Corrective feedback, individual variation in cognitive capacities, and L2 development: Recasts vs. metalinguistic feedback
This dissertation explores how the type of structure is related to the effectiveness of different forms of corrective feedback provided during interaction and whether/how individual differences in working memory (WM) and attention control mediate the extent to which L2 learners benefit from corrective feedback. Recasts were compared with metalinguistic feedback in terms of their relative effects on the acquisition of two target structures in an EFL setting: the English that-trace filter and the past unreal conditional. Eighty-three Korean L1 learners of English were randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions: recasts, metalinguistic feedback, and control. Each learner carried out a series of tasks and tests: a WM span task (operation span), an attention control task (task-set switching), a dyadic intensive treatment activity, oral production tests, and grammaticality judgment tests. Results show that metalinguistic feedback was more effective than recasts at facilitating accuracy in oral production involving the English that-trace filter, whereas recasts were slightly more effective than metalinguistic feedback at promoting the acquisition of knowledge on the past unreal conditional. Also, WM significantly predicted the observed effects of metalinguistic feedback, but not of recasts, on the development of the past unreal conditional, as evidenced in oral production. Attention control, however, was found to be significantly associated with the observed beneficial effects of recasts, but not of metalinguistic feedback, on the learners' accuracy in oral production of English past unreal conditional sentences. The findings suggest that learners may benefit more from explicit feedback than implicit feedback when learning a simple rule, but more from implicit feedback than explicit feedback when learning a complex rule. The results also indicate that both WM and attention control may mediate the effectiveness of corrective feedback, but in different ways, that is, their exact roles may differ depending upon the type of feedback.
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