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Evaluating Computer-Assisted Language Learning

An Integrated Approach to Effectiveness Research in CALL

Jonathan Leakey

Schools, colleges and universities are investing a great deal in the purchase of computer resources for the teaching of modern languages, but whether these resources make a measurable difference to the learning of language students is still unclear. In this book the author outlines the existing evidence for the impact of computers on language learning and makes the case for an integrated approach to the evaluation of computer-assisted language learning (CALL). Drawing on current and past research linked to CALL and e-learning, the author builds a comprehensive model for evaluating not just the software used in language learning, but also the teaching and learning that takes place in computer-based environments, and the digital platforms themselves. This book will be of interest not only to language teachers and CALL researchers, but also to those interested in e-learning and general research methodology, as well as designers of educational software, digital labs, virtual learning environments (VLEs) and institutional budget holders.

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Chapter 2 - Swings, spirals and re-incarnations: Lessons from the past 21

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Chapter 2 Swings, spirals and re-incarnations: Lessons from the past Introduction Ef fectiveness research, or ‘systematic evaluation’, as it has also been called (Dunkel 1991: 23–24), is the analytical approach to evaluating the impact or ef fects of a ‘treatment’ on individuals, groups or processes. It is about qualification and quantification. In our case it concerns the measuring of the ef fects of CALL on language learners. The notions of CALL and CALL evaluation are associated with a number of concepts that, from the outset, need explaining and setting in the context of CALL evaluation. To start with, the term CALL is defined and placed in the context of the academic disciplines to which it is related, from which it draws inspiration and to which it is now contributing. Several frequently used CALL acronyms will also be brief ly summarized. The concepts ‘evaluation’ and ‘ef fectiveness’ are then unpacked into their various component parts: ef fectiveness research; quantitative and qualitative analysis; experimental and quasi-experimental research, and internal and external validity. The scope of the terms ‘pedagogy’, ‘platforms’, and ‘programs’ (or the Three Ps for short) as they occur in the language learning and CALL literature and as they will apply in the chapters following will then be given. Concepts such as behaviouristic, communicative, constructivist, language acquisi- tion, and learner dif ferences all feature heavily in the evolution of language learning from the 1950s on; and as such have inf luenced the development of pedagogies for CALL, and the evolution...

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