Grammar has always been regarded an inseparable part of second/foreign language pedagogy. Traditionally, grammar has been taught by focusing on accuracy of form and rules through mechanical exercises. The advent of Communicative Language Teaching challenged such a view and provided substantial evidence in support for teaching grammar by promoting content/meaning-based instruction. Accordingly, “learners are usually not specifically taught the strategies, maxims, and organizational principles that govern the communicative language use but are expected to work these out for themselves through extensive task engagement” (Celce-Murcia, Dörnyei, & Thurrell, 1997, p. 141). Motivated by the debate over the role of explicit versus implicit learning in cognitive psychology as well as naturalistic exposure versus formal instruction in SLA research, ample evidence is available from classroom research confirming the effectiveness of focus on form and meaning together instead of exclusive focus on either form or meaning (Spada, 2011; Spada, Jessop, Tomita, Suzuki, & Valeo, 2014).
Form-focused instruction (FFI) refers to “any pedagogical effort which is used to draw learners’ attention to form either implicitly or explicitly within meaning-based approaches to L2 instruction and in which a focus on language is provided in either spontaneous or predetermined ways” (Spada, 1997, p.73). The existing research on instructed SLA differentiates FFI from decontextualized grammar instruction (Ellis, 2006). The main difference between these two lies in their stance on how grammar can facilitate communication. While the latter mostly focuses on learning and categorizing forms rather than relating them to their communicative functions, the former emphasizes the communicative aspect of using grammar (Spada & Lightbown, 2008). The separation of grammar from meaning entails minimal impact on learning since learners may erroneously view language instruction separately from language use (Lightbown, 1998). Decontextualized grammar instruction may also have trivial effects in classrooms where learners’ exposure to the L2 has been primarily message-oriented (Swain & Lapkin, 2002). In other words, language features taught in a decontextualized manner might be remembered and used exactly for the same decontextualized purpose (e.g., taking a grammar test) rather than promoting interaction. In contrast, the communicatively attained features of language can be easily accessible for future meaningful linguistic interactions (Ellis, 2006). Thus, the effectiveness of FFI activities will be reinforced when they are embedded in communicative contexts.
Instructed SLA literature is filled with various taxonomies on the inclusion of grammar instruction in L2 communicative pedagogy. Regardless of the specific perspectives and terminologies proposed such as unificationist vs. separationist (Johnson, 1982), focus on form vs. focus on formS (Long, 1991), reactive vs. proactive focus on form ( Doughty & Varela, 1998), planned vs. incidental focus on form (Ellis, Basturkmen, & Loewen, 2001), and isolated vs. integrated FFI (Spada & Lightbown, 2008), all share some basic characteristics which utilize both implicit and explicit form of grammar instruction through communicative activities. For example, Spada and Lightbown (2008) in delineating isolated and integrated FFI believe in their complimentary nature with isolated FFI provided in activities that are not necessarily embedded in immediate communicative use of language. Conversely, integrated FFI draws learners’ attention to language forms during communicative or content/meaning-based instruction.
Isolated FFI vs. Integrated FFI
According to Valeo and Spada (2016), the terms isolated and integrated refer to two different approaches to the timing of the grammatical instruction within an FFI framework. Unlike the traditional views such as grammar translation, both FFI approaches primarily concentrate on meaning while differing in the appropriate time of providing instruction for specific language forms. In isolated FFI the grammar instruction is provided separately from communicative activities which can take place before, during, or even after the activities. Isolated FFI is different from grammar-focused language instruction since the latter focuses on teaching and learning forms and features of a language while excluding communication. Moreover, traditional grammar-focused language instruction is generally based on a sequence of language structures provided in a syllabus but not the communicative priorities of the learners. On the other hand, in integrated FFI the attention to form occurs during the communicative activity. In other words, the learner is simultaneously involved in receiving meaning/content-based instruction while paying attention to form. Drawing learners’ attention to language forms in integrated FFI is possible by providing feedback or brief explanations of specific forms of the language. Hence, learners can find the connection between language forms and their functions without interrupting the flow of meaning in the communicative task (Spada et al., 2014).
