Here is the long overdue post on the grammar project, I have carried out in the lab for the past three years. I think the last post was four years ago when the pilot study had been completed.
The grammar project had students come to the lab and practice prepositions. Students were intermediate learners of German at an A2 proficiency level. Each student had six sessions in the lab, one per week. Each week each student read a fairy-tale and then practiced comprehension by either using a multiple-choice format (MC) or a fill-in-the blanks format (FiB). These formats represent what in cognitive psychology is referred to as “maintenance rehearsal” (MC) and “elaborate rehearsal” (FiB). A pre-test and two post-tests were carried out, one in the FiB and one in the MC format. The study was repeated for reasons of validity.
All in all, the data of 47 Intermediate German language learners has been analyzed by compiling the data in two groups (MC and FiB) and using inferential statistics as well as a log that tracked every klick (MC) and word typed (FiB) of every learner. Results showed that the learners in both groups improved their scores in the post-tests compared to the pre-test. The MC group took less time to do so. According to the log, the time, the MC group practiced was about half of what the FiB group needed. Furthermore, the MC group improved the number of correct answers by the third practice session while the FiB group needed at least four practice sessions. However, the FiB activity outperformed the learners using the MC activity in both tests, although differences were only significant in the test using the FiB format.
What do we learn from this? If my students ask me how to practice prepositions, I ask them how much time they have to practice. The MC activity type should assist them to improve their knowledge of prepositions in a relatively short period of time. Using the FiB activity type, they need to put in more time and effort to see some improved results. However, they will likely improve their knowledge of prepositions more than with the MC activity.