The Alfred and Genevieve Gorski Technology Fund in the Center for Language Acquisition in the College of the Liberal Arts was established with an estate gift from the late Mr. and Mrs. Gorski. Genevieve graduated from Penn State in 1946 with an arts and letters degree and shared a love of language study which she and her husband believed was essential to break down barriers of race and culture.
Luke Plonsky (2019)
Speaker: Luke Plonsky Date of Talk: January 29, 2019 Location: Foster Auditorium Title and abstract:
“Methodological reform as an ethical imperative in applied linguistics”
There is a methodological reform movement currently taking root in applied linguistics. Evidence of this movement can be found in a wide variety of outlets such as editorials (e.g., Trofimovich & Ellis, 2015), revised journal author guidelines (Mahboob et al., 2016), methodological syntheses (e.g., Plonsky, 2013), specialized symposia (Norris, Ross, & Schoonen, 2013), studies of methodological literacy and training (Gonulal et al., in press), the newly added Research Methods strand at AAAL, and the introduction of new analytical techniques (Larson-Hall & Herrington, 2010). Several years ago, in fact, Byrnes (2013) referred to what she saw as a “methodological turn” (p. 825) already underway. The concerns that led to and that are often backed empirically within this body of research are not merely fodder for technocrats or nit-picking for research methodologists. To me, arguments in favor of ensuring that we produce “good” research are perhaps best viewed through the lens of ethics. In this paper I will discuss some of the initiatives—ranging from empirical to organizational—currently underway that seek to examine and improve the state of our science. As part of this larger discussion, the paper will also present a study that seeks to complement the body of mostly synthetic evidence of research practices by asking applied linguists about the extent to which they have engaged in a range of questionable data handling and reporting practices including clearly fraudulent activities such as data falsification and fabrication. A survey of questionable research practices (QRPs) based on Fanelli (2009) was sent to 2,230 applied linguists; 364 sets of responses were collected. We calculated descriptive statistics for all item responses. We then compared and correlated responses across and with participant demographics (e.g., years since completion of PhD). The results reveal fairly widespread fraud in applied linguistics: Approximately 1 in 6 participants reported having falsified or fabricated data on at least one occasion. I will discuss this finding, as well as those for other QRPs, from several angles. For example, to provide a broader context, I compare our results to those from other fields and in light of the replicability crisis (see Open Science Collaboration, 2015) currently being discussed in psychology. In addition, I’ll propose a number of possible causes for the prevalence of such practices such as the pressure to publish, insufficient training, and the lack of accountability. I also address the apparently very serious need for methodological reform as a matter of theoretical, practical, and yes—of course—ethical urgency.
Leila Ranta (2019)
Speaker: Leila Ranta Date of Talk: November 11, 2019 Location: Foster Auditorium Title and abstract: Can SLA make more of a difference? Grappling with the research-practice divide in relation to grammar instruction Many would agree with the statement that grammar instruction is an important component of second language learning and teaching. It has been a core activity of language teaching over the centuries and, more recently, an active area of enquiry among second language acquisition researchers. But the question remains whether and how the findings from this growing body of theory and research can actually help teachers teach grammar more effectively. Indeed, the image that is commonly evoked of the relationship between research and theory, on the one hand, and on teaching practices, on the other, is that of a divide. In this presentation, I will discuss different issues relating to this relationship including a review of the findings from the form-focused instruction literature; examination of some evidence relating to whether research has influenced the teaching of grammar; and presentation of a pedagogical framework for grammar instruction that I use in my teacher education courses. In the last part of my talk, I will consider the question of what this all means for how researchers plan form-focused studies so that they may be more relevant to language educators. Bio: Dr. Leila Ranta is an Associate Professor in the TESL program in the department of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta. She received her graduate training in applied linguistics at Concordia University in Montreal where she was involved in several large-scale research projects dealing with the effect of form-focused instruction. One of these, a study of corrective feedback in French immersion co-authored with Roy Lyster and published in Studies in Second Language Acquisition was awarded the Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign Language Education in 1998. Her other research activities have dealt with the topics of L2 aptitude, fluency, and naturalistic language exposure. Leila Ranta is currently co-editor (with Xavier Gutiérrez) of the journal, Language Awareness and serves as a member of the executive of the Association for Language Awareness. She has also served as a board member of the Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics and of the Quebec and Alberta ESL teachers associations (SPEAQ and ATESL).