Promoting EFL students’ accuracy and fluency through interactive practice activities


interactive activities
skill acquisition theory
accuracy and fluency
structural priming

How to Cite

McDonough, K., & Sato, M. (2019). Promoting EFL students’ accuracy and fluency through interactive practice activities. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 9(2), 379–395.


This study examined the effectiveness of interactive activities at facilitating EFL students’ production of English relative clauses. Thirty-seven EFL learners in Chile carried out interactive activities designed to elicit relative clauses. Pre- and posttests were used to examine whether carrying out the activities facilitated the students’ production of relative clauses. All interactions were audio-recorded and the transcripts were analyzed to determine how accurately and fluently the students produced relative clauses before, during, and after the practice activities. Whereas accuracy was defined as errors involving relative clause formation, fluency was operationalized in terms of the number of pauses, false starts, and self-corrections that occurred within relative clauses. The results showed that the students produced significantly more accurate relative clauses on the posttest; however, their production of dysfluencies remained unchanged. Implications for the use of interactive activities are discussed.


Bock, K. (1986). Syntactic persistence in language production. Cognitive Psychology, 18, 355-387.

Branigan, H., Pickering, M., & Cleland, A. (2000). Syntactic co-ordination in dialogue. Cognition, 75, B13-B25.

Brumfit, C. (1984). Communicative methodology in language teaching: The roles of fluency and accuracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Burrows, C. (2008). An evaluation of activity-based learning in the Japanese classroom. English Today, 24(4), 11-16.

Carless, D. (2003). Factors in the implementation of activity-based teaching in primary schools. System, 31, 485-500.

Collins, L., & White, J. (2014). The quantity and quality of language practice in typical interactive pair/group activities. TESL Canada Journal, 31, 47-67.

DeKeyser, R. (2001). Automaticity and automatization. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction (pp. 125-151). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

DeKeyser, R. (2007a). Skill acquisition theory. In B. VanPatten, & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 97-114). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

DeKeyser, R. (2007b). Situating the concept of practice. In R. M. DeKeyser (Ed.), Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology (pp. 1-18). New York: Cambridge University Press.

DeKeyser, R. (2010). Practice for second language learning: Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. International Journal of English Studies, 10(1), 155-165.

DeKeyser, R. (2017). Knowledge and skill in ISLA. In S. Loewen, & M. Sato (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of instructed second language acquisition (pp. 15-32). New York: Routledge.

Douglas, S.R., & Kim, M. (2014). Activity-based language teaching and English for Academic Purposes: An investigation into instructor perceptions and practice in the Canadian context. TESL Canada Journal, 31(8), 1-22.

Fernández Dobao, A. (2012). Collaborative dialogue in learner–learner and learner–native speaker interaction. Applied Linguistics, 33, 229-256.

Fujii, A., Ziegler, N., & Mackey, A. (2016). Peer interaction and metacognitive instruction in the EFL classroom. In M. Sato & S. Ballinger (Eds.), Peer interaction and second language learning: Pedagogical potential and research agenda (pp. 63-89). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Fulcher, G. (1996). Does thick description lead to smart tests? A data-based approach to rating scale construction. Language Testing, 13, 208-238.

Gatbonton, E., & Segalowitz, N. (2005). Rethinking communicative language teaching: A focus on access to fluency. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61, 325-353.

Izumi, S. (2003). Processing difficulty in comprehension and production of relative clauses by learners of English as a second language. Language Learning, 53, 285-323.

Keenan, E. L., & Comrie, B. (1977). Noun phrase accessibility and universal grammar. Linguistic Inquiry, 8, 63-99.

Kim, Y. (2013). Effects of preactivity modeling on attention to form and question development. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 8-35.

Kim, Y., & McDonough, K. (2011). Using pre-task modeling to encourage collaborative learning opportunities. Language Teaching Research, 15, 183-199.

Koponen, M., & Riggenbach, H. (2000). Overview: Varying perspectives on fluency. In H. Riggenbach (Ed.), Perspectives on fluency (pp. 5-24). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

Kormos, J. (2006). Speech production and second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Leeser, M. J. (2004). Learner proficiency and focus on form during collaborative dialogue. Language Teaching Research, 8, 55-81.

Lennon, P. (1990). Investigating fluency in EFL: A quantitative approach. Language Learning, 40, 387-417.

Loewen, S., & Sato, M. (2018). State-of-the-Art Article: Interaction and instructed second language acquisition. Language Teaching, 51(3), 285-329.

