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Variability in Learner Errors as a Reflection of the CLT Paradigm Shift

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Joanna Pfingsthorn

In the last three decades the field of language teaching and learning has undergone a paradigm shift towards Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), which has put an emphasis on meaningful interaction and implied an abrupt departure from an extensive study of learner errors. Although learners in CLT classes are expected to be competent, yet not perfectly accurate communicators, the impact of the CLT paradigm on learner errors has not been investigated thoroughly. This study examines the extent to which the CLT paradigm shift has left its mark on learner errors. Written production is analyzed and compared with learner data recorded in the early stages of the shift to CLT. The data reveal that while morphosyntactic errors have not undergone drastic changes, discourse organization and lexical skills have improved.

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Chapter 5: Methodological considerations

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Chapter 5 Methodological considerations There are essentially two methods of learner language data collection: elicitation and observation. Language samples can be obtained either through observing naturally-occurring language that satisfies some communicative or aesthetic need, or through specially designed instruments that elicit responses from the learner. In addition, as Corder (1976) suggests, we can make a distinction between two kinds of elicitation: clinical and experimental. While clinical elicitation relies on getting the informant to produce data of any sort and is used in cases where no well-formed hypotheses about the nature of the investigated aspects of production exist, experimental elicitation involves inducing specific features of language in learners’ production. As the goal of the current study lay in documenting all potential errors made by German and Polish high school pupils, concentrating on capturing specific aspects of learners’ performance did not constitute the appropriate methodological approach. Instead, it was reasoned that data collection should ascertain a sample of learners’ output that would invoke the use of various components of communicative competence. The argument rested on the assumption that tapping various elements of communicative competence would result in a broad array of error types. Any test in which major elements of the construct of interest are underrepre- sented lacks validity (Hughes, 2003). Therefore, it was imperative to establish a data collection setting that would require free language production and call upon learners’ linguistic, pragmatic and sociolinguistic skills. 116 5. Methodological considerations Observation and recording authentic data, despite its relative lack...

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