Presentation - International Institute

Sociocultural Approaches to Teaching
to the Advanced Level: The Pedagogical
James P. Lantolf
Penn State University
June 20, 2012
UCLA Heritage Language Institute
[email protected]
Plan of Action
1. Background: SLA & SCT
2. Bridging a GAP
3. What GAP?
4. Principles of SCT Developmental Education
5. Concept-Based Instruction
6. Examples: English, Spanish, Chinese
7. Optional: Metaphor & Figurative Language
8. Conclusion
9. Sources & Resources
Knowledge & SLA
• The expectation that SLA research should somehow have
immediate consequences for the classroom is predicated
on certain assumptions and misunderstandings. SLA
research should not be expected to improve instruction but
it should inform so that teachers understand and gain
insight into what the processes are that guide learning.
(VanPatten 2010)
• “the imperative command that knowledge shall serve
purpose, and learning be applied to the problem of human
life” (Carl Becker 1912)
Theory/Research ***** Practice
• van Lier (1994: 30)
– There has occurred a sort of ‘double split’ --
linguistics (and SLA) with theory in one direction, and
education with practice in another -- and this split
needs to be resolved before we can once again
speak of a healthy AL (applied linguistics)
A dichotomy
• Bygate (2005)
– SLA by the 1980s had ‘declared itself a distinct
area from language pedagogy research, with the
principle aim of researching all aspects of second
language acquisition as an academic discipline in
its own right’
• Gass & Mackey (2007)
– ‘The interaction approach, like most other
accounts of second language acquisition, is
primarily focused on how languages are
learned. Thus, direct application to the
classroom may be premature’
• The fundamental psycholinguistic process of
second language acquisition is the same
whether learners enter classrooms or acquire
language outside of them. (Gass 1989),
Bridging the Theory **** Practice Gap Erlam (2008)
Ellis (2009)
• Convert technical knowledge into practical
– Summaries of literature that are accessible to
• Make technical knowledge relevant
– Ten Principles of effective instructed L2 learning
based on findings of SLA research
Sample Principles
• Ensure that learners focus primarily on meaning
• Ensure that learners also focus on form
• Instruction mainly directed at developing implicit
knowledge BUT not neglect explicit knowledge
• Instruction needs to take into account learner’s built-in
An Alternative Approach: SCT
• Overcome dualistic thinking of SLA
– Implicit vs. Explicit
– Learning vs. Acquisition
– Performance vs. Competence
– Teaching vs. Learning
• Human as subject OR object > human as Subject &
– humans shape the world they live in and AT THE
SAME TIME the world shapes humans
Education as Artificial Development of the Person
• Education: grounded in explicit mediation is
‘artificial development’ of the individual.
– ‘restructures all functions of behavior in a
most essential manner’
(Vygotsky 1997)
Teaching/Learning Dialectic
(Cole 2009)
• Obuchenie: double-sided process
– Learning (change in psychological process & knowledge)
– Organization of environment by adults
• everyday world as when adults mediate children into a
• formal educational setting
– instruction
Comparing SLA and SCT
• SLA grounded in the ontology of the autonomous
• Development occurs inside of the head
• Cognitive Perspective
• Social provides support for development
• SCT grounded in the ontology of the social
• Development occurs at the nexus of the
person and the other
• Also cognitive but cognition is not exclusively
in the head
• Social is the source of (cultural) development
– focuses on and privileges learning over teaching
– all developmental mechanisms are inside the learner
[the container]
– focuses on dialectical unity of teaching/learning
– obuchenie is a central mechanism in development
The Vygotskian Project
The challenge:
Create rather than observe psychological
processes [including through education] that set
individuals free (AGENCY through language)
(Stetsenko & Arievitch 2004)
Defining Agency in SCT
Miller (2012)
• Agency: competent planned self-regulation. The Zone
of Proximal Development (effective educational
practice) is a process in which an actor following
instructions becomes transformed into an agent
issuing instructions.
– Internal mediation whereby the actions of the agent
are experienced as happenings to the agent.
Agency: Pre-Understanding > Understanding
• Intentionality—understanding in action mediated by
reason or purpose
– Determines direction or course of action
• Agent relies on (pre) understanding to produce action
– Child wishing to obtain candy on high shelf
• Sees chair and stick in area but doesn’t think of
using either as tool
–Pre-understanding of chair is as object for
– Adult mediates shift in understanding
• Chair can be used for standing
– How?
