Title: Research Methods for the Study of Language Aptitude
Instructor: Shaofeng Li, Florida State University
Abstract: Language aptitude (alternatively aptitude) refers to cognitive abilities that are predictive of learning rate and ultimate attainment in a second language. Aptitude provides a window into the cognitive foundation or underpinnings of language learning, and aptitude research contributes significantly to an accurate understanding of the mechanism of language learning. In this workshop, I will provide a systematic synthesis of the methodological aspects of the various strands of aptitude research, including research questions, research design, measurement of aptitude, construct validity, data analysis, and reporting practices. I will also spell out the different theoretical perspectives that have emerged in the literature and discuss the importance of theories in the selection, creation, and quality control of research methods. I will distinguish traditional (explicit) aptitude and implicit aptitude, a recently emerged construct in aptitude research, and scrutinize the methods that have been utilized to examine the two related and yet different cognitive variables. I will take this opportunity to propose a framework for examining the validity of the measures of cognitive abilities in second language acquisition. The methodological synthesis is informed by a number of meta-analyses, narrative syntheses, and empirical studies I have conducted on language aptitude and the 2021 special issue of Studies in Second Language Acquisition that I co-guest-edited with Robert DeKeyser. The workshop will report trends, identify issues, and propose solutions, and participants will have opportunities to engage in discussions and hands-on activities.