It is widely known that spaced learning enhances long-term retention of learned items better than massed practice. Based on this finding, recent studies have examined which types of spaced learning, expanding or equal spacing are more effective, and found no significant difference between the two types of spaced learning. However, these studies asked participants to remember a relatively small number of target words. Therefore, both expanding and equal spacing groups in previous studies were able to master almost all the words during the learning sessions, and such a ceiling effect led to no significant difference. By increasing the number of target words to be learned, this study became original among the studies of spaced learning. Second-grade Japanese high school students learned 40 English and Japanese word pairs under either an expanding (Days 1, 3, 10, and 22) or equal spacing schedule (Days 1, 8, 15, and 22). Post-tests conducted on Day 29 and Day 57 revealed that the expanding group had a higher score than the equal spacing group. This indicates that an expanding spacing schedule is more effective than an equal spacing schedule when the number of words to be learned is large.
The currently dominant model of second language (L2) learner motivation is the L2 Motivational Self System, but the extension of the model by adding emotional variables is needed, as is the reconstruction of the ought-to L2 self from different standpoints and those of the L2 learning experience from an engagement-specific perspective. The present study aimed to explore motivation among Japanese EFL students by examining whether relationships among their future self-guides (ideal L2 self, ought-to L2 self/own, and ought-to L2 self/others), engagement-specific L2 learning experiences in relation to basic needs (autonomy, competence, and relatedness), and different kinds of emotional states (anxiety and joy) contribute to their motivated behavior. Questionnaire data were obtained from 154 Japanese university students. Explanatory factor analysis indicated that distinctions between these three future self-guides were possible. Correlation analysis indicated that student engagement is associated with satisfaction with basic needs. The results of multiple regression analyses suggested that student engagement plays important roles in strengthening the vision of the ideal L2 self and increasing the positive emotions that contribute to their motivated behavior.
The aim of this study is to examine whether the perception of an illusory vowel in illegal phonotactic contexts in listeners’ native language (L1) is caused by L1 phonotactic constraints or by subsegmental information, such as amplitude and voicing. In addition, whether the perception differs depending on the level of L2 proficiency was investigated. Experiment 1 (an ABX task) and Experiment 2 (a forced choice task) were carried out to examine participants’ perception of the phonetic information in non-words in both legal and illegal phonotactic contexts (i.e., V1C1C2V2 and V1C1UC2V2) for native Japanese speakers with different levels of English proficiency. In Experiment 3, phonetic contexts of the stimuli were manipulated with pre-obstruent voicing (POV) by eliminating it in steps and varying the amplitude without changing the phonotactics to examine how subsegmental features affect the recognition of non-words. The results showed that POV is likely to affect a listener’s perception rather than phonotactic constraints in L1. This study has provided a concrete acoustic factor which affects Japanese English learners and evidence of development of L2 perception at the syllable level, which has contributed to revealing the mechanism of L2 learners’ speech processing.
Following the change in the Course of Study, the new curriculum for elementary schools begins from April 2020 and the English textbooks prepared according to the new curriculum are ready. This study aimed to investigate two things: (a) which words appeared in all the textbooks made by different publishers and (b) what the characteristics of these words were. The textbooks of seven publishers were analyzed and, like earlier studies, the results revealed that only a small percentage of the words were covered by all the textbooks. Moreover, about half of the unique word types appeared in only one of the textbooks. This study also found that a large number of concrete nouns, such as words related to colors, animals, and jobs, were included in all the textbooks. Additionally, the textbooks included more action verbs than static verbs and a large number of positive adjectives and adverbs. The word list provided by this research will prove useful to junior high school teachers for smoothly bridging elementary and junior high school English education.
Formulating questions is one crucial building block of communication. Regarding whquestions, though, literature often reports that Japanese EFL learners tend to have greater difficulty correctly formulating subject questions than other types of questions. This study attempts to shed more light on this phenomenon. In Study 1, university students tried writing 50 wh-questions asking for certain pieces of information specified by underlines in source statements. The results led to a hypothesis that subject questions are a challenge only when the wh-word is immediately followed by a lexical verb but they are not particularly difficult when the wh-word is followed by a primary or model verb. Study 2 tested that hypothesis on two separate groups of university students. It also investigated the effect of explicit grammar teaching by conducting practice sessions with one group (experimental group) and not giving such sessions with the other (control group). The results confirmed that the difficulty of making subject questions is indeed moderated by the type of verb that follows the wh-word and indicated that explicit and focused practice of formal manipulation can help learners overcome the revealed weakness.