Lynch, T., & Maclean, J. (2001). ‘A case of exercising’: Effects of immediate activity repetition on learners’ performance. In M. Bygate, P. Skehan, & M. Swain (Eds.), Researching pedagogic activities: Second language learning, teaching and testing (pp. 140-162). Harlow, UK: Pearson Education.

Lyster, R., & Sato, M. (2013). Skill acquisition theory and the role of practice in L2 development. In M. P. García Mayo, J. Gutierrez-Mangado, & M. Martínez Adrián (Eds.), Contemporary approaches to second language acquisition (pp. 71-92). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.

McDonough, K. (2004). Learner-learner interaction during pair and small group activities in a Thai EFL context. System, 32, 207-224.

McDonough, K. (2015). Perceived benefits and challenges with the use of collaborative tasks in EFL contexts. In M. Bygate (Ed.), Domains and directions in the development of TBLT (pp. 225-246). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

McDonough, K., & Chaikitmongkol, W. (2010). Collaborative syntactic priming activities and EFL learners’ production of wh-questions. Canadian Modern Language Review, 66, 817-841.

McDonough, K., Kielstra, P., Crowther, D., & Smith, G. (2016). Structural priming in L2 speech production: Examining relationships among English L2 speakers’ production, cognitive abilities, and awareness. In A. Mackey & E. Marsden (Eds.), Advancing methodology and practice: The IRIS repository of instruments for research into second languages (pp. 112-131). New York: Routledge.

McDonough, K., & Mackey, A. (2008). Syntactic priming and ESL question development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 30, 31-47.

McDonough, K., Neumann, H., & Trofimovich, P. (2015). Eliciting production of L2 target structures through collaborative priming activities. Canadian Modern Language Review, 71, 75-95.

Musumeci, D. (1996). Teacher-learner negotiation in content-based instruction: Communication at cross-purposes? Applied Linguistics, 17, 286-325.

Nakatani, Y. (2010). Identifying strategies that facilitate EFL learners’ oral communication: A classroom study using multiple data collection procedures. Modern Language Journal, 94, 116-136.

Nassaji, H., & Wells, G. (2000). What’s the use of ‘triadic dialogue’? An investigation of teacher student interaction. Applied Linguistics, 21, 376-406.

Philp, J., Adams, R., & Iwashita, N. (2014). Peer interaction and second language learning. New York: Routledge.

Plews, J. L., & Zhao, K. (2010). Tinkering with activities knows no bounds: ESL teachers’ adaptations of activity-based language-teaching. TESL Canada Journal, 28(1), 41-59.

Rossiter, M., Derwing, T., Manimtim, L., & Thomson, R. (2010). Oral fluency: The neglected component in the communicative language classroom. Canadian Modern Language Review, 66, 583-606.

Sato, M. (2014). Exploring the construct of interactional oral fluency: Second Language Acquisition and Language Testing approaches. System, 45, 79-91.

Sato, M. (2017). Interaction mindsets, interactional behaviors, and L2 development: An affective-social-cognitive model. Language Learning, 67(2), 249-283.

Sato, M., & Ballinger, S. (2012). Raising language awareness in peer interaction: A cross-context, cross-method examination. Language Awareness, 21(1-2), 157-179.

Sato, M., & Ballinger, S. (2016). Understanding peer interaction: Research synthesis and directions. In M. Sato & S. Ballinger (Eds.), Peer interaction and second language learning: Pedagogical potential and research agenda (pp. 1-30). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Sato, M., & Loewen, S. (2019). Methodological strengths, challenges, and joys of classroom-based quasi-experimental research: Metacognitive instruction and corrective feedback. In R. DeKeyser & G. Prieto Botana (Eds.), Doing SLA research with implications for the classroom: Reconciling methodological demands and pedagogical applicability (pp. 31-54). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Sato, M., & Lyster, R. (2007). Modified output of Japanese EFL learners: Variable effects of interlocutor vs. feedback types. In A. Mackey (Ed.), Conversational interaction in second language acquisition: A collection of empirical studies (pp. 123-142). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Sato, M., & Lyster, R. (2012). Peer interaction and corrective feedback for accuracy and fluency development: Monitoring, practice, and proceduralization. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34(4), 591-626.

Sato, M., & McDonough, K. (in press). Practice is important but how about its quality? Contextualized practice in the classroom. Studies in Second Language Acquisition.

Segalowitz, N. (2010). Cognitive bases of second language fluency. New York: Routledge.

