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This chapter describes tools that have been used to measure the effectiveness of corrective feedback ranging from classic instruments such as interactive tasks, to innovative methods recently adopted from related fields like psychology and educational measurement. As part of describing these measurement tools, we also discuss how factors in their use, such as the instructions, the participants, and their roles, need to be considered when assessing the efficacy of feedback. We describe tools used in classrooms and laboratory settings, including introspective methods such as think-alouds, immediate recalls, stimulated recall, interviews, journals, blogs, and uptake sheets, as well as external measurements. We outline the use of tasks in both face-to-face and computer-mediated contexts. We conclude our chapter with a discussion of future directions in measuring the effectiveness of corrective feedback on linguistic development and pedagogical implications.
In this chapter, I talk about how we can uncover introspective information, and by this I mean data shedding light on learners’ mental processes during interactions while they are receiving feedback and carrying out tasks. I describe a range of commonly used tools for obtaining introspections, including stimulated recalls, think-alouds, interviews, discourse completion tasks, and self-reports on social media, all in the context of research on interaction, feedback, and tasks.
In interaction, feedback, and task research, data are often sourced from oral production, and sometimes from written production. In computer-aided interaction there may also be synchronous or asynchronous digital transcripts, which fall somewhere between oral and written data. Some kinds of data are, as part of the data collection process, already in digital formats (e.g., gestures as feedback in the form of teachers’ movements during videos of their teaching). Data might also be visual, too, in the form of eye movements that indicate what learners are looking at or focusing on when they receive feedback, for example. Data can also consist of images, like those obtained via fMRI or EEG while learners carry out communicative tasks. Some types of data might be ready for analysis immediately or very soon after collection, for example CALL data of learner–learner chats showing how they modify their output during peer interaction over tasks, or in larger scale studies, like research syntheses or meta-analyses.
Interaction, feedback, and task researchers often want to know more about the nature of the cognitive processes that occur while language learners are being exposed to second or foreign languages. This applies when learners are hearing (or sometimes reading) or producing language that occurs in interaction and the feedback that results, and often tasks are part of their experiences. In other words, we want to know what is going on inside learners’ heads because we believe this might help us understand more about language learning. We differentiate between learners’ minds (cognition tools) and their brains, where we focus on imaging. I discuss imaging in the next chapter because importantly (and perhaps strangely), the mind and brain are not usually considered to be isomorphic. Interaction, feedback and task researchers typically turn to cognitive and psycholinguistics-based research tools to help us uncover information about individual differences and their relation to learning.
In this chapter we take a look at the emerging role of meta-analysis and research synthesis in interaction, feedback, and task-based research into how second languages are learned, as well as provide some instructions on how to systematically conduct a meta-analysis to achieve sound results in these areas. The chapter begins with a description of meta-analysis and research synthesis and their contributions to research in applied linguistics and second language research in general. Next, previous meta-analyses on the topics of interaction feedback, tasks and task-based language teaching (TBLT), and related methodologies are summarized. Then, clear guidelines for conducting meta-analyses are provided. The chapter ends with a discussion of how meta-analysis and replication research can help in answering essential questions in respect to interaction, feedback, and task research and also provides a few cautions, or things to look out for.
In this chapter I focus on research on interaction, corrective feedback, and TBLT in instructional settings. I describe this research in a wide range of classroom-based settings, including factors such as integrating observations into task studies, designing quasi-experimental studies, and carrying out action research. I talk about some of the practical considerations in classroom research into interaction, feedback, and tasks, including some of the challenges (and rewards) of carrying out research with younger learners in classrooms.
Now that we’ve had a brief look at the theoretical background in Chapter 1 and reviewed some potentially open research areas and questions, what I will focus on next is how to design research to answer questions about interaction, feedback, and communicative tasks and their role and relationship to second language learning. As I said before, this book is designed to be practical in nature, aimed at people who are thinking about carrying out studies on these topics, or who want to appraise, critique, or better understand studies that they are reading in the literature in terms of the methods used. The present chapter provides a starting point for this venture.
As we have seen in the preceding chapters, there are quite a few issues that need to be addressed when doing interaction, feedback, and task research. In this final chapter, I discuss several of the most common problems and pitfalls faced by novice and experienced researchers alike. I have included stories of my own, from my colleagues, and from my students. The stories are roughly based on the notes I made after they were recounted or sent to me. They recount “research fails” that people were kind enough to share with me. I present them anonymously and I thank everyone who talked and laughed with me over our could-do-better stories which are shared in the hope that they can help others not to fall into the same traps we did. To protect identities, I have randomized my use of pronouns, merged and changed some details. I am, of course, fully responsible for any misinterpretations. These stories are presented not only to illustrate how things can and do go wrong, but to focus on how there is nearly always a way to resolve difficulties you might encounter along the way.
Whether doing an end-of-semester project, starting a dissertation, or undertaking a cross-sectional or longitudinal study for an organization or publication, researchers of interaction, feedback, and tasks often turn to surveys as a good way to collect data. In this chapter, I will first explore the types and purposes of survey options available for this line of research and introduce some of the advantages and disadvantages. I will discuss questionnaires and question types, and how we develop and administer surveys. Quite often, follow-up interviews are helpful following surveys; but sometimes, interviews start the process and are followed by surveys.
The focus of this book is explaining how to do research that examines the relationships amongst interaction, feedback, tasks, and second language learning. The book begins, in the current chapter, by talking about some of the theoretical underpinnings for this sort of research, before moving to practical considerations in the subsequent chapters, including how to design studies, the many ways of collecting, coding, and analyzing data, and what sort of issues and fixes for them can arise in research on how interaction, feedback, and task research may contribute to second language learning.
The tools discussed so far in this book have been fairly simple, mostly requiring only paper, pictures, a computer, smartphone, apps, and software. However, recent technological advancements are enabling researchers to examine L2 learning from innovative different angles. Newer studies have investigated corrective feedback and task-based interaction utilizing tools such as eye-trackers, brain-imaging, and ultrasound imaging, offering fresh perspectives on second language learners’ L2 processing, development, and learning. While these technologies are unlikely to replace the traditional tools of investigation covered elsewhere in this book, it seems likely they will be increasingly used, possibly in conjunction with commonly used techniques in psycholinguistic approaches to research topics such as prompted production, reaction time, and priming, adding to our understanding of how interaction, feedback, and tasks impact L2 learning.