Incidental Focus on Form in Teacher-learner Interaction and Learner-learner Interaction
Current attention in L2 acquisition research has been given to the integration of message-focused and form-focused instruction. One way to accomplish this is through the incidental focus on form during meaning-focused activities. Some studies have investigated incidental focus on form in different contexts and provided evidence that this incidental focus on form exists in L2 classes and that it facilitates L2 acquisition.
The present study conducted further research into the effects of interactional patterns (Teacher-learner and Learner-learner) and learners’ proficiency levels (Advanced and Elementary) on the features of incidental focus on form (types of focus on form; types of feedback; linguistic forms focused on and types of immediate uptake). Over 10 hours of interactions with meaning-focused communication tasks were audio recorded in two interactional patterns and in two classes. The 336 focus on form episodes (FFEs) were transcribed and analyzed for four features of FFEs.
The results revealed a significant difference in frequencies of FFE types between the two interactional patterns. Teachers were more active in responding to learners’ errors, but they were less active in initiating preemptive FFEs. No significant difference was found between the two proficiency levels.
In terms of feedback, no significant difference was found between the two interactional patterns. Both teachers and learners were using similar types of feedback in the FFEs. Learners were as able as their teachers in ‘providing solutions’. Thus, Learner-learner interactions appear to be equally beneficial for L2 learning. Equally, there was no difference between the two proficiency levels. In terms of linguistic focus, there was no significant difference between the two interactional patterns or between the two proficiency levels.
In terms of overall uptake responses, there was a significant difference between the two interactional patterns, mainly in terms of ‘no uptake’, ‘no opportunity for uptake’ and ‘no need for uptake’. However, there was no significant difference in terms of frequencies of ‘occurrence of uptake’. Thus, Learner-learner interactions appear to be equally beneficial for L2 learning from the perspective of producing successful uptake. No significant difference in terms of immediate uptake was found between the two proficiency levels.
The results of this study suggest that in both Teacher-learner and Learner-learner interactions at both Advanced and Elementary levels of proficiency, incidental FFEs occur frequently, and the high frequency of immediate uptake in these FFEs can be considered effective for L2 learning. Because learners were able to work as a knowledge source for each other, spoken interactions should be encouraged between learners.