Teaching and Assessing the English Passive Voice Inductively
César Alberto Navas Brenes
InterSedes, Revista electrónica de las sedes regionales de la Universidad de Costa Rica,
ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen XXV, Número 51, Enero-Junio, 2024.
10.15517/isucr.v25i51 | intersedes.ucr.ac.cr | intersedes@ucr.ac.cr
A: To analyze the eect of the inductive instruction in the acquisition of the English Passive
Voice in EFL students is the main concern of this research. Although this target population takes the
second course of the English major, this is the rst-time learners study and assimilate the passive voice
at this level. Aer administering a diagnostic instrument on such structure, the instructor observed the
acquisition, progress, and usage of the passive voice in two types of written tasks throughout the course.
At the end of the semester, students will take a second, non-graded instrument to assess the acquisition
of the passive voice with the help of Task-based activities.
R: Este estudio de caso examina el efecto de la instrucción inductiva en la adquisición de la voz
pasiva del inglés en un grupo de veinticinco estudiantes de inglés como lengua extranjera. Aunque esta
población meta se encuentra en el segundo curso del Bachillerato en Inglés, esta es la primera ocasión en
la cual los estudiantes estudian y asimilan la voz pasiva en este nivel. Después de aplicar un instrumento
diagnóstico para evaluar esta estructura, el docente analiza la adquisición, progreso y uso de la voz
pasiva en dos tipos de actividades escritas a lo largo del semestre. Al nalizar, los estudiantes completan
un segundo instrumento con el n de evaluar la adquisición de la voz pasiva por medio de actividades
basadas en tareas.
Universidad de Costa Rica. San José
Publicado por la Editorial Sede del Pacíco, Universidad de Costa Rica
P : Voz pasiva, Aprendizaje Basado en Tareas, planeamiento de lección, aprendizaje
inductivo, enseñanza del inglés como lengua extranjera
K: Passive voice, Task-based learning, lesson planning, inductive learning, TEFL
La enseñanza y evaluación inductivas de la voz pasiva en inglés
Recibido: 9-5-23 | Aceptado: 5-7-23
C  (APA): Navas Brenes, C.A. (2024). Teaching and Assessing the English Passive Voice Inductively. InterSedes,
25(51), 1-30 . DOI10.15517/isucr.v25i51.54029
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
Some grammar structures seem to be very challenging, for
low intermediate level students. e passive voice is one of them
even though it is traditionally taught with form-focused materials.
However, new course textbooks and instructors tend to teach
grammar structure by designing task-based lesson plans. In fact,
recent materials derive from active methodologies to innovate
teaching and the teaching and learning processes; thus, learners
focus on meaning before exploring and analyzing form. e
underlying aspects behind a grammar rule such as the passive
voice, Willis (2003, p.218) mentions three elements that may
orient learners through this process:
A. Recognition: this deals with the identication of the
relationship between clauses or words.
B. System building: learners will be able to construct more
complex and acceptable noun phrases.
C. Exploration: learners need time to explore when the
usage of a given from is appropriate. To write a concept,
it is more appropriate to use the passive voice instead of
the active voice. What is the most signicant dierence?
Designing task-based materials to teach the passive voice is not
easy. e instructors should get acquainted with the framework
of such methodology. Willis J. and Willis D. (cited in Carter and
Nunan, 2001) point out that “one feature of TBL [task-based
learning], therefore, is that learners carrying out a task are free to
use any language they can do to achieve the outcome: language
forms are not prescribed in advance” (p.174). ere has been some
debate in regard to active methodologies and the notion of learner-
centeredness, so Nunan (1999) claries the following:
[…] in a learner-centered classroom, key decisions about
what will be taught, how it will be taught, when it will
be taught, and how it will be assessed will be made with
reference to the learner. Information about learners, and,
where feasible, from learners will be used to answer the key
questions of what, how, when, and how well. (p.11)
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So, in other words, learner-centeredness does not mean to
transfer teacher’s responsibilities and instructional decisions to
students; on the contrary, the idea is for the learner to implement
learning and metacognitive strategies throughout the EFL process.