In providing theoretical and empirical support for isolated FFI, Spada and Lightbown (2008) frame their claim within the theoretical argumentation of Dekeyser (1998) who on the basis of skill acquisition theory argues that “ grammar should be taught explicitly, to achieve a maximum of understanding, and then should be followed by some exercises to anchor it solidly in students’ consciousness, in declarative form, so that it is easy to keep in mind during communicative exercises” (p. 58). For the integrated FFI, the authors drew from the theoretical constructs of revised interaction hypothesis (Long, 1996), negotiation of form (Lyster, 1998), and meta-talk (Swain & Lapkin, 2002) and argue that “if learners’ attention is drawn to form within communicative practice, they will have the opportunity to make form-meaning connections and receive information about language form right at the time when they need to express messages” (Spada, Barkaoui, Peters, So, & Valeo, 2009, p. 71).
It needs to be considered that these two forms of FFI are not mutually exclusive and the implementation of either of these approaches or both depends on teachers’ instructional practices motivated by various individual, social, pedagogical, contextual factors as well as teachers and learners’ beliefs (Borg & Burns, 2008). For example, Graus and Coppen (2015) found that teachers’ beliefs about and preferences for grammar teaching can vary based on their educational level, stating that as the education level goes higher teachers are more willing to use meaning/content-based instruction. Yang (1999) found that college EFL learners’ selection of learning strategies was highly dependent on their beliefs as well as the ones instilled by teachers’ instructional practices. This relationship is cyclical in nature which can highly impact learners’ motivation and self-efficacy. Accordingly, the compatibility of beliefs between teachers and learners can facilitate successful L2 learning and teaching. In contrast, a mismatch can negatively influence language learning and teaching, particularly grammar instruction (Schulz, 2001).
Despite the wealth of research on FFI (for an overview see Larsen-Freeman, 2015; Nassaji, 2015) as well as teachers and learners’ views toward grammar instruction, few studies have specifically addressed the issue of isolated and integrated FFI. As a notable exception, Songhori (2012) found that Iranian college EFL instructors and learners had favorable views toward integrated FFI over isolated FFI. He also found some degrees of mismatch between v teachers and learners’ views which could be attributed to the specific research context. Ansarin and his team (2014) in a quasi-experimental study investigated the predicative ability of learner’s proficiency for their preference for integrated and isolated FFI. They found that less proficient learners were inclined toward isolated FFI while more proficient learners preferred integrated FFI. Elgün-Gündüz and her colleagues (2012) found that Turkish EFL learners who preferred integrated FFI over isolated FFI, had a higher level of motivation and ability for using grammatical and vocabulary knowledge in communicative activities.
Although there has already been a comprehensive account of FFI in SLA literature, there is a shortage of studies simultaneously investigating integrated and isolated FFI and comparing them across contexts with regard to teachers and learners’ background factors such as age, gender, education, and L2 exposure. For this purpose, the current study seeks to answer the following questions:
- Are there any preferences for isolated or integrated FFI among ESL and EFL teachers and learners?
- Are there any differences among ESL and EFL learners’ and teachers’ preferences for isolated and integrated FFI?
- To what extent are ESL and EFL teachers and learners’ beliefs and preferences for isolated and integrated FFI determined by the related background factors?
To answer the research questions, we conducted two related studies with four groups of participants (i.e., ESL and EFL teachers and learners) utilizing a mixed-method design to ensure that both qualitative and quantitative data provide in-depth information about teachers and learners’ view (Riazi & Candlin, 2014). Quantitative accounts of teachers and learners’ views were collected from participants’ responses to survey items while qualitative data were drawn from their written descriptions of grammar teaching and learning experiences.
Two groups of teachers as well as two groups of learners participated in this research. A total of 120 (63 EFL and 57 ESL) teachers were recruited from university-sponsored Intensive English programs in Iran and the USA (Table 1).
