The interface between research on individual difference variables and teaching practice: The case of cognitive factors and personality

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Adriana Biedroń
Mirosław Pawlak

Abstract

While a substantial body of empirical evidence has been accrued about the role of individual differences in second language acquisition, relatively little is still known about how factors of this kind can mediate the effects of instructional practices as well as how empirically-derived insights can inform foreign language pedagogy, both with respect to shaping certain variables and adjusting instruction to individual learner profiles. The present paper is an attempt to shed light on the interface between research on individual difference factors and teaching practice, focusing upon variables which do not easily lend themselves to external manipulation, namely intelligence, foreign language aptitude, working memory and personality, with the role of the last of these in language learning being admittedly the least obvious. In each case, the main research findings will briefly be outlined, their potential for informing instruction will be considered, and, in the final part, the caveats concerning practical applications of research on the variables in question will be spelled out.

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Author Biographies

Adriana Biedroń, Pomeranian University, Słupsk

adriana.biedron@apsl.edu.pl


Adriana Biedroń received her doctoral and postdoctoral degrees in applied linguistics from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland in 2003 and 2013, respectively. She is Professor at the English Philology Department at the Pomeranian University in Słupsk, Poland and Koszalin University of Technology, Poland. Her fields of interest include applied psycholinguistics and second language acquisition theory. Her research focuses on individual differences in SLA, in particular foreign language aptitude and cognitive and personality factors in gifted L2 learners. Her most recent publications are: “Neurology of Foreign Language Aptitude” (2015, Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching) and “New Conceptualizations of Linguistic Giftedness” (co-authored with M. Pawlak, 2016, Language Teaching).

Mirosław Pawlak, Adam Mickiewicz University, Kalisz State University of Applied Sciences, Konin

pawlakmi@amu.edu.pl


Mirosław Pawlak, Professor of English at the Faculty of Philology, State University of Applied Sciences, Konin, Poland; and the Department of English Studies, Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts in Kalisz, Adam Mickiewicz University, Kalisz, Poland. He received his doctoral and post-doctoral degrees as well as his full professorship from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. His main areas of interest are SLA theory and research, form-focused instruction, corrective feedback, classroom discourse, learner autonomy, learning strategies, grammar learning strategies, motivation, willingness to communicate and pronunciation teaching. His recent publications include The Place of Form-focused Instruction in the Foreign Language Classroom (2006, Adam Mickiewicz University Press), Production-oriented and Comprehension-Based Grammar Teaching in the Foreign Language Classroom (co-authored with Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelak, 2012, Springer), Error Correction in the Foreign Language Classroom: Reconsidering the Issues (2014, Springer), Applying Cognitive Grammar in the Foreign Language Classroom: Teaching English Tense and Aspect (co-authored with Jakub Bielak, 2013, Springer), as well as several edited collections on learner autonomy, form-focused instruction, speaking and individual learner differences. Mirosław Pawlak is the editor-in-chief of the journals Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching (www.ssllt.amu.edu.pl), Konin Language Studies (http://www.ksj.pwsz.konin.edu.pl/?lang=en), and the book series Second Language Learning and Teaching (http://www.springer.com/series/10129). He has been a supervisor and reviewer of doctoral and postdoctoral dissertations.

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