Segalowitz, N., & Freed, B. (2004). Context, contact, and cognition in oral fluency acquisition: Learning Spanish in at home and study abroad contexts. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26(2), 173-199.

Suzuki, Y., & DeKeyser, R. (2017). Effects of distributed practice on the proceduralization of morphology. Language Teaching Research, 21, 166-188.

Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (1998). Interaction and second language learning: Two adolescent French immersion students working together. Modern Language Journal, 82, 320-337.

Tavakoli, P., Campbell, C., & McCormack, J. (2016). Development of speech fluency over a short period of time: Effects of pedagogic intervention. TESOL Quarterly, 50, 447-471.

Towell, R., Hawkins, R., & Bazergui, N. (1996). The development of fluency in advanced learners of French. Applied Linguistics, 17(1), 84-119.

Watson-Todd, R. (2006). Continuing change after the innovation. System, 34, 1-14.

1.1 The Author hereby warrants that he/she is the owner of all the copyright and other intellectual property rights in the Work and that, within the scope of the present Agreement, the paper does not infringe the  legal rights of another person. The owner of the copyright work also warrants that he/she is the sole and original creator thereof and that is not bound by any legal constraints in regard to the use or sale of the work.

1.2. The Publisher warrants that is the owner of the PRESSto platform for open access journals, hereinafter referred to as the PRESSto Platform.

2. The Author grants the Publisher non-exclusive and free of charge license to unlimited use worldwide over an unspecified period of time in the following areas of exploitation:

2.1. production of multiple copies of the Work produced according to the specific application of a given technology, including  printing, reproduction of graphics through mechanical or electrical means (reprography) and digital technology;

2.2. marketing authorisation, loan or lease of the original or copies thereof;

2.3. public performance, public performance in the broadcast, video screening, media enhancements as well as broadcasting and rebroadcasting,  made available to the public in such a way that members of the public may access the Work from a place and at a time individually chosen by them;

2.4. inclusion of the Work into a collective work (i.e. with a number of contributions);

2.5. inclusion of the Work in the electronic version to be offered on an electronic platform, or any other conceivable introduction of the Work in its electronic version to the Internet;

2.6. dissemination of electronic versions of  the Work in its electronic version online, in a collective work or independently;

2.7. making the Work in the electronic version available to the public in such a way that members of the public may access the Work from a place and at a time individually chosen by them, in particular by making it accessible via the Internet, Intranet, Extranet;

2.8. making the Work available according to appropriate license pattern Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) as well as another language version of this license or any later version published by Creative Commons.

3. The Author grants the Publisher permission to reproduce a single copy (print or download) and royalty-free use and disposal of rights to compilations of the Work and these compilations.

4. The  Author grants the Publisher permission to send metadata files related to the Work, including to commercial and non-commercial journal-indexing databases.

5. The Author represents that, on the basis of the license granted in the present Agreement, the Publisher is entitled and obliged to:

5.1.  allow third parties to obtain further licenses (sublicenses) to the Work and to other materials, including derivatives thereof or compilations made, based on or including the Work, whereas the provisions of such sub-licenses will be the same as with the Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Creative Commons sub-license or another language version of this license, or any later version of this license published by Creative Commons;

5.2. make the Work available to the public in such a way that members of the public may access the Work from a place and at a time individually chosen by them, without any technological constraints;

5.3. appropriately inform members of the public to whom the Work is to be made available about sublicenses in such a way as to ensure that all parties are properly informed (appropriate informing messages).

6. Because of the royalty-free provision of services of the Author (resulting from the scope of obligations stipulated in the present Agreement), the Author shall not be entitled to any author’s fee due and payable on the part of the Publisher (no fee or royalty is payable by the Publisher to the Author).

7.1. In the case of third party claims or actions for indemnity against the Publisher owing to any infractions related to any form of infringement of intellectual property rights protection, including copyright infringements, the Author is obliged to take all possible measures necessary to protect against these claims and, when as a result of legal action, the Publisher, or any third party licensed by the Publisher to use the Work, will have to abandon using the Work in its entirety or in part or, following a court ruling in a legal challenge, to pay damages to a third party, whatever the legal basis

7.2. The Author will immediately inform the Publisher about any damage claims related to intellectual property infringements, including the author’s proprietary rights pertaining to a copyrighted work, filed against the Author. of liability, the Author is obliged to redress the damage resulting from claims made by third party, including costs and expenditures incurred in the process.

7.3. To all matters not settled herein provisions of the Polish Civil Code and the Polish Copyright and Related Rights Act shall apply. 



Download data is not yet available.