The Effects of Form-Focused Instruction on Implicit and Explicit Grammar Knowledge and Comprehension

Yeon Heo


This study investigates the impact of three types of focus-on-form instruction (FFI) on learners’ reading comprehension and their development of the English past unreal conditional. The study also investigates whether the learners’ grammar development is implicit or explicit in nature. Fifty-one intermediate-level ESL learners were distributed into three groups. Each group read passages with different levels of explicitness of the grammar form: in the first input flood (IF) group, a baseline or control group, nothing was added to the text. For the second, textual enhancement (TE) group, the forms were enlarged and in bold. For the third rule presentation (RP) group, metalanguage describing the past unreal conditional was added to the flooded and enhanced forms. After reading, the participants’ form noticing was measured through a self-circling test; their reading comprehension was measured through a free-recall test. Timed and untimed grammaticality-judgment tests (GJTs) were used to measure form learning. One week later, a second (delayed) GJT test was administered to measure sustained form learning.
When compared with the IF group, the RP group showed significantly higher results on the GJTs and significantly lower results on comprehension. The timed GJTs and noticing scores showed a significant inverse correlation with comprehension. These results lead to three suggestions. First, more explicitness leads to better development of implicit grammar knowledge. Second, less explicitness leads to more focus on meaning and concomitantly higher comprehension scores. Third, the effectiveness of FFI should be re-considered in light of this potential inverse (VanPatten, 1990) or trade-off (Barcroft, 2002) relationship between form and meaning.

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.

© 2009-2016 Michigan State University Student Organization for Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy