The effects of Processing Instruction on the acquisition of English simple past tense: age and cognitive task demands

Alessandro Benati, Tanja Angelovska

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The present study investigates the effects of Processing Instruction on two different age groups and the role that cognitive task demands might play in the results generated by Processing Instruction. This study includes school-age children and adult native speakers of German learning English as a foreign language ? a language combination not previously investigated within the Processing Instruction and individual differences research paradigm. The present study investigates directly whether two different age groups will benefit equally from Processing Instruction in altering their reliance on lexical temporal indicators and redirecting their attention to verb forms on Processing Instruction activities with different cognitive demands. The grammatical feature chosen for this study is the English past simple tense marking tested on both interpretation and production measures. The results from this study provide further evidence that the Processing Instruction is an effective instructional treatment in helping school-age children and adult L2 learners to make accurate form-meaning connections. The results from the first sentence-level interpretation task and the production task showed that Processing Instruction has positive and equal effects on both age groups (school-age learners and adults). The positive effects of instruction were maintained over the delayed post-test for both age groups who made similar gains on the immediate post-test. The results from the second (cognitively more complex) sentence-level interpretation task indicated that the adults made greater gains than school-age learners. However, both groups retained the positive effects of instruction over time. The difference in gains between the two age groups on the second sentence-level interpretation task can be explained in terms of cognitive processing load.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-269
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • processing instruction, age, cognitive tasks demands


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