Teaching, Learning, and Student Output : A Study of French in the Classroom

University dissertation from Linguistics and Phonetics

Abstract: Student speech production is an essential part of language learning in the foreign-language classroom. The students usually have few opportunities to use the language outside the classroom, which underscores the importance of making good use of the time spent in the classroom. Much research has shown that learner output is necessary, or at least facilitative, in language acquisition. This claim forms the basis of the Output Hypothesis, which underlies the present work. In order to investigate student output, two aspects have been taken into consideration. First, teaching – in the form of different activities and teacher input – has been studied in order to relate it to the speech produced by the students. Second, learning – as it is shown in the student output – has been investigated through longitudinal analyses. The two aspects give a comprehensive picture of what goes on in the classroom and how teaching and students’ production are related to each other. Following a review of earlier research, a presentation is given of five different analyses conducted on around 40 hours of recordings made in three classrooms in upper-secondary schools over three years and on individual recordings of eleven learners made on two different occasions. The first analysis provides an overview of the teaching method in the three classes along with a quantitative account of the student output. This analysis shows that the teaching becomes more communicative in the third year and that the students’ output increases. The second analysis investigates teacher questions and the responses they generate. The main finding here is that the students do not take the opportunities given to them to use their interlanguage, which justifies a suggestion regarding the optimal teacher question for promoting student output. The following two analyses consider the verb use by the students: the forms and functions as well as the lexicon. These analyses show that the type of activity is an important factor in generating variation in student output while frequency in the input from the teacher is mainly influential on the production of verb forms. Finally, in the last analysis the relationship between metalinguistic knowledge and production is investigated. This analysis shows that metalinguistic knowledge is not applied in production and that there is an implicational relationship between rules and production. With the investigation of how different factors interact in the classroom, an important step may be taken towards improved language teaching and student language production.

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