERN LANGUAGES AND LINGUISTICS

From: Thomas L. Jacobson, Chair

Re: Use of Human Subjects in Research


The Relative Effectiveness of Feedback Types in Computer-Assisted Language Learning

The application that you submitted to this office in regard to the use of human subjects in the
proposal referenced above have been reviewed by the Secretary, the Chair, and two members of
the Human Subjects Committee. Your project is determined to be Expedited per 45 CFR §
46.110(7) and has been approved by an expedited review process.

The Human Subjects Committee has not evaluated your proposal for scientific merit, except to
weigh the risk to the human participants and the aspects of the proposal related to potential risk

79
and benefit. This approval does not replace any departmental or other approvals, which may be
required.

If you submitted a proposed consent form with your application, the approved stamped consent
form is attached to this approval notice. Only the stamped version of the consent form may be
used in recruiting research subjects.

If the project has not been completed by 3/3/2011 you must request a renewal of approval for
continuation of the project. As a courtesy, a renewal notice will be sent to you prior to your
expiration date; however, it is your responsibility as the Principal Investigator to timely request
renewal of your approval from the Committee.

You are advised that any change in protocol for this project must be reviewed and approved by
the Committee prior to implementation of the proposed change in the protocol. A protocol
change/amendment form is required to be submitted for approval by the Committee. In addition,
federal regulations require that the Principal Investigator promptly report, in writing any
unanticipated problems or adverse events involving risks to research subjects or others.

By copy of this memorandum, the Chair of your department and/or your major professor is
reminded that he/she is responsible for being informed concerning research projects involving
human subjects in the department, and should review protocols as often as needed to insure that
the project is being conducted in compliance with our institution and with DHHS regulations.

This institution has an Assurance on file with the Office for Human Research Protection. The
Assurance Number is IRB00000446.

Cc: Michael Leeser, Advisor [mleeser@fsu.edu]


HSC No. 2010.3858

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APPENDIX C

LANGUAGE HISTORY QUESTIONNAIRE

General Background Information


Class and Section: ______________________ Code: Date:
1. Age: Years ______ Months _______ 2. Gender: M F
3. Do you have any visual or hearing problems (corrected or uncorrected)? Yes No
If yes, please explain:
4. Academic Year: Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Masters Doctoral
5. Native language: Birth Place:
6. Mother‟s native language: Place of origin:
7. Father‟s native language: Place of origin:
8. Language(s) spoken in the home:
9. Language(s) spoken in the home of close relatives:
Spanish Language History
10. What language(s) are you currently taking? Course number:
11. Are you: (Check all that apply)
Taking Spanish as a requirement and interested in being a major or minor.
Taking Spanish as a requirement and not interested in being a major or minor.
A Spanish minor A Spanish major
Other (please explain)
12. Please indicate where you have studied Spanish; check all that apply.
Elementary School Middle School High School College
0-1 years 0-1 years 0-1 years Less than one semester
2-3 years 2 years 2 years 1-2 semesters
4-5 years 3 years 3 years 3-4 semesters
6 –7 years 4 years 4 years 5 or more semesters
Study Abroad Experiences: Have you studied / lived abroad?
13. Language studied? Where? How long?

81
English Language Skill Rating: Please rate your ENGLISH skills according to the following scale
Low Very High
14. Reading? 1 2 3 4 5 6
15. Writing? 1 2 3 4 5 6
16. Speaking? 1 2 3 4 5 6
17. Comprehension? 1 2 3 4 5 6
18. Comfort Level 1 2 3 4 5 6
(expressing yourself)
SPANISH Language Skills: Please rate your SPANISH skills according to the follow scale:
Low Very High
19. Reading? 1 2 3 4 5 6
20. Writing? 1 2 3 4 5 6
21. Speaking? 1 2 3 4 5 6
22. Comprehension? 1 2 3 4 5 6
23. Comfort Level 1 2 3 4 5 6
(expressing yourself)
24. In my Spanish classes, I get:
Mostly A‟s
Mostly A‟s and B‟s
Mostly B‟s
Mostly B‟s and C‟s
Mostly C‟s

82
25. Is there anything else that we should know about your language abilities or feelings about learning
a second language?
_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________

