The Impact of Focus on Form and Focus on Forms Instruction on Grammar Acquisition of the Subjunctive by Iranian Advanced English as a Foreign Language Learners

Document Type : Original Article


Urmia University


Grammar instruction is a crucial topic of debate in foreign language development. This study aimed at investigating the impact of focus on form (FonF) and focus on forms (FonFs) instruction on grammar acquisition of the subjunctive by Iranian advanced EFL learners. To this end, 40 Iranian advanced EFL learners were selected within the age range of 16-20 from a language school in Karaj, Iran. Initially, the Preliminary English Test was run to ensure that the students were homogenous with respect to their language proficiency. Before any treatment, a pretest was administered to determine the participants’ knowledge of the subjunctive. Afterwards, the researchers taught the subjunctive to one group through FonF instruction and the second group received FonFs instruction. After five weeks of instruction, the researchers administered a posttest to investigate the effectiveness of FonF and FonFs instruction. Then, paired samples statistics, the independent samples t-test, and Mann Whitney U test were run to test the null hypotheses. The findings revealed that although FonF and FonFs instruction have significant positive impacts on grammar acquisition of the subjunctive by Iranian advanced EFL learners, the students who were taught through FonFs instruction significantly outperformed the ones who received FonF instruction.


Al-khresheh, M. H., & Orak, S. D. (2021). The place of grammar instruction in the 21st century: Exploring global perspectives of English teachers towards the role of teaching grammar in EFL/ESL classrooms. World Journal of English Language, 11(1), 1-9.
Anderson, J. R. (1992). Automaticity and the ACT theory. The American Journal of Psychology, 105(2), 165-180.
Andrews, K. L. Z. (2007). The effects of implicit and explicit instruction on simple and complex grammatical structures for adult English language learners. Tesl-Ej, 11(2), 1-15.
Arias de la Cruz, A., Domínguez Barrera, G., & Morales Vázquez, E. (2019). Form-focused instruction (FFI) and language features attended to during content-based instruction (CBI) lessons at a southeastern Mexican university. Actualidades Investigativas en Educación, 19(1), 26-54.
Bahari, A. (2019). FonF practice model from theory to practice: CALL via focus on form approach and non-linear dynamic motivation to develop listening and speaking proficiency. Computers & Education, 130(1), 40-58.
Bandar, F., & Gorjian, B. (2017). Teaching grammar to EFL learners through focusing on form and meaning. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Learning, 3(4), 88-96.
Bell, H. (2016). Teacher knowledge and beliefs about grammar: a case study of an English primary school. English in Education, 50(2), 148-163.
Benati, A. (2021). Focus on form. Cambridge University Press.
Collet, V. S., & Greiner, A. C. (2020). Revisioning grammar instruction through collaborative lesson study: A new apprenticeship of observation. Literacy Research and Instruction, 59(2), 95-120.
Collins, L., & Ruivivar, J. (2021). Research agenda: Researching grammar teaching and learning in the second language classroom. Language Teaching, 1-17.
DeKeyser, R. (Ed.). (2007). Practice in a second language: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. Cambridge University Press.
DeKeyser, R. M. (1995). Learning second language grammar rules: An experiment with a miniature linguistic system. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 17(3), 379-410.
Dorji, J. (2018). Teaching grammar: A survey of teacher's beliefs and attitudes in Bhutan. Journal of Asia TEFL, 15(2), 530-541.
Due, C., Riggs, D. W., & Mandara, M. (2015). Educators’ experiences of working in intensive English language programs: The strengths and challenges of specialized English language classrooms for students with migrant and refugee backgrounds. Australian Journal of Education, 59(2), 1-13.
Ebrahimi, S., Rezvani, E., & Kheirzadeh, S. (2015). Teaching grammar through formS focused and form focused instruction: The case of teaching conditional sentences to Iranian intermediate EFL learners. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research, 2(1), 10-25.
Ellis, R. (2001). Introduction: Investigating form‐focused instruction. Language Learning, 51(1), 1-46.