Preunderstanding > Understanding
• In acquiring new understanding, learner must
suspend existing understanding, or preunderstanding that may block learning
– Being told to stand on chair may work
– Being told that height and width of container must
be taken into account in judgments about quantity
of liquid in container may not.
– No amount of staring at liquid in container will
produce understanding about conversion. This
will entrench pre-understanding. Action that
challenges pre-understanding is needed to shed it.
• Mediation as a form of other-regulation is a
means of penetrating the circle of understanding
by furnishing the mediatee not with ready-made
understanding but with alternative preunderstandings that facilitate rather than
obstruct engagement with a task.
• Mediation in the ZPD—dislodges existing preunderstanding of the mediatee that leads to new
Education as Mediated Activity
(Miller 20102)
• Zone of Proximal Development
– Performing without competence
– Under guidance of other
• Mediator and mediatee do not share common
understanding of situation.
• Not subject to same dynamics that govern conversation
Mediation vs. Dialogue
(Miller 2012)
• Mediation -- Dialogue different kinds of communication
– Dialogue: meanings/understandings exchanged When mutual
understanding does not exist, dialogue breaks down. Different
form of communicated need to restore dialogue
– Mediation in ZPD: new understanding in situations where preunderstanding is inadequate
• Mediator: entrench tradition that informs her/his
understanding through monologue because instruction
does not invite exchange of ideas
• Mediatee: appropriate new understanding that dislodges
current pre-understanding
Scientific Concept as Unit of Instruction
• Scientific Concept
– Coherent. Systematic & Abstract
– Generative & Recontextualizable
• Everyday Concept
– Lack generality, abstractness, & independence
– Limited contexts of applicability
• Valsiner (2001) & Kozulin (1998)
The Argument
• Scientific Knowledge of L2
– Primary unit of classroom instruction & development
– Conscious awareness and control
– Speeded-up Processing (Paradis, 2009)
– Grounded in systematic linguistic research
– From the outset of an instructional program
– Not an argument against CLT
• Dialectical Unity of Explicit Knowledge &
Communicative Performance
Michel Paradis (2009). Declarative and
procedural determinants of second languages
• While L1 is not like learning to draw Mickey Mouse, L2 for
most adults, especially in non-immersion experiences is.
– Learning and performance guided by declarative
– Knowledge of L2 is equivalent to L1 lexical knowledge—
– Declarative knowledge cannot become proceduralized
or implicit as L1 is.
– Declarative knowledge can become speeded up or
– Declarative knowledge performance can serve as input
to implicit learning system in some cases
Language as Object – Language as Subject
(Widdowson 2002)
• Object: what users actually do
– Relevant for linguistic theorizing to uncover nature
of language
• Subject: a language we teach
– Pedagogically treated language
– Essential and salient aspects of grammar, semantic
potential, pragmatics
• Conceptual knowledge = explanation
• Contextual knowledge = exemplification
Receptivity vs. Passivity
• Active Construction
Passive Reception
Active Reception
Systemic-Theoretical Instruction: P. Galperin
• Explanation
– Presentation of Scientific Concept
• Materialization/Visualization
– Concretize as SCOBA [Schema for Orienting Basis
of Action]
• Communication
– Goal-directed oral and written performance
• Strategic Interaction [Di Pietro 1987]
• Verbalization [social and private languaging]
– Of Concept using SCOBA
– Use SCOBA to explain performance
• Internalization & Speeded-up Processing
Empirically based
Highly Context Dependent
Gives impression that language is about using right
forms and avoiding wrong forms--language
controls the person
– Rather than that language is a cultural artifact to
construct the meanings they need for
communicative and cognitive activity
Example of Rule-of-Thumb
• Spanish Aspect (Preterit vs. Imperfect)
– Preterit: “reports, records, narrates, and in the
case of certain verbs (e.g., saber, querer, poder)
causes a change of meaning
– Imperfect: “tells what was happening, recalls
what used to happen describes a physical or
mental emotion, tells time in the past, describes
the background and sets the stage upon which
another action occurred”
• (Whitely 1986)
Negueruela 2003 on Rule of Thumb
• A concrete understanding of a linguistic concept,
such as a rule of thumb, lack generality,
abstractness, coherence, independence,
functionality, and significance, since it can only be
applied with difficulty to one context: namely the
fill-in the blank activity or the constrained sentence
level translation exercise.