The present study investigates whether adult Japanese learners of English (JLEs) are able to use intransitive and transitive verbs in appropriate structures after a series of instructional sessions, and whether the effect of instruction can be observed with verbs which are not part of instruction. Second language learners have been reported to make errors concerning the structure of verbs. For instance, they tend to overpassivize some intransitive verbs (Hirakawa 1995, Zobl 1989) or use transitive verbs in the intransitive structure (Kondo 2014). In this study, we examine whether explicit instruction can be effective for JLEs to avoid the errors aforementioned, not only with verbs which are explained in instruction but also with those which are not. The results show that in general, the participants improved on their uses of intransitive and transitive verbs after receiving instruction, and interestingly the improvement was observed with both instructed and non-instructed verbs.
There are 5 types (dimensions) of information links between sentences in narrative texts: protagonist, intentionality, causality, temporality, and spatiality. Unlike the first 3 dimensions, little is known about how students of English as a foreign language (EFL) understand temporality and spatiality during reading. This eye-tracking study explored whether and how Japanese EFL readers understand these intersentential links by differentiating their initial and late processes during reading. In the experiment, 39 Japanese university students read short narrative texts. The texts contained a target sentence (e.g., Patricia ordered a cup of coffee) that was either consistent or inconsistent with a preceding context sentence (e.g., She was a coffee lover or She did not like bitter drinks) in terms of the protagonist, temporality, and spatiality. Students’ eye movements during reading were recorded and analyzed. The results showed that the students did not understand the intersentential links of any dimensions in their initial processes but did understand protagonist links in their later processes (lookbacks). These findings suggest that EFL students’intersentential comprehension of multiple dimensions is limited compared to that of first-language readers both in terms of the number of dimensions understood and in terms of the processes during reading. This paper discusses the implications of these findings for education and research.
This study aimed to examine how listening instructions using materials with background noise affect EFL learners’ listening comprehension and their perceptions about background noise. Two classes of Japanese university students took part in the study. The experimental group received listening instruction using listening materials with background noise and the control group received the same listening instruction using materials without noise. The experiment was conducted over the course of ten weeks, and the participants took pre- and post-listening tests to measure their listening comprehension and perception skills. Participants also answered pre- and post-questionnaires about their listening comprehension confidence levels and their perceptions of the noise. The results showed several findings. First, the effects of listening instructions using materials with noise on students’ listening skills did not differ from the effects of listening instructions using materials without noise. Second, students’ level of confidence in their listening comprehension with background noise improved in both groups, suggesting that the listening materials with noise did not affect their confidence level about listening with background noise. The results suggest that the language learners were still negatively affected by the presence of noise after receiving the listening instruction with noise.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of gloss types on incidental vocabulary learning. Twenty-nine Japanese university students took part in this experiment. Each participant performed reading tasks in English with 4 gloss conditions. These conditions were as follows: (a) a single meaning bracketed in the text, directly after the glossed word; (b) a single meaning listed at the bottom of the page, containing the glossed word; (c) multiple-choice options immediately after the glossed word (requiring readers to select the correct meaning based on the context); and (d) multiple-choice options at the bottom of the page, containing the glossed word. After task completion, the participants took an unexpected retention test regarding the glossed target words. The results suggested that multiple-choice gloss is more effective than single gloss and that the larger the vocabulary size learners have, the more effective their learning from glossed contexts becomes. This paper also discusses the pedagogical implications for vocabulary learning with glosses.
The reading rate of Japanese EFL learners’ is extremely low. Given the high complexity of the reading process, research on reading problems has widely relied on componential analysis, a method that divides reading into higher- and lower-level processes. In lower-level processes, text information is retrieved, while in higher-level processes, text information is processed for comprehension. According to previous research, lower-level processes must be automatized to enable fluent comprehension processes. Despite its importance, few empirical studies about the automatization of foreign language reading have been conducted, and only a handful of studies have focused on the automatization of syntactic processing (one of the lower-level processes). A reliable measure is necessary to estimate how syntactic processing is automatized. This study developed a test to measure the level of syntactic processing automaticity based on skill acquisition theory and implicit-explicit knowledge theory of second language acquisition. A pilot test was conducted to examine the reliability of the test, and 74 university students participated. The reliability analysis resulted in a Cronbach’s α of .685. Rasch measurement statistics for item difficulty and model fit suggested the need for further improvement in the test. After analyzing the reasons for the misfits, the items were modified or replaced with more appropriate ones.
