SLA for all? Call for participation

Dear Colleague,
We would like to invite you to join an initiative designed to gauge the generalizability of SLA research findings through registered replications of SLA studies with non-academic participant samples. Expressions of interest are due on 5 April 2019. Please see our OSF project site for more information about this initiative.

An important lesson in behavioral research methodology is that generalization rests on the premise that samples are randomly drawn from the population under study. In practice, however, researchers often make use of convenience sampling: we tend to recruit participants who are close by and willing to volunteer. Convenience sampling and an overreliance on WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) samples is also prevalent in the field of second language acquisition (SLA). Based on a sample of 600 studies from six SLA journals, Plonsky (2016) estimated that 67 percent of all study samples consisted of college or university students. Some scholars in our field have indeed expressed concerns about the relative absence of illiterate or non-academic samples in SLA research (c.f., Bigelow & Tarone, 2004; Ortega, 2019; Tarone & Bigelow, 2005); however, such reflection on sample choice is relatively rare. The current state of affairs is probably that many SLA researchers are aware of sampling biases or suspect their existence, but do not know if and how such biases may have skewed our understanding of second language learning and teaching.

The goal of this initiative is to gauge the generalizability of insights obtained in SLA research, focusing specifically on biases present due to an overreliance on highly educated participants. Following a recent review of replication research by Marsden, Morgan-Short, Thompson, and Abugaber (2018), which showed that SLA boasts very few and very few rigorously conducted replication studies, we invite SLA scholars to replicate a study of their choice, using a participant sample that is clearly different from the initial study in terms of participants’ education level or educational background. We are looking for a diverse range of topics and concerns. Any topic is welcome, as long as the initial study addresses a particular theoretical notion about learning or teaching a second (or third etc.) language and the need for replication with this new sample is clearly justified. We plan to organize colloquia at conferences in our field, and to publish a special issue on this topic, with kind support from Language Learning. Language Learning is committed to publishing the outcomes of your replication (pending favourable reviews) in an issue dedicated to this project. The replication studies will follow the route of the Registered Report article type (Marsden, Morgan-Short, Trofimovich, & Ellis, 2018). This publication route provides many safeguards against a range of concerns, including any tendency to reject replication studies if they did not reproduce the findings of the initial study (see Marsden et al., 2018). More details are provided on the project site and the Language Learning site.

We hope to have convinced you of the importance of this endeavour and warmly invite you to join our initiative. We would like to receive expressions of interest by April 5, 2019. We hope you yourself will join us in this endeavour, but do feel free to distribute this message in your network. You can find more information about this initiative on the OSF project site, including a set of initial criteria for joining the initiative. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, remarks, hesitations, please be in touch via

Sible Andringa & Aline Godfroid (with Emma Marsden, Incoming Journal Editor, Language Learning)