Amy D. Yamashiro

This volume presents eight articles on individual learner differences (Segalowitz, 1997; Skehan, 1989, 1998)—such as aptitude, motivation and attitudes, strategies, learning styles and anxiety—and four papers on strategies for teachers and SLA researchers to employ when developing language tests, lessons, or research studies. The first four articles investigate the relationships and influences of individual learner differences on language achievement or proficiency. The next three articles look at phonological awareness as well as short-term and working memory which are generally considered components of language aptitude. Following an article on language learning beliefs, two papers focus on evaluating the validity of language tests and two others that focus on researching listening comprehension.

The lead article by Jacqueline D. Beebe follows in the tradition of the good language learner studies (Ellis, 1994; Rubin, 1975). Because the individual is often lost in a sea of numbers in questionnaire research, Beebe investigated individual learner differences in the Japanese EFL context through a qualitative case study. Although she did not directly observe the learners in their language classrooms, she did extensive, prolonged interviews with 18 third-year high school from 11 different schools in the greater Kanto region. Her rich description of what good language learners do to become proficient in their L2 will provide insights to both language researchers and educators and researchers. SLA researchers should heed her discussion of the limitations of previous research which relied heavily on self-report survey data. Language teachers may wish to consider her points when planning future lessons or when offering advice to self-directed students.
Article: Japanese Secondary Students Attaining Oral Proficiency: Interviews with More and Less Proficient Individuals

 The next article by Steve Cornwell combines quantitative and qualitative research methodology to explore writing anxiety among junior college students. He investigates the influence of writing apprehension and group membership on academic writing. Cornwell and a colleague developed a writing apprehension questionnaire which has four factors: negative perceptions of writing ability, enjoyment of writing, fear of evaluation, and showing one’s work to others. Because of the limitations of sample size and other constraints, Cornwell supplemented the survey study with post hoc interviews.
Article: Group Membership, Writing Apprehension, and Academic Writing: Are They Related?

 Ethel Ogane and Masako Sakamoto explore the factors which contribute to and influence motivation in Japanese students’ EFL learning and examine the reliability and validity of the researcher-developed motivation questionnaire. The participants were 110 Japanese students from two private universities. The students’ proficiency in EFL was measured by the Comprehensive English Language Test (Harris & Palmer, 1986). The data were analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM). Motivation was found to be strongly linked to the students’ perceived effort in language learning and desire to speak with native speakers. The analysis provided support for the reliability and validity of the motivation questionnaire.
Article: SEM: Relationships Among EFL Motivation and Proficiency Factors (PDF) 

 In her study on the effect of motivation on amount of reading by university EFL learners, Setsuko Mori has two goals: 1) to identify the components of motivation to learn English, motivation to read in English, and task-specific motivation; and 2) to identify relationships between the components of motivation and the amount of independent reading in English. Following the identification of the sub-components of motivation using factor analysis, multiple regression was used to investigate the relationship between the sub-components of motivation and the amount of reading. The results indicated that only five factors were significant predictors of the amount of reading by the L2 participants. Two factors were indicative of a general motivation to learn English, whereas the other three were indicative of task-specific motivation. Interestingly, none of the items included in the motivation to read questionnaire were significant predictors of the amount of reading by the participants.
Article: The Role of Motivation in the Amount of Reading

 In his review of the literature, Brett Reynolds examines how phonetic coding which involves identifying and storing language sounds in memory has different roles in different languages. It is often considered an element of language aptitude and of major importance to second language acquisition. Reynolds covers research on the role of phonetic coding for English speakers learning alphabetic European languages as well as for other languages. He includes studies implicating two factors underlying phonetic coding: phonological short-term memory (STM) and phonemic awareness. Of these only phonological STM is found to factor in aptitude. His review concludes that phonetic coding may be a poor predictor of second language acquisition when the target language does not use an alphabetic writing system.
Article: Phonetic Coding in Language Aptitude: Different Roles for Different Languages

 In the next article, Mitsue Tamai Allen explores the role of phonological awareness in young L2 learners in Japan. According to L1 research, it is said to play an important role in developing young learners’ ability to read. Many studies have reported that there is a positive relationship between the awareness of sounds in spoken words and the early stage of literacy acquisition. Her descriptive study investigates attribute variables affecting literacy acquisition in Japanese elementary school children learning English. By focusing her examination on the relationship between reading ability and phonological awareness, Tamai Allen developed five tests to measure sound awareness and reading ability. She found a relationship between reading ability and sound awareness. However, through path analysis, it was revealed that sound awareness was not a predictor of spelling, but was a moderate predictor of reading. Her results indicate that phonological awareness might work differently for foreign language learners.
Article: Phonological Awareness and Reading Ability of Young Japanese EFL Learners