Ellis, R. (2008). Learner beliefs and language learning. Asian EFL Journal, 10(4), 7-25.
Ellis, R. (2012). Language teaching research and language pedagogy. John Wiley & Sons.
Ellis, R. (2015). The importance of focus on form in communicative language teaching. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 1-12.
Ellis, R., Basturkmen, H., & Loewen, S. (2001). Preemptive focus on form in the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 35(3), 407-432.
Ellis, R., Basturkmen, H., & Loewen, S. (2002). Doing focus-on-form. System, 30(4), 419- 432.
Fazilatfar, A. M., & Beedel, M. (2008). The Iranian students & teachers' perceptions of the role of explicit grammar instruction & error correction. Teaching English Language, 3(2), 49-69.
Gholami, L., & Gholami, J. (2018). Uptake in incidental focus-on-form episodes concerning formulaic language in advanced adult EFL classes. Language Teaching Research, 24(2), 189-219.
Ghorbani, M., & Atai, M. R. (2013). Effect of explicit and implicit FFI on EFL learners' implicit and explicit knowledge of simple and difficult morphosyntactic features. Teaching English Language, 7(1), 33-70.
Goo, J., Granena, G., Yilmaz, Y., & Novella, M. (2015). Implicit and explicit instruction in L2 learning. Implicit and Explicit Learning of Languages, 48(1), 443-482.
Guci, R. I., Rochsantiningsih, D., & Sumardi, S. (2021). Focus on form and focus on forms in implicit grammar teaching strategy. Indonesian Journal of EFL and Linguistics, 6(1), 127-145.
Housen, A., & Pierrard, M. (2008). Investigating instructed second language acquisition. In Investigations in instructed second language acquisition (pp. 1-30). De Gruyter Mouton.
Iqbal, M. J., Akbar, M. & Ahmad, M. (2017). Problems in teaching grammar to English learners at secondary level. Asian Innovative Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 1(1), 55-69.
Kaivanpanah, S., Alavi, S. M., & Barghi, A. H. (2019). Teachers' practices and awareness of grammar teaching principles. Teaching English Language, 13(2), 213-246.
Kang, E. Y., Sok, S., & Han, Z. (2018). Thirty-five years of ISLA on form-focused instruction: A meta-analysis. Language Teaching Research, 23(4), 428-453.
Karami, A., & Bowles, F. A. (2020). An examination of form-focused instruction: Isolated versus integrated and focus on forms versus focus on form. IUP Journal of English Studies, 15(2), 97-110.
Kisselev, O., Dubinina, I., & Polinsky, M. (2020). Form-focused instruction in the heritage language classroom: Toward research-informed heritage language pedagogy. Frontiers in Education, 5(1), 53-63.
Li, L., & Walsh, S. (2011). Technology uptake in Chinese EFL classes. Language Teaching Research, 15(1), 99-125.
Loewen, S. (2011). Focus on form. Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning, 2, 576-592.
Loewen, S. (2015). Introduction to instructed second language acquisition. Routledge.
Loewen, S. (2018). Focus on form versus focus on forms. The TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching, 1(1), 1-6.
Long, M. H. & Robinson, P. (1998). Focus on form: Theory, research and practice. In focus on form in classroom L2 Acquisition. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp.15-42). Cambridge University Press.
Long, M. H. (1991). Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. Foreign Language Research in Cross-Cultural Perspective, 2(1), 39-52.
Long, M. H. (1996). The role of linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 413–468). Academic Press.
Long, M. H., & Crookes, G. (1992). Three approaches to task‐based syllabus design. TESOL Quarterly, 26(1), 27-56.
Lopez Diaz, A., Martinez, J., Jiménez, D. C., Perez, É., & Mateo, V. (2019). How we teach grammar: An exploratory study on how Dominican teachers deal with grammar teaching. Online Submission, 43(4), 1-10.
Lotfipoursaedi, K. (2021). Characterizing the ‘focus-on-form’ as the SLA classroom mediation strategy: Should this be ‘grammaticality’-or textuality-oriented? Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 9(1), 43-63.
