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Social and Cognitive Factors in Making Teacher-Led Classroom Discourse Relevant for Second Language Development



This study compares descriptive quantitative and qualitative data from 2 beginning, university-level second-language (L2) Spanish classes to demonstrate the benefits of teacher-led discourse organized as collaborative, whole-class tasks. In class, the teacher solicited target L2 forms through conversational questions to individuals with recasted feedback. In the other, the teacher sought multiple responses to communicative prompts and had learners problem-solve target-structure accuracy collectively. Ten-minute transcribed segments from each class were analyzed for the following characteristics: (a) extended silent latencies (i.e., > 5 seconds); (b) the number and distribution of learner turns; (c) the number of unsolicited learner turns; and (d) assistance with L2 form–meaning relationships. The results showed not only fewer extended latencies in the second class but also a greater quantity and distribution of both solicited and unsolicited learner turns and more L2 assistance. Qualitative excerpts are discussed using Sperber and Wilson's (1995, 2002; Wilson & Sperber, 2004) relevance theory to identify the social and cognitive benefits of collaborative whole-class tasks.