83
APPENDIX D

ITEMS FOR TREATMENT ACTIVITY


Imperfect with stative verbs.
1. Después de correr 10 kilómetros, yo ______ (tuve/tenía) mucha hambre.
2. En 1986, mi hija ______ (tuvo/tenía) cinco años.
3. ______ (fue/era) muy tarde cuando llegamos a la fiesta de Juan.
4. Mi padre ______ (fue/era) muy generoso y ayudaba a muchas personas pobres.
5. Antes de la entrevista, me ______ (sentí/sentía) muy nerviosa.
6. Al escuchar del éxito de su hijo, la madre se ______ (sintió/sentía) muy orgulloso.
7. Su esposa ______ (fue/era) más joven que él.
8. Ella ______ (estuvo/estaba) muy enferma cuando la visité la semana pasada.
9. Yo ______ (tuve/tenía) doce años cuando mi familia se mudó a Texas.
10. El vestido ______ (fue/era) perfecto para la fiesta.
11. _____ (fueron/eran) las doce cuando Juan me llamó.
12. Juanita ______ (tuvo/tenían) 23 años cuando se casó.

Imperfect with activity verbs


1. El viento ______ (sopló/soplaba), por eso cerré las ventanas.
2. Hacía sol y ______ (llovió/llovía) al mismo tiempo.
3. Yo ______ (estudié/estudiaba) en la biblioteca cuando conocí a mi esposo.
4. ______ (comimos/comíamos) palomitas mientras mirábamos la película.
5. Juan trabajaba tiempo completo mientras ______ (asistió/asistía) a la universidad.
6. Me dormí mientras ______ (leí/leía) el artículo.
7. Anoche todavía ______ (trabajamos/trabajábamos) a medianoche.
8. Mientras el profesor ______ (habló/hablaba) del examen, los alumnos escuchaban
atentamente.
9. Rosa ______ (durmió/dormía) cuando la llamé.
10. Ella tuvo el accidente porque ______ (habló/hablaba) por su celular.
11. Mientras los niños dormían, Papá Noel ______ (llegó/llegaba).
12. Mario ______ (habló/hablaba) con Lara cuando lo vi.

84
Preterite with accomplishment verbs.
1. La fiesta no ______ (terminó/terminaba) hasta las tres de la mañana.
2. Juan ______ (llegó/llegaba) veinte minutos tarde a la junta con su jefe.
3. La película ______ (comenzó/comenzaba) hace unos minutos.
4. Hoy me ______ (ofreció/ofrecía) el trabajo en Panamá.
5. Los problemas económicas del país ______ (comenzó/comenzaba) en 2001.
6. Por fin, Juan ______ (terminó/terminaba) el proyecto.
7. Él me ______ (presentó/presentaba) a sus padres en la graduación.
8. Cuando le pidió a Alicia casarse con él, ella ______ (respondió/respondía) con un beso.
9. Paco me ______ (dijo/decía) que llamaría (would call) esta noche.
10. Yo ______ (salí/salía) de la oficina a las ocho y media anoche.
11. María ______ (decidió/decidía) asistir a la conferencia en Miami.
12. Este año Teresa no ______ (invitó/invitaba) a tanta gente a la celebración.

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APPENDIX E

PRODUCTION TASK VERSION A

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87
APPENDIX F

PRODUCTION TASK VERSION B

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89
APPENDIX G

PRODUCTION TASK VERSION C

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91
APPENDIX H

BINARY CHOICE TASK VERSION A

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

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Slide 4

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 7

93
Slide 8

Slide 9

Slide 10

Slide 11

Slide 12

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Slide 13

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APPENDIX I

BINARY CHOICE TASK VERSION B

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

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Slide 4

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 7

Slide 8

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Slide 9

Slide 10

Slide 11

Slide 12

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APENDIX J

BINARY CHOICE TASK VERSION C

Slide 1

Slide 2

Slide 3

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Slide 4

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 7

Slide 8

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Slide 9

Slide 10

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Sandra Kregar was born in Denver, Colorado. She received a bachelor‟s degree in
Russian from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a master‟s degree in Educational Media and
a master‟s degree in Foreign Language Teaching with an emphasis in Spanish from the
University of Northern Colorado. She completed her doctoral studies at Florida State University
in Tallahassee, Florida and is currently an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Education at North
Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, GA.

110