Transforming L2 learners to “better” learners:
Learner psychology and peer interaction among children
Universidad Andrés Bello (Chile)
Are you frustrated with pair and group tasks? Do your students rely on their first language? Do they work together well? Are you skeptical of peer interaction tasks in general for second language (L2) teaching/learning? L2 teachers often share those concerns, especially in foreign language contexts where students may not engage with peer interaction tasks. In such contexts, teachers consequently choose to use teacher-centered tasks and avoid peer interaction tasks, so as to use the instructional time more effectively. In this talk, I will discuss research of the impact of peer interaction on L2 development from a pedagogical perspective, with a focus on child L2 learners. Specifically, the talk will focus on how learner psychology is related to the ways in which L2 learners interact with each other, which, in turn, may affect the amount of attention they pay to language forms (i.e., focus on form) during communicative tasks.
First, while discussing previous peer interaction research, I will argue that researchers have focused on interactional moves (e.g., the amount of L2 production, the quantity and quality of language-related episodes, social relationships between learners, etc.) while overlooking learner psychology as a potential moderator of interactional moves. Second, I will demonstrate how learner psychology may affect the way in which learners engage with the task and/or their conversation partner. Third, I will show some pedagogical interventions designed to facilitate learner psychology (e.g., metacognitive instruction, vision intervention) that ultimately impacts the effectiveness of peer interaction tasks.
Throughout my talk, I will refer to my projects that have been conducted in the Chilean EFL context, with young learners ranging from Grade 3 to Grade 11. As pedagogical suggestions, I will propose that teachers can: (1) assess their students’ psychology related to pair and group work; (2) raise the students’ awareness of their own psychology; and (3) devote adequate instructional time to developing learner psychology that facilitates the students’ engagement with the task and their classmates. This type of instruction is crucial especially for children who may be cognitively and emotionally immature. In so doing, students and teachers alike can benefit from peer interaction tasks while avoiding wasting limited instructional time in the classroom.