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For CALL listening, relation of interactivity and task to SLA

Background:  Although using technology to interact with authentic video material is not new to the field of CALL, it remains largely unstudied from an SLA perspective.  Interactive video constitutes a prime example of long-standing practice driven by precious little research-based theory.  Comprehension of authentic video comprises both the capacity to understand the language as well as the ability to interpret it within its cultural context, and research is needed to inform the design of activities and help features that will best enable students to build these skills.

Research question:  The broad area of computer-based multimedia listening comprehension materials (particularly interactive authentic video materials) lends itself to a wide range of possible investigations focused on interactivity and task type as they relate to the acquisition of language and culture.  Studies are needed that will analyze the efficacy of specific task types and interactivity on any of the following aspects of SLA:

  development of listening comprehension strategies and skills;

  acquisition of vocabulary and forms through listening activities;


  development of cultural knowledge and of the ability to observe cultural data analytically.

Suggested methodology/comments:  Studies in this area will involve analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data, applying appropriate scales to establish baselines and assess outcomes.  Primary data-gathering methods include recording interactions with software, conducting recall protocols, administering questionnaires, interviewing students, and keeping student and teacher journals.

Although researchers will always be confined to studying tightly-focused issues, researchers must make an effort engage in more longitudinal studies.  Too many studies are conducted for a one-semester period with too few students and too few sessions with the software.  Studies must examine consistent and frequent use of CALL materials over a significant period of time with many students.  (Easier said than done, of course.)  Only then can researchers detect real progress and confidently attribute gains to specific factors.

Contact:  Sue Otto    sue-otto@uiowa.edu

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