Applied Linguistics & Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Teachers College, Columbia University
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    Apple Lecture

    Apple Lecture 2008

    TESOL/AL Times Article
    In Dr. Han’s introduction to the afternoon’s second lecture, she asked the question, “Is Professor VanPatten real or fictitious?” In light of his numerous accomplishments and accolades, he seems more myth than man. However, he is real, and he is hilarious. The 90+ students, professors, and associates who attended “Processing Instruction, Meaning-based Output Instruction, and Dictogloss: A Comparative Study (and Some Sundry Observations)” got to enjoy more of his humor, but also gained a lot of interesting information.

    His thorough discussion of the literature that prompted his studies, others’ attempts at replicating his original processing instruction (PI) study (VanPatten & Cadierno, 1993) and his own current research was incredibly informative, but also peppered with jokes that both gave my brain a rest and made the material less daunting for this SLA novice. The lecture’s main focus was VanPatten’s recent research at Texas Tech University on PI, meaning-based output instruction (MOI) and dictogloss (DG) and how they affect the acquisition of Spanish word order and clitic object pronouns. Very simply put, VanPatten and his colleagues found that students who received PI did better on comprehension and reconstruction tasks than those with MOI and DG, but those students who received MOI did slightly better on production tasks. The control group, who received traditional instruction, underperformed on all tasks.

    VanPatten also looked at how explicit instruction affects students’ success with PI, MOI, and DG tasks. It seems that DG is completely dependent on explicit instruction, PI seems to be the least dependent, and, coupled with MOI, it improves students’ ability to interpret input. Given his findings, VanPatten concluded that PI is slightly more advantageous than the other models of instruction. The topic of successfully replicating studies reemerged when VanPatten discussed others who have tried to test the findings of the 1993 study, which determined PI to be more effective than traditional instruction in improving learners’ ability

    In his closing remarks, VanPatten stated that it is possible that each language has “three or four things that can cause ripples throughout the system, causing [learner’s target-language grammar] to restructure” and become more native-like. His studies show that attacking these key features using PI is an effective way of causing these “ripples.” When I heard this, I was very excited. How can we as language teachers use PI in our own classrooms? Sadly, we shouldn’t – VanPatten reported that teachers have had little success implementing PI activities because effective use relies on knowledge of mental processing strategies. He instead suggests that PI tasks be left to computer-lab activities designed by experts while the classroom provides what students can’t get elsewhere.