Following this, Eton F. Churchill, Jr. presents a theoretical investigation of the contribution that working memory may make to the language learning process. Drawing on the literature in cognitive psychology, neurological science, second language working memory, and second language acquisition theory, he discusses the nature of working memory and its role in second language acquisition. Churchill puts forth evidence for the independence of second language working memory from intelligence, first language working memory, and second language proficiency. He further hypothesizes that working memory is a multi-componential system that undergoes developmental changes. Churchill proposes a model of SLA that accounts for the dynamic nature of working memory and outlines the research tools needed to test this theory.
Article: The Role of Working Memory in SLA

In the next article, Brian Asbjornson replicates a study (Gaies & Sakui, 1998) on beliefs and language learning. He found no systematic differences concerning the propositions and the basic factor structure of the questionnaire used. The results indicated that the more proficient students tended to agree with propositions that are likely to be a cause and consequence of their achievement. At the same time, the more proficient participants disagreed with propositions related to low achievement. Although this relationship appears to be weak, Asbjornson speculates that beliefs about language learning may be related to achievement. In his discussion of the limitations, he recognizes that the small sample size combined with the use of multiple statistical tests, makes the results inconclusive.
Article: Do Beliefs Matter in Language Learning Achievement? A Pilot Study

 In their study on tailoring cloze tests in secondary EFL, James Dean Brown, Amy D. Yamashiro, and Ethel Ogane examine three strategies for improving cloze tests that are intended for norm-referenced purposes, such as for admissions or placement testing, rather than for criterion-referenced purposes, such as diagnostic, progress, or achievement testing. These two sets of purposes are explained in detail by Brown (1988, 1995, 1996). Improving close tests for criterion-referenced purposes requires different approaches than those discussed in this article. The participants in this study are returnee students attending a high school attached to a highly-regarded university in the Kanto region. This article provides instructive advice on interpreting descriptive statistics and classical item analysis for use in test development.
Article: Three Strategies for “Tailoring” Cloze Tests in Secondary EFL

 Whereas the previous study focused on norm-referenced testing, Amy D. Yamashiro examines the construct validity of a criterion-referenced EFL performance assessment. Her study investigates three methods of performance assessment—teacher, peer, and self ratings—using a rating scale design for an EFL public speaking course in Japan. The data (N =61) were collected within elective English public speaking classes at a private Japanese university. Interrater reliability, Cronbach’s alpha, and GENOVA determined that the rating scale was reasonably reliable and generalizable. The multitrait-multimethod analysis offers support to the construct validity of the three traits and the three rating methods. This paper offers a detailed explanation on how to analyze the multitrait-multimethod matrix.
Article: Evaluating the Construct Validity of an EFL Rating Scale Using Multitrait-Multimethod Analysis

 In the next article, Ethel Ogane investigates the role of the L2 listener, and the interaction of the L2 listener, text, and context in collaborative discourse. The study is a partial replication of the map task method used by Gillian Brown (1986, 1995) in her research on L1 listeners and listening comprehension. Ogane audiotaped and videotaped four pairs of listeners and speakers, all Japanese female adult EFL students in their classrooms as they worked to complete the map task. After each dyad finished the task, the researcher interviewed the subjects inquiring about what the participants, in particular the listeners, were thinking and whether they had any listening comprehension problems during the task. The retrospective interviews were audiotaped. Analysis of the routes drawn by the listeners, the map task audiotapes and videotapes, and the retrospective interview audiotapes showed that the listeners experienced various kinds of difficulty in understanding the speakers and that each listenered employed an array of listening strategies. Ogane describes the listening comprehension problems and listening strategies employed and offers implications for teaching listening.
Article: The Map Task: An Analysis of L2 Listener Problems and Strategies in Collaborative Discourse

 In the final paper of this volume, Mayumi Tsubaki and Keiko Nakayama investigate the effects of using an outline as a form of an advance organizer on the resulting lecture listening comprehension, because Japanese students face difficulties while listening to a lecture in English. Data from 63 Japanese university students were analyzed. The participants were randomly assigned. The experimental group was shown the outline of the lecture once before listening to a lecture, while the control group did not see the outline at all. Then, both groups listened to a short lecture without taking notes and did immediate recall protocol tasks. They repeated the same tasks three times. The participants were divided into two proficiency groups: a more proficient group and a less proficient group based on the results of a standardized listening test. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVR) results revealed significant effects for repeated exposure and listening proficiency and an interaction between the listening proficiency and the repeated exposure.
Article: The Effect of Using Outlines as an Advance Organizer on EFL Students’ Listening Comprehension of a Lecture


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