Structure-based Versus Dynamic Usage-based Instruction

L2 French Writing skills after six years of instruction in high school.




explicit-implicit, exposure, L2 French, dynamic usage-based, structure-based


In the Netherlands, teaching programs for French as a foreign language in secondary school usually involve an explicit focus on grammar. This is partially motivated by early findings in SLA research, which showed that explicit instruction is more effective in foreign language acquisition (Norris, & Ortega, 2000; Spada, & Tomita, 2010) and is even considered essential to achieve accuracy in advanced writing (Gunnarsson, 2012). The aim of this classroom study is to test these claims as it compares a structure-based (SB) method to a Dynamic Usage-Based (DUB) method in developing writing mastery in a pre-university program for French. The results suggest that both programs are equally effective in achieving grammatical accuracy and obtaining general text scores, but a DUB program seems more effective in achieving lexical complexity and fluency.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

  • Wim Gombert, University of Groningen

    Wim Gombert is a PhD candidate and teacher of L2 Dutch at the University of Groningen and a teacher of L2 French at a secondary school. His main research interests are L2 French and second language acquisition.

  • Merel Keijzer, University of Groningen

    Merel Keijzer is a full professor of English Linguistics & English as a second language at the University of Groningen. Her research interests focus on second language learning, bilingualism and the cognitive effects of both throughout the lifespan. 

  • Marjolijn Verspoor, University of Groningen

    Marjolijn Verspoor is Professor Emeritus of English Language and English as a Second Language at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Pannonia, Hungary. Her main research interests are second language development from a dynamic usage based perspective and instructional approaches in foreign language teaching.



Ågren, M., Granfeldt, J., & Schlyter, S. (2012). The growth of complexity and accuracy in L2 French. In A. Housen, F. Kuiken, & I. Vedder (Eds.), Dimensions of L2 performance and proficiency: Complexity, accuracy and fluency in SLA (pp. 95-119). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Andringa, S., De Glopper, K., & Hacquebord, H. (2011). Effect of explicit and implicit instruction on free written response task performance. Language Learning, 61(3), 868-903.

Arnott, S. (2011). Exploring the dynamic relationship between the Accelerative Integrated Method (AIM) and the core French teachers who use it: Why agency and experience matter. Canadian Journal of Applied Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique appliquée, 14(2), 156-176.

Bakker, T., Beijer, S., Brouwer, J., Heringa, J., & Morice, I. (2005). Grandes Lignes (3rd ed.). Noordhoff.

Barbier, M. L. (1997). Rédaction de texte en langue première et en langue seconde. Aix-Marseille 1.

Bartning, I., & Schlyter, S. (2004). Itinéraires acquisitionnels et stades de développement en français L2. Journal of French language studies, 14(3), 281-299.

Biber, D., Gray, B., & Poonpon, K. (2011). Should we use characteristics of conversation to measure grammatical complexity in L2 writing development? Tesol Quarterly, 45(1), 5-35.

Breek, L., Polinder, K., Groenen, G., & Van der Drift, M. (2003). Libre Service (2nd ed.). ThiemeMeulenhoff.

Chomsky, N. (2009). Syntactic structures. De Gruyter Mouton.

Cobb, T. Compleat Web VP v.2 [computer program]. Accessed 15 February 2018 at

Cohen, J. (1988). The effect size index: d. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2, 284-288.

De Bot, K., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (2011). Researching second language development from a dynamic systems theory perspective. In M.H. Verspoor, K. de Bot, & W. Lowie (Eds.), A dynamic approach to second language development (pp. 5-24). John Benjamins.

DeKeyser, R. M. (2003). Implicit and explicit learning. In C.J. Doughty & M.H. Long, The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 313-348). Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

DeKeyser, R. M. & Botano, G. P. (2019). Current research on instructed second language learning: A bird’s eye view. In R.M. DeKeyser & G.P. Botana, (Eds.), Doing SLA research with implications for the classroom: Reconciling methodological demands and pedagogical applicability (pp. 1-8). John Benjamins.

Dönszelmann, S. (2019). Doeltaal-Leertaal. Didactiek, professionalisering en leereffecten. Parthenon.

Ellis, N. C. (2008). The dynamics of second language emergence: Cycles of language use, language change, and language acquisition. The modern language journal, 92(2), 232-249.

Ellis, N. C., & Wulff, S. (2015). Usage-based approaches to SLA. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 75-93). Routledge.

Fayol, M. (1997). Des idées au texte. Psychologie cognitive de la production verbale, orale et écrite. PUF.

Gombert, W., Keijzer, M. & Verspoor, M. (submitted). Exposure and chunks in L2 French writing.

Granfeldt, J., & Ågren, M. (2014). SLA developmental stages and teachers’ assessment of written French: Exploring Direkt Profil as a diagnostic assessment tool. Language Testing, 31(3), 285-305.

Granfeldt, J., Nugues, P., Ågren, M., Thulin, J., Persson, E., & Schlyter, S. (2006, May). CEFLE and Direkt Profil: A new computer learner corpus in French L2 and a system for grammatical profiling. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (pp. 565-570).

