THE ROLE OF RULES, EXAMPLES AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THE ACQUISITION OF DECLARATIVE AND PROCEDURAL SECOND LANGUAGE KNOWLEDGE
DeKeyser, Robert M.
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The relevance of explicit instruction has been well documented in SLA research. Despite numerous positive findings, however, the issue continues to engage scholars worldwide. One issue that was largely neglected in previous empirical studies - and one that may be crucial for the effectiveness of explicit instruction - is the timing and integration of rules and practice. The present study investigated the extent to which grammar explanation (GE) before practice, grammar explanation during practice, and individual differences impact the acquisition of L2 declarative and procedural knowledge of two grammatical structures in Spanish. In this experiment, 128 English-speaking learners of Spanish were randomly assigned to four experimental treatments and completed comprehension-based task-essential practice for interpreting object-verb (OV) and ser/estar (SER) sentences in Spanish. Results confirmed the predicted importance of timing of GE: participants who received GE during practice were more likely to develop and retain their knowledge successfully. Results further revealed that the various combinations of rules and practice posed differential task demands on the learners and consequently drew on language aptitude and WM to a different extent. Since these correlations between individual differences and learning outcomes were the least observed in the conditions that received GE during practice, we argue that the suitable integration of rules and practice ameliorated task demands, reducing the burden on the learner, and accordingly mitigated the role of participants’ individual differences. Finally, some evidence also showed that the comprehension practice that participants received for the two structures was not sufficient for the formation of solid productive knowledge, but was more effective for the OV than for the SER construction.