There have been few studies devoted to the speech act of suggestion in the area of pragmatic language acquisition and most of these studies have had their main focus on production as opposed to acquisition. On that account and in an attempt to broaden the scope of interlanguage pragmatics, this study was conducted to compare the effect of implicit versus explicit instruction and feedback in the development of pragmatic competence of Persian EFL learners of English.
To fulfill the purpose of the study, one hundred intermediate students of a language institute in Esfahan were chosen by means of administering an Oxford Placement Test (OPT) and were randomly assigned to four experimental groups and a control group. Each experimental group attended two twenty-minute successive sessions. The materials for the instruction were two socially distant dialogues and a number of classroom activities to facilitate the learning process. The first experimental group received explicit instruction and explicit feedbacks, the second experimental group received explicit instruction and implicit feedbacks and the remaining two experimental groups were taught using implicit-explicit and implicit-implicit instruction and feedbacks, respectively.
Data were collected using an immediate post-test and also a four-weeks-late delayed post-test to measure the students' performance and their retention of instructed materials. The whole procedure has been lasted for eight intense twenty-minute sessions.
Results of the study showed that the explicit-explicit method of instruction has a much better influence on Persian EFL learners. However, the results also denoted that the students tend to forget the instructed materials after four weeks; that leaves the discussion open for other researchers to take over and develop better methods to help the learners with their retention problem in Persian EFL classrooms.
Studying pragmatics is concerned with exploring the ability of language users to use proper utterances with regard to the contexts in which they are used. Stalnaker (1972) believes that pragmatics is "the study of linguistic acts and the contexts in which they are performed" (p. 383). The teaching of pragmatics, therefore, aims at facilitating "the learners' sense of being able to find socially appropriate language for the situations that they encounter" (Bardovi-Harlig & Mahan-Taylor, 2003). According to Bardovi-Harlig (2001) and Kasper (1997), L2 learners display a noticeably different L2 pragmatic system than the native speakers of the L2, both in production and comprehension, and there is evidence that verifies this is true even among advanced L2 learners.
A number of studies (e.g., Boxer & Pickering, 1995; Bouton, 1994; Kasper 1997; Bardovi-Harlig, 2001) have shown that EFL learners with high proficiency in grammar are not necessarily competent in pragmatic aspects of the FL. As stated by Boxer & Pickering (1995):
Grammatically advanced learners may not know how to use appropriate language in different situations and deviate from pragmatic norms of the target-language. One can find examples of pragmatic failure regarding L2 learners when they are involved in the communication acts. They may directly translate speech acts from their mother tongues into the FL when they are trying to get the intended meaning across. Unlike grammatical errors, pragmatic failures are often neglected by the teacher and sometimes are ascribed to some other causes, such as insolence. (p. 47)
Kasper (1997) and Bardovi-Harlig (2001) maintain that FL learners differ from native-speakers to a large extent in their understanding of the speech acts and producing them. In this sense, they advocate the need for instructional attempts for teaching pragmatics in both second and foreign language classrooms. On the basis of this claim, research on instructed pragmatics abounded in the last decade (Kasper, 2001; Kasper & Rose, 2002; Martinez-Flor, Usó & Fernández, 2003; Rose & Kasper, 2001). A number of empirical studies have confirmed the positive effects of teaching various pragmatic features, such as discourse strategies, pragmatic routines, conversational implicature, politeness in requests, interactional norms, and various speech acts (e.g., Billmyer, 1990; Bouton, 1994; Eslami-Rasekh, Eslami-Rasekh, & Fatahi, 2004; Kondo, 2001, 2004; Kubota, 1995; Liddicoat & Crozet, 2001; Lyster, 1994; Olshtain & Cohen, 1990; Rose & Ng, 2001; Safont, 2003, 2004, 2005; Salazar, 2003; Trosborg, 2003; Wildner-Bassett, 1994; Wishnoff, 2000). The explicit treatment in such investigations has offered metapragmatic information by describing, explaining and discussing a target linguistic form, in a comparison with a no instruction or with native-speaker baseline data. Some other studies have examined the influences of educational approaches on pragmatic enhancement, usually in a comparison between explicit and implicit instruction (House, 1996; Takahashi, 2001; Tateyama et al., 1997). Most of these studies have suggested that the explicit instruction showed better results than the implicit one.
