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L2 input and characteristics of instructional techniques in early foreign language classrooms - Underlying theory and pedagogical practice


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Linguistic input is considered one of the most important prerequisites for the acquisition of a foreign language. In recent decades, theoretical approaches within a cognitive-interactionist framework (Long, 2015) have identified various aspects of L2 input and characteristics of instruction that predict learners’ L2 outcomes. Teaching principles relate (1) to characteristics of communicative activities in which the L2 is embedded and encountered by the learners, and (2) to the quality of L2 input, L2 interactions and learners’ L2 output (Ellis & Shintani, 2014). They are in line with task-based and content-based L2 teaching approaches. This chapter starts out with the theoretical underpinnings to L2 instructional principles (Gass et al., 2020, Kormos, 2011, Leow, 2015, Truscott & Sharwood Smith, 2019). Based on two graphical illustrations on characteristics and processes in ISLA and internal knowledge construction, it introduces the roles of sensory input and individual perception, the internal meaning-making process, prior knowledge and selective attention. Consequences of this type of information processing for instruction are discussed with respect to the instigation of noticing, salience, cognitive activation and depth of processing. The second part of the paper gives an overview of characteristics of teachers’ linguistic behavior which includes how teachers modify verbal input in the L2 both lexically, structurally and prosodically, how they shape communicative interactions in terms of authenticity, negotiation of meaning, feedback and focus on form, and how they create opportunities for productive L2 output of the learners. Linguistic input is typically supported by different types of non-verbal scaffolding techniques and is embedded in communicative-instructional activities that have the potential to facilitate L2 acquisition. Especially scaffolding techniques which foster comprehensible input are crucial in early stages of SLA. Instructional characteristics of activities comprise autonomous action-oriented problem-solving (construction of knowledge), the activation of learners’ prior experiences, the stimulation of multiple senses, and a positive learning environment. The goal of these instructional principles is to pro-vide comprehensibility and cognitive stimulation during the L2 acquisition process, induce wide-spread neural activity and ultimately facilitate long-term retention. All of these principles are derived from the above mentioned theoretical framework and operationalized as ‘teaching techniques’ in the Teacher Input Observation Scheme (TIOS, Kersten et al., 2018) which serves as a structuring matrix for the second part of the paper. Techniques are defined as “description of how a communicative behavior or activity is carried out in the classroom at a given moment as the actual point of contact with the learner/s”. This operationalization has specific measurement implications for research studies as it provides a systematic basis of multidimensional categories of L2 teaching techniques. In terms of teaching practice, the classification of these techniques allows for L2 classroom observation, teacher training and teachers’ self-evaluation. The paper closes with empirical and practical examples on the effect of such teaching techniques in preschool and primary school classrooms. The TIOS can be downloaded at Revised, non-final version, to appear in: The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL, 2021 (2). (accepted)
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For centuries, adults may have relied on pedagogies that promote rote memory for the learning of foreign languages through word associations and grammar rules. This contrasts sharply with child language learning which unfolds in socially interactive contexts. In this paper, we advocate an approach to study the social brain of language by grounding second language learning in social interaction. Evidence has accumulated from research in child language, education, and cognitive science pointing to the efficacy and significance of social learning. Work from several recent L2 studies also suggests positive brain changes along with enhanced behavioral outcomes as a result of social learning. Here we provide a blueprint for the brain network underlying social L2 learning, enabling the integration of neurocognitive bases with social cognition of second language while combining theories of language and memory with practical implications for the learning and teaching of a new language in adulthood.
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Reflections on insight and knowledge construction. This essay is part of a volume containing responses to a Christmas lecture at the university (Tholen 2016). Starting from the "metaphysical suffering of the lack of a higher sense in the world" the lecture described the phenomenon of a spiritual longing in today's society and pleaded for a return to self-perceptive writing using “meditative listening” (p. 26). Following this call, this essay approaches in a reflective form the question of what we can know about the 'real' and the 'transcendental', what sources of knowledge, from scientific to contemplative, are available to us, and what we can grasp with them. *** "Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?" Dumbledore beamed at him. (…) "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it's not real?” *** "How real is reality?" – Experiences as internal evidence – transcendent experiences not distinguishable from other forms of evidence? Our inner experience (emotions, pain, spiritual experiences) can have a much greater effect on our perception of reality than external circumstances. They are often described with as much certainty as the physiological states of our experiential world. Information from the physical world is subject to the limited spectrum of our senses and our artificial measuring methods. It is only in the brain that they are interpreted and assigned meaning. Construction of knowledge. The text’s contemplative train of thought follows these questions about the status of knowledge about the world and knowledge about inner states in science and personal life. (This is an English translation of the original chapter "Die Ewigkeit in ihr Herz", also available on researchgate)
Prior research indicates that solutions accompanied by an Aha! experience are remembered better than those missing this feeling of epiphany. The question for the present studies was whether this insight memory advantage for problem solutions is modulated by the affective component of insight (the strong feelings that typically accompany the Aha! experience), or by the cognitive component (the restructuring or representational change that occurs during insightful problem solving). In both studies, participants viewed a set of magic trick videos to generate solutions for how each trick was done, and memory for the generated solutions was tested after a week delay. They also indicated the extent to which they experienced an Aha! moment at solution along with other perceptions of their experience. In the second study, they additionally rated the relevance of five action verbs for each trick (including one that implied the correct solution) multiple times during solution as a measure of restructuring the problem representation. The explanation for the insight memory advantage that was best supported by the results is that it is the joint consequence of finding correct solutions, the subjective feeling that one has found a correct solution (certainty), and experiencing an emotional pleasurable reaction during the problem solving process that all contribute to better memory for the solution. However, it did not seem to rely on having reached the solution via a sudden restructuring process.
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