Output and English as a Second Language Pragmatic Development: The Effectiveness of Output-focused Video-based Instruction

Focus of the study: The study approaches testing the “output hypothesis” from a different ange by  investigating the impact of pushed output on second language development of pragmatics, a rarely-investigated domain of language in this line of researh. The main question of the study is to compare the effects of output-focused versus comprehension-focused video-based instruction on pragmatics and analyze the effects of output in terms of learner perceptions and correct use of speech acts (request refusals, compliment responses, advice giving, and invitation) 
 Instructional settings and participants: Thirty-four adult ESL learners at an intesive English program (IEP) affiliated with a U.S. university participated in the study. They came from a wide range of differen L1 backrounds. The students were from four intact ESL classes and their proficiency levels were either intermediate or advanced, as measured by self-reported TOEFL scores. 
Instrumentation and procedure: The instructional treatment included twelve short videos modeling how the targeted speech acts are correctly used in English. The testing materials composed of two tasks. The first was a pragmatic acceptability judgement task (PAJT) and the second test was a written discourse completion task (DCT). Before the treatment, all students took a pretest. Then, the intact classes were randomly assigned as either experimental and control groups. The procedure of the study was as follows: participants first completed pretests, viewed video clips and subsequently completed a learning activity. The participants in the output group were asked to reconstruct a narrative of what they have viewed in the vidoe clip while the non-output group participants were only asked to answer some comprehension questions after viewing videos. The output group participants were allowed to look at video transcripts for a minute before they were asked to start reconstruction. 

Results and discussion: The study’s findings in general partially confirmed Swain’s Output hypothesis. The pragmatic accaptability judgment task showed that the output group significantly outscored the non-putput group, indicating the effect of pushed output on learners’ perceptions of pragmatic appropriateness. While this task was used to measure the role of output on learners’ perception, the discourse completion task (DCT) was included in the study in order to measure learners’ ability to express pragmatic knowledge. In this task, the output group was not found to be superior to the non-output group, which is why the output hypothesis was partially confirmed in this study. So, the effects of output were more obvious when the task was based on perception/competence rather than production. This finding highlights that task type might be closely tied with output effects.