Learner Strategies in CALL

Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23, 2006

Keynote speakers

Professor Andrew Cohen, University of Minnesota
Phil Hubbard, Stanford University

Memorial Union, Iowa State University

Faculty in the applied linguistics program in the Department of English are planning an invitational conference focusing on issues associated with the strategies that learners use to direct their second language learning when using multimedia CALL, the Internet and other electronic resources.

The following questions illustrate some of the themes at the intersection of TSLL and learner strategies:

  • How can teachers help to teach learners strategies for effective use of electronic materials for second language learning?
  • What does theory, research and practice tell us about effective use of resources?
  • How can learner strategies be assessed in on-line resources?
  • How can learner strategies be implemented and addressed in on-line resources?

Consistent with the graduate program emphasis on technology and language teaching in the applied linguistics, this conference will bring together concepts and practices that hold promise for developing fruitful synergy between second language acquisition and computer-assisted language learning. Beyond the applied linguistics program, the conference should also be of interest to faculty and graduate students in Rhetoric & Professional Communication, Foreign Languages & Literatures, and Curriculum & Instruction.

List of Speakers

Being a Strategic Language Learner in CALL

Andrew Cohen, University of Minnesota

This paper considers what it means to be a strategic language learner in the context of CALL. It looks at the possible roles for language learner strategies at their crucial intersection with language learning technology. We will first consider what language learner strategies have been represented as in the literature and also consider the kind of fine-tuning of them that is likely to be a priority for maximizing their benefits in learning more complex language functions. Then we will consider how strategies can best be applied to dealing with CALL – e.g., (1) strategies for selecting what to study, (2) strategies for how to study an L2 online, and (3) strategies that can be explicitly situated within a given online L2 curriculum to facilitate the learning and performance of the language material appearing on the website. A focus will be placed on the learning and performance of L2 pragmatics, since this is a high-stakes area of L2 learning.

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What will best support the needs of 21st century language teachers for integrating CALL and learning strategies in their instruction?

Anna Uhl Chamot, George Washington University, and Jill Robbins, George Washington University and
National Capital Language Resource Center

The presenters’ graduate level teacher education program for preparing ESL and foreign language teachers has a strong emphasis on the teaching of language learning strategies. Our student teachers examine their own learning strategies and practice developing and demonstrating lessons and thematic units incorporating strategies-based instruction. We also teach them how to use technology and have a mandate from the university to encourage students to include educational technology in their demonstration lessons and presentations. Our course on teaching reading and writing in a second language includes creating a review of educational software, while the second language acquisition course requires a review of online resources. Blogging as a means of submitting class work, using podcasts, and web-based presentations are becoming more common in our courses. Now we are beginning to ask, “How can we combine the two concepts, CALL and Learning Strategies, coherently in our teacher preparation program? How can language teachers use technology to provide strategies-based instruction?” This presentation will engage participants in discussing approaches to this question and aims to create a network of teacher educators who share their expertise, experiences, and interest in using technology to teach language learning strategies. The presenters plan to set up pilot projects from which to develop a curriculum for CALL/LLS instruction.

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Encouraging a Strategy-Based Approach to Learning Spanish Pragmatics: The Design and Learner Use of a Self-Access Website 
Dr. Andrew D. Cohen and Julie Sykes, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
University of Minnesota

While research has found that instruction on the learning and use of speech acts can help learners to improve their pragmatic performance and ability to communicate with native speakers (Bardovi-Harlig, 2001; Kasper & Rose, 2002), it is a very challenging endeavor due, in part, to widespread variation among speakers.  The combination of CALL technologies and a learner strategy-based approach (Cohen, 2005) offers the possibility of overcoming some of these difficulties by aiding in the creation of effective online materials for learning pragmatics.  Related CALL research has addressed the benefits of various technologies for pragmatic and cultural instruction—multimedia and authentic materials (Hoven, 1999; Kramsch & Andersen, 1999; LeLoup & Ponterio, 2001), telecollaboration (Furstenberg & Levet, 2001; Belz, 2002, 2003), and computer-mediated communication (Biesenbach-Lucas, 2005; Sykes, 2005).  To date there is only a small number of websites specifically dedicated to pragmatic development, such as  the two sites dedicated to English (CLEAR, 2005; Levy, 1999), one for Russian (CLEAR, 2005), and one for Japanese (Cohen & Ishihara, 2005). Aside from the current project, only the Japanese site includes a strategy-based approach to learning pragmatics.  This presentation will report on the creation and evaluation of a website specifically dedicated to leaner strategies for enhancing pragmatic development in Spanish.  We will first demonstrate how learning and use strategies are targeted throughout the website in order to address the challenges of learning pragmatics in Peninsular and Latin American Spanish.  We will then provide a preliminary analysis of the strategies used by learners when they interact with the online environment.  Finally, we will report on future evaluation and expansion of the website to other contexts and languages.

