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The icing on the cake? Effects of explicit form-focused instruction after two years of implicit EFL learning

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This study is part of a larger project where explicit form-focused instruction (FFI) and practice concerning grammar was reduced and delayed for two years in the foreign language classroom. Participants are two cohorts of secondary school children learning English as a foreign language (N = 393). In the present study we investigated if reducing and delaying explicit FFI would affect performance on a common grammar test. One cohort received traditional explicit FFI with metalinguistic information and grammar exercises (the explicit group). According to the participating teachers’ self-report, approximately 37% of classroom time was spent on grammar instruction and practice. The other cohort (the implicit group) received predominantly implicit FFI without any metalinguistic information and all grammar exercises were removed from the course book materials. In the last seven weeks of the second school year, the implicit group received seven classes of explicit grammar instruction and practice (total of approximately 6% of classroom time). Grammar tests were administered in a pre-, immediate post and delayed post-test design. The implicit group was tested before the grammar course, then both groups were tested at the end of the second year and again four months later. Results of multilevel modelling showed that the implicit group improved significantly between the pre-test and the immediate post-test. The implicit and explicit group scored equally well on the immediate and delayed post-test. This study shows that after a (longer) period of implicit FFI only minimal explicitness and practice is sufficient to score well on a common grammar test.

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Piggott, L., (2019). First Meaning then Form: a longitudinal study on the effects of delaying the explicit focus on form for young adolescent EFL learners. Unpublished PhD, Utrecht University, Utrecht.
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