TEMPORAL DISTRIBUTION OF PRACTICE AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN THE ACQUISITION AND RETENTION OF L2 MANDARIN TONAL WORD PRODUCTION
DeKeyser, Robert M
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This dissertation investigated the effects of temporal distribution of practice (relatively massed vs. distributed) on the learning and retention of oral Mandarin tonal word production by native English-speaking adults within the theoretical framework of skill acquisition and retention theories. The present study focused on oral production of Mandarin two-syllable words as a function of temporal distribution of practice. It also explored whether the effects of this distribution differ depending on the type of knowledge to be acquired or retained (declarative word knowledge vs. skills in oral production) and on individual differences in cognitive aptitudes (including working memory, phonological short-term memory, declarative memory, procedural memory, and musical aptitude). Eighty native English-speaking adults who did not have any prior knowledge of a tonal language completed all sessions of the study and provided data for analysis. These participants were randomly assigned to four experimental conditions, i.e., Condition A with a 1-day ISI (intersession interval) and a 1-week RI (retention interval), Condition B with a 1-day ISI and a 4-week RI, Condition C with a 1-week ISI and a 1-week RI, and Condition D with a 1-week ISI and a 4-week RI. Each participant came in for five sessions. All participants completed a set of cognitive aptitude tests and underwent the same number and content of training sessions, which differed only on training or testing schedules. The results showed that the effects of ISI and RI differed depending on the type of knowledge/skill to be retained, declarative versus procedural. For the retention of declarative knowledge, RI had a robust effect: the longer the RI, the worse the retention. Spacing, or distributed practice seemed to improve long-term retention of declarative knowledge; however, this ISI effect was much weaker. With regard to procedural knowledge retention, ISI seems to play a role, but not RI, and it was massed practice that had an advantage over distributed practice. Musical aptitude, working memory, and declarative memory ability were found to play facilitative roles in L2 learning of Mandarin tonal word productions. Procedural memory ability was found to interact with ISI and RI for various RT outcome measures.