Learners use authentic materials to process input, carry out the
main task, explore, and infer the rule it comprises. It is worth noting
that authentic texts are “not […] written for language teaching
purposes to illustrate a specic language point, or simplied to the
point of distorting natural language use” (Tomlinson, 1998, p.46).
When it comes to designing this type of meaning-based tasks, the
process is challenging and time consuming. Perhaps, this is why
many instructors end up explaining complex grammar structures
with traditional forms, such as the Presentation, Practice, and
Production model. us, this case study aims to address the
following two research questions:
1. Does task-based instruction have a positive eect on stu-
dents’ understanding of the passive form?
2. To what extent, do students’ outcomes (pretest, posttest, and
two writing tasks) reect such gain?
Review of the Literature
Teaching grammar through inductive approaches has come
within the scope of recent EFL course textbooks and programs.
Although deductive teaching of grammar forms has prevailed in
many recent language programs, inferential instruction seems to be
a more challenging method to help learners assimilate and process
new structures. Before referring to the insights regarding inductive
instruction, it is essential to review how individuals acquire L1
and L2 structures. In fact, achieving the desired positive evidence
(from their parents’ feedback) and linguistic input, “by about 5
years of age [children] have mastered most of the constructions
of their language, although their vocabulary is still growing
(Guasti, 2002, p.4). Also, a bilingual child is more likely to surpass
a monolingual one as the former will “have superior creative
thinking and exibility of thought, which is assumed to emerge
from being able to see things from two perspectives as a function
of being in possession of two linguistic systems” (Dornyei, 2009,
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p.17). Language acquisition, thus, fosters cognitive and problem-
solving skills.
e study of how individuals acquire L2 grammatical and
phonological constructions is complex. In relation to this, Nunan
(1999) explains that “comparatively few individuals who begin the
study of a second language aer they have mastered their rst ever
develop the equivalent of native mastery” (p.40). At this point, one
should review the notions of naturalistic and instructed second
language acquisition. e former concept refers to the acquisition
of an L2 in the native environment over a long period of time;
individuals are exposed to a vast range of input. On the other
hand, Dornyei (2009) explains the main idea behind the notion of
instructed second-language acquisition (SLA):
In contrast, instructed SLA—that is, the learning processes
whereby an L2 is predominantly mastered within an
educational context with no or little contact with native
speakers of the L2—follows a very dierent principle;
here the course of L2 development is largely determined
by formal curricula and syllabi, and even small details of
classroom events are oen controlled by man-made lesson
plans. us, in such formal school contexts the role of human
agency—that is, the impact of policymakers, curriculum
designers, materials writers, language teachers, and testers—
is paramount. (p.20)
ere are key factors that inuence L2 acquisition such as age,
extrinsic or intrinsic motivation, predisposition, social interaction,
and other constituents of an educational setting; some of these
include “teacher and student roles, classroom management, inter-
student relationships and interaction patterns, group norms,
classroom goal structures, and group cohesiveness […]” (Dornyei,
2009, p.20).
Systematicity of second language learning is another main
aspect. is means that the speed in which learners move through
the developmental stages of grammar acquisition may vary. Some
individuals are more likely to acquire grammar structures faster
than others. Eventually, they would assimilate and reach more
advanced L2 constructions as a result of formal instruction.
So, although systematicity is a feature of interlanguage, it is
also variable. e same source (Mitchell and Myles, 2004, p.16)
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explains that “learners’ utterances seem to vary from moment to
moment, in the types of errors that are made, and learners seem
liable to switch between a range of correct and incorrect forms
over lengthy periods of time.” ese two features, systematicity
and variability, occur in the acquisition of L1 and L2, but the latter
is more substantial when it comes to learning a second language.
Another aspect related to second language learning (SLL) is
called fossilization, which interferes with the progress of producing
correct L2 constructions. Richards, Platt, and Platt (1992) dene
this as “a process which sometimes occurs in which incorrect
linguistic features become a permanent part of the way, and […]
grammar may become xed” (p.145). us, interlanguage diers
markedly from correct conventions. Mitchell and Myles (2004)
go beyond and explains that there are two possible explanations
for such phenomenon: at a psycholinguistic level, some learners
are unable to transfer L1 learning mechanisms; furthermore, at a
sociolinguistic level, they are unable to plug into the L2 community
successfully (p.18).
ere are signicant dierences and similarities among rst
and second language acquisition. Dornyei (2009, p.21-23) lists the
following aspects:
ere is an understandable dierential success.
