ALISON MACKEY
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Undergraduate Classes:


LING-251: HOW LANGUAGES ARE LEARNED

This course will introduce students to central questions, theories, debates, and research findings in the areas of first, second, and bilingual language acquisition. For example:


oWhat stages do children go through in acquiring a first language?

oWhat helps them to learn so quickly?

oWhat are the roles of parental input and feedback?

oDoes exposure to more than one language in childhood cause confusion?

oWhat are some of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism?

oIs it possible to attain very high levels of proficiency in a second language if you start

learning it after childhood?

oWhat are some of the differences in how children and adults acquire languages?

oHow might a personís knowledge of a first language influence the learning of a second?

oWhat are some of the individual differences (e.g., in aptitude, memory, motivation,

learning styles, memory) and social/personality factors associated with success in language learning?


In this course, students will analyze, critically evaluate, and integrate classic and current work in these areas, as well as consider how theories and findings can inform current educational policies and practices. The class will be interactive, with a combination of lectures, hands-on group activities, and instructor- and student-led discussions of primary sources which will deepen understanding of the literature and develop the ability to be a critical consumer of research.


Students who choose to enroll in the optional 4th Credit Option for Social Action have the unique opportunity to apply and enhance their understanding of the course content and gain practical experience by working in a community based organization serving disadvantaged or underserved individuals in the DC area (for example, by tutoring ESL students with the DC Schools Project).


ICOS-321: RESEARCH PROSEMINAR IN COGNITIVE SCIENCE MODULE: SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION AND WORKING MEMORY CAPACITY

My research investigates the ways in which humans learn second languages. I am currently exploring the relationship between feedback and second language (L2) learning. A number of empirical studies have shown that when language learners receive feedback on their linguistic output during conversational interaction, positive effects on their grammatical abilities can be identified. An interesting and open question concerns how (and why) such feedback is helpful. In particular, why does it benefit some language learners, but not others? Some researchers have suggested that working memory capacity may play a part in feedback-driven second language learning. It has also been suggested that feedback may be beneficial because it can help learners to notice, or pay attention to grammatical forms. In this module, the discussion will be focused on the process of learning second languages, with particular reference to the role of feedback, working memory and learner attention to L2 form. We will meet to discuss several key concepts and terms from the field of second language acquisition. These discussions will be at the introductory level and no specific background is necessary. I will distribute research articles, sets of data from experiments involving second language learners, and examples of psychometric tests of working memory capacity. Together, we will carry out L1 listening span tests. We will discuss the findings of recent experiments, and how these findings should be interpreted for the field. Students will present their ideas for further analyses, interpretations and experiments.


GRADUATE CLASSES


LING-358 PREPARATION AND EVALUATION OF ESL MATERIALS


This course covers the preparation and evaluation of L2 instructional materials. Students will develop critical skills for analyzing materials in accordance with theories of how second languages are learned, while also considering practical classroom input issues. The relevance of syllabus type and teacher education to material preparation will be covered. The course utilizes a practical hands-on approach to adapting current materials and developing new materials, including those which target linguistic features in the context of meaningful learner interaction. The focus is on materials for the different skills in current use in communicative models including (but not limited to): task-based approaches to language teaching, CALL materials (this part of the class will be lab-based), and content-based instruction. The current trend towards authentic materials will be explored in both second and foreign language contexts. Concepts presented in this class are applicable to foreign/second language materials design in general. Assessment will include two critiques and a final project consisting of: (a) original materials or design specifications, or (b) a scholarly paper on one of the topics covered in class.


LING-553 INTRODUCTION TO SLA AND BILINGUALISM.


