My interests involve issues in second language acquisition (SLA) which affect teaching practice. This includes curriculum and textbook design, effective use of technology, structured input and processing instruction as alternatives to traditional approaches to grammar instruction, and evaluating student work. I am also interested in foreign language teacher education and the professional development of language instructors.
CUREENT PROJECTS AND INTERESTS
Along with William J. Comer (Portland State University), Alla Smyslova (Columbia University) and Jonathan Perkins (University of Kansas), deBenedette is a co-author of a new online introductory textbook that incorporates a focus on language input and vocabulary acquisition with a variety of focus-on-form activities. Published in 2015 Между нами (Between You and Me) is now in use at nearly 50 colleges and universities in the U.S., along with several high schools.
How do we focus in foreign language education on the traditionally regarded "building blocks" of language study (including instruction in grammar), in newer communicative learning environments? Traditional approaches have remained largely mechanical, involving rule memorization and application of rules, often in exercises that do nothing to ensure that a grammatical form (a case ending or tense marker, for example) has been mapped correctly to the meaning it encodes. Meanwhile research in language acquisition has established that neither rule memorization nor mechanical drilling leads directly to competent interaction in a foreign language. Structred Input and Processing Instruction (VanPatten, 2004) seek to remake grammar instruction by focusing on the places where learners process forms incorrectly. Activities require students to demonstrate comprehension of new forms used in some meaningful context before pushing them to use the forms in speaking or writing themselves. SI and PI activities now exist in quantity for Spanish and French, but research on how best to create these activities is only beginning in less-commonly taught languages like Russian.
A recent Modern Languages Association report called for us to "situate language study in cultural, historical, geographic, and cross-cultural frames." At Brown deBenedette collaborated with colleagues Beth Bauer and Shoggy Waryn to establish Russian, Spanish and French versions of the online intercultural exchange "Cultura" (originally developed at MIT for French). Cultura draws on constructivist approaches to language learning, and the social network created by the exchange allows for a community of multilingual and -cultural participants (US students of Russian at Brown / Russian students of English in a Russian city) to explore the cultural "baggage" even the most basic terms carry, both for individuals and groups.
Brown Curriculum Development Grant: "Cultura" at Brown University: Exploring Cross-Cultural Awareness in the Language Classroom, 2002-2003
Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning Campus-Based Grant to develop a Russian Resources Website
CLEAR (Center for Language Education and Research) Workshop: "Introductory CALL Techniques". Work on development of Computer-Assisted Language Learning materials. Michigan State University, July 1998.
"TA Perceptions of Second Language Acquisition and Teacher-Training" (co-author with Pennylyn Dykstra-Pruim): funded by grant from Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning
deBenedette, L. Content, language and task in advanced Russian. (2020) The Art of Teaching Russian. Washington: Georgetown University Press
deBenedette, Comer, Smyslova, & Perkins. Между нами: An Interactive Introduction to Russian. 2015. Online open-access textbook for elementary Russian at: http://mezhdunami.org
Classroom Activities by deBenedette with Comer and Smyslova. Lawrence, KS: Jayhawk Ink. Vol. 1: Units 1-5 (264 p.) ISBN: 978-1611950168; Vol. 2: Units 6-9 (248 p.) ISBN: 978-1611950182
Homework Activities by Comer with deBenedette and Smyslova. Lawrence, KS: Jayhawk Ink. Vol. 1: Units 1-5 (221 p.); Vol. 2: Units 6-9 (212 p.)
Comer, W. J. and deBenedette, L. Processing Instruction and Russian: Further Evidence is IN. Foreign Language Annals 44.4: 646-673.
Comer, W. J. and deBenedette, L. Processing Instruction and Russian: Issues, Materials, and Preliminary Experimental Results. Slavic and East European Journal 54.1: 118-146.
Bauer, B., deBenedette, L., Furstenberg G., Levet, S., Waryn S. (2006). The Cultura project. Computer-mediated Intercultural Foreign Language Education. Issues in Language Program Direction. Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle.