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Concurrent data elicitation procedures, processes, and the early stages of L2 learning: A critical overview

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Concurrent data elicitation procedures, processes, and the early stages of L2 learning: A critical overview
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    http://slr.sagepub.com/  Second Language Research  http: //slr.sagepub.com/content/30/2/111 The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0267658313511979 2014 30: 111 Second Language Research  Ronald P. Leow, Sarah Grey, Silvia Marijuan and Colleen Moorman L2 learning: A critical overviewConcurrent data elicitation procedures, processes, and the early stages of  Published by:  http://www.sagepublications.com  can be found at: Second Language Research  Additional services and information for http://slr.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts: http://slr.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: What is This? - Apr 14, 2014Version of Record >>  by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Second Language Research2014, Vol. 30(2) 111  –127© The Author(s) 2013Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0267658313511979slr.sagepub.com secondlanguageresearch Concurrent data elicitation procedures, processes, and the early stages of L2 learning: A critical overview Ronald P. Leow Georgetown University, USA Sarah Grey Pennsylvania State University, USA Silvia Marijuan Georgetown University, USA Colleen Moorman Georgetown University, USA Abstract Given the current methodological interest in eliciting direct data on the cognitive processes L2 learners employ as they interact with L2 data during the early stages of the learning process, this article takes a critical and comparative look at three concurrent data elicitation procedures currently employed in the SLA literature: Think aloud (TA) protocols, eye-tracking (ET), and reaction time (RT). The section on each data elicitation procedure begins with a brief historical and descriptive account of its usage and application in the SLA literature to address cognitive processes as they occur during the early stages of the L2 learning process, followed by its strengths and some methodological issues that should be considered. Suggestions are provided for their usage in future studies investigating concurrent cognitive processes in L2 learning at these early stages of the L2 learning process. Keywords L2 learning, methodology, think-alouds, eye-tracking, reaction time, online processing, cognitive processes Corresponding author: Ronald P Leow, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University, ICC 403, 37th & O Sts., NW, Washington, DC 20057, USA. Email: leowr@georgetown.edu SLR 0010.1177/0267658313511979Second LanguageResearch Leowetal. research-article 2013  Article  by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from   112  Second Language Research 30(2) I Introduction Unlike the early focus in second language acquisition (SLA) research on the external features of second/foreign language (L2) input (e.g. Hatch, 1983), SLA today includes the internal processes that L2 learners employ to comprehend and internalize new incom-ing L2 linguistic data and use this system to produce and comprehend additional L2 data (VanPatten and Benati, 2010). Indeed, many major theoretical perspectives (e.g. Gass and Selinker, 2008; Robinson, 1995; Schmidt, 1990; Tomlin and Villa, 1994; VanPatten, 2004) have postulated several stages along the L2 learning process from input to output, namely, the input-to-intake stage (input processing), the intake-to-internal system stage (intake processing), and the internal system-to-output stage (output processing). These  processing stages are displayed in Figure 1.The cognitive  processes , as opposed to  processing   of L2 data, postulated to play a role at these early stages (Stages 1 and 2) of the L2 learning process include the constructs of attention, noticing, and (levels of) awareness. 1  Each of these constructs may be associated with how  the L2 data are processed, for example, cognitive effort or depth of processing 2  and type of processing. 3  In an effort to methodologically address these processes from a concurrent (online, real-time) perspective and explicate their roles at the input and intake stages along the L2 learning process, SLA research began to employ think aloud (TA)  protocols (e.g. Alanen, 1995; Leow, 1997). The rationale for employing concurrent data elicitation procedures is underscored by an effort to gather data that can provide insights into the processes employed by L2 learners during exposure to the L2 and the concern for establishing an adequate level of internal validity, that is, whether the findings faithfully reflect what the study set out to investigate in relation to the construct under investigation (e.g. attention, awareness, etc.). Recently, two additional data elicitation procedures – eye-tracking (ET) (e.g. Godfroid et al., 2013; Smith, 2010) and reaction time (RT) (e.g. Leung and Williams, 2011, 2012) – have been employed in the SLA literature to address pro-cesses employed during these early stages of the learning process.Several published resources have described and reviewed these procedures (e.g. Bowles, 2010; Ionin, 2013; Jiang, 2011; Mackey and Gass, 2012; Roberts, 2012), although most have done so from an introductory perspective. Previous descriptions and reviews of these three procedures have not taken a critical and comparative perspective that isolates their utility in studying specific stages along the L2 learning process. Consequently, a clear need exists to know how each of these different procedures con-tributes to a better understanding of the cognitive processes employed by learners during early stages of the learning process. 4  Thus, this article takes a critical and comparative INPUT > INTAKE > INTERNAL SYSTEM > OUTPUT Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 (input processing) (intake processing) (output processing)  N.B. The present article addresses Stages 1 and 2 only. Figure 1.  Processing stages of the learning process in second language acquisition.  