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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 8 - Case Study 3: Evaluating pedagogy 197


Chapter 8 Case Study 3: Evaluating pedagogy Introduction University of Ulster – The migration from analogue to digital platforms Managing ef fective migrations to digital environments requires the adop- tion of good practice and ongoing monitoring. Ef fectiveness research, and with it the configuration of data-harnessing approaches that capture and portray a richer picture of the impacts of change, must play a key role in such transitions. What follows is the pedagogical and evaluative narrative behind just such a migration. It draws on the lessons learned over three years (2003–2006) within the setting of undergraduate language studies at the University of Ulster, and, in particular, from two CALL research studies looking at dif ferent language skills. The move to adopt an empirical approach followed studies of staf f and student reluctance and resistance to CALL carried out at the Uni- versity of Ulster by Gillespie and McKee (1999b) and Gillespie and Barr (2002). Adopting new technologies just because they were new, exciting and ef fective elsewhere did not guarantee improved learning gains in lan- guage acquisition. Furthermore, qualitative evidence of positive impact may not necessarily show that students are learning languages better because of the new platforms, programs or pedagogy. The literature was showing a clear need to provide empirical evidence from more longitudinal stud- ies, ideally with ‘non-novices’ in the CALL environment (Hubbard 2004: 165, and 2005: 352). The TOLD and BLINGUA research teams, partly in response to the research agenda of Hubbard, Felix, Pederson and others, and partly...

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