How the ‘Productive Failure’ Instructional Design Encapsulates the ‘Active Learning’ Essence of Eliciting L2 Output Using the ‘Information Gap’ Construct

Abstract

Productive failure' (Kapur, 2015) is an instructional design based on the contrast between learners’ intuitive assumptions and proven solutions to problems analyzed for educational purposes in a given discipline. This design involves learners attempting creation of concepts or solutions before being taught, which is thought to enhance learning in that it prepares learners to comprehend taught content more solidly, even if their initial assumptions were incorrect, or a ‘failure’. Much of the research and experimentation regarding this takes place in contexts outside of language learning, yet the productive failure design and related designs fall under the broader heading of active learning, something the Ministry of Education in Japan has been increasingly attuned to in recent policy developments (McMurray, 2018). Intriguingly, it is evident that much of what is described as the learning processes and effects of productive failure closely resembles what is described in literature on L2 output production during communicative interaction and associated opportunities for language acquisition. Parallels between the active learning aspects of productive failure and processes involved in authentic output production will be portrayed and explained. The concept behind information gap activities, with one interlocutor having the answer and the other deducing it from contextual clues and attempting to express it accurately, can be used to elicit output and negotiation of meaning in ways that operate and potentially develop learners’ linguistic resources. How information gaps can be made to function this way, incorporating a form of active learning similar to productive failure, will be exemplified and discussed.



Author Information
Eric Buck, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACL2020
Stream: Language Learning and Teaching

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