However, Norris and Ortega (2000) pointed out that the interpretation of the cumulative findings for explicit/implicit instructional treatments should be tempered by several methodological observations. They claimed testing of learning outcomes which usually favored explicit treatments by asking learners to engage in explicit memory tasks and/or in discrete, decontextualized L2 use has appeared that the explicit treatments are typically more intense and varied than the implicit ones, and implicit treatments may require longer-post intervention observation periods. Norris and Ortega's study takes the methodological issues into consideration, more specifically, the ones regarding outcome measures aiming at providing further evidence of how instructed L2 learners may be helped regarding their developing L2 pragmatic ability.
Several studies have analyzed cross-culturally the ways that learners understand and produce speech acts in L2 English, comparing them to their first languages (e.g., Koike, 1989, 1995 & LePair, 1996). According to Kasper (2001) while there are many observational studies that document what learners produce without any particular intervention by the instructor, there are relatively few studies on the effect of teacher intervention in the acquisition of L2 pragmatic information.
Koike and Pearson (2005) claimed that creating a conscious awareness in learners of English of target language functions, or speech acts, and how they can vary them in building conversational alignment can be accomplished without detailed explanations due to the relative similarity of many of the speech acts among languages and as a result what requires more attention are ways in which native speakers of English differ from those of other languages in the realizations of those functions, and differences in sociocultural norms that guide the way of speaking.
Another important point in learning is the matters of focus on forms and focus on form which according to Long (1991), focus on forms is teaching methodologies aiming to help learners gather individual language items and focus on form refers to a meaning-focused activity in which attention to form is implicitly accomplished. Long states that ''focus on form overtly draws students' attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is on meaning or communication'' (pp. 45-46). Also, Leowen (2005) and Alcon (2007) used incidental focus on form in which communicative tasks are designed to elicit language use on the part of the learner without any specific attention to form as a basis for individualized test items and results showed that it was beneficial.
In addition, having mentioned that noticing a given form is the key to beginning the cognitive processes that lead to L2 acquisition, Leow's (2000) research showed it is not easy, however, to determine the form of the input in the classroom that most effectively aids noticing by the learners; i.e., whether it should be explicit, so that learners deduce the information from explanations and rules, or implicit, by which learners induce it by observation, intuition, and analogy.
Following Schmidt (1993), in which the ''noticing'' and ''focus on form'' concepts are discussed in relation to processing pragmatic input, this study questions whether instructors can explicitly help learners to focus on pragmatic form through explanation, lists, and rules, or whether learners learn pragmatics more effectively through simple observation and experience with the target language. It also questions whether instructors can help learners to focus on pragmatic form through explicit or implicit feedback. Tolli and Schmidt's (2008) study examined feedback and concluded that it has an overall influence on self-efficacy and goal revision of the students. Also, in previous studies (e.g., Takahashi, 2001 and Tateyama, 2001), it wasn't clear that to what extent, this knowledge is retained over time; something that this study tries to deal with. And since most of previous research studies had been done on other types of speech acts, and the learners of other languages, this study examined suggestions in a Persian EFL environment.
2. Statement of the Problem
One of the ESL pedagogical problems deals with the fact that students even at high levels of proficiency when engaged in discourse cannot really overcome the problems of pragmatics. Pragmatics is an indispensible component of language. To use another language appropriately demands knowledge of the speech acts, patterns and value system of the society in which the language is spoken. In most cases cultural differences result in misunderstandings, and there are cases that the native speaker feels to be insulted by the FL learner, while actually there is no such intention. Jiang (2006) maintains that, "the unsatisfactory results of ESL learners' ability to perform speech acts more generally have led researchers to consider what learners have actually been taught in classrooms and textbooks" (p. 34). The connection between the actual linguistic realization of certain speech acts and their inclusion in ESL textbooks has been the subject of a number of studies (Pearson, 1986; Scotton & Bernsten, 1988; Mir, 1992; Boxer & Pickering, 1995; Boutton, 1996).
Speech act research continues to show that using speech acts is a complex process. This complexity, however, "has not always been recognized in the teaching of speech acts or functions" (Koester, 2002, p. 168). According to McCarthy (1998), textbooks typically try to make real language simple to use and simplify complexity by providing a list of phrase-level options. For example, when learners are working on how to give advice, they may only be practicing a list of phrases such as: 'You shouldâ€¦', 'Why don't you...?', 'If I were you, I'd...', and 'You ought to...'. The basic problem with such lists of phrases, as Koester (2002) claims, is that they tend to disclaim the fact that they are appropriate in certain context.
