Blended Learning for the Improvement of In-class ParticipationDavis Grant: IBIS Project Carlos BenavidesDepartment of Foreign Literature and Languages University of Massachusetts DartmouthSpanish Composition and Conversation I (SPA 301), Fall 2010April 1, 2011
Increase student f2f participation through online activities as part of a blended course. General course objective: Understand and use a variety of conversational strategies and techniques in order to engage in meaningful conversations in Spanish that cover a wide range of topics, social interests and issues, including those relating to Hispanic culture. Goal
Offer and ask for opinions Express likes and dislikes Express agreement and disagreement Request information Be familiar with and use terms related to film and culture Describe and explain events and situations in a story Summarize and explain the plot and other elements of a story Student Learning Objectives (SLOs or outcomes)
1. Students post comments and questions on discussion board about some aspect of a movie. Questions may be answered briefly online by classmates, but must be answered in more detail in f2f class discussions. 2. Students search for and read movie critiques online. On the course Wiki students post critiques (in Spanish) that they have found online, and writes a comment on the critique they have posted. Students expand on their comments in class. Planned online and f2f activities
Online and f2f activities designed to optimally achieve one specific goal and its outcomes; this information explicitly stated in course syllabus. Providing students with time off from regular class sessions so that they have ample time to participate in online activities. Online activities consisted of four extended myCourses discussion board activities and two course Wiki tasks. Design
Typical in-class activity designed to fulfill the relevant course objective: students wrote down questions about the current movie that they had posted online, and went around the class asking these questions to other students as well as answering classmates’ questions. This resulted in lively conversations that could last up to 20 minutes. Instructor walked around the class answering questions from students and making sure they spoke in Spanish, stayed on topic, and interacted with as many students as possible. Students enthusiastically applied the outcomes in both online and f2f discussions and activities. This, however, not fully reflected in survey results (see below).
In-class observations: Based on these observations, online discussions helped increase student f2f participation, in comparison to past semesters. Students completed a survey towards the end of the semester. Goal of survey: determine whether the online activities had enabled students to increase the amount and quality of their participation in the f2f discussions. Data collected
Survey results: Of the 11 students in the class, only 3 gave the highest ratings (4-5) for question 3, which inquired about the increase in the amount of student participation in whole-class discussions (therefore a key question). Question 5, the second key question of the survey, which asked about an increase in participation in group or pair work in class. 3 students gave the highest ratings of 4-5. Results and Analysis
Results slightly better for question 4, which inquired about an increase in the quality of participation. 4 students responded with a rating of 4-5. Results somewhat puzzling, given the enthusiastic way in which students engaged in f2f discussions. Possible reasons: at the time of completing the survey some students did not make a clear connection between online discussions and in-class conversations. Survey results (cont.)
Since the survey instructions made reference to both myCourses and the course Wiki, some students possibly did not think the Wiki had been as useful for f2f discussion as the discussion boards and therefore responded with low ratings for questions 3-5. The responses to questions 6 and 7 of the survey can be compared with those in a survey that I conducted six semesters ago in all my classes, where students’ replies with respect to the use of myCourses ranged from comments expressing a high degree of enthusiasm to “not necessary.” Present survey: in response to question 6 one student commented: “I strongly dislike both Wiki and myCourses because I feel that they are not helpful with class material, but rather an added stressor.” Survey results (cont.)
Similarly for question 7, a student observed: “Neither one [myCourses and Wiki] should be used. Class time is precious and should be used. Online work is no replacement for other traditional learning.” Positive comments: for question 6: “I think it [online component] was helpful for participation and I got a better understanding of the material.” Survey results (cont.)
This and similar comments provide some evidence that one of the expected benefits―namely, that students incorporate in f2f discussions what they have generated online―came to fruition. Professor Shawn Towne, my mentor in this project, conducted a class observation as well as a brief survey. To the survey question of what helped students learn in this particular class, 80% responded with “Face-to-face” interaction, which provides some support for conclusion that online discussions helped increase student participation in class. Finally, making explicit on the syllabus that the online discussions would be extended in class probably helped increase student f2f participation, which has encouraged me to do the same in future courses.
Given the data collected from both my survey and Professor Towne’s survey, as well as my experience-based assessment that student in-class participation increased significantly, I consider this a successful project. Conclusion