Negueruela (2003) on Concept
• A theoretical concept is a coherent
systematic general meaning that can be
recontextualized for a variety of tasks. Its
regulatory power comes from abstract
generalization and conceptual
specification (Valsiner 2001).
SCT & Cognitive
• Psychological – Linguistic Theories
– Meaning is Primary
• Structure is Secondary and Derived
– Connect Language to the World
– Meaning is Flexible and Context Dependent
– Language not modular
• Connected to other cognitive capacities
Lee (2011). Concept-based approach to second language
teaching and learning
• Participants: 23 graduate students in ESL course
– 21 in Ph.D. programs. 2 in MA programs
• Math, statistics, chemistry, entomology, engineering
(chemical, mechanical, civil), computer science,
forestry, economics
– L1
• Chinese = 15 (12 China; 3 Taiwan)
• Korea = 6
• Thailand = 2
– Residency in US
• 19 < one year
• 3 between 1.5 & 3 years
Verb-Particles Constructions (Lee 2011)
I took the mug out of the box
We fished out the ring
We handed out the
We picked out a name for
the baby
SCOBA for Particle OUT
1. Out of Container
2. Move out of
group or set
3. Move out of
4. Container increase
in size
Summary of Quantitative Analysis
Performance Score
Non-Guessing Score
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Improved
- Transfer
+ Improved
- Transfer
- Improved
+ Improved
- Transfer
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Improve
+ Transfer
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Improved
+ Transfer
+ Transfer
Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
General Concept
• Stage I
– Lexical Aspect
• Inherent in verbs reflecting nature of events in
– Perfective: beginning and end of event coincide
» Jump, throw, shoot, hit, etc.
– Imperfective: once initiated continues
» Run, walk, talk, look, read, resemble, etc.
Verbal Aspect
Refining the Concept
• Stage II
– Dynamicity: distinguish events from states
• Events
– Activities: no specific end point--run, walk, talk, swim
– Accomplishments: extended in time with end point--run a race,
paint a picture, build a chair
– Achievements: inherent end point--jump, throw, shoot
– Telicity: clear end point
• Achievements & Accomplishments
• Activities & States are atelic--no clear end point
– Durativity: extend over time
• Accomplishment and activities
• Achievements are non-durative or punctual
Lexical Aspect
Verbal Aspect & Grammar
• Stage III
– Grammar allows user to override lexical aspect in order to bring
a specific temporal perspective into linguistic discourse-- NEW
• Morphological Endings of Verbs
– Estar ‘to be’ (stative verb and therefore inherently, nondynamic, durative and atelic) can be brought into
discourse as TELIC
– Estuvo en Madrid una semana ‘He/she was in Madrid for
a week.
SCOBA: Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
A las 5 / en ese momento/ corrió hacia la estación de trenes
At 5 o’clock /at that time/ she ran toward the train station
SCOBA: Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
A las 5 / en ese momento se sentó
At 5 o’clock / that afternoon/at that time she sat down
SCOBA: Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
Ayer/ esa tarde corrí
Yesterday/that afternoon I ran
SCOBA: Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
El año pasado corrí todos los días
Last year I ran every day
Corrí en un equipo de atletismo por dos años
I ran on a sports team for two years
SCOBA: Verbal Aspect (Yañez-Prieto 2008)
Ayer/ en ese momento/ esa tarde corría
Yesterday/at that time/that afternoon he was running
Link to Practice: Literature
• Cognitive Dissonance
• Activity 1: Julio Cortázar--Continuidad de los parques
• “Primero entraba la mujer, recelosa; ahora llegaba el amante,
lastimada la cara por el chicotazo de una rama” [“First, the woman
entered-imperfect fearfully; now, the lover arrived-imperfect with his face
slashed from an encounter with a branch”]
• Activity 2: compare with aspect in a Spanish soap-opera
• Activity 3: students write about an emotional event in their life
Aspect: Making Meaning
• Emma:
Pero esa noche, mi papá no nos molestaba con sus preguntas y mi mama ni siquiera
levantaba la vista de su plato. Esa noche, el silencio no era cómodo; era pesado y fuerte.
Llenaba el cuarto, hundiendo a mi familia, y mis hermanas y yo cruzábamos miradas
preocupadas. Algo no estaba bien.
• [But that night, my dad did-imperfect not bother us with his
questions and my mom did-imperfect not even raise her eyes from
her plate. That night silence was-imperfect not comfortable; it wasimperfect heavy and strong. It filled-imperfect the room, sinking my
family, and my sisters and I crossed-imperfect worried glances.
