Glossing and Reading Comprehension

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					Initiatives in Teaching French and Spanish at the
               University of Calgary:
      A Decade of Lessons (Good and Bad)

                 Brian Gill
              UBC, May 2005
•    Our Present Situation
•    Curriculum Redesign
•    CALL at the U of Calgary
•    Selected CALL Initiatives:
    1.   Repsit
    2.   On-Line Reading Courses
    3.   On-Line Glossing
    4.   On-Line Dictation
    5.   Using a Discussion Board
    6.   Content-Based Blended Learning
    7.   Computer-Mediated Communication Project
–    Conclusions
             Teaching Staff in 2005
• French, Italian & Spanish (FIS)
   – 22 FT Academic Staff + Sessionals
• Germanic, Slavic and East Asian Studies (GSEA)
   – 16 FT Academic Staff + Sessionals
• Faculty of Education
   – 3 FT Academic Staff in French Program
   – 2 FT Academic Staff in ESL Program
• Language Research Centre (LRC)
   – Director + Project Coordinator + Technician
   – No Teaching Staff
                Students (FIS)
• In Fall 2004 we had
  – French: 1264 enrollees (350 beginners or from
    French 30 + 450 first-year – from immersion)
  – Spanish: 1329 enrollees (600 beginners)
  – Italian: 219, mostly beginners
• Our section sizes are 34, except second-year
  which are 60.
• Most classes are 3x50 minutes a week
                 Curriculum Redesign
• From 1998 to 2001, all U of Calgary departments offering majors
  were required to prepare an undergraduate Explicit Syllabus
  which included:
   – A graduating student profile
   – A detailed program with explicit outcomes for each level (200-500)
   – An explicitation of how the seven U of C “features of the curriculum”
     were implemented.
       •   A clearly identifiable field of study
       •   A well-defined interdisciplinary component
       •   An international component
       •   Experiential learning
       •   Broad and extended Faculty-Student interaction
       •   Integration of research.
• Our Syllabi for French and Spanish are at
 Curriculum Redesign: French Program
• Main changes:
  – Quasi-elimination of grammar-based language courses except
    at beginner level
  – Implementation of content-based courses at the first year
    level and beyond (Francophonie and Introduction to Texts)
  – Introduction at second-year level of new courses in Literary
    Concepts, and History of Ideas, as a basis for later study of
    literature and culture
  – Requirement at third-year level to take courses in language,
    French Canada and literature
  – Freedom to choose among language and more specialized
    literature/culture courses at fourth-year level
      Curriculum Redesign: Results
• Colleagues were pulled kicking and screaming through
  the two-year redesign process. There was little expert
  input, mostly gut feelings of experienced teachers.
• The content-based courses have produced very mixed
  reactions from students. This seems due partly to
  staffing, partly to the fact that we are still working out
  the best content and delivery.
• We have done no formal evaluation.
• Little change in teaching practice:
   – Many instructors continue to teach as before.
   – Assessments in content-based courses continue to emphasize
     written production and correct usage.
 CALL Teaching Initiatives at the U of
 Calgary: the ALLE Project (1997-2000)
• In 1997, Esther Enns in German and Brian Gill in French were
  funded by Alberta Education for a project, called ALLE, to
  enhance the use of technology in language teaching in Alberta.
• Activities:
   –   Web Workshops for Language Teachers (20)
   –   Invited Speakers
   –   Web Sites of Links for French, Spanish, Italian, German, ESL
   –   Support for smaller projects (CDs in Chinese & Japanese, French &
       Italian on-line activities, etc.)
• ALLE was important for us because it established the principle
  of collaboration among language teachers at all levels and in
  different languages. This provided a critical mass of interested
  parties. It laid the groundwork for a successful application for
  funding to establish a Language Research Centre (LRC).
  CALL Teaching Initiatives at the U of
        Calgary (2000-2005)
• ALLE encouraged collaboration, and provided focus.
• Collaboration and focus continue in the Language Research
  Centre, which brings together colleagues from different
  departments and faculties.
• All this is helped by
   – Targeted funding (Provincial, Federal, University)
   – Service units (Learning Commons)
• Cumulatively, the success of these initiatives (especially in
  attracting funding and in consciousness raising) has caused the
  language departments to think more carefully about their
  language programs and begin to hire specialists who can (a)
  provide guidance and (b) respond to student demand for
  language specializations.
       1. A French Portal: Repsit
• Updated regularly
• Extensive
• Short descriptions of each site
• Importance of localized portals for sharing and
  saving time. Search before doing. Don‟t
  reinvent the wheel.
• Also ALLE portals for French, German, Italian,
  Spanish, ESL:
        2. On-line Reading Courses
• French and Spanish courses, created in 1999 and 2003
• Advantages:
   – Learners are exposed to a great deal of authentic text.
   – These texts are engaging.
   – They provide a realistic image of the target culture.
   – Strategies practiced help learners realize they can understand
     texts without looking up every word.
   – In the Spanish courses, inductive, discovery learning is used.
   – In general, learners become more confident readers.
 2. On-line Reading Courses (cont.)
• Problems:
   – We didn‟t adapt our strategy training for Asian learners (cognates, low-
     level decoding)
   – Some parts were too static : explanations of reading strategies, grammar
   – There are many drawbacks to teaching one skill only:
       • No writing: Vocabulary not written or reused is not acquired
       • No listening: therefore no phonological representation of words, leading to
         poor retention and reading problems
   – Teaching reading comprehension needs constant interplay between
     teacher and learner
   – Learners reported a preference for face-to-face language learning
• Lessons:
   – Stand-alone on-line courses are less than ideal for language learning, even
     less for reading comprehension – at beginner levels.
                 3. On-line Glossing
• A Gloss is an annotation added to a text to help readers
  understand it better. They are standard in L2 textbooks, often at
  the side of the page or at the bottom.
• On-line glosses, using hyperlinks, have seemed promising, since
  a large variety of material can be made available unobtrusively:
   – Translations, cultural notes, images, sounds, thought-provoking questions
• Studies (Lomicka, Lyman-Hager, de Ridder) reveal mixed results
  for on-line glosses, in terms of improving reading
  comprehension, and in terms of vocabulary acquisition.