L1 acquisition is automatic, but motivation in SLL is essen-
L1 acquisition tends to be homogenous while L2 is characte-
rized by many heterogeneous cognitive processes.
e surrounding knowledge and context in L1 acquisition
and the knowledge of the world involved in SLL play a key
ere is a language transfer between L1 and L2, and this may
hinder various facets of SLL, being accent and interference
examples of such aspect.
e amount of input diers in L1 and L2 acquisition.
e notions of implicit and explicit learning are present in
both processes.
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As the main issue behind this study is related to grammar
acquisition of the passive voice, there are three crucial concepts
to explain and distinguish: order of acquisition, competence, and
performance in SLL. As mentioned before, learners move through
developmental stages; that is, there is a sequence in which grammar
constructions are acquired. Saville-Troike (2006) enumerates three
features of this multidimensional model:
(1) “Learners acquire certain grammatical structures in a de-
velopmental sequence. (2) Developmental sequences reect
how learners overcome processing limitations. (3) Langua-
ge instruction which targets developmental features will be
successful only if learners have already mastered the proces-
sing operations which are associated with the previous stage
of acquisition. (p.81)
e second concept to dene is competence, which is
sometimes confused with the notion of performance. Richards,
Platt, and Platt (1992, p.68) dene competence as “a persons
ability to create and understand sentences, including sentences
they have never heard before.” Learners also have the capacity to
dierentiate those possible correct structures from those that are
incorrect. Performance, on the other hand, not only refers to how
people speak a language but also “interpret and process incoming
language data in some form, for normal language development to
take place” (Mitchell and Myles, 2004, p.20).
The Acquisition of Grammar Constructions
Although learners can be able to get acquainted with grammar
rules deductively or inductively, linguists have opposing views
in this regard. is is signicant with certain “systems that defy
explanation either because they are too complex (the distinction
between past perfect and past simple; the use of the passive) or
too wide-ranging (pattern grammar)” (Willis, 2003, p.219). For
students to rapidly assimilate grammar rules, some experts have
become advocates for explicit instruction; an example of this is the
traditional PPP framework (Presentation, Practice, Production) to
teach new rules. Some teaching methods tend to focus on form
and others on meaning, and it seems that students assimilate
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and acquire a certain linguistic item when they are able to do so.
In relation to inductive learning and consciously raising tasks,
Loewen (2020) explains the following:
In this type of instruction, learners are presented with exam-
ples of a specic structure, and they are asked to extract the
pattern of rule that pertains to all the examples. For example,
learners might be provided with a text in Spanish containing
multiple examples of verbs in the preterit and imperfect for-
ms. Learners could be asked to identify the ways in which
the two verb aspects are used and extrapolate a rule or set of
rules to explain the grammatical patterns. In this way, cons-
ciously raising activities are inductive because learners must
gure out the rules from the data they are given. (p.109-110)
is inductive approach is clearly more challenging as guring
out the structure behind comprehensible input is not easy at lower
levels. One disadvantage relies on the fact that certain populations
tend to prefer traditional, deductive teaching methodologies.
Some language learners, especially adults, may prefer traditional
grammar explanations as content and rules is explicitly presented.
is is also the case of very large groups of language learners since
instructors should monitor if everybody has successfully identied
and assimilated the rule behind a target linguistic item.
The English Passive Voice
ere are various aspects that increase the level of diculty
at the moment of assimilating the passive voice. Willis (2003)
explains that learners need to pay attention to the function of the
verb tense as it will “enable us to orient ourselves to the elements
in the proposition and to relate them to one another, particularly
in terms of time” (p.34). Also, speakers and writers should analyze
text orientation, the theme or topic of the idea, the organization of
the clauses (subject versus agent), and discourse markers such as
cleing (i.e., a sentence with the form It is known as the physician
who operated on the patient); in short, “the passive voice is one
of the devices we have for organizing information in the clause
(Willis, 2003, p.36).
