Providing Evidence for and of Learning

Given that the center of LOA is learning, it is important for LOA studies to provide adequate evidence for and of learning (Jones & Saville, 2016). To examine how these two types of evidence were presented in the surveyed LOA studies, sources that created or with the goal of creating learning opportunities were identified as evidence for learning (e.g., instructional tasks, teacher-student interactions), and those that demonstrated how learning actually occurred were identified as evidence of learning (e.g., learners’ response to feedback, learners’ performance on achievement tests).

As Table 4.1 shows, it was found that two of the surveyed LOA studies did not present either evidence for or of learning, with several others presenting only one type of evidence. Upon further investigation, in many of these cases, the lack of evidence for or of learning was mostly due to how LOA was propositioned in the study. For example, Ali (2013) and Cheng et al. (2015) examined the participants’ perceptions of LOA through the use of questionnaires; therefore, neither evidence for nor of learning was provided. In another example, Timpe-Laughlin and Choi (2017) used LOA to describe the nature of a pragmatic assessment, but the main purpose of their study was to examine the validity of the assessment, which explains why evidence of learning was not provided in their study. It is worth pointing out that there are more studies without the presence of evidence of learning than there are evidence for learning; in other words, while most studies showed how learning could happen in LOA, there was a noticeable number of studies that did not account for how learning actually happened under the pretext of LOA. However, taking into account the multifacetedness of LOA, this finding could be explained by the specific LOA dimensions each study focused on. For example, a study that did not address the socio-cognitive dimension of LOA likely would not present evidence of learning.

With respect to the sources of evidence, the current LOA studies have provided a diverse range of sources of evidence for learning, such as instructional tasks, teachers’ spoken feedback embedded in interactions, teachers’ written feedback on assignments, and technology-based formative assessment tasks. Evidence of learning, on the other hand, shows less variety. The majority of the evidence of learning came from the learners’ responses to tasks or teachers’ feedback. The fact that both the variety and quantity of evidence for learning outweigh those of evidence of learning seems to suggest that, among the surveyed studies, more emphasis has been placed on the “assessment” aspects of LOA (i.e., whether and how assessments are learning-oriented), and not quite enough on the “learning” aspects of it (i.e., whether and how learning transpires from the assessments). This phenomenon also indicates that, so far, the LOA research in L2 contexts still appears to be more teacher-centered as it has been in the L2 CBA literature; therefore, a balanced emphasis on both teachers’ and learners’ perspectives, as Turner and Purpura (2016) called for, has yet to be addressed.

Addressing the Multidimensional Nature of LOA

Finally, to explore the ways in which current LOA studies have addressed the multidimensional and complex nature of LOA, the research questions or purposes of each study was coded for the LOA dimensions (i.e., contextual, proficiency, elicitation, instructional, socio-cognitive, socio-inter- actional, and affective) they focused on following Turner and Purpura’s (2016; Purpura & Turner, 2021) framework. The LOA dimensions that each study addressed can be found in Table 4.1, and the frequency of each dimension being addressed is illustrated in Figure 4.2.

As seen in Table 4.1, all of the surveyed studies focused on at least two LOA dimensions in their research purposes, with the majority of the studies addressing between three and five LOA dimensions. This suggests that LOA in L2 contexts is inherently multidimensional, and that researchers have been able to portray the complexity of LOA, albeit implicitly, through the research questions they proposed.

Frequencies of each LOA dimension being addressed in the surveyed studies

Figure 4.2 Frequencies of each LOA dimension being addressed in the surveyed studies.

Taking a closer look at the extent to which each LOA dimension has been addressed in the current LOA research (Figure 4.2), it was found that the elicitation dimension was the most commonly addressed LOA dimension, followed by the instructional dimension and the socio-cog- nitive dimension. In other words, most of the current LOA studies have shown particular interest in examining: the methods of eliciting L2 KSAs that may promote learning (the elicitation dimension; e.g., Chapelle et ah, 2018; Hamp-Lyons, 2017; Navaie, 2018; Wolf et al., 2016); the ways teachers organize and manage the assessment processes (the instructional dimension; e.g., Baker & Germain, 2020; Scarino, 2020); the ways teachers elicit targeted KSAs from learners (the instructional dimension; e.g., Tsagari, 2014; Poehner & Infante, 2017); the ways teachers utilize assessment information to provide feedback or assistance (the instructional dimension; e.g., May et al., 2020); the cognitive, socio-cognitive, or strategic demands of an assessment (the socio-cognitive dimension; e.g., Chapelle et al., 2018; Perrone, 2011); and the effectiveness of feedback or assistance in promoting learning (the socio-cognitive dimension; e.g., Kim & Kim, 2017; Tsagari, 2014; Purpura et al., 2016; Leung, 2020). Such a finding, again, reflects that current L2 LOA research appears to put more emphasis on providing evidence for learning, and that the focus of these studies was more assessment- and teacher-centered.

In sum, surveying the current LOA studies conducted in L2 contexts has revealed that (1) there already exists a certain level of systematicity in the data collection and analysis approaches; (2) adequate or sufficient evidence for or of learning has not always been consistently provided, particularly the latter; (3) all surveyed studies addressed multiple LOA dimensions in their research questions or purposes, though each dimension received different degrees of attention; and (4) most of the current LOA studies are still teacher- and assessment-centered, and there has not been enough emphasis on learners and the actual learning outcomes. Considering these findings, this chapter concludes with some recommendations for future LOA research, with a specific emphasis on L2 classroom contexts.

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