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The impact of socio-cultural learning tasks on students’ foreign grammatical language awareness

A study conducted in German post-DESI EFL classrooms


Heike Niesen

The book introduces an innovative way of teaching grammatical language awareness via socio-cultural learning tasks (SCLTs). It takes a close look at task-supported teaching/learning and socio-cultural learning theory and how they are combined to develop challenging and motivating learning tasks. It also presents ways to implement SCLTs in heterogeneous EFL classrooms and evaluates the learning potential of SCLTs against the backdrop of a more traditional teaching and learning approach (PPP). Besides the illumination of the very promising concept of SCLTs, the applied qualitative and quantitative research methods hope to be a valuable contribution to SLA research.
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The chapters to follow provide insights into ways of fostering German 9th grade EFL students’ “grammatical language awareness competencies” via “socio-cultural learning tasks” (SCLTs) which have been developed genuinely and solely for this purpose (pilot study). Thus, they primarily address SLA researchers from various strands, language test developers as well as in-service and trainee EFL teachers and students of linguistics and didactics.

The capacities SCLTs have to propel students’ competencies in the fields of “Past Tenses” and “Reported Speech” are compared with the traditional “presentation-practice-produce” (PPP) teaching approach (main study). Six major research steps are pursued: In chapter one, the catalyst for the dissertation is presented, namely the results of the official DESI study which uncovered 9th grade EFL students’ deficits in the field of “grammatical language awareness”. The overall practical aim to develop effective teaching means to propel students’ competencies in this field is specified in chapter two, which is devoted to the application of DESI results as a springboard for further research: These results are confirmed by teachers and students who participated in a pilot study which also served to identify “Reported Speech” and “Tenses” to be among the most challenging grammatical features for students. Readers are also offered a comprehensive account of possible root causes of students’ deficiencies, among which a neglect of “task-based” and “socio-cultural” elements in present-day EFL classrooms has been found to be the predominant one. Given this, the theoretical aim to develop “socio-cultural learning tasks” (SCLTs) by unifying aspects...

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