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What a difference an environment can make: Peer Online Writing Advisors

Christine Rosalia, Kanda University of International Studies, Chiba, Japan and New York University

If the goal of strategy training is to get learners to take more responsibility for their own learning, EFL peer online writing centers are the optimum environment for this as they allow for learners to practice negotiation, co-construction, and various levels of active participation. EFL students in such an online writing centre at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan are paid to answer requests for advice on writing submissions, make learning materials, and evaluate CALL web sites.

Study of the unique position of an online peer advisor can help us see what training EFL learners need in order to do peer response (few studies with exceptions such as Berg, 1999, discuss how to give language learners training on how to give peer response, fewer discuss how to do this “online” using synchronic or asynchronic tools). Secondly, as peer advisors pioneer this new role, it is interesting to see how affective and social strategies (Oxford, 2001) such as learning with others (peer advisors use aliases that EFL writers and co-workers do not know), managing emotions (using emoticons, colors and hypertext) and organizing and evaluating knowledge through the use of chat, wikis, and asynchronic forums, change. Indeed Rebecca Oxford’s Strategies Inventory for Language Learning questionnaire (1990) does not mention the use of CALL. The presenter will discuss the challenges of training peer advisors and indirectly their clients (other EFL writers) to use technology to afford critical thinking, negotiation, and active learning.

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Corrective feedback and strategy use in CALL

Melissa A. Bowles, Dept. of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In recent years, research has investigated the role of corrective feedback on second language acquisition (e.g., Leeman, 2003; Lightbown, 1998; Russell & Spada, 2006; White, 1989, 1991). Similarly, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) studies have investigated the effects of metalinguistic (explicit) feedback on grammar knowledge (Heift, 2001; Nagata & Swisher, 1995; Yang & Akahori, 1999). In addition to learning outcomes, it is also important to examine learner-computer interactions and strategy use during error correction (Hegelheimer & Chapelle, 2000; Heift, 2001), and many such studies have recently been conducted (Heift, 2001, 2002, 2003; Pujolà, 2001). After all, before we can train learners on effective strategies for language learning in CALL environments, we need to explore the ways in which they interact with CALL materials on their own. Some studies (Brandl, 1995) have indicated that low and high-performing students prefer different types of feedback and that there is differential strategy use by more and less successful learners (Chen, 1990; Green & Oxford, 1995; Vinther, 2005). The present study examined language learning strategies of 62 first-semester learners of Spanish who interacted with a series of L2 CALL tasks, receiving either implicit feedback [Correct/Incorrect] or explicit feedback [a short metalinguistic explanation of why the response was correct or incorrect]. Verbal reports provided introspective data about learners’ strategies as they interacted with the feedback (Cohen, 1998). Specifically, the study investigated whether learning strategies were significantly different when participants interacted with explicit or implicit feedback and whether high and low-scoring participants’ strategies were significantly different from each other. Implications for CALL materials design and strategy training are also presented.

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An Experimental Study of Effective Feedback Strategies in Web-Based Computer Tutor Interactions with Implications for CALL System 
Anita A. Ferreira and Lilian Gómez
Universidad de Concepción, Chile

A major focus of research in Computer Assisted Language Learning has been the identification and implementation of feedback strategies that facilitate student learning. This paper aims to inform the design of feedback strategies in CALL systems for Spanish as a Foreign Language. We explore empirical evidence about effectiveness of feedback strategies used in an experimental study in which students interacted with a web-based tutoring program. The results of our study suggest that a CALL system for Spanish as a foreign language should implement feedback which prompts (such as elicitation, metalinguistic cues and clarification requests) students for answers with grammar errors.
* This research is sponsored by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (FONDECYT, Chile) under grant number 1040500 “Effective Corrective-Feedback Strategies in Second Language Teaching with implications for Intelligent Tutorial Systems (ITS) for Foreign Languages (FL)”

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Key vocabulary learning strategies and opportunities for CALL development

Jim Ranalli
Iowa State University

A growing body of research evidence is demonstrating the advantages of the use of language learning strategies in the process of L2 vocabulary acquisition. This comes at a time when there is increasing awareness about the vital – some would say central – role played by lexis in the task of foreign or second language learning.
While the number of vocabulary learning strategies is indeterminate and several taxonomies have been proposed, this paper will argue in favor of identifying three particular vocabulary learning strategies as “key” insofar as they are generally well known but often poorly applied by students, and also because their use entails a host of other vocabulary learning strategies and thus they can serve as valuable starting points in program of learner training. The presenter will then go on to discuss ways in which CALL applications could be developed which support and enhance not only the practice of these key strategies but which also contribute to the process of learner training and the development of learner autonomy.

