Reviewed by Eirene C. Katsarou, Greek EFL State Teacher
The volume consists of eleven chapters. In Chapter 1 ‘Introduction: Developments in Language Teaching Research’ (1-19) a brief history of language teaching research as was recorded in major journals of the area is provided and an overview of the main language teaching research areas discussed in the book is presented. Chapter 2 ‘Methods for Researching the Second Language Classroom’ (21- 49) considers some of the main research traditions followed in the area of L2 language teaching such as ‘discourse analysis’, ‘conversational analysis’ and the ‘ethnography of communication’ in terms of their theoretical underpinnings, their research design, their data collection methods and the methods of data analysis. Chapter 3 ‘Comparative Method Studies’ (51-73) distinguishes between ‘global’ and ‘local’ comparative method studies focusing specifically on the former in an effort to examine and assess the variety of methods/approaches applied in L2 teaching over a long period of time in terms of gains in general language proficiency and achievement. Chapter 4 ‘Second Language Classroom Discourse’ (75-114) examines research that illuminates a number of key aspects of L2 classroom discourse such as teachers’ turn-taking mechanisms, IRF (initiate-respond-follow-up) exchanges, participant structure, repair sequences and scaffolding based on results of microgenetic and ethnolinguistic methods of specific interactional sequences in the L2 classroom. Chapter 5 ‘Focus on the Teacher’ (115-149) examines some of the key characteristics of teacher’s use of language in the L2 classroom, i.e. teacher talk, teacher questions, use of the L1, metalanguage, corrective feedback and teacher belief systems on L2 language teaching.
Chapter 6 ‘Focus on the Learner’ (151-193) looks into descriptive studies of different aspects of learners’ use of language in the L2 classroom such as the silent period and private speech, use of formulaic speech, structural and semantic simplification, use of the first language (L1), use of metalanguage, discourse features, uptake, language play and learner-talk in small group work. Chapter 7 ‘Investigating the Performance of Tasks’ (195-235) discusses research on the language use resulting from performing tasks in the classroom and on how the design and implementation variables impact on the way tasks are performed through micro- and macro-evaluations of task-based (TBLT) language teaching. Chapter 8 ‘Interaction and L2 Learning in the Classroom’ (237-270) examines the extent to which classroom input and interaction contributes to learning drawing on the premises of (i) sociocultural theory and (ii) interactionist-cognitive theory which both view interaction as providing learners with input, feedback and opportunities to modify their own output which connect with learnerinternal processing to foster L2 acquisition. Chapter 9 ‘Form-focused Instruction and Second Language Learning’ (271-306) addresses research that has investigated deliberate attempts, planned instructional activities to teach specific linguistic forms (‘focus on form’ (FFI) instruction). Chapter 10 ‘Instruction, Individual Differences and L2 Learning’ (307-335) reviews research on the relationship between individual learner factors and instruction and emphasizes the bi-directionality of this relationship as L2 learners’ initial affective and motivational states and cognitive abilities can both affect and be affected by the type of instruction they experience in the L2 language classroom. Finally, Chapter 11 ‘Conclusion: Research and Language Teaching’ (337-348) concludes the book through a discussion of ways in which the language teaching research reviewed in the preceding chapters of the book can contribute to language teaching practice.
Ellis provides a state-of-the-art review of second language teaching research intended for both L2 teachers and researchers familiarizing them with the most recent findings in the area to assist them to conduct further research in their own classrooms. Some of the key issues that have figured in language teaching research over the last sixty years are identified and highly clarified and the limitations of the research methods that have been employed for their investigation are revisited.