Some of the SLA supporting the IPA

Martha_CastanedaMartha Castañeda, Executive Vice-President
Miami University

As teachers we often hear about the importance of creating Integrated Performance Assessments (IPAs) for our language classroom.  Still, we seldom hear about the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) behind the IPA.   In this newsletter article, I want us to reflect on the underpinnings of each mode of interaction within the IPA.  I will present the SLA supporting each mode of interaction as I see it through a theoretical lens.

The interpretive mode of communication is often the first to be presented and assessed within a unit of teaching.  This mode of communication requires one-way reading or listening of a text where the learner focuses on the cultural context of the spoken or written communication.  In order to acquire a second language, learners need access to copious amounts of comprehensible input (Krashen, 1982).  The role of the teacher is to find culturally relevant authentic texts to both present and assess student learning via the interpretive mode of communication.

The interpersonal mode of communication is characterized by spontaneous, two-way interaction that can lead to negotiation of meaning. Negotiation of meaning entails making modifications until mutual understanding is reached and according to Long (1985), negotiation of meaning increased the capacity of input alone.  When we engage and assess our students using interpersonal communication, not only are we engaging our students in real-world communication, we are taking input to the next level.

Finally, the presentational mode of communication requires students to present a semi-rehearsed, revised, and edited piece to an audience.  In combination with input and negotiation of meaning, producing comprehensible output (Swain, 1985) that an audience can understand facilitates acquisition.

The three modes of communication can be traced back to theoretical underpinnings of SLA. The classroom practices are grounded in theory and research.  I hope this exercise of relating and pairing the SLA to the IPA has proven to be useful for you as you continue to design more IPAs for your classroom.  Something we need to trace back our history to understand what we are doing today.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and practice in second language acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Long, M. (1985). “Input and Second Language Acquisition Theory”. In Gass, S.and Madden, C. (Eds.) Input in second language acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House

Swain, M. (1985) ‘Communicative competence: some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development’. In Gass, S.and Madden, C. (Eds.) Input in second language acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House

This entry was posted in Executive News, Vol. 52, No. 2 - Winter 2014. Bookmark the permalink.

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