PhotovoiceResearch ProjectIntroduction In this photovoice researchproject, I will discuss my experience in learning English as a second language(ESL) with literature reviews on the topic of ESL and Second LanguageAcquisition (SLA). Various universal influences,which contribute to the rate, routine, and ultimate attainment to the learningof a second language (L2), have been studied to disclose the mystery of SLA.The secret underlying this complex process, i.e.
, mastering a L2, is hotlydisputed via diverse theories. One of the debates is about the power ofpractice in the process of proceduralization/ automatization. Before we plunge into the wholediscussion about the role that practice plays in automatizaton, it is necessarythat we stop and reflect on the real goals of language learning in general andpractice in particular.
DeKeyser (2007) claims that the real goal of languageleaning is to achieve “fast, accurate, spontaneous, effortless use ofknowledge, which is better described as automatic than implicit.” (p.288) Challengingas it is, the ultimate goal for most language learners is to reach a certainlevel of automaticity. Skillacquisition theory, adopted from Anderson’s Adaptive Control of Thought(Anderson, 1983) explains learning as developmental processes from controlledto automatic. In this process, through consistent related practice,declarative/ explicit knowledge can be transformed to procedural/ implicitknowledge, thus, eventually attain automaticity in that specific skill (Ortega,2009). However, Ellis and Schmidt (1998) argue that there is a power law oflearning, which constraints the learners’ improvement in that skill regardlessthe amount of practice has been put in, because they have reached the ceilingof their performance. Here again,therefore, there are some unavoidable questions are asked, when posit yourstance towards practice in automatization and/or SLA in general.
It is not thatwhether practice can trigger automaticity per se, but how we can maximize thepower of practice to benefit the language learners to accelerate theirautomatization process. In this philosophy paper, I will discuss skillacquisition theory, a broader concept of practice in SLA, and major study inthe field of SLA regarding practice and automatization. Literature ReviewSkillAcquisition TheorySkill acquisition theory, as Ibriefly mentioned earlier in this paper, entails the whole learning process,from the novice level to the mastery level. The fundamental assertion of skillacquisition theory is that learning of various skills presents a momentousresemblance through the basic explicit knowledge to fluent, spontaneous, andimplicit knowledge, and this set of process can be universal to the acquisitionof different kinds of skills (DeKeyser, 2015).
Anderson (1982, 1993) claimsthat there are three stages of knowledge involved in the skill acquisitionprocess, viz., declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge, and automaticknowledge. In the first stage of the skill acquisition, students may acquire alot of knowledge about the skill explicitly from observing and analyzing other’sbehavior of using/demonstrating that skill. The next stage is converting the”knowledge that” to “knowledge how”, i.e., transforming declarative knowledgeto procedural knowledge.
This requires the students to use, and act on thisknowledge to a relatively fluent, somewhat effortless, and smooth behavior onthe skill. After acquiring the procedural knowledge, the students’ knowledge isstill not yet automatic. Sufficient practice is needed to decline the reactiontime, error rate, and required attention when executing the task. The amplerelevant practice helps to expedite the automatizaton process (DeKeyser, 2015).Practicefor SLA On theprevailing view, the concept of practice is almost always associated with numerousboring repetition and drills. Ellis (1993) argued that practice embodies endeavorwith sufficient chances for learners to produce the language in both controlledand free activities for the purpose of evolve highly proceduralized implicitknowledge.
DeKeyser (2007) points out that Ellis’ view reflects Chomsky’scontrast between performance and competence: practice is not for teachingcompetence, but rather for promoting performance. On the other hand, Dekeyseralso stated that cognitive psychologists believe that practice is notable inconverting declarative/explicit knowledge to procedural/implicit knowledge. In thelight of communicative language teaching, drilling has been viewed as asomewhat antique which is associated with boring, repetitive formulaic languagelearning/teaching activity. Paulston (1970, 1972) proposed the model of mechanical,meaningful, and communicative drills (MMC). Putting briefly, mechanic drillsare fully controlled and have only one correct answer; meaningful drillsrequire learner’s complete comprehension for responding to the task; andcommunicative dills go beyond meaningful drills with added new information fromthe real world by the speakers.
Byrne (1986) also formed a three-way languagelearning model, presentation, practice, and production (PPP). Clearly, PPP isdistinct and beyond the MMC. Presentation contains but not limited to MMC;practice incorporates mechanic and meaningful drills; and production precedescommunicative drills in MMC.