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Basically, in the passive voice, the subject of the sentence
undergoes the eects of the action. Traditionally, many language
instructors tend to ban this structure in their writing courses as it,
supposedly, hinders meaning and implies an impressive and weak
eect. Writers should avoid the overuse of passive sentences in
their texts. Folse (2016, p.300) highlights three of the some of the
most common mistakes that English learners make in regard to
the construction of the passive voice:
a. Using the passive voice when the active voice is the appro-
priate and correct target form (e.g., e lamp broke the cat).
b. Omitting the conjugated form of BE (e.g., e books written
by the French scholars).
c. Including the BY + agent phrase when this is obvious (e.g.,
e bike was stolen by someone).
Also, Flores and Alfaro (1995, p.76-77) explained the six
rules behind the usage of the English passive voice, which are
summarized in Table 1:
T :
R 
Rules Example
1.To signal that the performer is
e diagnostic test was carried out
in the language laboratory.
2. To hint that the "doer" is a
general group.
e gathering was held in the
3. To avoid mentioning the
performer of the action.
Second grammar instrument or
4. To place emphasis on the
"receiver" rather than on the
performer of the action.
e employees were interviewed by
the human resources department.
5. To describe a scientic
experiment or process.
e corpus was recorded for
further analysis.
Source: Flores, Berta y Alfaro, Vilma (1995). Practicing english Syntax.
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In short, active and passive sentences express actions, but
the active voice focuses on the doer of this action while passive
constructions highlight their subject.
To transform an active sentence into a passive one, it is necessary
to keep the same verb form. Alfaro and Flores (1995, p.75) explain
that “no part at all of the verb form in the active sentence can
be deleted in the corresponding passive one. us, the modal
auxiliaries, the have plus past participle, and the be plus -ing forms
that appear in an active sentence will appear in the passive one.
With explicit or traditional methodologies, this is something that
instructors may easily explain, but with inductive approaches, this
clearly constitutes a challenge.
Active and passive sentences may be formed by several verb
tenses. However, language learners should be acquainted with the
fact that some passive forms are not common, as opposed to the
active version. is is the case of some progressive tenses. Folse
(2016) warned that “a search in the 480-million-word COCA
(Corpus of Contemporary American English) found just 13
examples of past perfect progressive tense in passive voice” (p.97).
For example, it is not very common to encounter a sentence such
as in one hour, these patients will have been waiting in this clinic
for approximately six hours. us, the same source points out that
language instructors should “need to establish which verb tenses
are most useful for our student populations in the correct genre of
reading material […] as well as which voice those verb tenses might
occur in” (Folse, 2016, p.97). is has important implications at
the moment of developing materials, especially in ESP contexts.
e recognition of the passive voice has been a subject of
research. In her study, Horgan (1978, p.3) analyzed the recognition
of passive sentence elicited from children and young adults, and
she distinguishes between various types of passive constructions;
the rst type is known as the full passive + agent, which contains “a
form of be or not, a past tense marker, and a preposition followed
by a noun phrase that could logically be construed as the actor
or instrument.” An example of this is e child was scolded by his
father for what he did. Consider the following two types of full
passive constructions:
e vaccine was distributed by a well-known pharmaceutical
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e houses were destroyed by the re.
Both are full passives; however, the rst sentence is an
instrumental reversible passive as the noun phrase may function as
the doer of the action and the object of the sentence. Semantically,
this is not possible with the second sentence, which is an agentive
non-reversible passive form because the construction e re
was destroyed by the houses is not allowed. In addition, Horgan
explains that a truncated passive lacks the agent (i.e., e tests
were graded), and there is a type of stative construction, which
has to do with “a state of aairs rather than to an action, event, or
process” (i.e., ey got killed) (1978, p.6).