 4. Le Dictateur: On-line Dictations
• Advantages:
   –   Easy authoring
   –   Save class time
   –   Choice of voices (male/female, regional accents)
   –   Feedback for anticipated errors
• Problems:
   – Installation of plug-ins is a pain.
• Lessons
   – Don‟t let programmers impose technical requirements.
       5. Using a Discussion Board
• Using postings to a Discussion Board as preparation
  for class discussions.
• Advantages:
   – Encourages students to think critically
   – Ensures participation from all
   – Students take responsibility for their opinions and effectively
     run class discussions themselves
   – Effective in all types of classes, including content-based
     language learning, literature…
 6. Content-Based Blended Learning
• In 2001, French 215 and 217 converted to content-
  based courses for incoming immersion students.
   – 215 – la francophonie; 217 – introduction au texte
   – 2 hours cours magistral, 3 hours tutorials
• In 2005, we are adopting a Blended Learning format,
  combining classroom time with on-line work (3 hours
  in class, 2+ on-line). Blended Learning is a U of
  Calgary priority.
• Better for language learning than on-line courses
7. Computer-Mediated Communication
• Asynchronous
   – Email
   – Electronic discussion boards (text and audio)
• Synchronous
   – Chat (text conferencing in real time)
   – Audio conferencing & Videoconferencing
• Student to student (in class or class-to-class)
• Instructor to student (online office hours, e-mail)
        Perceived Benefits of CMC
• Studies on email and text conferencing show
   – Improvements in linguistic awareness
   – Greater cultural awareness when working with native
• Specific to text conferencing
   – Increased participation of all learners
   – More equal participation across
       • Gender and minority groups
       • Personality types (shyer students participate)
       • Level of proficiency
        CMC Project (Emily Ballou)
• In 2005, two 4th semester Spanish tutorials chat online
  for one hour a week with students from ITESM,
  Monterrey, Mexico
• Approx. 50 students total in each session (25 from the U of
  C, 25 from ITESM)
• Divided into small groups in different “rooms” (4-6
  students per group)
• Half of the time in Spanish, half in English
• One section uses text chat, the other uses text and
            Initial Observations
• Advantages
  – Students actively engaged throughout the hour
  – Increased language awareness
     • Through feedback
     • Through observing others
  – Facilitates cross-cultural understanding
  – Labs considered “useful” by students
             Initial Observations
• Problems:
  –   Uneven groupings due to absences
  –   Various conversations at once
  –   Confusion due to „chatroom language‟
  –   Logistical problems
  –   Students more comfortable with text-based chat
  –   Result: little oral interaction in audio group
  Classroom Implications for CMC
• Authentic and meaningful communication in the
  target language with native speakers
  – Increased cultural awareness
• High level of participation & interaction
  – Enthusiastic response
  – Sense of accomplishment
  – Desire to continue with the language
 Conclusions: Language Learning at the
             U of Calgary
• The set of initiatives culminating in the creation of the Language
  Research Centre in the Faculty of Humanities, the focus the LRC
  provides and the money it is seen to attract have had a positive
  effect on colleagues‟ attitudes towards language teaching.
   – Although Education and Linguistics are fully involved, we have always
     insisted on ownership and leadership coming from the language
     departments. The LRC has no teaching staff or mandate.
• Colleagues are more prepared than they were ten years ago to
  hire applied linguists and experts in language learning. Recent
  hiring (Spanish, French, Chinese, German) reflect this.
• There is heavy demand for both undergraduate and graduate
  courses in language learning, and in language and technology.
• At the same time, demand for literature courses has remained
Additional Slides
Advantages of the Internet for Language
• Accessibility
   – Available 24/7
   – From lab or home or office
• Learner-control
   – Learners advance at their own pace
   – Learners can redo activities as many times as necessary
   – Learners can choose their learning path (links, verification)
• Immense amounts of authentic text and audio in target
  languages available on the web
• Enables communication with native speakers
Advantages of the Internet for Language
• Information
  – More authentic materials (texts, voice, video), literary texts,
    reference sources. Rapid access.
• Sharing
  – Using pages, activities, lesson plans, which others have
    prepared enriches your teaching and saves time. But we must
    learn to search effectively, and to use what‟s there before
    reinventing the wheel.
• Management
  – Course management systems like Blackboard and Web-CT
    allow easier management of documents, grading,
         Internet Disadvantages
• Many sites, including authentic ones, contain
  linguistic errors.
• Computers are not good at reacting to questions
  or mistakes.
• There is still no clear methodology for using the
  web for language learning. And what teachers
  latch on to at first is often not effective.
• Getting started is time-consuming and
 The Status of CALL            (20 th   Century)
• “a time of idiosyncratic learning, quirky software
  development, and naïve experimentation”
  Chapelle (2001: 175)
• “A research agenda, a path for development, or
  even the problems to which CALL provides the
  solution have not been agreed and, without this,
  CALL is somewhat fragmented and moving in
  many different directions at the same time.” Levy
  (1997: 228)
 The Status of CALL                     (21st    Century)
• Research is better established
   – Books by Chapelle, Levy
   – Periodicals such as LLT, System
   – Professional associations such as Calico, Eurocall,
• Pressure to use technology
   – From administrations and governments
   – From students
   – From textbook publishers
• The Internet, Word-processing and PowerPoints are