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learning with speech-enabled software vs. textbook
Background: Language learning in the United States needs to become more effective. University language instruction seems to focus on what is most easily measured objectively, which pushes the entire system towards the written language. A more appropriate goal for most language instruction at the university level would be proficiency geared toward the spoken language, i.e. listening and speaking skills. Better language learning is possible through study with learning tools that build speaking and listening skills. Motivation is likely to be enhanced if study results in spoken language proficiency gains. Evaluations need modifications to reflect the new focus on spoken language skills.
Research question: What gains can be expected in university-level foreign language programs that abandon textbooks in favor of speech-enabled software as the primary study tool? Will a redesigned course of instruction in which no less than 50% of student time is spent on listening and speaking study activities result in superior language learning results as evidenced by evaluations with listening comprehension and speaking tasks that constitute themselves not less than 50% of the total evaluation weight? Is the printed page now displaced as the primary learning tool for university level foreign language learning by computer delivered, speech enabled activities?
Suggested methodology/comments: Such research needs to be conducted in an environment that is very rich in infrastructure, so that availability of fully functional computer systems for all students is not an issue.
Metrics of student learning need to be chosen so as not to favor that which is merely easy to test. Indeed, new types of examinations will probably need to be developed specifically for this type of research. The Oral Proficiency Interview has a lot of desirable characteristics for this research, but it is expensive and cumbersome compared to traditional testing, and not particularly well suited to testing at the lower levels of student proficiency.
Stephen A. LaRocca
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