Table 1. Profile of EFL and ESL Teachers
A total of 280 adult English learners participated in the study as well, with 170 studying EFL in Iran and 110 studying ESL in the USA (Table 2). Both groups were reported to have a range of lower intermediate to upper intermediate level of proficiency in English. The majority of EFL learners were female while most ESL learners were male. Moreover, the majority in both groups had less than 7 years of exposure/learning experience in ESL/EFL. Most of the EFL learners spoke Farsi as their first language, while ESL learners were from diverse linguistic backgrounds including Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese, with the majority speaking Chinese (39%).
Table 2. Profile of EFL and ESL Learners
The research was conducted using two questionnaires to survey English teachers and learners’ preferences for, and beliefs about, isolated and integrated FFI grammar. Both questionnaires were adapted from Valeo and Spada (2016) and the required modifications were made based on the guidelines stated in Dörnyei (2010). Each questionnaire consisted of three parts: (a) a background information section, (b) a 5-point Likert-scale response section, and (c) an open-ended question section. The first section of both questionnaires asked participants to provide some background information such as gender, country/ place of residence, age, first language, second/ foreign language, length of formal exposure to second/ foreign language (as in the learner’s questionnaire), educational level, years of teaching a second/ foreign language, method of teacher education, method of L2 study (as in the teachers’ questionnaire).
Learners’ and teachers’ questionnaires consisted of 24 and 22 items respectively, divided evenly between integrated and isolated FFI. Both questionnaires had an open-ended section asking for further remarks and comments about grammar instruction, based on learners and teachers’ perspectives. Both questionnaires were piloted for their reliability coefficients. The reliability coefficient for each questionnaire was calculated using Cronbach’s α analysis amounting to .61 for teachers and .89 for learners, showing that the questionnaires were reliable enough to be used for further analyses. The reliability coefficients for each individual subscale were also calculated with αINT =.92 and αISO =.86 in learners’ questionnaire and αINT =.95 and αISO =.83 in teachers’ questionnaire.
The surveys were distributed in electronic and hard-copy formats. Upon securing the Institutional Review Board’s approval, ESL and EFL teachers were contacted through their institution’s mailing lists. The details of the study were emailed to them and they were invited to volunteer for the study. By volunteering, teachers also gave permission to collect leaners’ data from their classes. All teachers received an electronic link to the survey while learners received the hard copy of the questionnaire and answered it within their class time. Each questionnaire approximately took 10-15 minutes to complete.
Teachers’ Data: Quantitative Analysis
Table 3 shows the descriptive statistics for both ESL and EFL teachers’ responses to the survey. A comparison of the mean scores shows that ESL teachers had a stronger preference for integrated FFI over isolated FFI. On the other hand, EFL teachers favored isolated FFI over integrated FFI (Figure 1). An independent sample t-test confirmed that the difference between ESL and EFL teachers’ preferences was statistically significant: integrated FFI, t (118) = 6.041, p< .001, d = 1.11 isolated FFI, t (118) = -3.661, p < .001, d = .67. To examine the difference between ESL and EFL teachers’ preference, a repeated measure ANOVA was conducted which revealed significant difference between their stated beliefs and preferences, F (1,118) = 31.664, p < .001, η2 = .212.
Table 3. Teacher Survey Descriptive Statistics
Figure 1. Means of INT and ISO items for ESL and EFL teachers
The initial review of variables indicated the possible effect of some background factors, including gender, age, and teaching experience, on teachers’ preferences for integrated and isolated FFI. To explore the effect of gender, a one-way ANOVA was performed for each group based on their responses to the survey items. The result did not support a significant difference between male and female ESL teachers’ preferences for isolated FFI, F (1, 55) = 1.014, p = .318 and integrated FFI, F (1, 55) = 1.727, p = .194. In the EFL group, male teachers slightly preferred isolated FFI items compared to female teachers. However, the difference was not significant; isolated FFI, F (1, 61) = .020, p = .888 and integrated FFI, F (1, 61) = .219, p = .642. Overall, ESL teachers, both male and female, had higher preferences for integrated FFI items, whereas their EFL peers had stronger agreement with isolated FFI items (Table 4).
