This volume is devoted to the exploration of a wide range of pedagogical, pragmatic, assessment issues in foreign language learning. The ten articles in this online collection reflect the diversity and richness of ongoing research in the field of foreign language education.
The opening article by Deryn Verity carefully examines some core ideas by Vygotsky. Criticizing the misuse of Vygotskian terms, she outlines what notions such as the Zone of Proximal Development, scaffolding, strategic mediation, the social locus of cognition, and heuristics denote in Vygotskian contexts. After suggesting how Vygotskyian perspectives offer a useful counter-paradigm the traditional view of teachers as all-knowing experts, the need to use Vygotskian terms more precisely is underscored.
Next Junko Matsuzaki-Carreira points out how drama methods can enhance intrinsic motivation and language production among young EFL learners. Adapting material from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to a group of elementary students, she points out how a number of classroom activities can engage students in language-rich contexts. Matsuzaki-Carreira skillfully integrates drama, narrative guessing, and cloze reading techniques to produce engaging and well-rounded language learning experiences.
After this, Richard Blight outlines a system for assessing various classroom activities. Using an 11-item Likert scale to evaluate five classroom activities, he underscores the need for activities to not merely be entertaining, but also congruent with a communicative educational paradigm. The article concludes by underscoring the value of comprehensive scales to gauge the effectiveness of communicative activities.
Takako Nishino then examines factors influencing the L2 reading motivation of Japanese high school students. Replicating an earlier study by Mori that analyzed eleven factors thought to relate to reading motivation, she identifies six elements that were particularly associated with L2 reading motivation. The most variable factor seemed to be "intrinsic motivation". Those who felt pleasure in reading for its own sake were likely to read with greater breadth and depth than those who did so for extrinsic reasons. Nishino's study suggests how that foreign language reading motivation is a multidimensional construct. The extent that her data correlates with Day and Bamford's (1998) motivation model for L2 reading is also considered. The author concludes by suggesting that, "L2 reading motivation closely resembles the general motivational structure proposed by expectancy-value theory". Ways to promote "intrinsic value" in class are also highlighted.
Next Kayoko Nakamura examines cultural differences in the appreciation strategies of native German and Japanese speakers. Using discourse completion and multiple-choice tests, she found that Japanese native speakers were more sensitive to situational variables in expressing gratitude than Germans. Whereas German native speakers tend to use expressions of thanks to convey appreciation, Japanese tend to use both thanking and apologetic expressions for the same reason. Moreover, German learners of Japanese tend "hypercorrect" and overuse apologetic expressions when conveying gratitude. Her study systematically explores ways that learning contexts, length of residence, and various situational variables impact appreciation strategies.
Wakako Kobayashi then investigates the ways in which reading comprehension impacts test performance. By manipulating structures of reading texts and response formats in tests, she examines how student responses vary. Specifically, Kobayashi used Bachman's theory of test facets to see how varied text structure and response format impacted students' reading comprehension. Cloze test, open-ended question, summary writing formats were used with questions focusing on these meta-cognitive patterns: association, causation, description, and problem-solution. It was found that the impact of text structure and response format varied considerably across different proficiency groups. The article concluded by considering the suitability of some reading passages used in Japanese university entrance examinations.
Next Yuji Namamura describes an exploratory study showing how three groups of university students performed differently in a multiple choice grammar/reading test. A Rasch analysis of a 30-item test by 62 students revealed slight variations in test performance among the populations, but altogether it appears the test appears to have been too easy. One strength of this paper is that it shows how Rasch analysis methods can be used to assess how well various test items are functioning. Studies such as this, with larger sampling sizes, can be used to inform the teaching and test construction process.
After this, Kristofer Bayne takes a look at how poster sessions can be used to foster English communication skills. After outlining the rationale for poster session training, various ways to make poster sessions more interactive and successful are highlighted.
Chiho Hayashi then mentions some techniques to enhance the academic writing proficiency of EFL university students. Specifically, she focusses on ways to help writers develop and organize their ideas more effectively. Key features of her course include the use of essay maps and peer feedback on compositions.
Christopher Weaver then looks at ways that Rasch analysis can help inform university entrance exam scores. The importance of developing quality entrance examination items to increase the predictive validity of test scores can inform more than admission decisions.
Finally, Jim Smiley considered what is meant by the term "communicative". Whereas some authors such as Stern insist that 'communicative' material be 'authentic', others set wider parameters for that term. Morris, for example, contends that as long as some information gap exists, some choice is available, and some feedback is offered an activity can, in his view, be communicative. Pointing out how that term is used to denote different concepts in the field, he emphasizes that each teacher needs to develop their own sense of what 'communicative' means to them.
We'd like to conclude by offering special thanks to the following people for their help in organizing this conference: Andy Boon, Steve Cornwell, Colin Graham, Chiyo Hayashi, Jeff Hubbell, Tadashi Ishida, Emi Ito, Yuko Kikuchi, Scott Lockman, Marish Mackowiak, Yoko Mochizuki, Toshiko Oda, Stan Pederson, Anthony Robbins, Steve Ross, Chizuko Sato, Chris Sullivan, Malcolm Swanson, Deryn Verity, Margaret Yamanaka, Sayoko Yamashita, and Peter Wanner. Without their kind assistence, this event would never have taken place.
– Peter Ross, T Newfields, Yvonne Ishida, Mark Chapman, and Megumi Kawate-Mierzejewska
2005 Conference Proceedings Co-editors
June 10, 2006