Kasper (1996b) maintains that "one of the causes of learners' non-target-like pragmatic performance is the incomplete or misleading input provided by pedagogical materials" (p. 18). Presenting real, representative language to learners should be the basic concern of classroom instruction. However, classroom communications often "produce a limited range of speech acts, simplified openings and closings, a lack of politeness marking, and a limited range of discourse markers in the classroom discourse" (pp. 149-169). Therefore, appropriate and adequate input from teaching materials, especially ESL textbooks, becomes crucial in the development of ESL learners' pragmatic competence.
3. Research Questions
According to what has been said so far, the following questions were posed to be answered in this study.
1. How is pragmatic information regarding English suggestions learned more effectively by Persian EFL learners? Using explicit or implicit instruction?
2. How is pragmatic information learned more effectively? With explicit or implicit feedback, concerning Persian EFL learners' use of suggestions and suggestion responses?
3. Can any effects from this pragmatic instruction be sustained in Persian EFL learners after four weeks?
4. Research Hypotheses
Regarding the above questions, the following hypotheses were formulated to be tested.
1. There is no difference between explicit and implicit instruction regarding the use of English suggestions by Persian EFL learners.
2. There is no difference between explicit and implicit feedback regarding the use of English suggestions by Persian EFL learners.
3. There is no evidence that effects of pragmatic instructions could be sustained in Persian EFL learners after a four-week no instruction period.
4. Significance of the Study
The main goal of teaching pragmatics is to enhance EFL learners' pragmatic awareness and give them options in their performance in the target language. The objective of teaching pragmatics is not to insist on compliance with a particular FL norm, but instead help learners to get acquainted with the range of pragmatic concepts in the target language. With such teaching, learners can preserve their own cultural identities and take part better in FL communication with more control over result of their contributions. The classroom actually is a safe place in which learners are able to learn and experiment. In the classroom, learners can test new forms and patterns of communication in a pleasant environment and the instructor and other participating students can give feedback.
The results of this study could contribute to previous researches that have suggested that teaching pragmatics in class does make a difference (see for example, Norris & Ortega, 2000; Doughty, 2003). The results may also help the EFL teachers to decide whether to give the instructions regarding pragmatics explicitly or implicitly although both may prove to be effective in helping students act appropriately regarding using speech acts, in general, and the speech act of suggesting, in particular
A group of 130 female students of a language institute in Esfahan studying at intermediate level were randomly selected. To make sure that their knowledge of English in terms of grammar, vocabulary and communication skills was relatively the same, an OPT (Oxford Placement Test) was given and 100 students were chosen as the participating groups- four experimental groups and one control group with each group comprising twenty students (see Appendix A). Particularly, those whose scores were 1 SD above and below the mean were selected as the intermediate level. The students' age ranged between 17 and 25. All the students were divided into four experimental groups and a control group.
In this section an explanation of the teaching materials, how the conversations were chosen for the participants, and in what ways they helped the learners are brought together as a starting point for those who might be interested in expanding and developing this research further. Teaching materials that were used in this study generally fall into three major categories as follows:
1. Pre-instruction materials (i.e. Oxford Placement Test)
2. While-instruction materials (i.e. Handouts, Conversation Practice, Role-play)
3. Post-instruction materials (i.e. Immediate Post-test, Delayed Post-test)
5.2.1. Pre-instruction Materials
Pre-instruction materials, as its name proposes, are those materials that were introduced to the participants prior to getting any kind of instruction as a means to measure their knowledge of English in general. For this part, an Oxford Placement Test (OPT) was used to pick the students that best suited the purpose of this study.
Oxford Placement Test is one of the frequently used placement tests in the field of language teaching, as it encompasses almost every aspect and all levels of language proficiency, ranging from elementary stages of language learning to intermediate levels. It was first designed by Dave Allan (1994) and several revised editions were published since after, to provide the teachers and academic institutes with a tool to evaluate their students' proficiency in English. This test includes everything needed for grading and placing the students into classes in the most reliable and efficient way possible. So, it was used as an instrument to make sure all the participants would fall within an intermediate level of English.
5.2.2. while-instruction Materials
Within-instruction materials are those that were presented by the teacher during the course of teaching and include mostly classroom activities like classroom drills and role-plays.