Table 4. Gender differences in ISO and INT items among teachers
Pearson Product-moment correlation analyses focusing on teachers’ age, teaching experience, and their preferences for integrated and isolated FFI revealed some robust findings. Age and years of experience correlated negatively with teachers’ preference toward isolated items, (rage= -.229, p = .012, rexperience= -.220, p = .016). On the other hand, teachers’ preference for integrated items had a positive correlation with age, r =.347, p < .001, and teaching experience, r = .263, p = .004), suggesting that older and more experienced teachers tend to implement integrated FFI in teaching grammar. Overall, both age and teaching experience significantly correlated with teachers’ preferences for integrated and isolated FFI.
Teacher’s Data: Qualitative Analysis
The comments made by teachers in responding to the open-ended question in the survey were also scrutinized. These comments could help the researchers to have access to proper qualitative data to have a better understanding of teachers’ beliefs and preferences for their preferred grammar instruction. All the comments were transformed into a conceptually clustered matrix to uncover the various categories that go together. Fifty-four ESL teachers (94.7%) provided full length and detailed comments. The comments provided by twenty-one ESL teachers extensively elaborated on their preferences for integrated FFI. For example, one teacher described his views as follows: “I think the best way of teaching grammar is helping students develop noticing and inference skills in students to independently extract grammatical rules. Allowing students to discover grammatical structures without explicit instruction will be the best way to build grammatical competence Six ESL teachers also clearly supported isolated FFI in teaching grammar. One ESL teacher wrote: “I believe mistakes in grammar should, for most students, be corrected immediately after an activity, and students should practice using the correct/standard grammar at that time”. Another teacher supported isolated FFI, depending on learners’ level of proficiency: “I believe that attention to grammar is not only important, but it is something that students crave. At the same time, separate grammar classes may not be necessary in more advanced levels of ESL”.
Twelve ESL teachers assigned equal value to both isolated and integrated FFI in teaching grammar. For example, one of the teachers stated that “I feel like the best way to grammar instruction is a balanced approach. Communication is our main aim; however, I think that students can benefit from studying grammar out of context sometimes as well, especially to focus on form and producing certain structures. I think effective pedagogy involves a mixture of direct grammar instruction and opportunities for meaningful practice”. Eight teachers argued their decision would depend on various factors, including their institution’s policy, students’ needs and goals, test-oriented teaching, context of teaching, and individual differences among learners. For instance, one of the teachers, while supporting the integrated FFI, clearly stated that “[She prefers] that grammar instruction is integrated into all courses – reading, writing, speaking & listening. However, the institution [where she currently teaches] has a separate grammar course and the current curriculum that [she is] required to follow limits the amount [she] can teach grammar using meaningful activities and content”. The remaining comments revealed some other concerns teachers had including error correction (2 comments), positive feedback (3 comments), and integrating grammar instruction into various L2 learning theories such as noticing and socio-cultural theory and corpus based approaches.
Of the 63 EFL teachers, 38 responded to the open-ended section of the survey. Nearly one third (n = 12) stated their support for integrated FFI. As an example, one EFL teacher wrote “I do believe in communicative method when students and the teacher are involved in communication simultaneously. Grammar is best taught via real- life examples”. Nearly half of EFL teachers (n=15) indicated preference for isolated FFI, while acknowledging the importance of integrated FFI. They mainly argued that their choice was determined by the proficiency level of their students, the difficulty level of the grammatical structures, the policies of their institutions, and their teaching context. For example, one teacher stated that “Grammar is the backbone of a language. It should be included in every syllabus and taught explicitly to assist learners understand the complex forms and functions of language”. Six EFL teachers assigned equal weight to both approaches, and acknowledged the need for ongoing transition between them. One teacher pointed to the discrepancy between their preferences and the realities of the classroom by criticizing the expectations that institutions have of them. She noted that the institution left few options for them to be more communication-oriented. In other comments teachers directed their concerns toward the needs and goals of their students as well as the specific methodology they chose which impacted their choice of grammar instruction.
