Proximity of stimulation: Input quality mediates effects of SES and program on L2 and cognition

Kersten, Kristin

Document Type: Conference presentation
Year of publication: 2023
Conference title: AAAL 2023 Conference - Collaborating and Mentoring in Applied Linguistics
Location of the conference venue: Portland, OR
Date of the conference: 18.-21.03.2023
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Publication language: English
Institution: School of Humanities > Mehrsprachigkeitsdidaktik (Kersten 2023-)
Subject: 400 Language, linguistics
Abstract: Proposal Abstract: Research has identified numerous external factors as predictors of SLA. However, research on their combined effects is scarce (Han, 2019). Difficulties lie in the hierarchical nature of variables and, consequentially, the associated statistical effects. Distal container variables (SES, school program) conceptually include proximal variables such as parents’/teachers’ interactions with the learners (Douglas-Fir Group, 2016; Lerner, 2002). Distal variables exert only indirect effects, while proximal variables induce concrete stimuli for the learner. Although both can statistically predict development, only proximal interaction can cause actual changes. The Proximity of Stimulation Hypothesis (Kersten, 2023) holds that effects of distal factors will be mediated or moderated by proximal stimuli. This hypothesis was tested twice using different distal and proximal factors as predictors of learner-internal (S)LA and cognition. Study 1 included 93 primary school L2-learners of English from conventional (n=31) and bilingual (n=62) L2-programs in Germany, with two distal (SES, school program) and two proximal variables (parents’/teachers’ language input), working memory, and L2-comprehension as internal variables. We used standardized instruments, a parental questionnaire, and teacher input was measured via the Teacher Input Observation Scheme (TIOS). Structural equation modeling accounted for nested data structure, with a good model fit (p=.091, CFI=.968, RMSEA=.069). Results revealed that the effect of SES on working memory was mediated by parental input, and the effect of program on L2-comprehension by teachers’ input. In Study 2, an online survey elicited n=39 L2-English and n=37 German teachers’ self-reports on their use of input strategies via TIOS (grades 4-6). Their students’ language proficiency in L2-English (n=690) and L1-German (n=836) was elicited via CEFR descriptors. Moderation analyses showed that teachers’ input moderated the effect of SES on learners’ language proficiency in both languages. Results show that input-strategies can buffer social effects and are also effective in language-sensitive L1 teaching. Both studies support the Proximity Hypothesis.

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