• Effects of Prosody-Based Instruction and Self-Assessment in L2 Speech Development

      Beglar, David; Nemoto, Tomoko; Saito, Kazuya; Doe, Timothy (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)
      The main purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of form-focused instruction (FFI) on prosody with or without self-assessment on the prosodic and global aspects of L2 speech by Japanese EFL learners using a pre-post design. In addition, native English speaking (NS) and non-native English speaking (NNS) raters with high levels of English proficiency were compared to examine the influence of raters’ L1 backgrounds on their comprehensibility ratings. Sixty-one Japanese university students from four intact English presentation classes participated in the study. The comparison group (n = 16) practiced making one-minute speeches in class (45 minutes x 8 times) without explicit instruction on prosody, while the two experimental groups (n = 17 for the FFI-only group; n = 28 for the FFI + SA group) received FFI on word stress, rhythm, and intonation, practiced the target prosodic features in communicative contexts, and received metalinguistic feedback from the instructor. In total, the experimental groups received six-hours of instruction in class, which was comparable to the comparison group. Additionally, the experimental groups completed homework three times; only the FFI + SA group recorded their reading performance and self-assessed it in terms of word stress, rhythm, and intonation. Three oral tasks were employed to elicit the participants’ speech before and after the treatment: reading aloud, one-minute speech, and picture description. The speech samples were rated for comprehensibility by NS and NNS raters and were also analyzed with four prosodic measurements: word stress, rhythm, pitch contour, and pitch range. Instructional effects on prosody were observed clearly. The FFI-only group improved their controlled production of rhythm and pitch contour, while the FFI + SA group significantly improved all of the prosodic features except pitch range. Moreover, the instructional gains for the FFI + SA group were not limited to the controlled task but transferred to the less-controlled tasks. The results showed differential instructional effects on the four prosodic aspects. The FFI in this study did not help the participants widen their pitch range. The FFI on prosody, which was focused on the cross-linguistic differences between Japanese and English, tended to be more effective in terms of improving rhythm and pitch contour, which were categorized as rule-based, than an item-based feature, word stress. The study offered mixed results regarding instructional effects on comprehensibility. The FFI-only group did not significantly improve comprehensibility despite their significant prosodic improvements on the reading aloud task. Their significant comprehensibility growth on the picture description task was not because of the development of prosody, but of other linguistic variables that influence comprehensibility such as speech rate. The FFI + SA group made significant gains for comprehensibility on the three tasks, but the effect sizes were small. This finding indicated that the effects of FFI with self-assessment on comprehensibility were limited due to the multi-faceted nature of comprehensibility. The data elicited from the post-activity questionnaires and students’ interviews revealed that not all the participants in the FFI + SA group reacted positively to the self-assessment practice. Individual differences such as previous learning experience and self-efficacy appeared to influence the learners’ perceptions of the self-assessment practice and possibly their instructional gains. The two groups of raters, L1 English raters (n = 6) and L2 English raters with advanced or native-like English proficiency (n = 6) did not differ in terms of consistency and severity. These findings indicated that NNS raters with high English proficiency could function as reliably as NS raters; however, the qualitative data revealed that the NS raters tended to be more sensitive to pronunciation, especially at the segmental level, across the three tasks compared to the NNS raters. This study provides evidence that FFI, especially when it is reinforced by self-assessment, has pedagogical value; it can improve learners’ production of English prosody in controlled and less-controlled speech, and these gains can in turn contribute to enhanced L2 comprehensibility.

      Beglar, David; Churchill, Eton, 1964-; Nemoto, Tomoko; Underwood, Paul R. (Temple University. Libraries, 2021)
      Drawing on the elements and processes in language teacher cognition (Borg, 2006), this study was an investigation of how four senior high school teachers perceived the policy of conducting English classes in English, the degree to which they conducted English classes that reflect the policy, and how their educational backgrounds, professional coursework, internal factors in the class, internal factors in the school, and external factors affected their cognition and classroom practice.To investigate the above issues, an instrumental, explanatory multiple case-study was employed. The data were collected from interviews with the four English teachers, the four head teachers of the English departments, members of Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education (TMBE), and two members of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). In addition, two Communication English classes and two English Expression classes the four teachers were in charge of were observed and a questionnaire was administered to the students in each class. The findings indicated that the four teachers had favorable opinions about the policy of conducting English classes in English; however, their opinions were not reflected to a large degree in two of the teachers’ classes and were reflected to a moderate degree in the other two teachers’ classes. The discrepancy between their positive opinions of the policy and their classroom practice was attributed to the influence of their educational background, professional coursework, internal factors in the class, internal factors in the school, and external factors. Major factors that prevented them from reflecting the policy were a lack of appropriate teacher training, the presence of university entrance examinations, and the grammar-focused MEXT-approved textbooks. Major factors that helped their teachers reflect the policy were their positive experiences learning English in English communicatively, study abroad experiences, the measures taken by TMBE, the presence of ALTs and their students’ positive attitudes toward learning English in English. The findings of this study suggest that improvements in pre- and in-service training to teach English in English for communicative purposes, reforms of university entrance examinations, and improvements of MEXT-approved textbooks are essential to the implementing of the policy of teaching English in English.