EFL Learners’ Proficiency Level and Attention to Linguistic Features during Collaborative Output Activities

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Volume 7-1 February 2011.

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EFL Learners’ Proficiency Level and Attention to Linguistic Features during Collaborative Output Activities


Shirin Abadikhah (Ph.D.)

University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Iran 

Zahra Mosleh (MA.)

University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Iran


Bio Data

Shirin Abadikhah is assistant professor at the University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Iran. She received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh (UK) in 2008. Her main research interests are second/foreign language acquisition; focus on form instruction and psycholinguistics.

Zahra Mosleh is an EFL instructor. She completed her MA in TEFL at the University of Mazandaran, Babolsar, Iran. Her research interests are EFL learning during pair-work activities and teaching English to young learners.


The purpose of the present study is to investigate whether EFL learners at different proficiency levels differ in their focus of attention to linguistic features during the completion of a set of output activities. The study further examines the learners’ transfer of knowledge co-constructed during task completion to their subsequent individual performance. Twenty-four Iranian EFL learners volunteered to participate in this study. Based on their level of proficiency, they were assigned to one of the two dyadic groups: a dyad containing two high proficiency learners (intermediate) and a dyad containing two low proficiency learners (elementary). The two groups completed four output activities (cloze, sentence unscramble, editing task and spot the difference). Their pair-talk interaction was tape-recorded and transcribed. The transcripts of the learners’ interaction were analyzed in terms of language-related episodes (LREs), their focus (grammar or lexical meaning) and type of resolution. In order to assess the learners’ transfer of knowledge, twelve tailor-made dyad specific tests were designed based on the students’ discussion during task completion. The tests were administered approximately 2 weeks after the students had completed the tasks. The results indicated that the level of proficiency affects learners’ focus of attention with the high-proficiency group focusing more on grammatical features than meaning of their output. Furthermore, the learners tended to transfer the knowledge co-constructed during pair-talk to their subsequent performance. More specifically, the high proficiency dyads were more likely to resolve their linguistic problems, reach correct resolutions and transfer them to the subsequent performance than low proficiency dyads.     

Keywords: Learner proficiency, Language-related episodes, Focus of   attention, Output activities, Collaborative dialogue.

Category: 2011