by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from   Leow et al. 113 look at the three concurrent data elicitation procedures (TA, ET, and RT) currently employed in the SLA literature to elicit direct data on the cognitive processes that L2 learners employ as they interact with L2 data during these early stages (Stages 1 and 2). II Think aloud protocols (online verbal reports) 1 Historical overview  Originating in the fields of psychology and classical philosophy, concurrent think aloud  protocols, or online verbal reports, are one type of introspective data elicitation proce-dure used to gather data about the thought processes that learners employ while perform-ing a task. Ericsson and Simon (1993) distinguish TA protocols based on how and what learners are requested to do while thinking aloud. Non-metalinguistic or non-metacogni-tive TAs require participants to simply verbalize their thoughts, while metalinguistic or metacognitive TAs require participants to verbalize their thoughts and provide reasons or  justifications for what they have just verbalized.The popularity of TA protocols as major sources of data to gain insights into learners’ cognitive processes as they perform tasks has expanded since the 1980s (Ericsson and Simon, 1993: xi) and they have a strong presence in the SLA field, specifically in the attention and awareness strands of research. Since L2 attention and awareness research is aligned more specifically with the processes employed during the early stages of the L2 learning process, this review focuses on these research strands. 2 TA protocols in SLA research Researchers in the attention and awareness strands of research viewed concurrent data obtained via TAs as a window providing insights into how  or why  participants processed L2 input during the experimental phase of the study, in addition to explicating their  behavioral patterns after exposure (for an overview of these studies in SLA, see Bowles, 2010). TA protocols are reported to reveal not only participants’ allocation of attention to or noticing of targeted forms or structures in the input (e.g. Alanen, 1995; Leow, 2001),  but also the roles of different levels of awareness (e.g. Rosa and Leow, 2004), unaware-ness (Hama and Leow, 2010; Leow, 2000) different levels or depths of processing and strategies employed (e.g. Leow, Hsieh, and Moreno, 2008; Morgan-Short , Heil, Botero-Moriarty, and Ebert, 2012; Qi and Lapkin, 2001), and different types of processing, that is, conceptually-driven (activation of prior knowledge) versus data-driven (e.g. Leow, 1998). Additionally, from a methodological perspective, TA protocols have revealed important data about the representativeness of participants, that is, whether par-ticipants fulfilled what was required within an experimental cell (e.g. Alanen, 1995; Leow, 2000). 3 What does the TA procedure offer us?  First, this procedure is quite easy for both researchers and participants to use and the  procedure and software are cost effective. They can be used in both laboratory and by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from   114  Second Language Research 30(2) classroom settings. Concurrent non-metacognitive TA protocols, when compared to data gathered after the experimental exposure, appear to provide richer information that offers insights into the processes and strategies employed by learners as they interact with L2 data during the input and intake processing stages. Further, the data collected are directly observable in providing information on how learners are processing the L2 data, although the data themselves need to be interpreted. Insights include not only the roles of attention and awareness in L2 development, but also levels of awareness, type of processing (data-driven vs. conceptually-driven), depth of processing and amount of cognitive effort. From a methodological perspective, TA data serve minimally two major purposes:  • allowing researchers to operationalize and measure the roles of cognitive pro-cesses postulated to play a role in the learning process; and  •  providing data that establish the representativeness of participants in each experi-mental cell.Both these purposes contribute substantially to raising the level of internal validity of a study. 4 Considerations for the use of TAs One major critique of the use of TAs is that it is an intrusive procedure and subject to reactivity, that is, the possibility that the act of thinking aloud may alter the cognitive  process(es) under investigation, or even impose an additional processing load or second-ary task on participants, which would not reflect a pure measure of their thoughts. Additionally, as noted by Rosa and O’Neill (1999), TAs may also present considerable variation due to individual differences. Bowles’s (2010) meta-analysis conducted on studies published up to 2008 reported an effect size value that ‘is not significantly differ-ent from zero’ (p. 138), that is, not a reliable effect of reactivity. However, the level of intrusiveness may depend on type of experimental task employed (e.g. problem-solving vs. reading) or type of protocol requested (non-metacognitive vs. metacognitive). Other variables may include working memory, language of report, and proficiency level. Leow and Morgan-Short’s (2004) suggestion that ‘studies employing concurrent data-elicita-tion procedures include a control group that does not perform verbal reports as one way of addressing this issue’ (p. 50) is reinforced here.Another potential limitation may lie in the coding or interpretation of TA data, espe-cially with respect to depth of processing and levels of awareness. For example, Qi and Lapkin’s (2001) two types of noticing (substantive and perfunctory) appear to be more related to levels of awareness or, more specifically, in line with the two levels of aware-ness (noticing and understanding) postulated in Schmidt’s (1990) noticing hypothesis. This conflation of depth of processing and levels of awareness may be problematic since depth of processing may not logically lead to a higher level of awareness. Additionally, since coding or interpretation of any qualitative data is somewhat subjective and research-ers may use different coding criteria, interpretation of data is subject to variation across experiments. This critique may not be specific to TAs, but rather to any qualitative data or data that must be hand-coded for quantification. 5  by guest on April 14, 2014slr.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
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