Coherence in Quantitative Longitudinal Language Program Evaluation
AdvisorRoss, Steven, 1951-
Committee memberBeglar, David J.
DepartmentTeaching & Learning
SubjectForeign Language Education
English as A Second Language
English as A Second Language
Foreign Language Education
Quantitative Longitudinal Evaluation
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12613/3363
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIn recent years, foreign language program evaluation has gained greater attention among language educators, program administrators, and evaluators. Increased demands for demonstrated program performance, often motivated by external forces, such as accreditation pressures and decisions regarding the allocation of funding, have led to heightened focus on foreign language program evaluation practices, methodologies, and results. Despite this increased attention, there are few published evaluation studies within the field of foreign language learning that have examined foreign language program effectiveness over time. This longitudinal study was designed to quantitatively investigate the performance of one Japanese university English for Academic Purposes (EAP) program over the 20-year span of the program’s existence. Quantitative evaluation methodologies and advanced statistical procedures were utilized to examine changes in student English proficiency, as measured by the Institutional Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL ITP) and English achievement, as measured by four semesters of EAP course grades, as students progressed through the two-year program. Twenty cohorts of students (cohort n-sizes ranging from approximately 250 to 550 students) were included in this study. The comprehensive data set included three repeated-measures of the TOEFL ITP and four English achievement grade point averages (GPAs) for each of the 20 cohorts. The research questions for this expansive longitudinal study addressed two levels of inquiry. First, at the program-global level, this study sought to investigate patterns of English proficiency change within and between cohorts across the life of the program, and the extent that programmatic events and external influences might have impacted those patterns. For this investigation, TOEFL ITP results for three proficiency domains—listening, grammar, and reading—were chronologically charted for the 20 cohorts and time-series analyses were conducted. The results indicated that all cohorts demonstrated significant gains in the three proficiency domains by the end of the two-year program. However, the overall trends across the program’s 20-year history revealed gradual negative trajectories for grammar and reading proficiency. Events that were hypothesized to have influenced proficiency patterns were tested, including (a) the addition of a new department specialization, (b) changes to department admissions, (c) the entrance of students who experienced new national reforms at the secondary education level, and (d) department expansion. While listening proficiency patterns were unaffected, grammar and reading proficiency trends were negatively impacted by the start of the new specialization and changes to admissions procedures. The entrance of students who had experienced secondary educational changes had an initial negative impact on the grammar trend, but positive grammar and reading proficiency trends emerged from that point onward. It was speculated that these events, as well as larger population trends impacting Japanese universities, led to gradual shifts in program student demographics, which contributed to the observed changes in proficiency patterns. Also of interest was an examination of the concept of English achievement coherence—or the extent that student English achievement, as measured by English course grade point averages (GPAs)—can be used to assess course interrelatedness. English course GPA data was used to statistically derive three rival achievement coherence metrics. These metrics were then tested separately, using hierarchical linear modeling techniques, to examine the extent that achievement coherence might serve to mediate any proficiency variation observed across the 20 cohorts. There were no significant findings for two of the metrics tested, while the third metric was found to have a significant negative effect for reading proficiency. This finding directly contradicted the hypothesized outcome that a greater amount of coherence would serve to facilitate proficiency development. Given the significant negative reading trend that emerged across the life of the program, this result might suggest that larger influences affecting student demographic changes could outweigh any potential facilitative effects of coherence on proficiency outcomes. Following the program-global analyses, the second level of inquiry was at the cohort-specific level. Individual cohorts that had demonstrated comparatively high and low listening and reading proficiency gains were selected for follow-up analyses. The aim was to examine if differences in coherence at the cohort level might account for the contrastive proficiency gains attained. For each target cohort, a recursive path model, including the program’s 16 English courses and final proficiency outcome, was tested to examine English achievement interrelatedness and contributions to the final proficiency outcome. A greater number of significant paths and larger final model R2 coefficient would suggest more coherence. Additionally, for each target cohort, grade residuals analyses using linear regression methods were conducted to investigate grading consistency at the course level. A greater number of outlying grade cases could indicate that the course assessment schemes were not followed, which would suggest less cohort coherence. The results of these analyses for the pairs of contrastive listening gain and reading gain cohorts were compared, but no significant differences were found. While these analytical methods were determined to be useful for ongoing formative evaluation processes, the resulting measures were likely too broad to capture any meaningful differences in coherence between cohorts at the program-global level.