In both model, practice is functioning as anunneglectable gear in the process of SLA. Practicesolely, indeed, can not result in automatization. However, DeKeyser (2007)argued that to maximize the usefulness of practice, different types of practiceshould be applied for different instructional contexts and different individualcharacteristics, e.
g., age, culture, personality, and aptitude, of thelearners. Embracea Broad Concept of Practice Practice has taken a beating from many SLA researchers.Krashen (1982, p. 83) argued that “learning does not become acquisition,” andEllis (1994) claimed that “the results (of empirical research) are not veryencouraging for practice.” However, DeKeyser (2010) argued that the role thatpractice plays in L2 learning should be interpreted with a broader concept:practice as situated activities engages learners with their individualized goalof improving knowledge and skills in the L2, and attention to form-meaninglinks as well as sequenced activities should be given for facilitating theprocess of proceduralization, and eventual automatization. From the discussion above, wecan note that the term ‘practice’ involves more than mechanical drills, andeven ‘drills’ is not finite repetition. Nowadays, ‘Practice makes perfect’ isnot an agreed-upon issue in SLA research.
Lightbown (2000) argue that”communicative practice … is not sufficient to lead learners to a high degreeof fluency and accuracy in all aspects of second language acquisition,” but”when practice is defined as opportunities for meaningful language use (bothreceptive and productive) and for thoughtful, effortful practice of difficultlinguistic features, then the role of practice is clearly beneficial and evenessential” (p.443). ExemplaryStudy: DeKeyser (1997) DeKeyser (1997) conducted a research to answer the questionsof whether explicit grammar learning in an L2 with specific practice wouldyield evidence that reflects skill acquisition theory’s prediction. Participantswere 61 adults, and most of them are undergraduate student, who had learnedforeign language in the past.
The study is over an 11-week semester. They weretaught four grammar rules of an artificial language explicitly, and had a largeamount of relevant practice. The participants were divided into three groups,and had different types of practice (comprehension and production) through thewhole semester. Group one had comprehension practice for rule 1 and 2, andproduction practice for rule 3 and 4; group two had production practice forrule 1 and 2, and comprehension practice for rule 3 and 4; and group three hadpractice for both comprehension and production practice for all four rules. A comprehension and production test was given at the end ofthe semester. The comprehension part was to choose the correct picture thatillustrates a given sentence, and the production part was to write a sentenceto describe a given picture. To get the correct answer, students have to applythe explicitly taught grammar rules in the artificial language.
The testresults showed that all three groups had a gradual decline in reaction time anderror rate for both comprehension and production parts. Participants who weretested on the skills that they practiced, outperformed those who didn’t havethe practice in both reaction time and error rate; participants who practicedall skills in all four rules performed in the same level with those that hadsufficient practice for the same item. The test resultsshowed that the answer for the research questions is affirmative: plentiful ofrelevant practice led declarative knowledge to procedural knowledge with slowtransaction to automatization. Moreover, it confirmed the skill – specificpredictions of skill acquisition theory (DeKeyser, 2015). Practiceand L2 Automatization Fromcognitive psychology perspective, automaticity is embedded in subconscioussituations, where “we perform a complex series of tasks very quickly andefficiently, without having to think about the various components andsubcomponents of action involved” (DeKeyser, 2001, p.125). For SLA, Segalowitz(2003) defined automaticity as implicit knowledge, which enables learner tocomprehend and produce the L2 with more efficiency and fluency, less error rateand neural activation patterns.
As such, automaticity is an ability thatassociated with lower mind occupation, higher efficiency and accuracy. From theabove discussion, we cannot conclude that practice is the only or dominanttrigger of automatization, as other factors, e.g.
, age, cross-linguisticinfluences, linguistic environment, language aptitude, motivation, socialcontext, and individual differences, should also be taken into consideration. However,good practice is, indeed, a catalyst in the process of automatizaton. Ortega (2007) believes that good practice tasks areinteractive, meaningful, and task essential. Khatib & Nikouee (2012) arguethat good interactive practice provokes pushed output, negative feedback, and negotiationof meaning. They believe that good practice provides L2 learners opportunitiesto build the form and meaning link instead of focusing on either. They alsostated that good practice should be purposeful, and this means practice shouldcater the specific feature and context of the L2. Thus, good practice canfacilitates the gradual accomplishment of skill acquisition theory’s terminalgoal – automatization.
