A content-based whole language classroom: Does it prove a context for second language acquisition?

Ruth Boyd-Kletzander, University of Pennsylvania


Content-based instruction has been advocated in a variety of second language teaching methods, one of which is the Whole Language approach, yet little research has been undertaken to determine if or how its implementation supports second language acquisition (SLA) in the classroom. To address such a research need, this study investigated class discussions in a Whole Language ESL classroom. The study aimed to identify and describe the types of interactions occurring in this context, then examine if and how these interactions supported conditions claimed to facilitate SLA: access to positive and negative input and opportunities to produce and modify output. The study was conducted at an ESL institute at a large urban university where the researcher studied her own classroom. The class discussion was chosen as the context, as it was the primary classroom activity and is an activity used by many second language approaches. The discussions were audiotaped and transcribed daily. The data were analyzed using an interpretive method first to determine the types of interactions which took place, and then to examine if and how conditions for SLA were supported. There were several major findings in the study. First, this content-based Whole Language classroom provided a context in which students took responsibility for their own and their classmates' learning. In so doing, the students gained access to vast amounts of input, especially lexical and semantic input and implicit input about morphosyntax. The students took advantage of the many opportunities to use their L2 to communicate their ideas and they modified their output to aid in communication; however, they rarely modified their output in ways claimed to facilitate SLA. The results of this study provide mixed support for the implementation of a content-based Whole Language framework to create a context for SLA. Further research is needed to study how content-based classrooms could be implemented differently to facilitate conditions for SLA with greater frequency and scope.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Boyd-Kletzander, Ruth, "A content-based whole language classroom: Does it prove a context for second language acquisition?" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9976402.