As is evident from the findings of both types of analysis, it is obvious that more teachers are in favor of integrated FFI as their preferred approach to grammar instruction. However, the findings of qualitative analysis reveal that isolated FFI is not disregarded by the teachers. Moreover, the discrepancy between ESL and EFL teachers could be traced to their background factors, as well as the context of their teaching. In other words, the type of awareness reflected in teachers’ views could be directly influenced by classroom dynamics, as well as the needs and goals of learners, and the requirements of institutions.
Learners’ Data: Quantitative Analysis
Table 5 shows the descriptive statistics for ESL and EFL learners. A comparison of the group means indicates that both groups of learners preferred isolated FFI items over integrated FFI items. An independent sample t-test confirmed that the difference between ESL and EFL learners’ preferences was not statistically significant: integrated FFI, t (278) = 1.725, p = .086, d = .20 isolated FFI, t (278) = -.405, p = .686, d = .05. A repeated measure ANOVA was performed to test the difference between ESL and EFL learners with respect to their preference for isolated and integrated FFI. The result revealed a non-significant difference between learners regarding their preference, F (1,278) = 3.524, p = 0.62, η2= 0.013. Overall, both groups of learners had a higher preference for isolated FFI items over integrated FFI as illustrated in figure 2.
Table 5. Learner Survey Descriptive Statistics
Figure 2. Means of ISO and INT items for ESL and EFL learners
The initial review of background factors indicated the possible effect of variables including gender, age, and length of exposure on learners’ beliefs about integrated and isolated FFI. To explore the effect of gender, a one-way ANOVA was performed for each group of learners based on their responses to the survey items. The result did not support a significant difference between male and female EFL learners’ preferences for isolated FFI, F (1, 168) = .047, p = .829 and integrated FFI, F (1, 168) = .148, p = .701. On the other hand, male and female ESL learners differed significantly in their preference for integrated FFI, with the majority of male learners preferring integrated FFI, F (1, 108) = 10.147, p = .002. Although male ESL learners showed higher agreement with the isolated items compared to their female peers, the difference was not significant, F (1, 108) = 1.677, p = .198. Table 6 summarizes the mean comparison between male and female in each group.
Table 6. Gender differences in ISO and INT items among learners
Pearson Product-moment correlation analyses focusing on learners’ age, length of exposure, and their preferences for integrated and isolated FFI revealed that learners’ beliefs may vary. Length of exposure did not correlate significantly with learners’ preference (rISO= -.059, p = .328, and rINT = .040, p = .504). Moreover, age negatively correlated with learners’ preference for both FFI approaches (rINT = -.172, p = .004 and rISO =-.192, p = .001). Overall, younger learners expressed their preference more strongly than their older counterparts in both categories (i.e. isolated and integrated).
Learner’s Data: Qualitative Analysis
Of 110 ESL learners, 81 (73.63%) participants provided further comments on the survey. Thirty-seven learners wrote about their preferences for integrated FFI. One thing that all these learners mentioned in their comments, was the importance of communication in their learning. For example, one EFL learner stated, “I like to listen to news and watch TV programs and find out how grammar is used in the way people talk”. Another learner pointed out the importance of learning grammar through interacting with native English speakers“In my opinion, the best way to learn English grammar is to be exposed to the native form of the language through talking to native speakers instead of learning and memorizing them from the book”. Twenty-six ESL learners stated that they preferred isolated FFI over integrated FFI mostly because they valued structure over communication, “I like to study grammar separately from other skills, because it is the most important aspect of the language and we need to learn it before starting any conversations with others”. Twelve learners found both approaches equally valuable while identifying communication as the main reason of learning a language. Four learners mentioned that some individual differences, such as goals and motivation, shaped their views toward either of these approaches. In other comments, respondents considered other factors influencing their views toward grammar learning in the classroom including teacher’s pedagogical approach, types of learning activities, and class size and time spent of teaching grammar.