Additional research has been conducted to study the
recognition and acquisition of the passive voice. In her single-
subject pilot research, Hill (1998) worked with a child to observe
the recognition of reversible passive and active constructions; as
part of her conclusions, she observed that there was a degree of
comprehension of the passive form at an early age (p.63). is also
means that they are aware of the dierence between active and
passive forms. Hill explained that “if the subject was at the stage
of development where he comprehended the passive construction,
but was unable to produce them, he should have correctly acted
out the reversible passive test sentences” (Hill, 1998, p. 67). e
analysis of word order was one of the strategies she used to
dierentiate appropriate or unacceptable reversible sentences.
Cognitive grammar was also studied in the teaching of active
and passive sentences. Bielak, Pawlak, and Mystkowska (2003)
investigated the benets of feature-focused grammatical teaching
of the active and passive voices (form, meaning, and use) with the
implementation of cognitive grammar (CG); in this case, despite the
limitation of time, there was “relatively high eectiveness of both
instructional options in fostering the use of the target structures
in both more controlled and more spontaneous performance, with
traditional instruction being more successful than that based on
CG with respect to the latter” (p.581).
Task-based Learning (TBL)
Among recent teaching and learning methodologies, task-
based learning places EFL students at the center of the educational
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process. To teach grammar rules, this methodology can be used
to vary traditional form-focused structures. us, students
assimilate structures inductively by accessing authentic materials
and task-based exercises. In relation to this, Willis (1996) explains
that “we have had the experience of presenting and practicing a
particular language pattern, with learners getting it right during
the form-focused practice stage, but then, at the meaning-focused
free production stage, they do not use the "new’ item at all” (p.4).
Learners focus on meaning and carry out a series of appealing
tasks without receiving explicit, direct, or traditional instruction
on the target rule, which not the case of well-known Presentation-
Practice-Production materials.
To successfully design TBL materials, language instructors must
get familiar with all the components of the following framework
proposed by Willis (1996, p.6):
Pre-task: Introduction to the topic and task instructions.
is gives instruction to teacher talk, but brainstorming
useful topic words and phrases is a good way of involving
students in this phrase. Task cycle: Learners use language
in varying circumstances and are exposed to others by
using it. e Task Phase gives opportunities for interactive
spontaneous use of language in the privacy of their pairs
where mistakes don´t matter. e Report Phase encourages
a combination of accuracy and uency […]. e Planning
Phase is the time for teacher input and advice. Learners plan
what to say at the report stage, to correct mistakes, to thrive
to use “better” language and to focus on form […]. Language
focus: Analysis and Practice. Learners get repeated exposure
to the language from the task cycle and have a chance to
focus on form and ask questions about language features.
e concept of task plays a key role in this active learning,
but it has to follow the characteristics aforementioned so as to
guide learners through the TBL lesson (or lessons). In summary,
task-based learning includes various advantages when designing
grammar-based lessons:
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a. To teach a target grammar form, teachers must carefully
select authentic materials in which it is used. is input
should correlate with the learners’ level of prociency.
b. It would be relevant to indicate that, ideally, the new
grammar rule should not have been explained before in the
current course or in the previous course that belongs to the
same program.
c. TBL materials may integrate various language skills. So,
instructors can incorporate reading comprehension,
listening texts, vocabulary, and grammar in the same lesson.
d. Willis J. and Willis D. (cited in Carter and Nunan, 2001)
point out that “the challenge for TBL, therefore, is to devise a
methodology which aords learners the freedom to engage
in natural learning processes in the creation of a meaning
system” (p.174).
To explain how to create a lesson to teach the English passive
voice, it is worth noting to indicate that this is “a context-sensitive
grammatical” form in regard to discourse and context; in other
words, to internalize and produce such structure consists of
a much larger process in which the semantic, pragmatic, and
discourse appropriateness of the construction itself is also judge
with respect to the context in which it is used” (Celce-Murcia and
Olshtain, 2000, p.52). So, before designing a TBL sample lesson to
teach and practice the passive voice at an intermediate level, it is
important to dene the concept of task in this methodology.
