Issues in Language Teaching

Issues in Language Teaching

Issues in Language Teaching (ILT), Vol. 8, No. 1, June 2019



The Effect of Direct, Indirect, and Negotiated Feedback on the Tense/Aspect of EFL Learners in Writing

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L2 written corrective feedback has been investigated from different perspectives in SLA research (e.g. Ahmadian & Tajabadi, 2015; Bitchener & Knoch, 2010; Ferris, 2006). Taking the cognitive and sociocultural paradigms into account, the aims of the current study are twofold: Firstly, it attempts to find if corrective feedback is effective in improving the linguistic accuracy of L2 learners' tense/aspect use in writing. Secondly, it tries to measure which feedback type (direct, indirect, and negotiated) has a more significant effect on the mentioned linguistic structures. Seventy-five pre-intermediate university EFL learners were selected and asked to participate in the study; they were randomly divided into direct, indirect, negotiated feedback groups, and a control group. During six-week sessions of providing feedback on tenses/aspects, the participants were required to write diary journals on their academic life. The direct and indirect groups received feedback on their diaries, having 10 minutes time in the class to observe the feedback. The negotiated feedback group received 10 minutes one-to-one contingent feedback on the errors. After comparing the four groups, the results showed that all the treatment groups did outperform the control group which indicated that feedback was effective. Moreover, the findings showed no significant difference among the feedback types. This implies that teachers can provide any of the feedback types for learners so far as tense/aspect errors are concerned in their writing.

Investigating Gender and Major DIF in the Iranian National University Entrance Exam Using Multiple-Indicators Multiple-Causes Structural Equation Modelling

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The generalizability aspect of Construct validity, as proposed by Messick (1989), requires that a test measures the same trait across different samples from the same population. Differential Item functioning (DIF) analysis is a key component in the fairness evaluation of educational tests. University entrance exam for the candidates who seek admission into master's English programs (MEUEE) at Iranian state universities is a very high stakes test whose fairness is a promising line of research. The current study explored gender and major DIF in the general English (GE) section of the MEUEE using multiple-indicators multiple-causes (MIMIC) structural equation modelling. The data of all the test takers (n=21,642) who took the GE section of the MEUEE in 2012 were analyzed with Mplus. To determine whether an item is flagged for DIF both practical and statistical significance were considered. The results indicated that 12 items were flagged for DIF in terms of statistical significance. However, only 5 items showed practical significance. The items flagged for DIF alert the test developers and users to potential sources of construct-irrelevant variance in the test scores which may call into question comparison of the test takers’ performance, especially when the tests are used for selection purposes.

Examining the Effects of Writing Instruction through Blogging on Second Language Writing Performance and Anxiety

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This study investigated the effects of blog-mediated instruction on English-as-a-foreign language (EFL) learners’ writing performance and anxiety. In addition, it aimed to probe into the EFL learners’ attitudes towards blog-mediated writing instruction. The participants of the study included forty-six Iranian EFL learners from two intact university classes, who were randomly assigned to the Control Group (N = 21) and the Experimental Group (N = 25). Over a 16-week university semester, the Control Group was taught using traditional writing instruction while the Experimental Group was taught using a blog-mediated writing course. The data were collected through two timed writing tasks, Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (Cheng, 2004), and semi-structured interviews. The results indicated that, although both groups benefited from their writing sessions, there was a significant difference in the positive effects of blog-mediated and traditional writing instruction on L2 writing performance, showing that the Experimental Group had a better performance on the posttest writing performance task than the Control Group. The results also revealed that the blog-mediated course reduced the participants’ L2 writing anxiety in the Experimental Group while traditional instruction did not have positive effects on reducing L2 writing anxiety in the Control Group. The data from semi-structures interviews indicated that the interviewees from the Experimental Group were generally positive about the blog-mediated writing course, with little skepticism and negativism echoed about the course. The findings offer significant implications for theory and practice on L2 writing instruction.

Exploring EFL Learners’ Autonomy in Reading Comprehension: Computer-Assisted versus Conventional Contexts

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This study explored the autonomy of advanced English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners in reading comprehension through scaffolding and jigsaw in computer-assisted and conventional contexts. After being homogenized through the reading section of DIALANG proficiency test, a total of 80 female advanced EFL learners with the age range of 21 to 45 were selected as the participants of the study. They were randomly assigned to four groups: experimental group A (scaffolding in a conventional context), experimental group B (scaffolding in a computer-assisted context), experimental group C (jigsaw in a conventional context), and experimental group D (jigsaw in a computer-assisted context). Next, the autonomy in RC questionnaire, which was designed and piloted by Ebadi and Shirzad (in press), was administered as the pretest. Then, the learners in each group took part in three months (16 sessions) autonomy in reading comprehension training courses. After the treatment, the same autonomy in RC questionnaire was administered as the posttest. One-way ANCOVA was used to analyze the quantitative data. The results revealed that although both jigsaw and scaffolding approaches were successful in both conventional and computer assisted contexts from pre-test to post-test, the scaffolding method proved more effective. Moreover, both the scaffolding and jigsaw approaches were more effective in computer-assisted environment compared to conventional contexts, with the scaffolding CA approach outperforming the jigsaw CA technique. The findings’ implications for learners, teachers, and syllabus designers are discussed in both contexts.