This study investigated the relationship between morphological and contextual clues and second-language (L2) vocabulary learning through lexical inferencing. Previous studies have demonstrated that guessing word meaning is a good resource for vocabulary learning. Past L2 literature has also shown that use of in-text clues is a key to inferring word meaning and retaining new vocabulary. However, the types of clues that affect inference and new vocabulary acquisition still need to be examined. To address this research gap, I explored how L2 vocabulary learning through lexical inferencing would be affected by clues available in text, particularly morphology and informativeness of context. In the present study, 79 Japanese university students learning English as a foreign language (EFL) inferred the meanings of 22 words that contained both known and unknown prefixes (prefix availability) and were in sentences with varying levels of informative context (contextual informativeness). After one week, participants were asked to recall the inferred meanings. The result showed a positive effect of prefix availability on lexical inferencing when context was informative. Moreover, prefix availability was found to positively affect the retention of inferred word meaning when context was not informative. The present study discusses implications for EFL education and research based on these findings.
According to Ionin et al.’s (2004) fluctuation hypothesis, a widely accepted theory in the field of SLA research, the primary reason behind the incorrect use of English articles is ESL/English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners’ inability to distinguish between the two criteria for selecting articles in English, i.e., “definite” and “specific” contexts. However, L1 and L2 research indicates problems with this hypothesis and offers support for the role specificity can play in the correct use of English articles. In order to examine the role of specificity, a decision-tree analysis was performed on data regarding how accurately 20 Japanese university students selected appropriate English articles, and their judgments on the specificity of each referring expression. The results show that higher accuracy in the use of English articles was achieved when using the criterion of specificity in singular noun contexts. The developmental path of English article choice seems to require, in the first place, the distinction of whether general reference is made. Based on evidence obtained from this research, an alternative solution for selecting appropriate articles is proposed, and the pedagogical implications for teaching English articles in ELT contexts is discussed.
This study explores the extent to which students learning English as a foreign language (EFL) use verbs’ implicit causality (IC) for establishing coreference between pronouns and their antecedents. Forty Japanese university students produced continuations of sentence fragments ending with ambiguous pronouns in English (the second language: L2) and in Japanese (the first language: L1). Verbs’ IC caused referential biases where a pronoun preferentially refers to either the first noun phrase (the NP1 bias; e.g., Ken pleased Bob because he＿＿) or the second noun phrase (the NP2 bias; e.g., Ken respected Bob because he＿＿) in the first clause of the fragment. The results showed that the participants generally produced consistent continuations with the IC biases. However, this sensitivity to the IC biases was reduced in the L2 compared to the L1 condition. Specifically, the participants had larger difficulty using the NP1 bias in L2 than in L1. This difficulty with the NP1 bias was found to result from influences from the participants’ L1 profile as well as their English learning experience. The findings are discussed in terms of theoretical models of L2 comprehension.
The present study examined the effects of refutation texts on readers of English as a foreign language (EFL). Refutation texts, texts in which misinformation is explicitly refuted and correct information is elaborately explained, can provoke cognitive conflict and lead to a more coherent understanding and acceptance of correct information. Previous first language studies have demonstrated that refutation texts have strong effects on readers’ comprehension, knowledge revision, and learning from texts (e.g., Kendeou et al., 2014). However, little is known about the effects of refutation texts on EFL readers. Thus, this study investigates whether and how refutation texts affect EFL readers’ text comprehension and processing. A total of 68 Japanese university students participated in the experiment. Participants read two English-language texts describing scientific phenomena in either refutation or non-refutation conditions. Some participants (n = 11) verbalized their thoughts while reading (think-aloud) and all participants completed open-ended transfer tests. The results of the transfer tests showed that the refutation texts facilitated participants’ understanding and learning from texts more effectively as compared to the non-refutation texts. Think-aloud protocols also supported readers’ knowledge revision. The results therefore support the utility of refutation texts for EFL readers and warrant further research.
The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, it explains the theoretical background and characteristics of an English teaching method incorporating cooperative learning principles within a typical classroom format. Then the paper explores the effects of the method using cooperative group discussions on Japanese learners’ perceptions of English abilities, autonomy in English learning, and attitudes toward group learning. For this study, 16 first-year university students participated in a semester-long English course using this method. The questionnaire data were collected at the beginning, middle, and end of the 15-week semester. Statistical analyses measured changes in (a) learner confidence in their own English abilities, (b) learning behaviors reflecting autonomy in their English learning, and (c) attitudes toward group learning. The results showed that learners increased confidence significantly in several aspects of their English abilities. There were, however, no significant differences in autonomous learning behaviors required for the English course. Similarly, there were no noticeable changes in learner attitudes toward group learning, although their attitudes remained positive throughout the course. Lastly, limitations of the study and directions for future studies are suggested.
