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Computer Based Independent Language Learning versus Teacher - Fronted Language Learning

Can a Dynamic Usage-Based (DUB) approach (Verspoor & Nguyen Thi Phuong , 2013) delivered through a computer based independent language-learning program be as effective as a teacher-fronted Program? This paper reports on a quasi-experiment at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka, among 216 first year undergraduates of the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce. The experiment consisted of three conditions: two based on the principles of a DUB approach and one based on the current method used at the university: a task based communicative language method (tCLT). Instructional materials for the two DUB conditions were based on a popular movie divided into two-minute segments and focussed on input, repetition, and scaffolding until the language is understood. The same DUB materials were presented through two different modes: (1) PowerPoint with the teacher presenting the input, text, and scaffolding (DUBp) and (2) a computer program presenting the input, text, and scaffolding (DUBc), which students worked through at their own pace.
Participants were tested on holistic development, operationalised as the difference in the pre and post English proficiency tests consisting of grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension and, writing. The writing samples were holistically graded on general proficiency based on complexity, accuracy, and fluency measures (Verspoor, Schmid, & Xu, 2012). Willingness to communicate (WTC) and self-confidence (SC) questionnaires were administered to the tCLT and DUBp groups, while free responses were solicited from the DUBp and DUBc groups on their views on the interventions they had been exposed to.
The results show that after one semester, the DUBc group performed significantly better than the tCLT and DUBp groups on receptive general English proficiency, and the three groups were equivalent on measures of productive general English proficiency, WTC, and SC. With regard to the free responses, the DUBc group has more positive views about the approach than the DUBp participants do.
Verspoor, M., Schmid, M. S., & Xu, X. (2012). A dynamic usage based perspective on L2
writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21(3), 239-263.

Verspoor, M & Nguyen Thi Phuong ,H (2013).A dynamic usage-based approach to Communicative Language Teaching. European Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(1) 22–54.


Mufeeda Irshad    
Department of English
University of Groningen

Mufeeda Irshad is a senior lecturer in Business Communication at the Faculty of Management Studies and Commerce, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. She has over 20 years of experience in teaching English as a second language at tertiary level. Mufeeda obtained her MPhil in Linguistics from the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. Currently, she is pursuing her PhD in Applied Linguistics at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Her main research interests are computer assisted language learning and a dynamic usage-based approach to second language development.

Marjolijn Verspoor    
Department of English
University of Groningen

Marjolijn Verspoor(Ph.D. 1991, University of Leiden, Netherlands)is associate professor at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and at the University of the Free State, South Africa. Her research is focused on second language development from a usage based, dynamic systems perspective and on second language instruction based on dynamic usage based principles.


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