Investigating teachers’ perceptions of syntactic complexity in L2 academic writing

  • Folkert Kuiken University of Amsterdam, Spuistraat 134, 1012 VB Amsterdam
  • Ineke Vedder University of Amsterdam
Keywords: teacher perceptions, syntactic development, L2 writing, L2-Dutch, L2-Italian

Abstract

This paper aims to investigate how L2 teachers perceive syntactic complexity in L2 writing, and to what extent teachers’ judgements are related to current theoretical views. The main reason for conducting the study is that the majority of studies that have investigated the development of syntactic complexity in L2 have been grounded in hypothesis-testing research; few studies, however, have explored whether teachers’ perspectives on syntactic complexity reflect the development of syntactic complexity as hypothesised in the SLA literature. Two groups of language teachers (eleven of L2-Dutch and sixteen of L2-Italian) were asked to evaluate individually the syntactic complexity of a sample of argumentative texts written by L2 university students of, respectively, Dutch and Italian. In the panel discussion that followed, teachers discussed their motivation behind their assigned scores and the feedback they had proposed. The results revealed that teachers tended to focus primarily on accuracy and comprehensibility. When their comments were concerned with syntactic complexity, both similarities and differences (related to target language and writing context) emerged between Dutch and Italian. Teachers’ reflections appeared to be only partly aligned with existing theoretical views on syntactic complexity.

Author Biography

Ineke Vedder, University of Amsterdam

Ineke Vedder is senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. She is coordinator of the AILA Research Network CoSeLL: Complexity and Second Language Learning (with Folkert Kuiken). She co-authored and co-edited various books (in English and Italian), including ‘Dimensions of L2 performance and proficiency. Complexity, accuracy and fluency in SLA’ (with Alex Housen and Folkert Kuiken; Benjamins, 2012). She was co-guest editor of the ‘Eurosla Yearbook 2014’ (with Leah Roberts and Jan Hulstijn; Benjamins, 2014), and of the 2014 Special Issue of Language Testing on ‘Assessing oral and written L2 performance: Raters’ decisions, rating procedures and rating scales’ (with Folkert Kuiken).

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Published
2019-11-01
How to Cite
Kuiken, F., & Vedder, I. (2019). Investigating teachers’ perceptions of syntactic complexity in L2 academic writing. Instructed Second Language Acquisition, 3(2), 249–258. https://doi.org/10.1558/isla.37977