An exploratory investigation of the effects of form-focused instruction on implicit linguistic knowledge
Roach, K.; Bitchener, J.
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It is, arguably, implicit linguistic knowledge rather than explicit linguistic knowledge that is the goal of second language acquisition. The question arises, however, of how such knowledge can be tested (R. Ellis 2003). This article reports on an exploratory investigation of issues associated with measuring the effects of form-focused instruction (FFI) on the acquisition of implicit linguistic knowledge in an intact pedagogical context. The study involved 19 elementary-level adult learners of English who received planned focus-on-forms instruction on the Past Simple tense and who were subsequently tested for both immediate and sustained gains. The results of the study indicate that form-focused instruction may have been effective in promoting immediate gains but that there was no sustained effect. However, such an interpretation is considerably weakened by the fact that the control group statistically outperformed the instructional group. Such a result may be indicative of the aim to preserve ‘ecological validity’ (van Lier 1988) at the expense of rigorously controlling extraneous variables when conducting research of a quasi-experimental nature. The study, however, raises a number of issues that future researchers should take into account when designing further investigations of implicit linguistic knowledge.