Firstly, the students were given a handout including a single situational conversation followed by five awareness raising questions that they had to practice with their teacher in order to choose the best answers possible. This conversation as well as all the other conversations in the present study was taken place in specific contexts that required the students to fully understand the situation before answering any of the complimentary questions. In other words, our participants had to understand how the interlocutors related to each other, in terms of relationship, status and also the place where the conversations had taken place, to mark the best answers possible. At the first level of complexity the students were asked about the place of conversations. However, as they moved forward to more complex levels, they were asked to choose the most appropriate relationship, status, etc., between the interlocutors, with regard to the context they were presented with, followed by two comprehension questions.
Secondly, students were asked to practice the conversation presented in their handouts with a fellow partner with each student taking the exchangeable role of the higher or lower status interlocutor in the conversation. This activity helped the learners to notice certain qualities of the speech act of suggestion like formality and politeness, and provide them with an opportunity to practice different types of suggestions.
Table 3.1 shows different types of suggestions with corresponding expressions that were used during this activity.
Different Types of Suggestions used for Classroom Activities
I suggest that you ...
I advise you to ...
I recommend that you ...
Noun of suggestion
My suggestion would be ...
Try using ...
Don't try to ...
Why don't you...?
Have you thought about...?
You can ...
You could ...
You may ...
You might ...
You should ...
You need to ...
If I were you, I would ...
One thing (that you can do) would be
Here's one possibility: ...
There are a number of options that
It would be helpful if you ...
It might be better to ...
A good idea would be '" It would be nice if ...
I've heard that ...
The last classroom activity introduced to the students during the teaching sessions was the role-play activity which was actually a more enhanced version of previous activity by engaging students more interactively and calling their attention on how to put their learning experience into a life-like situation. The only shortcoming to this activity was the time limit of this study which prevented the instructor from calling every student to come to the board and take part in this activity.
5.2.3 Post-instruction Materials
The last part of this section is devoted to our post-instruction materials or the immediate and the delayed post-test that the students had to take to complete each two successive sessions. We will discuss the arrangement of teaching sessions in the next section.
Having the students complete all the tasks and participate in classroom activities is meaningless unless we measure the effectiveness of those methods at the end. For this purpose, two tests (immediate post-test and delayed post-test) were designed. They were basically the same in construction but different in terms of conversations involved and the multiple choice items. They were both designed in a way to concentrate on three situational conversations containing the speech act of suggestion followed by three awareness raising and two comprehension questions.
The students took the first test (immediate post-test) after completion of the second instructional session and the second test (delayed post-test) was administered four weeks later to see if they could recall any of the instructed materials, in other words, to measure the element of retention within this study.
In the next section these materials will be reviewed one more time by their order of appearance, time devoted to each task and other influential elements.
5.3.1. General Procedure for all Groups
The focus of this section is to describe how four different combinations of instruction and feedback could be implemented in a Persian EFL classroom in order to foster learners' pragmatic competence when making suggestions. Particularly, we used these four different methods to see to what extent every method could help the learners improve their knowledge of L2 pragmatic competence or specifically the speech act of suggestion.
As mentioned before, the participants were divided into four experimental groups and a control. Each group received different types of instruction and feedback called respectively as:
EG1: Explicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group (ETEFG)
EG2: Explicit Teaching - Implicit Feedback Group (ETIFG)
EG3: Implicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group (ITEFG)
EG4: Implicit Teaching - Implicit Feedback Group (ITIFG)
CG: Control Group
Generally speaking, there are three steps involved in each session namely, introductory, practicing and the interactive phases. At the beginning of each session students were introduced to the new materials using the explicit or implicit method (Introductory phase). Following that, they were asked to do various drills to help them have a better understanding of the instructed materials (Practicing Phase). And finally, they would have to practice what they had learned with their friends that made them even more comfortable using the pragmatically correct language (Interactive phase). The following section will have a closer look at each of these phases.
5.3.2. Specific Procedure for each Group
184.108.40.206. EG1: Explicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group (ETEFG)
The first session started with (EG1: Explicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group) and a five-minute warm up along with an explanation to the students that their scores in these two sessions would not be counted in their final exam. It was made clear that there was no reason for anxiety.
After this short warm up, a printed copy of a conversation between two friends was given to each student so that they could follow the instructor more easily (See Appendix D). The related grammar rules were also written on the blackboard for their reference.
This conversation was read by the instructor a few times by putting the emphasis on suggestion speech acts and followed by an explicit explanation of the grammar rules involved. Then, the students were presented with awareness raising questions to make sure that they had learned how to make suggestions in a friendly environment. They were also provided with different options for answering these questions in their handouts.
