Project “Practising Prepositions in German”

This is an eight week pilot project carried out in the Digital Language Learning Lab this fall.

The research is part of an investigation into supporting second language learners with technology. The focus is on practicing grammatical forms. These forms have been acquired in class. A toolbar, developed at the University of Tübingen by Dr. Detmar Meurers and his team, is used to analyze any htm or html text and generate activities.

The 30 participants are intermediate learners of German. They practice the use of prepositions with fairy-tales. They come to the lab once a week for a 30 minute session in which they read the fairy tale where every preposition has been blanked out. The project compares the use of MC (multiple choice) and FiB (Fill in the Blank) activities. Afterwards, students have to answer questions about the content of the fairy tale.

The project uses quantitative (pre / post test) and qualitative (the toolbar records every click / type in students do calculating the error ratio per preposition) measures. At the same time, it investigates how learners interact with the toolbar using software to record the screen.

The project has now reached its half way mark. So far there have been some technical issues (server / connectivity to the internet / programming glitches), some content issues (ambiguity of prepositions, level of difficulty of texts) and some space issues (with more than four students in the lab it gets really crowded). All of these were / will be solved for the main study starting September 2015.

The main thing is that participants like coming to the lab as it provides a supportive learning environment. As a researcher the benefit of carrying the project out in the Digital Language Learning Lab is to have control over the level of participation of learners as well as to be able to collect data, store data and analyze data in the same place.

The research potential lies in testing other grammatical forms in the future and a detailed observation of learner’s behaviour. The benefit for learners is to have a tool that supports their learning outside class.

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