An investigation into the effects of processing instruction on the acquisition of English relative clauses by Syrian learners

  • Randa Alsadi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of Processing Instruction (VanPatten, 1996, 2007), as an input-based model for teaching second language grammar, on Syrian learners’ processing abilities. The present research investigated the effects of Processing Instruction on the acquisition of English relative clauses by Syrian learners in
the form of a quasi-experimental design. Three separate groups were involved in the research (Processing Instruction, Traditional Instruction and a Control Group). For assessment, a pre-test, a direct post-test and a delayed post-test were used as main tools for eliciting data. A questionnaire was also distributed to participants in the Processing Instruction group to give them the opportunity to give feedback in relation to the treatment they received in comparison with the Traditional Instruction they are used to.
Four hypotheses were formulated on the possible effectivity of Processing Instruction on
Syrian learners’ linguistic system. It was hypothesised that Processing Instruction would improve learners’ processing abilities leading to an improvement in learners’ linguistic
system. This was expected to lead to a better performance when it comes to the comprehension and production of English relative clauses. The main source of data was analysed statistically using the ANOVA test. Cohen’s d
calculations were also used to support the ANOVA test. Cohen’s d showed the magnitude of effects of the three treatments. Results of the analysis showed that both Processing Instruction and Traditional Instruction groups had improved after treatment. However, the Processing Instruction Group significantly outperformed the other two groups in the
comprehension of relative clauses. The analysis concluded that Processing Instruction is a
useful tool for instructing relative clauses to Syrian learners. This was enhanced by participants’ responses to the questionnaire as they were in favour of Processing
Instruction, rather than Traditional Instruction. This research has theoretical and pedagogical implications. Theoretically, the study
showed support for the Input hypothesis. That is, it was shown that Processing Instruction
had a positive effect on input processing as it affected learners’ linguistic system. This was
reflected in learners’ performance where learners were able to produce a structure which
they had not been asked to produce. Pedagogically, the present research showed that
Processing Instruction is a useful tool for teaching English grammar in the context where the experiment was carried out, as it had a large effect on learners’ performance.
Date of Award25 Sep 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorUrszula I Clark (Supervisor)


  • second language acquisition
  • input
  • output
  • input processing
  • processing instruction

Cite this