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My research background emphasizes instructed SLA, including interdisciplinary research in interaction and task-based language teaching (TBLT), including corrective feedback and individual differences, as well as the role of technology and corpus linguistics in adult and child second language development. Overall, my research interests are grounded in SLA and are interdisciplinary in nature, often integrating both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

Interaction and task based language teaching

As a researcher interested in theory as well as practical applications, I have worked on a number of projects investigating interaction and task-based language teaching. Recent projects include an empirical investigation into the effects of metacognitive instruction, operationalized as training in how and why interactional tasks can be beneficial to second language development, on the provision and use of interactional opportunities in learner-learner interactions in the task-based classroom.  Task-based interactions were analyzed for similarities and differences in the amount of interactional feedback and modified output opportunities both before and after training, with our findings indicating that metacognitive instruction led to greater use and provision of interactional strategies in subsequent interactions. These results have important pedagogical implications, as they demonstrate that even with brief training sessions, learners can become more successful providers of certain types of interactional feedback, and given that interactional feedback is associated with L2 development, learners may be able to increase their opportunities for L2 development through metacognitive training. The results of this study will be published in a volume edited by Professors Masatoshi Sato and Susan Ballinger in Spring 2015 (to be published by John Benjamins). 

In addition to traditional task-based lab and classroom research, I have conducted interaction and second language studies in novel environments. For example, I directed an exploratory study investigating the developmental outcomes of learners’ interaction in the naturalistic setting of a German conversation group, one of the first studies to examine the benefits of interaction in this context. Intermediate L2 German learners participated in weekly conversation groups, which were recorded and then analyzed from a discourse analytic perspective. Our results suggest that interaction in L2 conversation groups can play an important role in providing learners with opportunities to acquire native-like conversational styles and structures, an often over-looked aspect of L2 development, in an environment representative of authentic, real world conversational contexts. The results of this innovative research can be found in a recent volume edited by Professors Kim McDonough and Alison Mackey.

Meta-analysis and Research quality

As an interdisciplinary researcher, I have been involved in studies approaching interaction and language learning from a variety of perspectives. For example, recent research includes a synthesis and meta-analysis on the relative effectiveness of interaction in synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC) and face-to-face (FTF) contexts. The primary studies included in this analysis were journal articles or dissertations published between 1990 and 2012. Results demonstrate that interaction in both SCMC and FTF has positive impacts on L2 development, with comparative findings revealing a small effect for interaction in SCMC on diverse measures of L2 learning outcomes. This research also found a number of issues regarding methodological quality, including inconsistent reporting of statistical tests and procedures. In addition, a number of areas were identified within SCMC interaction research that are ripe for further investigation. 

Bilingualism and Cognition

Although much of my research focuses on the interaction approach and task-based language teaching, my interests are diverse and encompass a range of SLA related issues. For instance, in collaboration with a colleague at Georgetown University, I conducted a cognitive linguistic analysis examining the categorizations of spatial concepts in adult Korean-English bilinguals, recently published in Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. This study adds to the growing body of research examining whether bilinguals’ categorical perception remain in a static state, formed and maintained by the speaker’s first language (L1), or whether the learning of lexical and grammatical features in a new language results in cognitive restructuring. Our findings demonstrate the process of convergence of the two languages in the bilingual mind, and contribute to our understanding of the relationship between bilinguals’ conceptualization patterns and their language experience.

Please browse the Current Research blog for more information on individual projects, including work on interaction, corrective feedback, task-based language teaching, and Maritime English.