Dave and Jane Willis (cited in Carter and Nunan, 2001) point
out that “one feature of TBL, therefore, is that learners carrying out
a task are free to use any language they can to achieve the outcome:
language forms are not prescribed in advance” (p.174). Also, Ellis
(2003) denes the notion of task are those "activities that call for
primary meaning-focused language use. In contrast, exercises are
activities that call for primary form-focused language use” (p.3).
e purpose of the task cycle is, as Ellis explains, for
"participants to function primary as language users in the sense
that they must employ the same kinds of communicative processes
as those involved in real-world activities” (p.3). For this reason, the
lesson, which intends to integrate various skills, places the form-
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based activities at the end of the process. us, the TBL framework
consists of three main stages:
Pre-task (meaning-based activities)
Task cycle: meaning-based activities (task, planning, and
Post-task: analysis and further practice (form-based or
consciousness-raising activities)
e rst stage of the pre-task has two steps. With this framework,
the topic of the lesson is introduced. To clearly guide the use of the
passive voice and contextualize this lesson, the theme of the lesson
presented in this case study is the world´s amazing inventions. In
small groups, learners share their ideas with their team members
in regard to a general question: What is, in your opinion, the
greatest idea or invention? As a second pre-task activity, the
instructor distributes a set of sixteen cards; some just include the
name of a well-known invention (e.g., hay, steam engine, plow, the
Gregorian calendar, compass, phonograph, the Swiss army knife,
among others), and the other half includes a short text with their
descriptions. Each student reads out loud the content of each text.
e idea is to match descriptions with the correct name. Texts must
include at least four sentences in the passive voice. Inductively,
students get acquainted with the use of the passive voice. Due to
the level of diculty of the descriptions, most students focus on
nding out the meaning and/or pronunciation of unknown or
technical words.
e next part is known as the Task Cycle. It is divided into
three sections: task, planning, and report. e task, according to
Nunan (2004), “should also have a sense of completeness, being
able to stand alone as a communicative act in its own right with a
beginning, a middle and an end” (p.4). For this reason, this stage has
three parts that integrate a warm-up activity, a vocabulary-building
activity, an information-gap task, and a series of comprehension
questions to report on their work to the class. e rst activity is
an adaptation of an introductory task proposed by Dave Willis and
Jane Willis (2007, p.37); so, students are given a series of sentences
about inventions to be discussed in small groups.
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Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
ere were 25 English majors who participated in this case
study. ey were all Spanish speakers. ey took the team-
taught course LM-1002 Integrated English II at the University of
Costa Rica. is level of diculty of this course in intermediate
(B1+CEFR). is is the second course of the programs of English
and English Teaching. e age of this population ranged from 17
to 25 years. A signicant aspect of this group is that most students
had previously taken virtual courses (rst semester of the year)
due to the recent pandemic, so this is the rst time they resume
their courses on campus.
Although most students took the required rst-year course
LM-1001 Integrated English I, the level of prociency was
heterogeneous. e new textbook series of both courses presents
grammar content inductively, which is a challenging feature for
students and instructors. In terms of the target course, students have
access to two printed books and a commercial platform. As this is
a team-taught course, both professors may also implement virtual
activities via Mediación Virtual, the mandatory, institutionalized
platform to complement computer-lab sessions.
e course Integrated English II includes two textbooks. Each
book covers two macro skills. e Reading/Writing textbook
(Kirn and Hartmann, 2020) barely introduces the passive in its
h chapter. us, the language focus section briey mentions
the use of the passive voice, and this is followed by an exercise to
contrast two sentences for students to decide which one is more
appropriate. en, students are asked to identify all the passive
constructions in a reading text. Finally, they are asked to correct
two sentences, which sound better if active forms are changed into
passive ones. Clearly, this Language Focus section is not enough
to fully teach, learn, assimilate, and acquire such grammatical
content. To fulll this signicant gap, the instructor decided
to design activities to teach the passive voice in an inductive,
challenging, and thorough way. In other words, to teach this
content inductively, more systematically, and student-centered,
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
CÉSAR ALBERTO NAVAS BRENES | Teaching and Assessing
the instructor created original materials that follow the principles
behind Task-based Learning.
Assessment Instruments
Although this course covers the four macro skills (listening,
speaking, reading, and writing) as well as the four micro skills
(vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and culture), this study
focuses on the passive voice, being the most dicult grammar
content to learn for students. On the rst day of this face-to-face
course, students took a grammar test to assess such form. ere
are twenty-one items distributed in four types of exercises: (1)
sentence production, passage completion, sentence formation, and
question formation.
