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					Bid for Faculty of Humanities Funding

Project title

Developing formative e-assessments for German language

Main applicant
Name Filippo Nereo                                    School SLLC
Telephone 53859 (mob. 07842 914740)                   Email Filippo.Nereo@manchester.ac.uk
Supporting applicants
Name Prof. M. Littler, Head of German Studies         School SLLC
Name T. Despositos, Senior Language Tutor             School SLLC

Context, aims and objectives of the project
The issue that a culture of independent learning amongst language students has not yet been
achieved has been raised in a number of recent forums such as the German Studies Academic
Committee (at its last sitting in November 2009). Student representatives have also commented on
the difficulty of getting students, particularly at level-3, to engage with learning resources outside of
the classroom.
This is in spite of German Studies having established an hour-a-week, unassessed Grammar and
Expression class for final-year students some years ago. In these sessions, students work through
grammar exercises and have face-to-face contact with the lecturer who can explain areas of difficulty
and expand on areas of interest. Students are then expected to use additional independent learning
resources out of class to consolidate their knowledge. However, it has become clear that without
formative assessment and associated feedback, students rarely undertake the regular independent
learning required to achieve good results. Students, too, have acknowledged this and, via student
representatives, voiced their support for a form of assessment to be established.
In response, formative e-assessments will now be developed. This will comprise eight sets of ten
questions which students will be required to complete weekly in advance of the face-to-face lesson.
Taking advantage of tools already available on Blackboard, we will compile a set of gap filling,
matching, multiple choice and true-false style questions compiled on the basis of authentic German
extracted from sources such as reputable newspapers, journals etc. Upon completion of the
exercises, results and e-feedback will be delivered to the students. The wider aim of the latter is to
respond to the poor NSS ratings by providing an innovative method of feedback which, like the
results, will be delivered to the student without delay, and without creating additional burdens for staff.
Unique to these e-assessments, however, will be the integration into the feedback of additional tips
designed to consolidate the learning process. In addition to providing relevant mnemonics which will
facilitate memory recall of key grammar points, students will be directed to further relevant e-
resources such as the free grammar podcasts, e-newsletters and e-tasks already developed by
Duden, the main authority on German language. In pairs, students will be expected to listen to/read
these e-resources, and then discuss some of the details highlighted in them (e.g. regional differences
in the auxiliary verb that accompanies intransitive verbs such as stehen ‘stand’, hängen ‘hang’).
Together, they will then run their own independent searches for the linguistic issue in question in the
search machines of reputable online newspapers, discussing their results together. This will improve
student engagement with what is often perceived to be a dry area of language learning, and enhance
the learning experience by embedding innovative audio-visual stimuli into the learning process.
Linking to relevant electronic resources has two major advantages: accessibility and flexibility. There
is no limit to the number of copies (unlike library books), and access is possible via any web-enabled
device at any time; the e-resources therefore constitute a very flexible learning method for the whole
With the aid of the forward-results function on Blackboard, lecturers will be informed of their students’
performance and, in this way, will ascertain which particular questions (grammatical sub-topics) the
students found particularly challenging each week. This will make the weekly face-to-face sessions

more effective as course tutors will then be able to concentrate on precisely these problem areas. The
face-to-face sessions will also become a forum for discussing the related grammar issues discussed
in the podcasts, newsletters etc.
This blended learning approach, something that recent studies such as Garrison & Kanuka (2004)
and Garrison & Vaughan (2008) have shown brings real value to students’ learning and
understanding, will contribute to the University’s objective of improving student satisfaction with the
quality of teaching and learning environment experienced in Manchester, and SLLC’s aim of
increasing e-learning provision at UG level (Operational Planning Review 2009/10). It will do so in a
sustainable and cost-effective way by not only benefitting the present cohort, but all future cohorts as
well since, once developed, the question sets will be easily transferable to future Blackboard spaces.
Potentially, the e-assessments could be adapted so that students of other language disciplines could
also benefit.
Finally, these formative e-assessments will encourage students to reflect on German language
structures, and will support their mastery of a range of grammar topics, understanding of stylistic
considerations, and ability to write clear and linguistically sophisticated text – all learning outcomes of
the course unit in question. It will also contribute to improving students’ transferable skills, notably ICT
and data extraction and analysis.

Project structure, management and timescales

Filippo Nereo, lecturer in German linguistics, will manage the project and liaise where appropriate with
the e-learning team and colleagues in German Studies. He has the expertise in both German
language and foreign language pedagogy required for a project of this nature. Nereo will also be
responsible for the wider dissemination (liaising with the Faculty Teaching and Learning office, giving
a conference paper, and writing an article for submission to a teaching and learning journal).