Khatib & Nikouee (2012) conducted a quasi-experimentalresearch to investigate the degree to which explicit knowledge of amorphosyntactic structure – present perfect can be automatized two days afterrelevant practice and can be maintained for two weeks after. Twentyparticipants signed up for this study voluntarily, and they were all intermediatelevel in English. They shared the same first language – Persian, and their ageswere between 16 to 26 years old. The educational level of the participantsranges from senior high school to post-graduate. They were randomly assigned toan experimental group (G1) and a controlled group (G2). G1 and G2 both receivedrule explanation, mechanical and meaningful practice, while G1 also receivedadditive planned communicative practice. The findings of this study showed thatmore automatization were revealed in G1, as less reaction time and error rate werefound in G1 than G2; also, G1 outperformed G2 in retaining their performancetwo weeks after the practice. The results of this study can be placed injuxtaposition with three other empirical research (DeKeyser,1996; DeKeyser & Sokalski, 1996; andRobinson,1997) which were all concentrating on the role of practice inautomatization in SLA.
Khatib & Nikouee’s research results suggest thatcommunicative practice should be advocated, since it had a stronger impact inthe automatization process, in terms of decreasing the error rate and reactiontime, than mechanical and meaningful practice did. Meanwhile, it is encouragingfor teachers who prefer communicative language teaching (CLT) to not neglect afocus on form. Methods Section /Data Analysis Theresearch method I used for this project is a combination of literature reviewon the topic of ESL and SLA, as well as my own experience in ESL classroom. I collecteddata from many research papers for this issue, and I also used Photovoice torecord my experience in ESL classroom at Kansas University.I found that ESLwas helpful for the very basics of English. I felt that the practice I hadspeaking English out of the classroom with friends and peers helped me morethan what I learned in the classroom. According to a study conducted by AnnelaTeemant from Indiana University, a major problem in ESL classrooms is that ESLprofessors tend to go at a faster pace than most students can keep up with. Althoughmany students do okay in ESL, the majority of their other professors do nottake into account that English is not their first language, which isdiscouraging.
ESL at KU seems tobe much more student-oriented due to the fact that classroom sizes are small. However,many students feel as though they cannot keep up with the course syllabus. Manystudents also feel their grades suffer due to inadequate ESL teaching methods.One of the biggestchallenges faced by ESL students is the time it takes to get over the learningcurve. ESL classes are offered online, which allows more convenience, buthinders the learning process by not having sufficient in-person interactions topractice and develop their English communication skills. While taking ESL,most students are also taking a full load of classes, which puts them at adisadvantage in comparison to native English speakers in the same classes. Lowgrades can cause frustration, stress, and even disciplinary action from theuniversity. Though ESL can be beneficial to speakers of other languages, thereare many variables that must be considered, such as classroom size, courseload, and class pace.
ESL students need a way to communicate efficiently withtheir other professors so their grades do not suffer based solely on theirEnglish. The vast majority of ESL students believe they learn more Englishpracticing it in the real world, rather than in the classroom. Conclusion Most students and facultymembers are aware of the ESL (English as a Second Language) programs.ESL is aclass just like any other language class, but it is aimed towards helpingstudents learn English as their second, third, or fourth language. ESL is very structured in itscoursework, and progress is monitored by the professor, forcing the student toimprove weak area.
ESL is very helpful for international students who are notcompletely proficient at reading, writing, speaking and understanding English. ESLclasses open new doors to university students. By speaking English, ESLstudents can make new friends. ESL students can be more proficient in otherclasses. ESL students will be able to take their English speaking knowledgewith them throughout their lives. While thecoursework in the classroom is helpful, a great part of the language learningprocess occurs outside of the classroom.
ESL is very structured and is nottailored to the learning abilities of each student, which causes many studentsto feel overwhelmed and left behind. Although the classroom is a great place tolearn, practice outside of the classroom is necessary for proper communication.While ESL provides students with the basics of English learning, it does not providethem with every-day terms, such as slang. Textbooks and materials can beexpensive. It is clear that practice,itself, is not responsible for a humdrum L2 classroom; the ways of how aninstructor designs it and carries it out in the classroom is far moreinfluential.
Of course, no one will deny the importance of all the otherindividual and/or social elements in the process of automatization; however,the praxis of practice should not be cold-shouldered but used appropriately forspecific purposes and features along the way to aid learners achieving theirultimate goals for the L2 that they want automatize, or acquiring.