The Impact of Proactive and Reactive Focus on Form in Multimodal Settings on EFL Learners' Comprehension and Production of Modal Auxiliaries

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Vali-e-Asr university of Rafsanjan

2 Vali-e-Asr University of Rafsanjan, Rafsanjan, Iran


The major objective of this experimental research was to assess the differences between two varieties of focus on form instruction, namely proactive and reactive across multimodal vs. traditional input settings in both comprehension and production of modal auxiliaries. The participants of the study were 75 Iranian English as a foreign language (EFL) high school students at the elementary level in three classes. The students in each class took part in a pre-test including both comprehension and production items. Then, they were randomly exposed to one of the three types of grammar instruction, i.e. proactive focus on form in which students were exposed to multimodal input through preplanned techniques of input enhancement and input flood, reactive focus on form in which the tasks occurred in multimodal episodes including negotiation and correction by the instructor through recasts, clarification requests, and repetition techniques. Lastly, in the control group, the students were provided with a pamphlet and their teacher’s explanations. The post-test was then administered to the three groups, and the results were analyzed by conducting a one-way-analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) which revealed a significant difference among these three groups. The results showed that the proactive group outperformed the reactive and control groups both in the comprehension and production of modal auxiliaries. At the end of the experiment, a brief survey which was accomplished through an interview revealed that the majority of the students highly favored PowerPoint presentations, teacher's explanations, and video clips respectively.


Abdul-Fattah, H. (2011). A formal-functional analysis of the English modal auxiliaries. Jordan Journal of Modern Languages and Literature, 1, 39-63.

Bakshiri, N., & Mohammadi, M. (2014). International conference on current trends in ELT. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1, 334 – 342.

Baleghizadeh, S. (2010). Focus on form in an EFL communicative classroom. Retrieved March 7, 2010 from

Butler, Y. (2004). What level of English proficiency do elementary school teachers need to attain to teach EFL? Case studies from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. TESOL Quarterly, 38(2), 245-278.

Büyükbay, S., & Dabaghi, A. (2010). The effectiveness of repetition as corrective feedback. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 3, 158-176.

Cárcamo, M., Cartes, R., Velásquez, N., & Larenas, C. (2016). The impact of multimodal instruction on the acquisition of vocabulary. Trabalhos em Linguística Aplicada, 2, 135-152.

Coşgun Ögeyik, M. (2011).  Form-focused discovery activities in English classes. The Reading Matrix, 1, 122-140.

Doughty, C., & Varela, E. (1998). Communicative focus on form, in C. J. Doughty and M. H. Long (ed.), The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 114-38.

Doughty, C., & Willams, J. (1998). Pedagogical choices in focus on form. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, 3, 197-262. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

Ellis, R. (1994). The study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (1995). Interpretation tasks for grammar teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 29(1), 87-105.

Ellis, R. (1997). SLA research and language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2001). Investigating form-focused instruction. Language Learning, 51(1), 1-46.

Ellis, R. (2005). Measuring implicit and explicit knowledge of a second language: A psychometric study. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27, 141–172.

Ellis, R. (2008). The study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, R. (2012). Language teaching research and language pedagogy. New York, NY: Wiley.

Ellis, R. (2015). The importance of focus on form in communicative language teaching. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 2, 1-12.

Ellis, R., Basturkmen, H., & Loewen, S. (2001a). Learner Uptake in Communicative ESL lessons. Language Learning, 51, 281–318. doi:10.1111/1467-9922.00156.

Ellis, R., Basturkmen, H. & Loewen, S. (2002). Doing focus-on-form. System 30(3), 419– 432.

Faramarz Zadeh, R. (2016). EFL learners' attitudes and perceptions about an effective English language teacher. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 3, 148-156.

Farias, M. A., Obilinovic, K., and Orrego, R. (2011). Engaging multimodal learning and second/foreign language education dialogue. The International Conference Multimodality and Learning, 2, 133-151.