This course provides a general introduction to theories and approaches in second language acquisition (SLA) and bilingualism. In the first part of the course, cognitive-interactionist, sociocultural, frequency-based, input-processing and psycholinguistic perspectives of SLA are discussed together with factors that influence the L2 learning process (including individual differences). The application of SLA theory to understanding L2 learnersí interlanguage production will be explored, including work on classroom/instructed L2 learning. The second part of the course focuses on bilingualism; key topics include research and theory on the dimensions and assessment of bilingualism; the ontogenesis of bilingualism; bilinguality and cognitive development, as well as social, cultural, and educational perspectives on bilingualism. This course emphasizes the central role of both cognition and social interaction in language learning; UG approaches to child/first language acquisition are not covered in detail in this class.


LING-554 INPUT AND INTERACTION IN SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION


Building on the foundation of knowledge about adult language acquisition developed in LING-553, this course aims to provide a thorough background in theoretical claims and empirical research relating to the roles of input and interaction in second language acquisition. Topics include: the development of theory in relation to input, interaction, the role of output, and the nature and contribution of feedback; cognitive constraints such as working memory, attention and awareness, and a consideration of the complexities of measuring second language development. Through a discussion of key experimental studies in both laboratory and classroom contexts, participants will gain a solid foundation and understanding of the development of the field. It is recommended that students who are interested in doing advanced graduate work in second language acquisition take this course, among others. This course serves as preparation for a research seminar in second language acquisition (LING-754).


LING-558 TASK-BASED LANGUAGE LEARNING AND TEACHING


This course explores task-based approaches to second/foreign language learning and teaching using four organizational principles: (a) the theoretical underpinnings for task-facilitated language learning; (b) research frameworks for the evaluation of tasks as learning tools; (c) the process of developing and empirically testing task-based materials; (d) practical classroom considerations for the use/implementation of tasks in an instructional context. Assessment will include a short essay, a case study and a final project on communicative tasks in either a classroom or experimental context. This course serves as preparation for a research seminar in second language acquisition (LING-754).


LING-681 RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS


The course covers both quantitative and qualitative applied linguistics research methods through a combination of readings and critical analysis of research articles. Once the essential components of a range of different methods are grasped, students prepare a detailed research design for an applied linguistics study, including piloting some aspects of the design with a view to improving the final version. Class participants are likely to be at different stages in their graduate study, and the course (and assessment) aims to accommodate differing goals. Where possible, participants are encouraged to select a method of research not yet attempted. Both small-scale replication studies and original work are encouraged. More advanced students who intend to use a particular methodology for their doctoral research may design and carry out a pilot study, if sufficiently prepared to do so.


LING-754 SEMINAR: INPUT AND INTERACTION IN SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION


This course provides an in-depth study of the role of input and interaction in second language acquisition. The focus is recent and current research relating to theoretical perspectives and empirical findings on the developmental outcomes of different types of input and interaction. Topics of current concern in the field are discussed, including how interaction works to bring about positive effects on L2 production and development. Experimental studies on the value of different kinds of interactional feedback, the roles of salience and context, and the issues of attention and working memory in relation to learner-internal characteristics are considered. All class participants will carry out original empirical research, either individually or as part of a class project. This small-scale study will address different aspects of input and interaction according to individual interests, through a hands-on approach to developing research questions and hypotheses, identifying potential subject pools, data collection, transcription, coding and analysis. Prerequisite: LING-681 or LING-554, permission of instructor.



LING-755 SEMINAR: SECOND LANGUAGE ACQUISITION, QUALITATIVE METHODS


This graduate seminar focuses on qualitative research methods in the area of second language studies, through a combination of readings, critical analysis of research articles and experience with data. The first half of the seminar will emphasize discussion of readings and preparation for empirical work. In the second half of the semester, students will gain hands-on experience with at least three qualitative techniques for data gathering. Students will read and discuss a wide range of literature concerning qualitative research in second language studies, including theoretical and methodological overviews and data-based qualitative work. We will discuss qualitative second language research in a range of areas, including interlanguage systems, L2 writing, L2 reading, oral interaction, the linguistic environment, classroom ethnography, and individual differences in L2 learning. Prerequisite: LING-681 or permission of instructor.