Something was-imperfect not right.]
Aspect: Making her own meaning
• Emma:
• Descendí la escalera lentamente, sin sentir los escalones bajo los pies. Con cada
paso hacia su cuarto mi corazón latió más alto. Cuando llegué a su cuarto, era
oscuro y callado y mi mamá estaba en la cama, los ojos cerrados.
• [I went-preterit down the stairs slowly, without
feeling the treads under my feet. With each
footstep towards her room my heart beat-preterit
louder. When I arrived-preterit at her room, it
was-imperfect dark and quiet and my mom wasimperfect in bed, with her eyes closed.] (Yáñez
Prieto 2008)
Emma Understanding
• Although a lot of my paper could have been
written in either imperfect or preterit, I tried to
use each tense strategically to convey
different meanings. For example, when I was
talking about the moments when we were in
the dining room in silence, I used imperfect to
depict everything as if the reader was there in
the middle of the action, seeing everything as
it was happening
Emma Understanding
• “When I went to my mom’s room to see
her after I found out that she was sick, I
used preterit for all the verbs. This time I
wanted to show each action as a complete
Struggle: Pre-Understanding > Understanding
Negueruela (2003)
• Participant 6 (time 1):[preterit] “is used a lot to report
a story and to present completed events that have
happened. Imperfect is used for description and to
open a scene. It is like to say in English: ‘I was
something’ when….”
• Participant 6 (time 2): “there is no real time that you
cannot use either or … pretérito is used for definite
actions in the past when you are giving emphasis to
the fact that it is over or that it just began. Imperfect is
used when talking about the middle or giving
background, it sets the scene and shows that the
action is in progress in the past.”
Learner Reflections on STI
• Participant 4: “the charts are a grammarfiguring-out-guide that work better than the
rules (like the rules for preterit and imperfect)
that we had learned in Spanish 100. It was very
helpful to see the concepts in a visual structure
because the concept of grammar is a very
structural concept, and being able to visualize it
made it make much more sense.”
Learner Reflections on STI
• Participant 7 : “Although sometimes recording myself speak was a bit
awkward, I think it was overall extremely helpful. It made me more
comfortable speaking and improvising, and it forced me to truly think
about the grammar.”
• Participant 3: “the activities that have helped me the most are the
verbalization ones with the cassette tape player. I feel as thought with
verbalization exercises I not only improved my speaking, but also
learned a lot of information about the indicative and subjunctive.”
• Participant 1: “In all honesty, I never really consciously silently
explained anything to myself. I think when I am studying that is basically
what I am doing, and when I am trying to learn a concept, I do the same
thing. But I never really sat down and thought to myself, “hey, now I’m
going to explain this concept to myself. I think that these techniques
have taught me a different way of studying and learning.”
Pre-understanding > Understanding
• Dulcinea:
– “This week we learned about aspect and perspective. I
feel that I am starting to understand that there are
many more uses for the preterit and imperfect than
those introduced in textbooks. It is confusing however
to grasp the idea that the preterit can be used to
describe something in the past, when we have been
taught the “rules” that the imperfect is used for
description in the past.” (Yáñez Prieto 2008)
Effects of Verbalization
• Time 2: Although sometimes recording myself speak was a
bit awkward, I think it was overall extremely helpful. It made
me more comfortable speaking and improvising, and it
forced me to truly think about the grammar.
• Time 2: the activities that have helped me the most are the
verbalization ones with the cassette tape player. I feel as
though with verbalization exercises I not only improved my
speaking, but also learned a lot of information about the
indicative and subjunctive.
– Negueruela (2003)
Pre-Understanding > Understanding
• Dulcinea
– “I feel that this assignment [Cortázar’s jumbled text] was a good
start to training our brains to think about the Spanish language in a
different light rather than simply forming the different conjugations of
verbs or working on writing sentences. Putting together a “puzzle” of
words forces our brain to recall information that you already know
and put it to use.”
– “My knowledge of the Spanish language, so far this semester, has
increased a great deal. I have moved beyond learning simple
grammatical rules and how to form verbs, now I have a better
understanding of how to use the language in writing and speaking. “
Pre-understanding > Understanding
• Gulliver
– “It’s kind of funny how you can have a
grammar st … the gram … grammatical
structure actually tell a story. I’d not really
noticed that or seen that before. I mean, the
words are telling the story and the grammar is
telling the story, which is kind of weird. Yeah,
I’d never seen that before. Interesting.”