Fotos & Nassaji, S. (2007). Issues in form-focused instruction and teacher's education. In S. Fotos & H. Nassaji (Eds.), Issue in form-focused instruction and teacher's education: Studies in honor of Rod Ellis. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ghalimberti, V., & Miralpeix, I. (2018). Multimodal Input for Italian Beginner Learners of English. La didattica delle lingue nel nuovo millennio, 1, 615-626.

Ghariblaki, Z., & Poorahmadi, M. (2017). The Effect of Recast vs. Clarification Request as Two Types of Corrective Feedback on Iranian Intermediate EFL Learners' Structural Knowledge Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 3, 87-96.

Ghelichi, M. (2017). Contextualizing Grammar Instruction through Meaning-Centered Planned Pre-emptive Treatment and Enhanced Input in an EFL Context. The Journal of English Language Pedagogy and Practice, 40(1), 72-91.

Ghalimberti, V., & Miralpeix, I. (2018). Multimodal Input for Italian Beginner Learners of English. La didattica delle lingue nel nuovo millennio, 1, 615-626.

Ghaniabadi, S., Hashemnejad, E., & Amirian, M. (2015). The effect of proactive versus reactive focus on form on Iranian EFL learners' grammatical accuracy. International Journal of Education and Research, 52(2), 227-236.

Gu, X. (2007). Focus on form or focus on forms: Which method is more effective? Teachers College, Columbia University Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, 7(1), 1-2.

Hawkes, M. J. (2012). Using task repetition to direct learner attention and focus on form, ELT Journal, 66, 327-336.

Hu. Z. L. (2007). Multimodal in the research of social semiotics. Language Teaching and Research, (1), 1-10.

Jourdenais, R., Ota, M., Stauffer, S., Boyson, B., & Doughty, C. (1995). Does textual enhancement promote noticing? A think-aloud protocol analysis. In R. Schmidt (Ed.), Attention and awareness in second language learning (Tech. Rep. 9, 183–216). Honolulu: University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching and Curriculum Center.

Kamiya, N. (2018). Proactive versus reactive focus on form. The TESOL encyclopedia of English language teaching. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 21, 320-339.

Kessler, G. (2013). Teaching ESL/EFL in a world of social media, mash-ups, and hyper-collaboration. TESOL Journal. doi: 10.1002/tesj.106.

Keyvanfar, A., & Bakshiri, N. (2011). Time matters: Proactive vs. reactive FoF. I-manager’s Journal on English Language Teaching, 22,145-166.

Kim, J., & Nassaji, H. (2017). Incidental focus on form and the role of learner extraversion. Language Teaching Research, 1, 1–21.

Krashen, Stephen D. (1987). Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition. New York: Prentice-Hall.

Levine, Philip & Ron Scollon. (2004). Discourse and technology: Multimodal discourse analysis. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (1990) Focus-on-form and corrective feedback in communicative language teaching: Effects on second language learning+ Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 12, 429–448.

Loewen, S. (2004). Uptake in incidental focus on form in meaning-focused ESL lessons. Language Learning, 54, 153-188.

Loewen, S. (2011). Focus on form. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning, 2, 576–92. New York, NY: Routledge.

Loewen, S. and T. Nabei. (2007). Measuring the effects of oral corrective feedback on L2 knowledge. In Conversational interaction in second language acquisition, ed. A. Mackey, 22, 361–377. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Long, M. H. (1991). Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In K. de Bot, R. Ginsberg, & C. Kramsch, (Eds.), Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective, 1, 39-52. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In Ritchie, W. & Bhatia, T. (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition, 33, 413-468. San Diego: Academic Press.

Long, M. H. (2000). Focus on form in task-based language teaching. In R. D. Lambert (Ed.), Language policy and pedagogy, 23, 179-192. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Long, M., & Robinson, P. (1998). Focus on form: Theory, research, and practice. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition, 2, 15-41. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Macaro, E. & Masterman, L. (2006). Does intensive explicit grammar instruction make all the difference? Language Teaching Research 10 (3), 297–327.

