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One tool, many applications: Robust eye-tracking research across SLA disciplines
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One tool, many applications: Robust eye-tracking research across SLA disciplines.

Research using eye-movement registration, or eye tracking, has taken hold in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). The number of eye-tracking publications has increased exponentially since the 1990s, and there are now several discipline-specific reference works (Conklin, Péllicer-Sánchez, & Carrol, in press; Godfroid, forthcoming; Godfroid, Winke, & Gass, 2013). Researchers value eye tracking because it offers millisecond-precise information on what a participant is attending to at any given time. The eye gaze serves as a window into the participant’s mind. Eye gaze data can advance applied linguists’ understanding of how languages are processed and acquired later in life.

Early eye-tracking research in SLA focused heavily on topics in sentence processing, mirroring work in psychology and linguistics. To this date, sentence-processing research remains an important area of second-language (L2) eye-tracking research; however, it is a sign of a healthy discipline that SLA researchers have ventured beyond this well-established area. Contemporary applications of eye-tracking technology draw from education, advertising, and discourse studies, in addition to psychology and linguistics. In this colloquium, we intend to showcase some of this recent work and illustrate how SLA researchers are making eye tracking their own.

In line with these goals, the speakers at this colloquium are leading innovation in their respective subdisciplines, be it interaction, writing, cognition, or multimedia learning. Working in an interaction paradigm, McDonough, Trofimovich, and Abashidze examine how eye gaze assists in resolving non-understanding in face-to-face conversations. Révész and Michel, in a study on L2 writing, triangulate multiple data sources to reveal L2 writers’ thought processes during pauses and revisions. Andringa and Williams revisit the question of awareness in L2 acquisition through an innovative use of visual world eye tracking. Winke and Gass offer new data on vocabulary acquisition in a multimedia learning environment.

The colloquium is bookended by two methodological papers (Godfroid; Mulvey et al.) and a discussion (Conklin) that cater to researchers with a broad range of experience levels. By displaying the richness, feasibility, and diversity of eye-tracking approaches in SLA, this colloquium intends to be of interest to novel as well as seasoned researchers.

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