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English 6503 IC assignments

Second Language Acquisition
(Fall 2009)

Good teachers are life-long learners. In order to manage life-long learning in the information age, it is important for teachers to develop strong information competency. Throughout the TESOL program, we will be working to develop strong library skills as well as other aspects of information competency. The information competency (IC) assignments for this quarter can be found in your syllabus as well as on this TESOL Google site.

While information competency is required throughout your course, there are specific assignments that focus, among other elements, on information competency.

Basic Resources

If you are new to the U.S. university system or if you completed a U.S. degree a number of years ago, you are encouraged to attend the SCAA workshops on avoiding plagiarism and citing sources. The current SCAA workshop schedule can be found at  Information on citing sources can be found at APA and MLA are the most common citation conventions used in TESOL-related fields.  There are also information competency tools on this Google site (see left navigation bar), including tutorials on various subjects.   

IC Assignments

  • Attend the library presentation.  Due date:  October 4, 2010.
  • Summarize and evaluate two SLA-related articles and lead a discussion or activity on the articles.  Due dates:  variable (specific assignment dates will be provided for each student from Oct. 11 through Nov. 22)

You will write two formal summary-critiques this quarter. During the second class meeting, you will choose one of the assigned articles from Benson & Nunan. In addition to your assigned article, you will find one additional article on the same topic as your assigned article. The article you find yourself should be current (no more than ten years old) and from a peer-reviewed journal. Ideally, you should look for a review article (i.e., one that summarizes trends in research and/or theory on the topic). If you cannot find a review article, look for a quantitative or qualitative research study. Both summary-critiques will be due on the same day. Please check the course schedule to see when your summary-critiques are due. 

Each summary-critique should contain a full MLA or APA style citation at the top of the page. The summary section should give enough information about the article that someone who has not read the article can get the gist of it (i.e., research question, methodology, conclusions). The critique section is your evaluation of the article. The TESOL wiki has some evaluation questions that may help you think about what to include in your critique section. To view those questions, go to  Each summary-critique should be one single-spaced typed page. Please provide your classmates with copies if your summary-critiques in one of two ways: hard copies distributed in class or an electronic copy posted to the discussion board on Blackboard labeled SUMMARY-CRITIQUES.

On the day your summary-critiques are due, you should also prepare a 20-minute oral presentation on your articles. The presentation should include a BRIEF overview of the articles you read and an interactive activity designed to engage the class in the ideas presented in one or both of the articles.

The purpose of this assignment is to help you build confidence and competence in the following areas: reading research articles, locating information on an SLA-related topic, sharing professional knowledge with colleagues, and making connections between research, theory and practice.

  • Complete a research paper related to SLA and an oral presentation.  Due dates:  Either Nov. 29 or Dec. 6 (specific assignment dates will be provided)

you will conduct research in order to further explore an SLA topic you are interested in. You have two choices for your research paper, which are described in more detail below. Whichever option you choose, your paper should be 10-12 double-spaced, typed pages. You may use either MLA or APA-style citations. During the last regular class meeting or during the final exam period, you will present your research to the class orally. Your oral presentation on your research should be 10-15 minutes. 

Choice A: library research paper

Choose one of the broad topics related to SLA that is covered in your textbooks and/or lectures. After that, narrow your topic to one that you can handle in a 10-12 page paper. Some examples of topics from previous quarters include the following.

Example 1: Age factors in SLA (broad topic)/Is attainment of a native-like accent in an L2 possible if the L2 is learned as an adult? (narrower research question)

Example 2: Affective factors in SLA (broad topic)/Does anxiety have a detrimental or facilitative effect on learning an L2? (narrower research question)

Example 3: Instructed SLA (broad topic)/Which approaches to bilingual education are most likely to produce fully bilingual and biliterate children? (narrower research question)

You should draw on 7-10 sources to develop and support a thesis on your topic. Four of your sources may be your textbooks. You may also find the sections in your textbooks on suggestions for further reading helpful in putting together the works cited list for your paper.

Choice B: mini qualitative research study

Conduct a diary study on your own current second language learning experiences or a case study on one or two language learners you can observe, interview, and/or obtain language samples from. In either case, you should begin your data collection no later than mid-October and finish no later than late November. Your paper should include a statement of your research interest and where it fits in the larger field of SLA, your research question or hypothesis, a description of your setting, a summary of your data collection and data analysis methods, and a discussion of your findings. You are not required to do any library research for this paper, but you should draw on assigned class readings as appropriate and may want to do a limited amount of library research on issues related to the focus of your study. Some examples from previous quarters are described below.

Example 1: A diary study of an adult learner of Spanish engaged in independent study of her second language with a particular focus on the emotional aspects of adult language learning. (Data generated: language learning history, language learning diary describing the ways the learner worked on her Spanish over a five-week period and documenting the emotions associated with her study and use of Spanish during this time.)

Example 2: A case study of two adult learners of Korean exploring the role of exposure to Korean in early childhood in the attainment of native-like pronunciation of certain Korean sounds. (Data collected: language learning history interviews, observation notes based on tutoring sessions, recordings of Korean learners saying lists of words, ratings of pronunciation on recorded list of words by two native speakers of Korean.)

Many of the studies in Benson and Nunan are good examples of small-scale qualitative research. You may find these helpful when you are thinking about the design and write up of your study. If you are doing a case study, be sure to obtain written permission from the participant(s) in your study. A sample letter of consent is posted on Blackboard.

  • Use library databases to search for SLA-related topics throughout the course.
This requires exploration of the library Web site and use of the tools to which you will be introduced in the library presentation on October 4, 2010.  Help is also available through the Information Competency tools listed on the left navigation bar.  This includes links to tutorials on various subjects.  

Individual help is also available individually and in small groups through the library (chat, email, telephone, in person at the reference desk) or by making an appointment with your library liaison:  Aline Soules, tel. 510-885-4596, email:  

Best tip:  Don't wait until the last minute!


copyright Aline Soules and Sarah Nielsen 2010
under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States