An explicit feedback was made whenever they were making mistakes and they received correction in no time. An example of this kind of corrective feedback is brought here for further clarification:
Teacher: Hear me out and make suggestions according to the stated problem.
Teacher: I'm so bored. I couldn't get enough sleep last night.
Student: why do you take a nap?
Teacher interrupts and immediately corrects the student's mistake by saying:
You should always use the negative form of do with this expression. So the correct form is:
Teacher: Why don't you take a nap?
Next, the students were given a chance to read the dialogues and practice it with their fellow partners.
After they were ready, a role-play activity was given and they were helped by the instructor whenever needed. The whole session took about twenty minutes to be completed.
The following session started with a slightly different warm up since all the students were familiar with what they would be presented with. The instructor started teaching as soon as all the students had a copy of the new dialogue. Everything in their handouts was almost the same except the social status of the interlocutors. This time students were put in a more formal situation than what they had been placed before. More formal expressions and linguistic forms of suggestion were written on the blackboard and the teacher started reading the dialogue several times while the students were listening and the instructor explicitly explained how to make suggestions in a more formal situation.
After that, the students were given some time to read the dialogue, they did the complimentary awareness raising activities and practiced it with a fellow partner. When ready, they were asked to come to the board and take the role of the characters in the dialogue. This session lasted about twenty minutes and the score of each student was collected by means of an immediate post-test. The same procedure was used for the remaining EGs except the treatment that was different for each group.
220.127.116.11. EG2: Explicit Teaching - Implicit Feedback Group (ETIFG)
For EG2: Explicit Teaching - Implicit Feedback Group, the instructor started teaching the same as EG1 (ETEF). A brief warm up was given and the handouts were distributed among the students (See Appendix D). Different patterns of suggestion were written on the blackboard and the students were explicitly taught how to make suggestions. After listening to the conversation read by the teacher, the students could get the chance to practice it with their friends and participate in awareness raising activities. Then, a number of volunteer students were asked to come to the board and role-play the conversation for their classmates. However, during this session and the next session the instructor did not explicitly comment on the students' performance and their mistakes were implicitly corrected just by repeating the correct form of the speech act of suggestion. An example of this kind of feedback is given below to further clarify the point:
Teacher: What would you say if you were to help Mona with her problem?
Student: I would say, you should talk to your mother before consulting a psychologist.
The teacher repeated the student's sentence using the correct form of suggestion:
Teacher: Why don't you talk to your mother before consulting a psychologist?
As you see the type of feedback that the students received was of implicit rather than explicit. For the second session, the students went through the same while-instruction practices using a more socially distant conversation and their scores were collected by means of an immediate post-test.
18.104.22.168. EG3: Implicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group (ITEFG)
For EG3: Implicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback Group different kind of treatment was used, that is to say, Implicit Teaching - Explicit Feedback.
The first session started with a quick warm up. As soon as the student got their handouts (See Appendix D), the instructor started reading while the students were all ears but this time, no explicit grammar was written on the blackboard and it was tried to convey the grammar rules by means of more repetitions and changing tone of the instructor. Then, the students were asked to participate in awareness-raising activities and role-plays while their mistakes were explicitly corrected by the teacher. This session lasted about twenty minutes.
The next session was the same as the previous session, aside from using a more socially distant conversation as the instructional material and went on for twenty minutes the same as previous session. Afterwards, the students' scores were collected using an immediate post-test.
22.214.171.124. EG4: Implicit Teaching - Implicit Feedback Group (ITIFG)
For the last part of this research's data collection, a complete implicit method was used. This experimental group received no overt explanation of the grammar rules and the feedbacks were made by mere repetitions. And finally, the student's scores were again collected by means of an immediate and a delayed post-test.
126.96.36.199. CG: Control Group
The twenty students that were assigned to this group received no treatments. However, this group took the same immediate and delayed post-tests and its scores were used as a means to learn about the other experimental groups' progress.
In the next two sections we will wrap up this chapter by giving much more attention to data collection and statistical methods used to analyze the collected data.
5.4. Data Collection
In this research a five-part data collection procedure was used through using four immediate post-tests and a delayed post-test, and each of which contributed to the result of this study in its own way.
Immediate post-tests comprised of fifteen multiple-choice questions (See Appendix E) which were given at the end of the second session for each experimental group after their exposure to a specific treatment. Students were left on their own for a four-week period. Then, a delayed post-test (See Appendix F) was given to see if the students had retained any of the instructed materials.