Moghimi, N., & Khalaji, H. (2015). The effect of enriched input on Iranian EFL learners’ grammar learning. International Journal of Educational Investigations, 12, 31-41.

Muranoi, H. (2000). Focus on form through interaction enhancement: Integrating formal instruction into a communicative task in EFL classrooms. Language Learning. 50(2), 617-673.

Norris, J. M. & Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50(3), 417–528.

Pienemann, M. (1985). Learnability and syllabus construction. In Hyltenstam, K., and Pienemann, M. (Eds.). 1985. 1, 23-76.

Poole, A. (2005). Focus on form instruction: Foundations, applications, and criticisms. The Reading Matrix. 5(1), 47-57.

Ranta, L., & Lyster, R. (2007). A cognitive approach to improving immersion students’ oral language abilities: The awareness-practice feedback sequence. In R. DeKeyser (Ed.), Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology, 12, 141-160. UK: Cambridge University Press.

Rooholamin, A., Biria, R., & Haghverdi, H. (2016). Effectiveness of proactive intensive FFI in cultivating grammatical knowledge of Iranian EFL learners at different proficiency levels. English Language Teaching, 22, 151-175. doi: 10.5539/elt.v9n3p197.

Royce, T. (2002). Multimodality in the TESOL classroom: Exploring visual-verbal synergy.

TESOL Quarterly, 36(2), 191–205.

Ruan, X. (2015). The Role of Multimodal in Chinese EFL Students’ Autonomous Listening Comprehension & Multiliteracies. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5, 549-554. doi:

Schmidt, R. (1993). Awareness and SL acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics. 13, 206-226.

Sharwood-Smith, M. (1981). Consciousness-raising and the second language learner. Applied Linguistics 2, 159-169.

Sharwood Smith, M. (1993). Input enhancement in instructed SLA: Theoretical bases. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15(2), 165–179.

Sheen, Y. (2006). Exploring the relationship between the characteristics of recasts and learner uptake. Language Teaching Research, 11, 361–392.

Shirkhani, S., & Tajeddin, Z. (2016). L2 teachers’ explicit and implicit corrective feedback and its linguistic focus. Iranian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 11, 181-206.

Spada, N. (1997). Form-focused instruction and second language acquisition: A review of classroom and laboratory research. Language Teaching, 30, 73-87.

Supakon, P., Feng, M., & Limmun, W. (2018). Strategies for Better Learning of English Grammar: Chinese vs. Thais. English Language Teaching. doi: 10.5539/elt.v11n3p24.

Takimoto, M. (2008). The effects of various kinds of form-focused instruction on learners’ ability to comprehend and produce polite requests in English. TESL Canada Journal, 5, 120-135.

Tode, T. (2007). Durability problems with explicit instruction in an EFL context: The learning of the English copula be before and after the introduction of the auxiliary be. Language Teaching Research, 11(1), 11–30.

Thournbury, S. (2004). English teaching essential grammar. English Teaching Professionals, 30, 40-41.

Ting, K. (2014). Multimodal resources to facilitate language learning for students with special needs. International Education Studies. doi:10.5539/ies.v7n8p85.

Tomita, Y., & Spada, N. (2013). Form-Focused Instruction and Learner Investment in L2 Communication. The Modern Language Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4781.2013.12031.x 0026-7902/13/591–610.

Trahey, M. and White, L. (1993). Positive evidence and preemption in the second language classroom. Studies in Second Language Acquisition. 15, 181-204.

VanPatten, B. (1989). Can Learners Attend to Form and Content While Processing Input?, JSTOR, 11, 409-417.

Yu, H. –W. (2001). An investigation into the effectiveness of computer support in academic writing. Ph.D. dissertation, King's College, London.

Zhang, D. L. (2009). Comprehensive theoretical framework for multimodal discourse analysis. Foreign Languages in China, (1), 24-30.

Zhu, Y. S. (2008). Multiliteracy research and its implications for Chinese EFL teaching reform. Foreign Language Research, (5), 10-14.