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Investigating study techniques used by learners of Dakota

Lisa Elbert
University of Minnesota

In this paper, I briefly review existing online resources for Dakota, then describe the pioneering of Mnisota Dakota Iapi Owayawa, the University of Minnesota’s Dakota Language program instructional website. I discuss what it has to offer, its strengths and weaknesses, and some of the problems encountered. In addition to examining the effectiveness of online resources, I have been interested in the study techniques used by Dakota learners, particularly adults. Comparatively little SLA research has been done on the learning of indigenous, endangered languages. Considering what has been found about successful and less-successful language learners’ habits and strategies, I was interested in how this might apply to learners of an endangered indigenous language such as Dakota. Would the same hold true for a situation where materials and access to native speakers are extremely limited? How might learners who are able to attend Dakota class only once a week (if that) compensate? In 2003 I conducted an action research study (under the guidance of Dr. Cohen) to learn more about who these adults students were, how they learned, and how to help them learn more effectively. For the past two years I have been teaching Dakota at a community center myself, refining my understanding of my students’ language learning strategies (including the use of online materials) and trying to help them become more successful language learners.

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Enhancing Students’ Understanding of Culture
through the Use of Web Logs and Wikis

Marc Cadd, Ph.D., Language Coordinator for Arabic, French, German, and Russian
Drake University Language Acquisition Program

Drake University’s Language Acquisition Program (DULAP) is enhances students’ communicative abilities through interaction with native speakers three times per week in the classroom, using the target language only, while the study of grammar occurs largely outside the classroom. What room does this leave for the study of culture, especially at the lower levels? During the 2005-2006 academic year, the members of DULAP made the decision to experiment using web logs, Internet readings, RSS feeds, etc., in all Russian courses as a means of addressing the question “What does it mean to be Russian in the 21st Century?” Two years ago we began utilizing Wikis in more advanced courses that focus on thematically-based cultural topics.
Blogs and Wikis provide venues for students to learn about their target culture(s) outside the classroom, in English at the beginning levels and in the target language only by the more advanced levels. These tools allow us to accentuate the connection between language and culture.
This approach has several advantages: it does not require students to delay their study of culture until their linguistic skills are sufficiently advanced, it leaves the three contact-hours free for target-language activities because any study of culture in English occurs outside of class, and it addresses students’ differing learning styles. For some students, the resulting lowering of the affective filter improved their performance when using the target language in class. Many students of Russian reported increased motivation and students learning languages other than Russian began requesting that similar approaches be implemented in their courses. Our experiences during the previous two years have convinced us to use these technologies in each language course we offer. We are confident we are not using technology “for technology’s sake,” but rather to enhance our students’ overall language- and culture-learning experience.

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The Case for Learner Training in CALL
Phil Hubbard

As technology becomes more prevalent in language teaching and learning, the range and complexity of both that technology and the environment in which learners utilize it become factors in its degree of success. Given the already stunning—and growing—number of technological options for language learning, teachers working with both established and emerging applications need to address the question of how their students can use these applications effectively. This talk will examine several strands of evidence converging on the conclusion that learner training, including not only strategy training but also technical and pedagogical training, should be considered a central theme in CALL.  The first strand is a set of learner training principles that emerged from the presenter’s classroom experiences, with examples of how it has been integrated into listening courses. The second strand is the reported experience from a group of classroom teachers attempting to implement these principles on a program-wide basis, showing that learner training is feasible, that it appears to pay off at least in the short term, and that how to do it is a learning experience itself for practitioners. The third strand is the discussion found in a number of recent CALL research studies acknowledging the need for learner training. Additional strands touched on include research directly involving learner training, the identification of trainer as a functional role for teachers in a proposed CALL teacher education framework, and the presenter’s recent experience as a language learner experimenting with CALL strategies.

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