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Title:The Relationship of Cognitive Style to The Use of Grammatical Rules by Spanish-Speaking Esl Students in Editing Written English
Author(s):Abraham, Roberta Grannis
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Abstract:This study addressed the question of whether observed differences in the abilities of advanced ESL composition students in an academic setting to use formal knowledge of grammatical rules in editing their writing for correctness are related to idiosyncratic modes of processing, organizing, and applying information, i.e., to cognitive style.
Subjects were 40 Spanish-speaking students from nine Latin American countries in ESL classes at Iowa State University. Data were collected between December 1, 1980, and May 15, 1981.
The measure of a subject's ability to use grammatical rules in editing, or monitoring, written work was derived from distinctions made by Krashen, Bialystok, and McLaughlin between language that is used easily and spontaneously and language that is produced with attention to form, and was posited as the difference between degree of correctness (expressed as a percentage) in elicited speech and degree of correctness on a particular written task. The grammatical structure selected for study was the present tense third-person-singular s, since degree of correctness with respect to this morpheme has been shown in a number of studies to be significantly higher in writing than in speaking. The amount of monitoring on three types of written tasks was measured--a fill-in-the-blank test, a proofreading test, and a composition. It was hypothesized that the amount of monitoring would decrease as attention became less focused on form, or, in specific terms, that the amount of monitoring would be greatest for the fill-in-the-blank test and least for the composition.
The cognitive styles investigated were field independence, measured by the Group Embedded Figures Test; reflection, measured by the Matching Familiar Figures Test; flexible control (resistance to cognitive interference), measured by the Stroop Color and Word Test; and preference for processing information by written word, measured by the Edmonds Learning Style Identification Exercise. It was hypothesized that subjects who exhibited these styles would be better monitors than those who did not.
Additionally, attitude toward correctness in performance in English, hypothesized to be positively related to the amount of monitoring which occurred, was assessed by means of a questionnaire constructed for this study, and subjects' knowledge of the third-person-singular-s rule was ascertained by having them state that rule.
The following results were obtained: (1) Monitoring, as operationally defined in this study, occurred on all three written tasks. However, there was no significant contrast among mean difference scores representing the amount of monitoring on the three written basks. This finding may be attributable to the saliency of the third-person-singular-s rule in the minds of most of the subjects. (2) Field independence was shown to be related to the amount of monitoring on all three written tasks. The relationship was strongest on the fill-in-the-blank test and weakest on the proofreading test. (3) Reflection was weakly related to the amount of monitoring on the proofreading test. (4) The hypotheses concerning the other cognitive styles and attitude toward correctness were not supported.
The findings concerning field independence suggest that review of rules may not be as fruitful an approach for helping field dependent students produce grammatical correctness in writing as many teachers believe. Activities promoting automatic use of correct forms may be much more effective. Exercises to help field dependent students focus on particular structures may also be useful. The effectiveness of such activities must, of course, be verified by further research showing interactions among learner characteristics and classroom variables.
Issue Date:1981
Description:181 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8203389
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-12
Date Deposited:1981

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