Mirzaei, A., & Taheri, F. (2016). Task-based collaborative interaction in a CMC environment: A form-focused perspective. Teaching English Language, 10(2), 113-149.
Mohammadnia, Z., & Gholami, J. (2008). Incidental focus on form: Does proficiency matter. Teaching English Language, 2(6), 1-26.
Nassaji, H. (2013). Participation structure and incidental focus on form in adult ESL classrooms. Language Learning, 63(4), 835-869.
Onalan, O. (2018). Non-native English teachers' beliefs on grammar instruction. English Language Teaching, 11(5), 1-13.
Othman, J., & Ismail, L. (2008). Using focus on form instruction in the teaching and learning of grammar in a Malaysian classroom. Journal of Asia TEFL, 5(2), 93-116.
Pagcaliwagan, S. B. (2016). Cooperative learning strategy: Effects on students’ performance in grammar. European Journal of English Language, Linguistics and Literature, 3(1), 40-49.
Rahimi Domakani, M. (2008). The efficacy of focus on form on promoting second language learning. Teaching English Language, 3(1), 1-18.
Robinson, P. (1996). Learning simple and complex second language rules under implicit, incidental, rule-search, and instructed conditions. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 18(1), 27-67.
Rodgers, D. M. (2015). Incidental language learning in foreign language content courses. The Modern Language Journal, 99(1), 113-136.
Saeed, H. S., & Reinders, H. (2021). The differential impact of the timing of form-focused instruction on the acquisition of the past counterfactual conditional and framing expressions for English questions. Journal of Second Language Studies, 4(1), 19-47.
Saslow, J., & Ascher, A. (2012). Summit 2A. (2nd ED). Pearson Education.
Sato, M., & Oyanedel, J. C. (2019). “I think that is a better way to teach but…”: EFL teachers’ conflicting beliefs about grammar teaching. System, 84(1), 110-122.
Shakhsi Dastgahian, E. (2021). Teachers’ incentive for grammar instruction in Iran's reformed EFL context. International Journal of Applied Linguistics.
Sheen, R. (2002). Focus on form and focus on forms. ELT Journal, 56(3), 303-305.
Shintani, N. (2013). The effect of focus on form and focus on forms instruction on the acquisition of productive knowledge of L2 vocabulary by young beginning-level learners. TESOL Quarterly, 47(1), 36–62.
Shintani, N. (2015). The incidental grammar acquisition in focus on form and focus on forms instruction for young beginner learners. TESOL Quarterly, 49(1), 115-140.
Soodmand Afshar, H. (2021). Task-related focus-on-forms foreign language vocabulary development: Focus on spoken form and word parts. System, 96(1), 102-406.
Soodmand Afshar, H., & Bagherieh, M. (2014). The use of hedging devices in English and Persian abstracts of Persian literature and civil engineering MA/MS theses of Iranian writers. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 98(1), 1820-1827.
Spada, N., & Lightbown, P. M. (2008). Form‐focused instruction: Isolated or integrated? TESOL Quarterly, 42(2), 181-207.
Sun, Q., & Zhang, L. J. (2021). A sociocultural perspective on English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) teachers’ cognitions about form-focused instruction. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(1), 1-14.
Yang, Y., Zhang, L. J., & Chen, L. (2019). Effects of recasts and form-focused instruction on the acquisition of novel vocabulary. Applied Linguistics Review, 10(4), 603-624.
Yusof, F.K. (2018). Challenges of teaching grammar at tertiary level: learning from English lecturers' insights. UiTMT E-Academia Journal, 7(1), 149-158.
Zamani, N., Youhanaee, M., & Barati, H. (2019). The role of sequencing isolated form-focused instruction and complexity in developing English grammatical knowledge by Iranian monolinguals and bilinguals. Journal of English Language Teaching and Learning, 11(24), 323-350.
Zheng, H. (2013). Teachers' beliefs and practices: A dynamic and complex relationship. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 41(3), 331-343.