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Diagnosing L2 English Learners’ Listening comprehension abilities with Scripted and Unscripted Listening TextsBeglar, David; Wagner, Elvis; Swenson, Tamara; Leeming, Ian Paul (Temple University. Libraries, 2018)L2 listening research has moved toward a focus on understanding the process of listening. However, there are still few detailed studies of L2 listening that reveal learners’ comprehension processes when listening to scripted and unscripted listening texts. Studies in which such processing has been discussed have lacked detailed diagnoses of how bottom-up and top-down processing interactively affect listeners’ comprehension. This study was designed to show how listeners’ process and comprehend texts, with a focus on how their bottom-up and top-down processing either assist or impede their comprehension. In this study, a group of 30 L1 Japanese university English language learners’ listening abilities were diagnosed. The 30 participants were at three listening proficiency levels—high, mid, and low—based on TOEIC listening proficiency scores. The diagnostic procedure involved participants listening to two scripted and two unscripted listening texts and then reporting what they comprehended through three tasks—L1 oral recalls, L2 repetitions, and verbal reports. Other data was also collected in the study to relate the comprehension of listening texts to other important listening-related variables including listening proficiency, lexical knowledge, listening anxiety, study abroad experience, short-term phonological memory, and working memory. The main finding of the study was that miscomprehension of listening texts was invariably multi-causal, with a combination of both bottom-up and top-down factors leading to comprehension difficulty. Although not a new finding, the study offered more detail than current research about how bottom-up and top-down processing occur interactively. Regarding the overall difficulty of the listening texts, unscripted texts were more difficult to comprehend than scripted texts, and high-proficiency participants had fewer listening difficulties overall than mid- and low-proficiency participants. Quantitative and qualitative results revealed common processing difficulties among all participants due to L1-related phonological decoding issues (e.g., /l/ vs. /r/), connected speech, unknown lexis, and a lack of familiarity with unscripted speech hesitation phenomena (e.g., um, like). Qualitative transcript examples showed how top-down knowledge influenced misinterpretations of words and phrases interactively with bottom-up information, making inaccurate understandings of listening difficult to overcome. In addition to revealing participants’ difficulties and the severity of their comprehension difficulties, the diagnostic procedure showed common strengths—key words and phrases understood well by participants. High-frequency vocabulary and shorter utterances were both shown to be comprehended well. Finally, quantitative results in the study revealed relationships of participants’ listening comprehension with other important listening related variables. Listening proficiency and listening anxiety had strong relationships with listening comprehension of the listening texts. Working memory and short-term phonological memory had no relationship with listening text comprehension. Finally, study abroad experience showed a relationship with comprehension, but with many caveats, and listening vocabulary knowledge was not related with comprehension, but again, with numerous caveats to consider. Based on the results, theoretical and pedagogical implications were posed. Theoretical implications from the study relate to the understanding of four concerns in L2 listening research. Mainly, data in the study will aid researchers’ understanding of how L2 English listeners process speech interactively (i.e., with bottom-up and top-down information) for comprehension, how L2 English listeners experience connected speech, how L2 listeners deal with unknown lexis, and how L2 listeners experience difficulties with features of unscripted speech. Pedagogical implications of the study include the need for increased teacher and learner awareness of the complexity of L2 listening, the need to have learners to track their own listening development, and the need for teachers to expose learners to unscripted listening texts and make them familiar with features of unscripted speech. Finally, suggestions for further research are posed, including conducting diagnostics assessments of L2 listening with listeners of different L1s and with more varied proficiency levels, using different diagnostic procedures to examine L2 listening comprehension, and using more instruments to understand listening-related variables’ relationships with L2 listening comprehension.
THE EFFECTS OF EXPLICIT FORM-FOCUSED INSTRUCTION ON L2 ORAL PROFICIENCY DEVELOPMENTLeeming, Paul; Beglar, David J.; Nemoto, Tomoko; Doe, Timothy (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)This study was an examination of the effects of explicit form-focused instruction on the English development of Japanese university students during a seven-week intervention. Speaking proficiency development is a continuous challenge for most EFL learners who have limited exposure to the target language outside the classroom. Within the communicative language teaching paradigm, task-based language learning (TBLT) has been considered an effective approach for developing students’ speaking proficiency. However, while TBLT has been increasingly implemented in English language classrooms, investigations in which explicit form-focused instruction has been integrated into task based speaking tasks are limited. This longitudinal classroom-based study had five purposes. The first purpose was to examine the development of speaking proficiency in terms of syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, and oral fluency. The second purpose was to examine the development of speaking proficiency by comparing learners who received form-focused instruction with those who did not receive form-focused instruction by examining differences in their syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, and oral fluency development. The third purpose was to quantitatively and qualitatively examine the week-to-week trajectory of changes in speaking proficiency development. The fourth purpose was to examine learner affective variables. The final purpose was to examine the participants’ perceptions concerning the development of speaking proficiency based on their self-assessments. The participants were 104 first-year students enrolled in a Japanese university. All of the participants narrated a different four-picture cartoon in English once a week for nine weeks. The participants were divided into one comparison group and two intervention groups: form-focused instruction (FFI) and form-focused instruction and peer feedback (FFI + PF). The form-focused instruction intervention included ten minutes of grammar instruction focused on three past tense forms: simple past, past continuous, and past perfect, as well as ten minutes of peer feedback. Between the pretest and posttest, the FFI and FFI + PF participants