An Activity Theory Perspective on the Role of Cooperative Assessment in the Reading Comprehension of Iranian EFL Learners

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Reading comprehension has recently been reconceptualized in EFL reading instruction to foreground the importance of putting a social perspective on learning. Developed as a crucial aspect of Vygotskian sociocultural theory, activity theory views reading as a socially-mediated activity, for which the prerequisite cognitive processes are distributed among teacher, individual reader, other students, and artifacts (Cole & Engeström, 1993). Given that cooperation and division of labor are the central tenets of activity theory, this study aimed at investigating whether assessing cooperative learning had a decisive effect on the reading comprehension of Iranian EFL learners. To this end, 60 sophomores majoring in English translation at Islamic Azad University, Tehran Central Branch, were selected as the participants of the study. The reading instruction was geared to cooperative learning based on the elements of activity theory. Over the course of 12 weeks, both the process and products of cooperative reading were self-, peer-, and instructor-assessed. The findings indicated that assessing cooperative reading through the lens of activity theory had a significant effect on the participants’ reading comprehension. In addition, there was a statistically significant difference between the products of cooperative reading in predicting the participants’ reading comprehension posttest scores. Furthermore, the results showed that the participants held favorable perception toward activity theory-based cooperative assessment. The findings are hoped to shine a light on collective reading and highlight the need for more innovative constructivist approaches to EFL reading in Iran.

Psychometric Properties of Multiple Intelligence Developmental Assessment Scales (MIDAS) for Adults in the Iranian Context

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This study reports psychometric properties and derivation of norms for a Persian version of the Multiple Intelligence Developmental Assessment Scales (MIDAS) for Adults. After examining and confirming equivalency between English and Persian versions, translated and validated by Saeidi, Ostovar, Shearer, and Asghari Jafarabadi (2015), the scale was administered to a sample (N = 2146), including students, undergraduates, graduates, and adults from different provinces in Iran. The participants were at least 19 years old and above (M = 29.40, SD = 2.26). Out of 2146 samples, 1103 females and 1043 were males. To examine the validity and reliability properties of the scale, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, Cronbach Alpha (α) reliability correlation coefficients, and corrected item-total correlations were employed. Exploratory factor analysis using varimax rotation identified eight principal components, which accounted for 67.21% of the variance for 115 items. The internal consistency coefficient (α = .92; ranging from 0.89 to 0.93) was also very high. The confirmatory analysis generally replicated the original conceptualization of the MIDAS. According to the results, the Persian-MIDAS-adults questionnaire has good psychometric properties in the research community and can be safely used as a valid tool to assess MI in Iran.

A Study of Raters’ Behavior in Scoring L2 Speaking Performance: Using Rater Discussion as a Training Tool

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The studies conducted so far on the effectiveness of resolution methods including the discussion method in resolving discrepancies in rating have yielded mixed results. What is left unnoticed in the literature is the potential of discussion to be used as a training tool rather than a resolution method. The present study addresses this research gap by exploring the data coming from rating behaviors of 5 Iranian raters of English. Qualitative analysis of the data indicated that the discussion method can serve the function of training raters. It helped raters rate more easily, quickly and confidently. Furthermore, it helped them improve their understanding and application of the rating criteria and enabled them justify their scoring decisions. Many-faceted Rasch analysis also supported the beneficial effects of discussion in terms of improvement in raters’ severity, consistency in scoring, and the use of scale categories. The findings provide insight into the potential of discussion to be used as a training tool especially in EFL contexts in which lack of access to expert raters can be an obstacle to holding training programs. The author argues for future studies to focus on how discussion may function depending on the rating scale used.

Investigating the Relationship between Teaching Styles and Emotional Intelligence among Iranian English Instructors

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This study investigated the relationship between five teaching styles and emotional intelligence among 102 Iranian English instructors from different universities in Tehran, Iran. To this end, the data were obtained through two phases of quantitative and qualitative data collection. To achieve quantitative data, the participants were asked to fill in two questionnaires, including the Teaching Styles Inventory (version 3.0) and the Emotional Intelligence Scale. The second phase of data collection was performed through collecting qualitative data by conducting a semi-structured interview on 10 English instructors. To analyze quantitative data, multiple regression analyses were run. Likewise, the qualitative data was analyzed through data reduction process in order to realize the instructors’ attitudes toward the different aspects of teaching styles and to find out to what extent their attitudes were similar to one another. The results demonstrated that among various teaching styles, including expert, formal authority, personal model, facilitator, and delegator, merely the delegator style had statistically significant association with emotional intelligence. Furthermore, the relationship between personal model style and emotional intelligence was considerable, though not statistically significant. The findings and their implications are fully discussed.