Gunnarsson, C. (2012). The development of complexity, accuracy and fluency in the written production of L2 French. In A. Housen, F. Kuiken, & I. Vedder (Eds.), Dimensions of L2 performance and proficiency: Complexity, accuracy and fluency in SLA (pp. 247-276). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Halliday, M. A. (1970). Language structure and language function. In J. Lyons (Ed.). New horizons in linguistics (pp.140-165). Penguin.

Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. (1980). Identifying the organization of writing processes. In L.W. Gregg & E.R. Steinberg (Eds.). Cognitive processes in writing (pp. 3-30). Erlbaum.

Hermans-Nymark, L. D. (2006). English in the EFL classroom: Why not? Classroom discourse patterns and teachers’ beliefs. Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.

Hulstijn, J. H. (2015). Explaining phenomena of first and second language acquisition with the constructs of implicit and explicit learning. In P. Rebuschat (Ed.), Implicit and explicit learning of languages (pp. 25-46). John Benjamins.

Hymes, D. (1972). On communicative competence. Sociolinguistics, 269293, 269-293.

Klein, W., Dietrich, R., & Noyau, C. (1995). The acquisition of temporality in a second language. John Benjamins.

Langacker, R. W. (2000). Grammar and conceptualization. Walter de Gruyter.

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2021). How Languages Are Learned (5th ed.). Oxford university press.

Long, M. H. (2000). Focus on form in task-based language teaching. In R. D. Lambert & E. Ahohamy, Language policy and pedagogy: Essays in honor of A. Ronald Walton (pp. 179-192). John Benjamins.

Maxwell, W. (2001). Evaluating the effectiveness of the accelerative integrated method for teaching French as a second language. University of London Institute.

Michel, M., Vidon, C., De Graaff, R., & Lowie, W. (2021). Language learning beyond English in the Netherlands: A fragile future?. European Journal of Applied Linguistics, 9(1), 159-182.

Norris, J. M., & Ortega, L. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta‐analysis. Language learning, 50(3), 417-528.

Norris, J., & Ortega, L. (2009). Towards an organic approach to investigating CAF in instructed SLA: The case of complexity. Applied Linguistics, 30, 555-578.

Oh, S. (2006). Investigating the relationship between fluency measures and second language writing placement test decisions. University of Hawaii.

Onnis, L. (2012). The potential contribution of statistical learning to second language acquisition. Statistical learning and language acquisition, 203-235.

Piggott, L., Tribushinina, E., & De Graaff, R. (2020). The Icing On the Cake? Effects of Explicit Form-Focused Instruction after Two Years of Implicit EFL Learning. In W. Lowie, M. Michel, A. Rousse-Malpat, M. Keijzer & R. Steinkrauss (Eds.), Usage-Based Dynamics in Second Language Development (pp. 249-270). Blue Ridge Summit.

Plonsky, L., & Oswald, F. L. (2014). How big is “big”? interpreting effect sizes in L2 research: Effect sizes in L2 research. Language Learning, 64(4), 878-912.

Popma, G. (1997). Mag het ietsje minder zijn? Het gebruik van Nederlands in de Engelse les. Levende Talen Magazine, 84(517), 70-73. https://lt

Rousse-Malpat, A. (2012). Effectiveness of focus on form versus focus on meaning [Master’s thesis, University of Groningen].

Rousse-Malpat, A. L. M. J. (2019). Effectiveness of explicit vs. implicit L2 instruction: A longitudinal classroom study on oral and written skills. Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

Rousse-Malpat, A., & Verspoor, M. (2012). Measuring effectiveness in focus on form versus focus on meaning. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 263-276.

Spada, N., & Tomita, Y. (2010). Interactions between type of instruction and type of language feature: A meta‐analysis. Language learning, 60(2), 263-308

Tomasello, M. (2003). Constructing a language. Harvard University Press.

Tyler, A., & Ortega, L. (2018). Usage-inspired L2 instruction. An emergent, researched pedagogy. In A. Tyler, L. Ortega, M. Uno, & H. Park (Eds.), Usage-inspired L2 Instruction. Researched pedagogy (pp. 3-26). John Benjamins.

Van Compernolle, R. A. (2015). Interaction and second language development. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Van Hout, R., & Vermeer, A. (2007). Comparing measures of lexical richness. In H. Daller, J. Milton, & J. Treffers-Daller (Eds.), Modelling and assessing vocabulary knowledge (pp. 93-115). Cambridge University Press.

Verspoor, M. H. (2017). Cognitive linguistics and its applications to second language teaching. Springer.

Verspoor, M., & Schmitt, N. (2013). Language and the lexicon in SLA. The Routledge encyclopedia of SLA (pp. 353-360). Routledge.

Verspoor, M., Schmid, M. S., & Xu, X. (2012). A dynamic usage-based perspective on L2 writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21(3), 239-263.

West, L., & Verspoor, M. (2016). An impression of FL teaching approaches in the Netherlands. Levende Talen Tijdschrift, 17(4), 26-36.

Widdowson, H. G. (1978). Teaching language as communication. Oxford University Press.

Yoon, H. J. (2017). Linguistic complexity in L2 writing revisited: Issues of topic, proficiency, and construct multidimensionality. System, 66, 130-141.







How to Cite

Structure-based Versus Dynamic Usage-based Instruction: L2 French Writing skills after six years of instruction in high school. (2022). Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 11.