received seven weeks of instruction before their weekly cartoon narration. Participants in the comparison group did not receive any weekly interventions. The pretest and posttest narration data of all participants were transcribed and analyzed using six CAF measurements: mean length of T-unit, clause/T-unit ratio, percentage of error-free T-units, percentage of accurate past tense usage, speech rate, and self-repair. Moreover, the pretest and posttest narrations recorded by all of the participants were analytically rated by three raters. From the sample of 104 participants, nine participants (three representatives from each group) were chosen for a week-to-week trajectory analysis in which their six CAF performances were qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed. All of the participants completed two questionnaires after taking the pretest and posttest. I developed both questionnaires based on previous literature related to second language speaking proficiency development. The English Speaking Learner Affect Questionnaire was used to examine differences in participants’ classroom English speaking anxiety, English speaking self-efficacy, and desire to speak English. The Self-Assessment of Speaking Task Questionnaire was used to examine changes in the participants’ self-assessment of their own performances in terms of syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, and oral fluency. The results indicated that form-focused instruction was effective at improving the participants’ global syntactic accuracy and their accurate use of the simple past tense. However, form-focused instruction did not lead to improvements in syntactic complexity or oral fluency. However, explicit form-focused instruction did not lead to detrimental effects on syntactic complexity or oral fluency; thus, form-focused instruction did not appear to stimulate trade-off effects between syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, and oral fluency. The analytical ratings provided by the raters indicated that form-focused instruction did not lead to significant improvements in terms of syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, or oral fluency. The results also indicated that the form-focused instruction intervention was effective at quickly improving syntactic accuracy because participants who received both form-focused instruction and peer feedback improved more quickly in the simple past compared to the participants who only received form-focused instruction. However, the participants who improved syntactic accuracy quickly might have experienced trade-offs with oral fluency ability, as improvements in speed fluency were not noted until their syntactic accuracy reached a ceiling effect where their global accuracy and accurate use of simple past tense stopped to improve. The results indicated that form-focused instruction did not influence classroom English speaking anxiety, as there was no significant difference seen between participants who received form-focused instruction and participants who did not. However, an excessive amount of form-focused instruction might have negative impacts on speaking anxiety because the participants who received both form-focused instruction and peer feedback showed an increase in their classroom English speaking anxiety. On the other hand, form-focused instruction had no impact on English speaking self-efficacy and it had positive effects on the desire to speak English because the participants who received both form-focused instruction and peer feedback exhibited a significant increase in their desire to speak English compared to the participants who did not receive form-focused instruction and the participants who received only form-focused instruction. Finally, based on the learners’ self-assessment, form-focused instruction had no effects on speaking proficiency development as there was no difference in self-assessed syntactic complexity, syntactic accuracy, and oral fluency between the participants in the three groups. Participants who received form-focused instruction interventions did not assess themselves to having higher syntactic accuracy despite their improvements on the CAF measures.
PAIR INTERACTION IN SPANISH LANGUAGE CLASSROOMS THAT ENROLL HERITAGE AND L2 LEARNERSToth, Paul D.; Holmquist, Jonathan Carl; Lorenzino, Gerardo; Bowles, Melissa A. (Temple University. Libraries, 2019)A growing number of studies has shown that collaborative writing tasks facilitate second language (L2) development by providing learners with opportunities to focus their attention on language and to collaborate in the solution of their language-related problems (e.g., Choi & Iwashita, 2016; Storch, 2013; Swain & Lapkin, 1998; Williams, 2012). However, most of these studies have focused almost exclusively on L2 learners, and particularly on English as a second language learners. In an effort to address this gap and drawing from a sociocultural framework, this study investigated the interactions of Spanish heritage language (HL) learners and Spanish L2 learners enrolled in the same class. Twenty-four intermediate-level learners of Spanish, organized in four HL-HL, four HL-L2, and four L2-L2 dyads, participated in the study. As part of their regular class work, they completed four collaborative writing tasks in pairs. Participants were also asked to individually complete a pretest and two posttests. The tasks and tests were intended to elicit the present subjunctive in nominal and adjectival clauses. The interactions between each pair were recorded and coded for the nature of the relationships the learners formed (Storch, 2002) and the quantity and quality of learners’ deliberations about language choice, using Language Related Episodes (LREs) (Swain & Lapkin, 1998) as units of analysis. Results showed that the most common type of patterns of interaction the learners developed was collaboration. Moreover, three pairs displayed a dominant/passive pattern of interaction and two pairs an expert/novice pattern. Results also indicated that overall, participants produced slightly more LREs focused on form than LREs focused on lexis. Furthermore, results showed that whereas all pairs produced morphosyntactic LREs, they were more frequent in HL-L2 dyads. Lexical LREs occurred more often in L2-L2 dyads, and orthographic LREs occurred only in HL-HL dyads. With regards to learning gains, results revealed that six participants obtained high scores in all tests and did not show a score change from pretest to delayed posttest. Five of these participants were identified as HL learners. However, data also showed that 16 participants scored higher on their delayed posttest than they did on their pretest. Overall, considering that most dyads developed a collaborative pattern of interaction and achieved learning gains after task-based interaction, the data suggest that despite the differences in linguistic and cultural backgrounds, learners in mixed and matched pairs provided assistance to one another and produced LREs associated with the target structure. These findings have important pedagogical implications and thus, future studies need to investigate the best practices for teaching HL and L2 learners simultaneously and the types of tasks that encourage collaboration.