In the next section, the statistical methods involved in this study will be briefly discussed.
6.1. The Investigation of the First Null Hypothesis
The first hypothesis stated that there is no difference between explicit and implicit instruction regarding English suggestions used by Persian EFL learners. After administering the immediate post-test and collecting the data (See Appendix G) the results were analyzed. Table 4.1 indicates the descriptive statistics for the immediate post-test and Figure 4.1 depicts the graphical representation of the means.
Descriptive Statistics for the Immediate Post-test Regarding Instruction
Figure 4.1. Graphical Representation of the Means for the Immediate Post-test
As it can be seen in the above table, the means of all three groups are different. In order to understand whether or not these differences are statistically significant, a one-way ANOVA was employed. Table 4.2 reveals the results of this ANOVA.
The Results of the One-way ANOVA for the Immediate Post-test
As shown in Table 4.2, the result of the ANOVA analysis is significant (F= 20.169, p< .000). In other words, our three groups did perform differently from each other. In order to find out where the exact place(s) of difference(s) is/are, a Scheffe post hoc test was run. Table 4.3 shows the results of this test.
The Results of Scheffe Post hoc Test
*. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.
ETG= Explicit Teaching Group
ITG= Implicit Teaching Group
CG = Control Group
The results of the post hoc test indicate the following significant differences: a) between explicit teaching and the other two groups, b) between implicit teaching and the other two groups, and c) between the control group and the other two groups. In other words, explicit teaching group outperformed the other two groups, namely, implicit teaching group and the control group. Therefore, regarding what has been said in this section, the first hypothesis (differences between explicit teaching and implicit teaching) can safely be rejected, and it can be claimed that the type of teaching is effective in students' pragmatic performance regarding suggestions.
6.2. The Investigation of the Second Null Hypothesis
The second hypothesis stated that there is no difference between explicit and implicit feedback regarding English suggestion by Persian EFL learners. Here, once again, the results of the immediate post-test were analyzed with regard to explicit and implicit feedback. Table 4.4 shows the descriptive statistics of the results and Figure 4.2 shows the means graphically.
Descriptive Statistics for the Immediate Post-test Regarding Feedback
Explicit Feedback: ETEFG + ITEFG
Implicit Feedback: ETIFG + ITIFG
Figure 4.2. Graphical Representation of the Means for the Immediate Post-test
As it can be seen in the above table, the means of all three groups are different. In order to understand if these differences are statistically significant, another one-way ANOVA was employed. Table 4.5 depicts the results of this ANOVA.
The Results of the One-way ANOVA for the Immediate Post-test
By referring to Table 4.5, one can understand that the three groups' performances were statistically significant. In order to locate the exact place(s) of difference(s), another Scheffe post hoc test was run. Table 4.6 presents the results of this test.
The Results of Scheffe Post hoc Test
*. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.
ETG= Explicit Feedback Group
ITG= Implicit Feedback Group
CG= Control Group
According to Table 4.6, the difference between the two experimental groups, namely, explicit feedback and implicit feedback, is not statistically significant (p= .113), but both of them performed better than the control group. Therefore, the second hypothesis retained; in other words, there is no difference between the performance of those who received the feedback explicitly and those who received it implicitly.
6.3. The Investigation of the Third Null Hypothesis
The third hypothesis stated that, "there is no evidence that effects of pragmatic instructions will be sustained in Persian EFL learners for four weeks". To test the validity of this hypothesis, a delayed post-test was administered four weeks after the last session (See Appendix G). Table 4.7 reveals the descriptive statistics for this test and Figure 4.3 shows the graphical representation of the same means.
Descriptive Statistics for the Delayed Post-test
Note: ETEFG= Explicit Teaching Explicit Feedback Group
ETIFG= Explicit Teaching Implicit Feedback Group
ITEFG= Implicit Teaching Explicit Feedback Group
ITIFG= Implicit Teaching Implicit Feedback Group
Note: ETEFG= Explicit Teaching Explicit Feedback Group
ETIFG= Explicit Teaching Implicit Feedback Group
ITEFG= Implicit Teaching Explicit Feedback Group
ITIFG= Implicit Teaching Implicit Feedback Group
CG= Control Group
Figure 4.3. Graphical Representation of the Means for the Delayed Post-test
By looking at Table 4.7 and Figure 4.3, one can see some differences between the means of the five groups. To find out to what extent these differences are statistically significant, another one-way ANOVA was applied. Table 4.8 presents the results of this ANOVA.