Comparative Textbook Evaluation: Representation of Learning Objectives in Locally and Internationally Published ELT Textbooks

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The present study evaluated the learning objectives represented in the recent Iranian nation-wide ELT textbooks, i.e. Prospect and Vision series, and compared them to those in the internationally-published textbook of Four Corners. To this end, Bloom’s revised taxonomy of learning objectives was utilized as the analytical framework to scrutinize the tasks and exercises of the textbooks using a researcher-made coding scheme based on the taxonomy and investigate the extent to which they represent lower-order thinking skills (LOTS) (i.e. remembering, understanding, and applying) and higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) (i.e. analyzing, evaluating, and creating). Inter-coder reliability procedure was carried out to ensure the consistency of the scheme (Phi-coefficient =.89). Results of chi-square analysis revealed that Four Corners series dealt with LOTS and HOTS significantly more and above Prospect and Vision series. Furthermore, while Prospect and Vision series portrayed a completely imbalanced view towards LOTS and HOTS, Four Corners provided a somehow balanced representation in the tasks and exercises. The findings make the ELT teachers aware of the cognitive levels in the textbooks and recommend them to add supplementary materials when needed. Moreover, the results point to the significance of modifying the cognitive load of the Prospect and Vision series.

Pragmatic Competence Development: Demystifying the Impact of Task Types and EFL Students' Perceptions

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Interlanguage pragmatics, as an inseparable part of communicative competence, has been emphasized as an ultimate objective in language learning. This study explored the perceptions of Iranian English as a foreign language (EFL) students regarding interlanguage pragmatics and the impact of textbooks tasks on shaping their pragmatic competence. To accomplish this objective, 137 senior EFL students from 12 state universities, ranging from 23 to 28 years, were selected based on convenience sampling procedures. The researcher utilized teachers' perception questionnaires, first used by Jandt (2011), to investigate the students' perceptions. A semi-structured interview as well as a document analysis of the university English textbooks were applied. Moreover, thematic analysis was carried out regarding the interview. Themes were identified for meaningful interpretations based on a document analysis to investigate if they were either linguistically or pragmatically oriented. Results from quantitative analysis revealed that university English students specified a perception that pragmatic knowledge is as imperative as linguistic knowledge. Besides, by analyzing the qualitative data via the participants’ interviews, the researcher extracted three codes, including the inadequacy or the quantity of pragmatic information, the suitability or the quality of pragmatic information, and also cross-cultural diversities. Moreover, students acknowledged that meta-pragmatic information is lacking in ELT textbooks, and the textbooks provide learners with more linguistic resources. The findings of the study suggest that university English teachers need to provide more pragmatic knowledge and design more pragmatically oriented tasks for students in their classroom teaching to help students become pragmatically competent.

Relationship between EFL Teachers' Emotional Intelligence, Reflective teaching, Autonomy and their Students' L2 Learning

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This study set out to provide empirical evidence on the relationship between EFL teachers' emotional intelligence, reflectivity, and autonomy, and their students' L2 performance. The participants of this study included 88 EFL teachers who taught English at different private English teaching institutes and their students (N = 1266). First, the teachers completed three validated questionnaires: Emotional Quotient Inventory (Bar-On, 1997), Teacher Reflectivity Questionnaire (Akbari, Behzadpour & Dadvand, 2010), and Teacher Work-Autonomy Scale (Friedman, 1999). Then, their learners’ scores on their final English proficiency exams were collected as indication of their L2 performance. The results of the study revealed that there was significant positive relationship between teachers' reflectivity, emotional intelligence and autonomy, on the one hand, and their students' L2 performance, on the other. The results of multiple regression analysis showed that from among the variables of this study, reflectivity was the stronger predictor of the learners' L2 performance. In addition, the findings indicated that EFL teachers' educational degree and gender significantly affect their levels of emotional intelligence and reflectivity. The findings of this study offer evidence to substantiate teachers’ emotional intelligence, reflectivity, and autonomy as important variables in L2 teaching and confirm their instructional nature.

Construction and Validation of a Critical Pedagogy Questionnaire to Assess ELT Teachers: A Mixed-Method Study

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The transformational approach (Freire, 1998) can be achieved through critical pedagogy. The present study describes the development and validation of a questionnaire to access critical pedagogy for evaluating teachers’ perceptions of critical pedagogy in two different contexts i.e. public and private schools. This study used a mixed-method design. In the qualitative phase, 15 experienced high school teachers from public and private schools in Sabzevar, Iran, participated in a semi-structured interview. Based on the result of the constructivist grounded work and the literature review, the main constructs of critical pedagogy were described. Then, an eight-construct operationalization of language teaching was presented, describing the fundamental principles of language teaching from the point of view of critical pedagogy. In the quantitative phase, 180 valid questionnaires, obtained from 59 males and 121 females, were used to run the Confirmatory Factor Analysis using the software LISREL 8.5. This resulted in a 70-item, five-point Likert-scale instrument with satisfactory construct validity which was based on the 21 constructs of critical pedagogy. As a validated measurement, the Critical Pedagogy Questionnaire can be highly useful for the researchers and designers in the field of ELT, English teachers, and instructors to evaluate the perception of their learners on critical pedagogy.