The project will be broken into thematic weeks (both German Studies staff and students were
consulted when drawing up the list of themes to ensure the e-assessments were tailored to the real
needs of our students), and every three weeks there will be an internal review and pilot test to check
the technology and iron out any technical glitches before the tools go live on the students’ Blackboard
pages. Faculty will be informed of progress every three weeks. We would be happy to grant Faculty
members access to the site to see the assessments taking shape, or else forward a screen cast of the
assessments ‘in action’ to Faculty. Assuming two weeks for this application to be reviewed (telephone
conversation with Emma Rose), the project work will begin in Week 5 of the current semester.

Week 5: gender assignment

Week 6: adjective endings

Week 7: separable vs. inseparable verbs

Liaison with language tutors, trial runs with the question sets and feedback compiled in Weeks 4-6;
identify technical hitches and correct. Inform Faculty of progress.

Week 8: case governance of verbs

Week 9: verb prefixes

Week 10: modal verbs

Liaison with language tutors, trial runs with the question sets and feedback compiled in Weeks 7-9;
identify technical hitches and correct. Inform Faculty of progress.

Week 11: modal particles

Week 12: synonyms and idiomatic phrases characteristic of formal German

End of funding period

Liaison with language tutors, trial runs with the question sets and feedback compiled in Weeks 7-9,
identify technical hitches and correct. Inform Faculty of progress.

Post-exam period: evaluation of student grades and feedback; comparison with previous year’s
cohort; review of the effectiveness of the assessments with the e-learning team; discussions of
effectiveness and applicability to levels 1 and 2; conference paper on the project at the LLAS Subject
Centre conference in London

Evaluation, output and dissemination
The project will be subject to a rigorous review after its use with the first cohort to ensure that the e-
assessments are achieving the goals set out in section 1 above. In particular, we will pay close
attention to the quality of students’ German as measured by course unit grades (compared to
previous years), and qualitative and quantitative feedback provided via course unit evaluation
questionnaires (in particular questions 3 and 5 on online learning and feedback respectively) to
ascertain levels of student satisfaction with the e-assessments (compared to previous years).
Discussions will also be held with all German Studies staff during meetings of the German Academic
Committee on what action to take, for example whether to roll similar e-assessments out to language
courses at level 1 and 2. We will also discuss the idea of developing summative e-assessments
(which would necessitate alterations to course handbook entries and invigilated computer cluster
sessions, but which would, in principle, be possible over the summer vacation).
Information regarding these e-assessments and their impact will be disseminated via a variety of
       Faculty Teaching and Learning website (e.g. as a Screencast);
       Faculty Teaching and Learning Forum (e.g. as a demonstration of the assessment tools);
       HEA LLAS Subject Centre’s fifth biennial conference on Languages in higher education 2010:
        Raising the standard for languages;
       an article submitted to an international peer-reviewed teaching and learning journal such as
        Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.

Funds requested

                                                             Faculty          Match           Total (£)
                                                              Fund           Funding
Staff (indicate basis)
4 hours/week buy-out (the bought-in TA will undertake       4 hours @
2 hours of teaching and 2 hours associated                 17.69/hr x 8                        £566.08
preparation per week, over 8 weeks (Weeks 5-12)              weeks =                        plus 4.5 days
                                                             £566.08                          e-learning
E-learning team advice on setting up question sets,                         3 half-days
best options for diagnostic questions
E-learning team support for review and dissemination                          3 days

Presentation at HEA Subject Centre conference
funded by the SLLC research travel fund:

Return train journey                                                         £49.30
One night’s accommodation at Travelodge Southwark                            £103.50          £152.80

See travel/subsistence

                                                             -                 -                -

Evaluation                                                   -                 -                -

Courseware materials                                         -                 -                -

Other costs (please state)                                   -                 -                -

Total                                                     £566.08         £152.80 plus   £718.88 plus
                                                                            4.5 days       4.5 days
                                                                           e-learning     e-learning
                                                                            support        support

Schedule of funding                        2009/10               20010/11                2011/12

             Amount of Faculty fund        £566.08                    -                     -

Details of other funding sought for this project, both successfully and unsuccessfully

Future plans/continuation strategy
Once in place, the e-assessments will be sustainable, since question sets can be copied over to
future Blackboard spaces. Filippo Nereo will lead the review of the e-assessments, providing reports
to the German Academic Committee on a regular basis. Feedback will be delivered to the School via
the Exams Officer (currently Filippo Nereo) so that other language disciplines are informed of the
assessment method. The e-learning team have voiced their support for the project and offered
assistance in terms of development and review of the e-assessments.

Signature of main applicant                                         Date
                                                                    9 February 2010

Teaching and Learning Director/UG Director/PGT Director
Name: Professor Matthew Jefferies                                   Date


Head of School Approval
Name: Professor Kersti Börjars                                      Date