Before taking this assessment instrument, students were not
told that the passive voice is the target topic. Instead, they had to
complete the four exercises based on their prior knowledge. During
the last week of the course, students took the same instrument to
measure how much they have learned not only about the passive
voice but also about sentence formation, lexicon, and verb tenses.
Finally, students received feedback on such instrument.
e second type of instrument to elicit students’ data was an
academic, in-class composition. Each instructor was in charge of
teaching the writing process and revising two writing outcomes:
a dra composition and its nal, edited version. In this case, they
were given three topics to choose from. As the rst dra is to be
improved by adding more content or incorporating a few sentences,
the nal version is, therefore, somewhat more extensive. e idea
is to observe if students are able to use passive constructions
correctly in both compositions. Error correction is part of this.
Table 2 summarizes the research procedure of this study:
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
T :
R 
Week Procedure
Week 11 In-class dra composition
Week 13 Revised in-class composition
Week 14 Second grammar instrument or posttest
Week 16 Students receive feedback on the grammar instrument
Source: Author's original work
Analysis of the results
As mentioned before, students (n=25) took the pretest without
being informed about the target grammatical form. is was the
rst non-graded test they took on-campus, as they had taken
virtual courses for the past two years and a half. is diagnostic
instrument was tabulated to assess students’ prior knowledge of
the passive voice. Also, it was valuable to observe if they knew the
past participles of irregular verbs. e posttest includes the same 21
items, which are divided into four exercises: sentence production,
sentence completion, sentence formation, and question formation.
Table 3 shows the results of both instruments as well as learners
improvement at the end of the course.
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
CÉSAR ALBERTO NAVAS BRENES | Teaching and Assessing
Type if item Pretest Posttest Level of
correct wrong correct wrong
1. Sentence production 10 15 19 6 +
2. Sentence production 3 22 18 7 +15
3. Sentence production 5 20 19 6 +14
4. Sentence production 4 21 20 5 +16
5. Sentence production 9 16 21 4 +12
6. Sentence production 5 20 17 8 +12
7. Sentence completion 12 13 17 8 +5
8. Sentence completion 11 14 21 4 +10
9. Sentence completion 12 13 20 5 +8
10. Sentence completion 3 22 12 13 +9
11. Sentence completion 5 20 16 9 +15
12. Sentence formation 2 23 16 9 +14
13. Sentence formation 17 8 22 3 +5
14. Sentence formation 15 10 16 9 +1
15. Sentence formation 7 18 10 15 +3
16. Sentence formation 11 14 10 15 -1
17. Question formation 3 22 15 10 +12
18. Question formation 2 23 14 11 +12
19. Question formation 0 25 10 15 +10
20. Question formation 5 20 13 12 +8
21. Question formation 6 19 13 12 +7
Source: Author's original work
T :
S        
Certainly, the rst exercise, sentence production, represents
a higher cognitive level in terms of structure, vocabulary, and
sentence formation. In this case, students were given a concise
and clear picture and a prompt question to guide the inductive use
of the passive voice (e.g., What will happen to the environment if
these forests disappear? Or What is going to happen to the owner’s
data of this hacked computer equipment?). In this case, an answer
was considered wrong if the passive construction was not accurate;
so, misspelling of past participles, wrong vocabulary usage, or
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
punctuation mistakes were not considered. In this case, the correct
answers of the pretest reached only 24%. At the end of the course,
there was 76% of correct answers. e resulting sentences from
posttest had a higher level of construction and correctness.
Based on the categories mentioned before, the resulting
sentences are classied as full passives (including the agent),
truncated passive sentences, and, to a lesser extent, stative passives.
In some cases, students used past participles that were not part
of the ocial list of the textbooks. Some examples of accurate
sentences taken from the posttest are:
e message is being delivered by a carrier pigeon.
Someone is going to be given a marriage proposal.
Deforestation will be spread all over the planet.
e thief is going to be taken to jail.
She got bad advice.
It got stolen.
e second exercise, sentence completion, aimed at assessing
passive verb forms based on the context of a passage. Its topic
was related to one of the themes of the textbooks: architecture.
