Lecture by Sue Gass, April 5, 2000

Second Language Learners’ Perception of Feedback

by Susan Gass, University Distinguished Professor English Language Center, Michigan State University

Theoretical claims for the benefits of conversational interaction have been made by Gass (1977) among others.  The interaction hypothesis suggests that negotiated interaction can facilitate SLA.  This may be because these interactional features function as implicit negative feedback on learners’ utterances.  One interesting issue which has challenged interactional research concerns how learners perceive different feedback moves, and whether these perceptions affect their subsequent L2 development.  The present study concerns the first of these issues, the perception of feedback.  The study, involving 10 learners of English as a second language and 7 learners of Italian as a foreign language, explores learners’ perceptions about implicit negative feedback provided to them through task-based dyadic interaction.  Learners received feedback focused on a range of morpho-syntactic, lexical and phonological forms.  After completing the tasks and while watching videotapes of their previous interactions, learners were asked to introspect about their thoughts at the time this original interaction was in progress.  The results showed that learners were relatively accurate in their perceptions about lexical, semantic and phonological feedback.  However, morpho-syntactic feedback was generally not perceived accurately.  Also, the nature and content of the feedback may have affected learners’ perceptions.