The aim of this study is to investigate how learning behaviors and outcomes are affected by different instructions for using online materials to learn English vocabulary. Three different instructions were provided to three different groups of university students. The first group was instructed to use the online materials. The second group was told to participate in a vocabulary quiz based on the online material in every class. The third group was asked to finish a certain number of units of the online material by the due date. The learning logs of the three groups and the results of pre- and post-tests were analyzed. The three groups indicated three different learning behaviors. Most students in the first group did not use the online material. The students in the second group regularly accessed the online material, particularly just before the quizzes. The third group contained two types of students: one type regularly accessed the online material regardless of the due date, and the other accessed the material just before the due date. The learning outcomes indicated that the second group outperformed the other two groups. Overall, different instructions led to different learning behaviors and outcomes. The educational implications as well as the limitations of the study were discussed.
This study created an easy-to-implement assessment to identify novice English learners with reading and writing difficulties. First, the factors that could cause the symptoms of such difficulties were explored by utilizing the triangle model (Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989) to conceptualize the language reading and writing process (and its failure). Second, a theoretical construct model was developed. The assessment was conducted on 272 junior high school students (1st and 2nd graders). The obtained data were analyzed through both quantitative (structural equation modeling [SEM]) and qualitative (case investigation) methods. The investigation revealed the following findings: 1) The SEM analysis results revealed that the collected data were apt for the original construct model, and hence the assessment evinced a certain construct validity; and 2) The assessment successfully identified two characteristic groups of students, a) those who had a weak working memory and were specifically poor at writing, listening, and reading at the same time, and b) students who found it difficult to concentrate on the very act of language processing. It is thus reasonable to assume that the devised assessment may be used to identify such students in a large group of learners.
When oral reading practice is used in the classroom, teachers usually set a goal for students in terms of frequency (e.g., how many times to read) or duration (e.g., for how long to read). Yet such goals are often ineffective in improving oral reading performance and general English skills because the amount of oral reading practice required to improve varies according to learners’ level. In order to resolve this problem, we devised a new type of learning activity, called mimicking oral reading practice (MORP). In MORP, the learning goal is clear, simple, and stable: to imitate the modeled speech as accurately as possible. This is the only requirement for the learners. Based on our previous studies (Iimura & Takanami, 2016; Takanami & Iimura, 2019), this study reports on how performance in MORP changed over a period of five weeks. The 18 Japanese university students who participated in the study were instructed to imitate a model reading and record their sound-data weekly. We assessed their recorded performance in mimicking the model speech in terms of (a) pronunciation, (b) intonation, and (c) speed. The results demonstrated that it would require a fair amount of time (i.e., at least four weeks) to improve their reading aloud performance significantly. Detailed tracking data, including participants’ feedback about mimicking practice, are reported in this article.
This action research reports the collaborative approach adopted to improve classroom teaching techniques by a research community. Past studies on English education have focused on professional researchers as subjects for the action research. However, there is little research on teachers collaborating with researchers in planning teaching methods, collecting and analyzing data, and reflecting and making decisions about problems specific to their classrooms. In this study, Japanese university students participated in oral reading activities to develop phonological decoding skills by improving speech comprehensibility for accuracy in word reading, chunking, prosody, and phonetic change. The research community cooperatively evaluated the extent to which the teaching objectives were achieved and gained several practical insights through collaborative discussion. Reflections within the research community revealed that (a) practitioners expect researchers to provide different perspectives of their practice to determine the teaching procedures that need modification; (b) systematic and thorough reporting of teaching practice enables both practitioners and researchers to obtain practical insights for improving their practice; and (c) partnerships between practitioners and researchers are essential for collaborative reflection on the practical significance and problems of teaching.
This study describes an exploratory practice of a reflection activity which uses a learning management system. The reflection activity, part of English classes in Hiroshima University that span a period of two academic quarters, aims to observe students’ engagement in learning behaviors in week-long clusters. The university administers a large-scale English education program which blends various learning modes such as offline and online learning. Due to the complexity of the program, we found difficulty in supporting students' engagement in their autonomous and habitual learning. In order to gather time series data, the authors asked students to report their engagement in learning behaviors and week-long lifelogs using a mobile compatible learning management system. The reflection form consists of 11 items using binary rating. To evaluate this exploratory practice, the present study constructed a model which combines a two-factor two-parameter logistic model and a latent curve model to fit the observations. We found that students' engagement levels are sequentially influenced by their health levels as represented by the lifelogs over time, and the health levels vary stochastically. Based on the findings, we also discuss how to further improve the program.