The Results of the One-way ANOVA for the Delayed Post-test
The results of the one-way ANOVA, as can be seen in Table 4.8, shows a non-significant amount of F (F= .421, p<.54); therefore, the third hypothesis is retained. In other words, the learners in all four experimental groups and those in the control group performed almost the same, which means the effect of instruction almost faded away after a four-week no-instruction period. Next chapter will discuss the results in details.
For the purpose of evaluating the students' ability to produce appropriate suggestion speech acts in a conversational context, three null hypotheses were assumed at the very beginning of this study that are discussed here:
First Hypothesis: There is no difference between explicit and implicit instruction regarding English suggestion by Persian EFL learners.
Second Hypothesis: There is no difference between explicit and implicit feedback regarding English suggestion by Persian EFL learners.
Third Hypothesis: There is no evidence that effects of pragmatic instructions will be sustained in Persian EFL learners for four weeks.
7.1. Addressing the First Hypothesis
The first hypothesis stated that there is no difference between implicit and explicit instruction when we are dealing with teaching pragmatics to Persian EFL learners. To test this hypothesis, as mentioned in Chapter Four, a descriptive analysis on the scores of immediate post-test taken by experimental groups was done. It showed that the mean of each experimental group regarding explicit/implicit instruction was different (Explicit Teaching=11.40, Implicit Teaching=9, Control Group=7.40) so our experimental groups actually preformed differently from each other and from the control group. Furthermore, the result of the ANOVA test (F= 20.169, p< .000) followed by the Scheffe Post hoc test supported the fact that implicit and explicit instructions have different effects on Persian EFL learners.
The results from the multiple choice sections suggest that the instruction in general had an effect on improvement of the learner's pragmatic knowledge to produce the suggestion speech acts. The explicit instruction appears to induce the best results for recognition of suggestion strategies on the multiple choice sections, making them more aware of pragmatic strategies and concepts. These findings support previous studies that indicate the benefits of explicit instruction for the acquisition of L2 pragmatics (Koike, 2003; Billmyer, 1990; Rose & Ng Kwai-fun, 2001; Takahashi, 2001; Tateyama, 2001; Tateyama et al., 1997). However, it is worth mentioning that in the case of Koike's study there were also open-ended questions involved that we couldn't benefit from, considering the limited time of the present study. Koike (2003) believed that the implicit instruction along with negative feedbacks seems to be the most effective treatment when open-ended tasks are implemented.
On the other hand, explicit instruction in previous studies consisted of a wide range of activities that provided learners with meta-pragmatic information and/or raised their awareness of metapragmatic rules. Among them, an explanation and discussion of rules have prevailed (Bouton, 1994; Kubota, 1995; LoCastro, 1997; Olshtain & Cohen, 1990; Safont, 2003, 2004, 2005; Trosborg, 2003; Yoshimi, 2001; Wishnoff, 2000). Following these approaches, the instructor of the present study dedicated two sessions teaching the appropriate usage of the target forms to each experimental group by explaining the relationships among the linguistic forms, function (i.e., suggestion), situations, and a factor of social distance. The outcome was that this study widened the scope of teachable speech acts by covering suggestions, since earlier studies have mostly demonstrated the positive effects of explicit instruction on requests, refusals, apologies, complaints, and compliments.
7.2. Addressing the Second Hypothesis
For the second hypothesis, another descriptive analysis was done on the immediate post-test scores of the participants. It was revealed that each experimental group performed differently from each other. In other words, the means were significantly different (Explicit Feedback=10.88, Implicit Feedback=9.53, Control Group=7.40). Similar to the first hypothesis, the same ANOVA and Scheffe Post hoc test was run to see if they confirmed the result of the descriptive analysis. However, It was shown that, despite the significant mean difference obtained from the descriptive analysis, this difference was not statistically acceptable (p= .113); therefore, the second hypothesis was clearly retained. In other words, there was no difference between the performance of those who received the feedback explicitly and those who received it implicitly.