“Lo siento” vs. “I’m sorry”
and related expressions
Julieta Fernandez
Data analysis
Learners of Spanish as a foreign language in
the local high school (English L1)
Learners used (frequencies):
• “lo siento” 532 times
• “perdon(a/me)” 5 times
• “disculpa(me)” 1 time
Rules of thumb  set expressions
Rule of thumb: Set expressions + some contextualization
thanks, thank you
Muchas gracias
thank you very much
De nada, no hay de que
you’re welcome
pardon me, excuse me (to
ask forgiveness or to get
someone’s attention)
Con permiso
pardon me, excuse me (to
request permission to pass
by or through a group of
Apologizing or expressing forgiveness
• Apologies are much less common in
Spanish than English.
• For example, bumping into someone
accidentally in the street does not always
meet with an apology in Spanish and this
is not regarded as rude
• “Expression for granting forgiveness seem
to be used less frequently in Spanish”
Spanish vs. English Interlocutor Orientation
Spanish: Hearer-focused: Perdóname
English: Speaker-focused: I’m sorry
Personal Space
Personal space
Personal Space in Spanish
Personal Space in English
• Entering physical space
• Disculpe
• Permiso
Entering mental space:
Name/ oiga
Disculpe/ Perdone
When channel is open – annoyance, emotion, etc.
1) Evaluation of the situation
• A: bien, todo bien, yo disfruto de no hacer nada; aparte tengo las patas tan
hinchadas que no podria hacer otra cosa
• B: ah, que macana eh; hace mucho calor?
• A: si, bastante pesadito. y alla, cuanto frio hace?
2) Offering condolences/ breaking bad news
• A: Cuando recién había chocado lo único que pude hacer fue sentarme en el
cordón a llorar. Así que me dieron una multa, porque ni siquiera pude explicar
que paso y obviamente la otra mujer aprovecho para decir que ella no había
hecho nada mal.
• B: lo siento mucho. me siento mal porque debería haber estado ahí. que puede
hacer para ayudar?
• A: oh, no no por que? No te hagas problema, ya estoy mucho mejor.
3) Expressing power relations
A: No se como hacer para terminar esto a tiempo
B: Lo siento pero lo vas a tener que hacer sola
4) Sarcasm (meaning “put up with it)
si no te gusta la banda lola nena bancatela FUERA….tenes menos coherencia que
un texto sin palabras!!!!……
Teachability Project
• Xian Zhang: Chinese
• Adam van Compernolle: French
In Chinese, if we want to emphasize what
has been eaten, you can also do this:
the rice
In Chinese, we can put almost everything (except
the verb) at the beginning of a sentence.
at two
at home
Why don’t we put the verb at
the beginning ? Well, in that
case, the sentence becomes “ate
sb.…” that’ll be a problem,
The waiter served the food to the lady.
The lady was served the food by the waiter
The lady was served the food
The food was served (Se sirvió la comida)
SCT & Pedagogical Imperative
• 1. SCT is a dialectical approach to mind and mental
• 2. Educational activity, including language education, is a
special kind of development
• 3. The more complex something is the more systematic
explicit instruction is called for
• 4. Teaching is mediation through systematic unit of
instruction and social interaction
• 5. Development = understanding and performance
Some References
• Ferreria, M. (2005). An application of the concept-based approach to
academic writing instruction. Ph.D. dissertation.
• Lee, H. (2011). Concept-based approach to second language teaching
and learning: Cognitive linguistics-inspired instruction of English phrasal
verbs. Ph.D. dissertation.
• Lai, W. (in progress). Concept-based foreign language pedagogy:
Teaching the Chinese temporal System. Ph.D. dissertation.
• Negueruela, E. (2003). A sociocultural approach to the teaching-learning
of second languages : Systemic-theoretical instruction and L2
development. Ph. D. dissertation
• Yañez-Prieto, C. (2008). On literature and the secret art of invisible
words : Teaching literature through language. Ph.D. dissertation.
• Lantolf, J. P. & Poehner, M. E. (eds.) (2008). Sociocultural theory and the
teaching of second languages. London: Equinox.
• Lantolf, J. P. & Poehner, M. E. (forthcoming). Sociocultural theory and the
pedagogical imperative: Vygotskian praxis in L2 education. Routledge.

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