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Thinking outside the box: processing instruction and individual differences in working memory capacity

Thinking outside the box: processing instruction and individual differences in working memory capacity

Peter, Stephanie Andrea (2016) Thinking outside the box: processing instruction and individual differences in working memory capacity. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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Processing Instruction is a pedagogic intervention that manipulates the L2 input learners are exposed to in the classroom. Proponents of this intervention claim that it poses a minimal strain on learners’ processing resources. While there has been extensive research on the benefits of Processing Instruction in general and the role of individual differences in particular, no conclusive evidence has been found regarding the role of individual differences in Working Memory Capacity.

To explore the question whether Processing Instruction is equally beneficial for learners at different points of the Working Memory Capacity spectrum, a case study on the effects of computer-delivered Processing Instruction has been conducted. German switch prepositions were the target feature and students’ instructional gains were evaluated through sentence- and discourse-level tasks in a pre- and post-test design. Additionally, students’ on-task performance was recorded during instruction. The Working Memory Capacity scores were supplemented with questionnaire data on potential mediating variables such as motivation, anxiety, personality, and aptitude. The analysis of individual learner profiles addressed yet another gap in the literature:

Robinson’s (2001) work, Snow’s (1989) aptitude-treatment interaction concept, and Dörnyei & Skehan’s (2003) perspective on individual differences all demand a look at the bigger picture. Yet much of the Second Language Acquisition research to date has operationalised Working Memory according to Baddeley & Hitch’s (1974) model, using quasi-experimental research designs – which usually fail to capture the complex and dynamic nature of Working Memory. This study addressed this gap with attention to the operationalisation of Working Memory, the analysis of task demands as well as perceived difficulty, and a focus on the interplay of several learner variables. Results seem to support the importance of Working Memory for Second Language Acquisition, at least in the short run. However, they also show a clear impact of participant-treatment interactions which might not have become evident in a group-comparison study.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Second language acquisition; processing instruction; working memory capacity;
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2017 15:24

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