Beyond the ESL grammar classroom: a descriptive study of transfer of grammatical instruction
Existing studies of second language acquisition and grammar instruction have taken primarily quantitative approaches to the study of grammar acquisition and its effects on students' writing. To date, there are no qualitative studies investigating ESL students' transfer of grammatical knowledge from the ESL grammar classroom to their writing in other classes.Recognizing the lack of classroom-based, process-oriented studies within SLA on the relationship between grammar instruction, writing, and learning transfer, this dissertation study uses qualitative methods to study the relationship between form-focused instruction and the use of grammatical structures in ESL students' writing. Using regular classroom observation, interviews, an elicitation task questionnaires, students' written work, and discourse analysis, the study explores the nature of the grammar-related input available to learners in their grammar class, the level of transfer demonstrated by students from their grammar class to their writing in their composition class, the relationship between students' metalinguistic knowledge of grammar and their ability to use grammar in their writing, and students' perceptions of the role of grammar in their English learning experience and, particularly, in their writing.The findings of the study indicate that the participants, high-intermediate ESL students enrolled in a North American intensive English program, had access to a wealth of types of form-focused discourse and interaction structures in their grammar class, possessed a generally positive attitude toward grammar instruction, and, on the whole, had a high level of metalinguistic knowledge. The highest rates of transfer were exhibited by those participants who had had extensive exposure to English instruction in their home countries. Interviews revealed a wide discrepancy between students with regard to previous grammar preparation. In addition, transfer appeared to be affected by the nature of the grammatical structure being used, the requirements of the assignment, the student's level of achievement in grammar class, and a variety of personal variables, including confidence and motivation. The effects of high levels of metalinguistic knowledge on transfer appeared to be contradictory.With its focus on form-focused classroom discourse, learning transfer, and metalinguistic knowledge, the study may have implications for ESL instructors, teacher trainers, and classroom researchers.
- English