According to the instructions, students had to carefully observe
context clues to determine the verb tense forms that best complete
the following text:
One of the most famous buildings is known as the Dancing
House. Its peculiar shape was designed by the Croatian-
Czech architect Vlado Milunic. Originally, a very old
house occupied the place where this building is, but sadly
this 19th century house was destroyed during a bombing
in 1945. e remaining space was small but sucient for
a modern building. Because a Dutch insurance company
supported the construction, the project was given unlimited
budget by this bank. As this iconic design was unusual, the
building received constant criticism, but it was opened in
1996 by its owners, two years aer the construction started.
(Information taken from Google)
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
CÉSAR ALBERTO NAVAS BRENES | Teaching and Assessing
us, this is a discrete-based exercise in which students only
focus on verb forms. To increase the level of complexity and assess
students’ recognition of a possible verb to conjugate, the passage
does not contain any target verb as a hint. Once again, minor
spelling mistakes were not considered (e.g., stopped - stoped), but
accuracy or logical meaning (e.g., was destroyed during a bombing
was opened during a bombing) were graded. us, 34.4% of the
answers of the pretest were correct, but the posttest showed an
increase of 68,8% of correct answers in this second exercise.
e purpose of the third exercise is to observe if learners
were able to construct sentences based on a list of scrambled
words and a verb in its simple form. To guide students, a time
phrase was also included to mark the verb tense. Although most
students identied the subject and the agent of the sentence, others
did not distinguish the doer of the action and the subject of the
passive construction. Some resulting sentences in the pretest were
incorrectly written as the reversible form was not possible; others
contain incorrect verb forms or misspelling mistakes:
a. e intense ood was destroyed by the three houses so far. [sic]
b. e Anglo-Saxons was begun the celebration of Halloween
long ago. [sic]
c. Yesterday was founded the side of the road by a vehicle. [sic]
d. Two physicians will be operate on by the patient at this
moment. [sic]
e. Tomorrow, Star Wars posters are going to be cover with the
walls. [sic]
In this exercise, 41,6% of the answers were correct (pretest);
at the end of the course, 59,2% of the resulting sentences were
correct. is was the item with the lowest level of improvement
(17,6%), but it is a true that students must take several steps to
come up with a correct, meaningful sentence in its passive voice.
e level of diculty of this exercise is considerably higher.
Finally, the last exercise assessed students’ ability to write a
complete Yes/No or Wh question (e.g., Who was e DaVinci
Code written by? or where was the mysterious man seen last night?)
based on the underlined segment of a sentence (e.g., e concert
InterSedes, ISSN 2215-2458, Volumen 25, Número 51,
Enero-Junio, 2024, (Artículo).
T 
N      
was cancelled because the singer was sick.). Writing questions is a
challenging task, especially in the passive form. Although passive
questions are less frequently used in the oral or written mode, it
is important to study them in this course. In the pretest, 12,8% of
the questions were correct, and the posttest had 52% of correct
questions in the passive voice.
Apart from using passive constructions in the pretest and
posttest, students had to produce an academic composition in
its dra and nal version. roughout the course, the instructor
explained the writing conventions (mechanics, sentence errors,
content, lexicon, organization, among others) related to the
themes of the coursebook. en, students started the writing
process of producing a composition, whose topic includes prompts
to incorporate the passive voice as well as other grammar forms.
Aer revising this rst dra, and two weeks later, students wrote
the edited, nal version of the composition. e instructor counted
all the passive constructions. Table 4 summarizes the number of
correct and incorrect sentences with the target form:
Dra Composition 1 Final Version
39 9 52 3
Source: Author's original work
In this case, the group performance shows a dierence of seven
sentences; however, it is important to clarify that, if a composition
is limited in terms of content, the writer has the opportunity to add
a few sentences to meet the desired number of ideas. ere is some
evidence of improvement in terms of error correction. Students
had only one hour to write both versions of their academic
Discussion of the Results
e analysis of the ndings showed that students had studied
the passive voice during secondary school; however, this is not the
case of the previous course, LM-1001 Integrated English I, as this