However, these findings are in contrast with previous studies (Fukuya, Reeve, Gisi & Christianson, 1998; Yoshimi 2001; Koike 2003) that gave extra credit to implicit corrective feedback over its explicit counterpart. Corrective feedback is an important condition that informs learners about their own output. This negative input may cause changes in learners' production leading them to develop their pragmatic competence. In spite of the minor difference regarding implicit and explicit feedbacks in the present study and the overall improvement of the students after receiving treatment, it is believed that incorporating feedback whether it be explicit or implicit in the EFL classroom is as essential as the input itself, to help learners develop their pragmatic competence.
7.3. Addressing the Third Hypothesis
To test the third hypothesis, as stated earlier, a delayed post-test was administered questioning the students the same suggestion rules they had already been introduced to. The descriptive analysis of the delayed post-test manifested that there was a slight alteration between means of each group. To see if this difference was significant statistically an ANOVA test was run similar to what had been done for testing other hypotheses. However, this time, the result showed that this difference was not significant (F= .421, p<.54) and the third hypothesis remained in force. In other words, the students had not retained the instructed material over a four-week period.
The result of the third hypothesis is in harmony with two major studies (Koike, 2003; Martinez Flor, 2004) on suggestions. Their findings proved the non-effectiveness of either of the two types of instruction to maintain learners' long-term retention of their pragmatic knowledge. These findings and the results obtained from the delayed post-test of the present study could be attributable to the lack of proper input during the time spans. Further research seems necessary to look into the problem of retention when dealing with the acquisition of L2 pragmatic knowledge.
As mentioned before, one has to notice that the results of this study have indicated that learners learn pragmatic material, in this case, the complex speech act of suggestion, and develop their pragmatic competence more effectively when they get explicit instruction on the speech act of suggestion before doing exercises. The explicit instruction and feedback, more effectively, helped the learners read, understand, interpret, and select the most appropriate pragmatic choices of the immediate post-test.
These findings must be corroborated by further research. However, It appears that explicit instruction and feedback are effective in helping learners understand pragmatic elements and contexts by calling their attention to linguistic forms.
Thus, the explicit/implicit instruction and feedback may have varying effects on different areas of learners' competence. However, these findings should be interpreted by taking into account the limitations of the methodology employed in this study.
According to Alcon (2001), the foreign language classroom has been regarded as a suitable environment for the acquisition of pragmatic competence; it is believed that employing similar methodologies in Persian EFL environments would be of benefit to foster learners' ability to make suggestions.
For this reason, four different combinations of instruction and feedback have been proposed, showing how such a methodology could be presented to learners and practiced through a series of awareness raising activities and opportunities for communicative practice. By means of such approaches, learners could be made aware of the fact that, in order to make an appropriate use of the different linguistic forms available for suggestions, several factors need to be considered, such as the situations where the suggestion is elicited, the contextual features involved in those situations, and the relationship between different participants that may appear in them.
It was shown that Persian EFL learners prefer explicit methods of instruction and feedback over other methods after receiving instruction and feedback in four different combinations. This might be due to the dominance of Persian language in Iran and not having English as a second way of communication in the actual community. So, the students are not in contact with English a lot. Most of the Asian countries like China or India prefer to be told the rights and wrongs of the second language they are learning, in this case English. And again for this reason, Persian EFL learners tend to forget instructed materials by the passage of time.
9.1. Theoretical Implications
Having the illocutionary speech act of suggestion as a part of speech act theory at the center of attention, this study provided the learners with enough input to learn the proper usage of different types of suggestions in a variety of contexts. Additionally, this study sought to help the learners to better understand the status of each interlocutor within a context. It is believed that the students could make much better native-like responses when they were exposed to people with differing social statuses after getting explicit instruction and feedback; and for sure this is in support of the ideas behind the politeness and cultural adaptation theories.
9.2. Pedagogical Implications
This study investigated two types of instruction of speech act of suggestion which are explicit and implicit, demonstrating higher gains after the explicit instruction in comparison to implicit instruction. The results of this study, point to a positive improvement of the learner pragmatic competence after the planned instructional process. Moreover, the findings also showed that the instruction on L2 pragmatics is necessary even for learners of high language proficiency.
On the other hand, it was investigated that the pragmatic aspects of language are teachable, thus textbook writers and curriculum developers should pay more attention to this aspect of language which has been ignored so far and the instructors need to be familiarized with the importance of the instruction of pragmatic aspects of language especially explicit instruction. Moreover, it is useful for the instructors to go over previous SLA researches before choosing any specific methodology. They should also be aware of the fact that students in Persian environments tend to forget instructed materials in the long run. So, providing opportunities for better and more practices might be of a benefit to them.