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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 7 - Case Study 2: Evaluating programs 167

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Chapter 7 Case Study 2: Evaluating programs Introduction The case for evaluating software The evaluation of the impact of CALL software must be tied to the role this software plays in the teaching and learning process. As early as 1988 Pederson said: ‘The point, however obvious, needs to be restated: CALL, in and of itself, does not result in more and better learning, it is the specific way instruction is coded in CALL software that has the potential of af fect- ing learning positively, for specific learners in specific contexts’ (p. 107). Software is not dismissed in the CALL impact equation; it is merely that one must be careful when ascribing causality, and focus on its ef fects, and ef fectiveness, in situ. Pederson goes on to say that ‘one obvious problem in CALL is to provide evidence that a given software package is designed and programmed ef fectively’ (p. 108). She adds that ‘the wise language teacher should examine evaluative research reports carefully for clear edu- cational objectives, a specific target audience, and an adequate evaluative consensus from classroom teachers, students, and CALL experts’ (p. 109). In other words, the evaluation of CALL programs should be intercon- nected with CALL pedagogy and the two should not be mutually exclusive activities. Pederson’s core thesis is built upon the CAL work done by Salo- mon. His contribution to ef fectiveness research generally derives from his insights into the relationship between the software coding and cognition. He defines coding, or the ‘coding...

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