Beyond paradigm: The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of classroom research

Melinda Whong, Kook-Hee Gil, Heather Marsden

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


This article reviews studies in second language classroom research from a cross-theoretic perspective, arguing that the classroom holds the potential for bringing together researchers from opposing theoretical orientations. It shows how generative and general cognitive approaches share a view of language that implicates both implicit and explicit knowledge, and that holds a bias towards implicit knowledge. Arguing that it is implicit knowledge that should be the object of research, it proposes that classroom research would benefit from incorporating insights from a generative understanding of language. Specifically, there is a need for a more nuanced view of the complexity of language in terms of linguistic domain, and the interaction between those domains. Generative second language acquisition research that shows developmental differences in terms of both linguistic domain and interface is reviewed. The core argument is a call for more attention to the ‘what’ of language development in classroom research and, by implication, teaching practice. As such, the language classroom is seen to offer potential for research that goes beyond paradigm to address both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of language development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-568
Number of pages18
JournalSecond Language Research
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • second language acquisition
  • generative
  • cognitive
  • classroom research
  • explicit knowledge
  • implicit knowledge

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