Of 170 EFL learners, 113 (63.8%) provided further comments to the open-ended question at the end of the survey. Almost one-third of comments (n = 35) pointed to EFL learners’ preference for integrated FFI; “I think learning grammar out of its context of use cannot be helpful enough in communicating others”. On the other hand, thirty-two EFL learners directly stated their preferences for isolated FFI. For example, one of the learners wrote, “I suggest that students study the grammar at the beginning of class time to solve their problem and understand the content better”. Eleven EFL learners acknowledged the value of both approaches an example of which is: “I like to know the basics of grammar before any communicative activities, but I still think communication is the best way to practice what I have learned about the grammar”. The rest of the comments addressed a wide range of issues such as request for more practice, change of the textbooks, a focus on learning grammar through games, and the inclusion of more audiovisual materials as to facilitate learning grammar.
Overall, both the quantitative and qualitative analyses of the findings suggest learners’ preference for isolated FFI in both EFL and ESL contexts supporting its contribution in learning and using language communicatively. Quite interestingly, the majority of learners stressed the importance of using accurate grammatical structures while dealing with productive language skills (i.e., speaking and writing). However, the approach that most learners found suitable differed between ESL and EFL contexts. While EFL learners indicated that they mostly prefer learning grammar through interactive study sources, ESL learners pointed to interaction with native speakers.
The study described in this paper sought to investigate and compare views about for isolated and integrated FFI stated by ESL and EFL teachers and learners. The first research question addressed the existence of any preferences for the two FFI approaches among participants. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the survey items and written comments provided by each group show a distinction between participants’ preferences. Looking at learners’ preferences, the findings partially replicated the results reported in previous studies (Elgün-Gündüz et al., 2012; Songhori, 2012; Valeo and Spada, 2015). Although both groups of learners supported isolated FFI, their comments revealed that they approved of isolated FFI if it leads to using L2 communicatively (Spada & Lightbown, 2008). On the other hand, although there was a slight difference between the responses provided by both groups of teachers, it is quite evident that integrated FFI is highly supported when the ultimate goal is communication.
Such finding is in line with the theoretical underpinnings of embedding grammar within and across communicative activities as well as proper timing for each of those activities (Spada et al., 2014). Moreover, participants in both groups of teachers extensively mentioned that their decision on either of these approaches are highly dependent on myriad of factors, including learners’ needs and goals as well as their instructional objectives. Looking at learners’ views and the incongruences with teachers’, one possible explanation could be the way they received grammar instruction. In both groups, learners had several years of formal instruction at their home countries where grammar was taught more mechanically. So, it would be easier for them to access their knowledge of grammar in a condition similar to their past experiences.
The second research question investigated whether there were any possible differences between the beliefs and preferences of teachers and learners across their contexts of L2 teaching and learning. Referring to learners’ data from both quantitative and qualitative perspective, it is quite clear that there is a congruence between their views about integrated and isolated FFI. The findings match the results reported in Loewen et al (2009) in which learners pointed to their goals and desires as guiding criteria to their preference for a proper grammar instruction approach. As emerged in the qualitative analysis of their comments, many learners from both camps expressed to learn grammar in real-life examples and through various communicative activities. One of the major areas that both groups of learner confirmed to share was practicing the learned grammatical forms in speaking activities. ESL learners, however, were more supportive of this idea due to having more access to individuals and communities they could interact with. EFL learners, on the other hand, have tried to fill this gap through online interactions with others as well as their peers in the class. It also support the findings reported by Ansarin et al (2015) which showed that learners proficiency could be a determining factor in their views. Since, most of the learners were from the lower to intermediate proficiency level, it is quite reasonable to see them stick to isolated FFI over integrated FFI.
