Comparison of two Spanish composition and conversation classes: Explicit and implicit focus on form
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This study reflects a social constructivist theoretical framework. Within the social constructivist framework, Vygotsky's theory of the Zone of Proximal Development is a central element of the study. As two modalities of error correction, implicit focus on form and explicit focus on form, will be examined in intact classes of two sections of a composition and conversation class at a large public university. The main research question is: What are the differences in the development of Spanish oral and written performance between groups taught by an explicit or an implicit method of error correction? There are four sub-questions: Do students taught with an implicit focus outperform their explicit group counterparts in an oral test? Do students taught with an explicit focus outperform the implicit group in a written test? In what ways do the two classes actually differ with respect to error correction and amount of target language conversation? And, what are the students' perceptions of helpfulness of error correction and amount of conversation during class? Data collection includes oral and written pre and post tests, student surveys, instructors' interviews and researcher field notes. Results indicate that the explicit group outperformed the implicit group in all tests but one section of the oral test: the cartoon narrative. However, a Wilcoxon T-Test performed on all post-test results found no significant statistical difference in the results of the two groups for any of the post-tests. Results of the student survey also seem to indicate that students were pleased with the type of error correction they engaged in and found it to be helpful. In regards to the amount of student target language conversation, the student survey, as well as class observations and teacher interviews revealed very similar results between groups, but a larger difference within the groups. Both groups reported that Spanish was spoken almost all the time and also that utterances varied from one or two sentences spoken by students, up to more than a minute of continuous speech. Findings support the idea that the ZPD can be reached through either approach with the use of the appropriate error correction form. In the case of the explicit group, elicitation of correct answers and metalinguistic feedback were successful for this matter, whereas the use of body language and sounds in implicit correction were useful in constructivist type of learning.