Defying established practice in the EFL classroom: The development of a theoretical framework for teaching and testing SE periphrastic verbs

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The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Unit at the Centre for Language Learning (CLL) at The University of the West Indies (UWI) St. Augustine Campus is strategic to the institution's goal of global reach and impact in its provision of EFL to international corporations and students; in particular to those who matriculate into the university. Its policies match established standards in the field, its courses are delivered by qualified staff, and its involvement in the postgraduate TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Diploma predisposes it to reflective practice. This study at the CLL investigated the ways in which EFL learners (n=26) processed and retrieved SE periphrastic verbs in the communicative language classroom where, based on an understanding of SLA (second language acquisition) as a complex (Larsen-Freeman, 1991) and dynamic system (De Bot, Wander and Verspoor, 2007), errors signal language development. Using a grounded action research methodology (Wi?niewska, 2011), formal and informal written assessments were examined. Results showed that learners do not conceptualize periphrastic verb forms as single forms set to be mapped onto functions but, instead, they systematically process how these are to be compiled. This challenged mainstream resources, which appeared to be uninformed by learner language and existing theoretical constructs on interlanguage development, which prioritize form-function mapping and deny that the stage prior to this is systematic. In 2012 these findings inspired the development and application of a pedagogical scheme that reaped results superior to those recorded when mainstream resources were relied upon for teaching and testing.


Paper presented at the Regional Conference on Institutionalising Best Practice in Higher Education, UWI, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, 24-26 June, 2015.

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English as a foreign language, Learning theories, Learning processes, Teaching methods, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine