Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Exercise 2.3.2

Do you think that CALL activities can be improved through classroom research?
by Steven Mondy - Tuesday, 19 August 2008, 06:07 PM
The question asks us to seek out a relationship between L2 classroom research and CALL activities, to possibly try and establish a beneficial effect of current research (which kind?) on the medium of instruction (in this case CALL activities). I believe that Chapelle (1997) is right to be cautious in establishing the relationship, before first understanding what is meant by ‘research methods’, and stating the general methodology that surrounds SLA researchers and designers of CALL activities (Interactionist/Discourse analysis), at least to date.
Chapelle states that there is a need for more descriptive research (as opposed to just empirical), which documents the nature of interactions in which learners engage in within various CALL contexts. This means that we need to get a more holistic idea of what is happening within various contexts, how it is affecting the learner and how the learner is reacting to the interaction. The descriptive research should in Chapelle’s view describe learner input, output, and the relationship between both the input and output. This last point I believe is significant, in that it acknowledges there is change with each interaction. The description taking into account five characteristics: pragmatic, linguistic, non-linguistic, quality of language, and the medium of language transmission.
I believe that this focus on interaction (learner within their context) will give greater understandings about how communication is affected by the learning task, and method of instruction (and vice versa). Focus on the learner and how they react to various methods of gaining comprehensible input and being able to give effective comprehensible output (Swain and Lapkin, 95 as cited in Chapelle, 1997) will speak volumes about how effective the actual task is capable of being. Research that is able to understand how a task is able to encourage effective communication will undoubtedly make it possible for designers to improve upon CALL tasks (by tweaking and changing various aspects), so they in turn can make an optimal situation for better communication.
Chapelle states two critical questions in search of new research paradigms:
1. What kind of language does the learner engage in?
2. How good is the language experience in CALL for L2 learning?
These two questions can be a general framework for successful teaching, for any L2 teacher, in any domain, and using any methodology. If any research can help to answer these questions, then teachers and designers will both have an opportunity to design better learning tasks, that will interest students, engage them, keep them motivated and enable effective communication. Thus, facilitating successful learning.
Chapelle, C. (1997). CALL in the year 2000: Still in search of research paradigms? Language Learning & Teachnology, 1(1)

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