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.
This week I have been working on using NVivo to code the language used by UVic French students in a peer tutoring relationship with French students in Brazil. Under the direction of Dr. Catherine Caws, I have sorted their transcribed discussions into the categories of “language”, “instrument” and “task”. Through these categories, certain qualitative trends have become more evident, such as the type of metalanguage used by UVic students while helping the Brazilians, the strategies that they use, and the sorts of tools that they use for searching and correcting language errors. Below is a diagram illustrating a frequent word in that category of “instrument” and the contexts in which it was employed.
After identifying the vocabulary associated with each category, diagrams like this, as well as the frequency of their occurrences can be easily generated. This coding helps us to see from the context of their own dialogue, what technology these second language learners use as support.
Over the past few weeks I have been working on the qualitative data analysis of tweets produced by students during their French language learning experience in Dr. Caws’ class, FRAN 160. I have been using the program NVivo to sort and to categorize their tweets by theme or by type of interaction (i.e. with classmates, with the professor or TA, with people they follow). This has allowed us to clearly understand trends in the content of student tweets, as well as ways in which we, as language learning guides, can help to better their learning experience.
Looking through these tweets, I have found it particularly interesting to explore what motivates students to participate. It seems that most of their participation comes from tweets related to their class (i.e. responses to questions, discussing assignments or tests, mentioning an event or topic that was discussed in class) as shown on figure 1 below, rather than tweets related to their personal life, to pop culture or to the people they follow. This data, as well as data from answers they provided in a student survey has lead me to believe that their motivation for using Twitter in a class is highly performance based, rather than intrinsic. Thus, it is our goal to figure out how to motivate them! Looking at the Self-Determination Theory, which states that intrinsic motivation is a result of autonomy, competence and relatedness, I have been exploring the content of their tweets and survey answers to determine what factors might have an impact on future learning experiences. I am therefore exploring questions such as: what will motivate students intrinsically? How can we make them feel that using Twitter is not a chore, but a choice? How can we make them feel more like they are part of an online francophone/francophile community? How can we make them feel more comfortable and competent using Twitter, especially if they are new to the website?
Figure 1: analysis of tweets content themes
I’m eager to continue exploring these questions and the ideas that they will spark for impactful ways to improve the language learning experience!
This week at the French department of the Uvic we worked on several projects, such as making some statistics studios to see if there was a correlation between the preferences and performances of students and their desire to keep using Twitter and keep tweeting in French. To me, as a student of industrial engineering it’s quite interesting because I’m used to analyzing quality defaults, parts per million that had defaults in a process, cycle time, and as well as other statistics mostly used in industrial engineering.
In this case, to analyze something related to the humanities and social networks is quite interesting and also challenging because I hadn’t had an opportunity to do it before. Immersing myself in this field is a challenging but satisfying experience.
Also, a group of students from Parkland Secondary School visited us this week. We had a treasure hunt so the students were able to practice their French and also to discover some places on campus such as the Cinecenta, the library, the bookstore, the French department, etc. Then, the Chair of the French Department, Marc Lapprand, spoke about the importance of learning French and the different programs that Uvic offers.
After collecting data on language learners in Brazil and Canada interacting to peer-edit their written productions, Eliane Lousada (professor at USP), Arthur de Oliveira (MA student at USP and former intern at the DL2LLab) and I presented a panel that was well attended. Here is the PDF of our presentation. Please request permission before using it, by contacting the authors.
SLPC5_Brésil2016_Caws Lousada de Oliveira-3