Looking at teachers’ responses, the analyses suggested a difference between ESL and EFL teachers’ views toward isolated and integrated FFI. While ESL teachers were more willing to implement integrated FFI in their classes, EFL teachers preferred the implementation of isolated FFI. Looking at the comments provided by each group showed the possible reasons for such as mismatch. Accordingly, teacher’s selection of either of these approaches was mostly dependent on their students’ preferences and the needs they had. In both groups teachers tended to match their instructional practices and goals with the ones of their learners. The result confirms the claims made in Schulz (2001) which emphasize the importance of developing shared preferences by teachers and learners to guarantee a successful learning and teaching. The findings also indicate that context has a great impact on participants’ choice of FFI. The results show that EFL teachers in general supported isolated FFI while ESL participants preferred integrated FFI. Such a finding resonates with the ones reported in Loewen et al. (2009). Accordingly, one of the reasons for the existence of such differences could be the immediate linguistic context learners are situated in. ESL learners, due to their access to target language outside the classroom, may need to have more specific and explicit instruction of grammar in the class in order to engage themselves with the communicative activities outside the class. Likewise, EFL learners, due to their limited access to L2 environment, may seek more learning and communicative opportunities by valuing integrated FFI in order to gain more natural exposure to the target language.
The fourth question addressed the role of participants’ background on their preferred choices of FFI. The results of the current study suggest both teachers and learners value various aspects of isolated and integrated FFI. Both assigned values, necessarily not equal, to grammar instruction as an integral aspect of L2 learning and teaching. The variation of their belief system could be sought in the variation of the background factors each group of participants had. The findings supports that teacher’s belief is somehow influenced by their gender, age, and teaching experience. As they get more experienced in their teaching career, teachers will be more cognizant of using grammar in communication and tend to be more willingly to teach grammar integratively. Similarly, the related findings from learners’ data supported the impact of background factor on their choices. It is also revealed that age and gender could be determining criteria for learner’s choice of FFI grammar. Interestingly, the amount of time of being exposed to L2 did not show any significant effect on learners’ preferences as predicted in Valeo and Spada (2016). One of the reasons for this could be sought through investigating the amount of time these learners spend using their L2 and their L1. Although not reported here (due to the lack of enough data), the impression from some informal interviews revealed that in both contexts learners tend to spend more time with peers who have more linguistic and cultural similarities. Moreover, the negative correlation of learners’ age with both FFI approaches can explain learners’ goal for ultimate attainment in grammar to be achieved in a way that more explicit input is provided (Dekeyser, 2017). Accordingly, since most of the learners have been exposed to L2 for a fairly short period, they tend to be more analytic in their choice of L2 grammar learning.
What can be clearly concluded from these findings is that learning a language is an act of communication and it best takes place when both the form and meaning are taught interactively to accomplish a communicative activity. Such a conclusion is consistent with current theory and research in instructed SLA and language pedagogy (Spada, 2011). However, as the findings show there is not absolute and cut-off degree of learners and teachers’ preferences for either of the isolated and integrated FFI grammar instruction. Conversely, their selection as the main instructional strategy in the classroom depends on a variety of pedagogical variables, contextual factors and individual differences among learners and teachers.
Pedagogically, the findings provide support for a combination of isolated and integrated FFI approaches in teaching grammar across various curricula. Depending on the type of courses teachers teach and type of knowledge learners aim to develop (Spada et al., 2014), it will be beneficial if syllabi are designed to provide the most appropriate input to learners to meet the required level of grammatical accuracy as well as communicative abilities. So, one line of future studies this research can contribute to is conducting classroom research with experimental groups to focus on isolated, integrated, and a combination of these two with regard to various language skills. In this way, the specific effects of each of these approaches could be clearly identified.
This study also has some limitations that are inherent in using surveys as the means of data collection. One of the ways to eliminate such a limitation is conducting and analyzing interview data to provide more detailed and in-depth examination of beliefs and preferences held by teachers and learners. The other limitation of this study comes from the number of background factors inspected for their possible effects on learners’ and teachers’ beliefs. Undoubtedly, there are more factors which could be regarded as individual differences or background factors influential on learners’ and teachers’ beliefs. Future studies are encouraged to be conducted to explore these factors as well.
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