Design Thinking in EFL Context:Studying the Potential for Language Teaching and Learning Dr. Debopriyo Roy CLR Technical Communication Laboratory University of Aizu
Introduction• This article is an exploratory attempt to understand whether and to what extent web design analysis as a higher order thinking process could be integrated in a content-based foreign language classroom in a country like Japan.• Is web design analysis a worthy exercise, benefiting students by cultivating substantial thinking skills and helping to produce original content?
Motivation for Online Writing• The issue of using web pages for teaching writing is raised in Tan et.al. (1999).• Trokeloshvili and Jost (1997) concluded that public displaying of student text on a student home page highly motivates students to conduct writing and publishing.• Belisle (1996) argued that networked collaboration like using e-mail and sharing files help learners create, analyze, and produce information and ideas more easily and efficiently.
Motivation• Website evaluations or usability studies have dramatically evolved over the last decade or so.• They include conceptual discussions on what should be evaluated and how to do it (Instone, 1997; Neilson, 2000).• Web analysis has the potential to be a beneficial exercise (Bunz, 2001; Spyridakis, 2000) and more so in an EFL context.
Web Analysis in EFL Context• It might not be easy to implement web analysis practices in an EFL setting.• Students with little English background have a general tendency to produce English text using translation software, copying from other sources with minimal or reasonable rephrasing (Yamada, 2003).• A web design project in that sort of a learning environment has the potential to quickly turn into a mundane visual presentation and artifact through excessive and sometimes exclusive focus on page templates, style guides, text- graphic coordination, but with very little original text production for the websites.
Web Analysis Context• During a website analysis exercise students read the text and graphics in the web page, besides exploration of the layout and design, and comment based on what they see and understand.• There is less possibility for the reader to copy the text material directly from the website under investigation, as is possible during reading comprehension.• During website design analysis, readers are rarely ever asked to comment on the textual content, but rather the designer spends time on the design of text, graphics, menu and the overall screen design and navigation.
Research Focus• The major research question for this study relates to readers’ (students with computer science majors in this EFL context) ability to successfully explain design decisions by studying specific websites of interest, in an English language course.• Further, the qualitative study as reported here, attempts to understand if readers are more comfortable with specific types of design queries as opposed to others, and fare consistently better or worse over time.• This study attempts to understand the extent to which EFL readers are able to comprehend different aspects of web design, equipped with summative background lectures provided (at the beginning and middle of the semester) to make design decisions.
Significance of the Study• The website analysis assignment in an EFL classroom is significant for various reasons:• 1. It allows for a comprehensive understanding of the extent to which readers could understand information organization, design and layout.• 2. It allows for an understanding of the extent to which readers used meta- cognitive assessment strategies, and variety of thinking with questions that are broad in nature.• 3. This assignment will help explain the extent to which readers, with their levels of English language processing ability, and assessment strategies are comfortable answering certain questions as opposed to others.
Elements of User Experience Model• The research questions developed for user analysis in this project are based on the following broad guidelines.• Provide content that is engaging, relevant and appropriate to the audience (Spyridakis, 2000).• Use all available resources to better understand users’ requirements (Adkisson, 2002).• Ensure that the website format meets user expectations, especially related to navigation, content and organization (Lynch and Horton, 2002).• If user performance is important, make decisions about content, format, interaction, and navigation before deciding on colors and decorative graphics (Baca and Cassidy, 1999).• Consider as many user interface issues as possible during the design process (Zimmerman et al., 2002).
Metacognitive Reading• Students have various strategies to make reading and comprehension relatively more effective.• Students in Japanese EFL contexts have extensively adopted meta- cognitive reading strategies like skimming, scanning, reading headlines, using dictionaries, translation etc. in analyzing technical texts and results have shown superficial and often surface level ability to comprehend, analyze and write about a technical text (Roy, 2010), while similar results have been observed in other EFL situations (Maghsudi and Talebi, 2009).
Reading Strategy and Web Analysis• Metacognitive reading strategies will influence readers ability to analyze information organization, design and layout, grouping, navigation, audience analysis etc.• Neilson (1997) has demonstrated that the website analysis task is different from any other reading task, because it requires an analytical mindset, analysis and resultant English text production in a specific design context. Also, ability to explain a design and layout might not always incorporate reading and comprehending the entire text in the web page. Readers might get away with merely understanding the headlines, the menu items, the introductory sentence of a paragraph etc. (Neilson’s Alert box, 1997).
Web analysis and Higher Order Thinking• Krug (2000) points out that design needs to be intuitive. However, in an EFL context where language proficiency is limited, unless writing exercises demand that design decisions be explained, there is no way an output (a superior web page designed) in itself could explain whether designers (students in EFL or other context) have properly understood the design decisions and broader implications.• Van Hoosier-Care (1997) describes the website assignment as a rhetorical exercise in the technical communication classroom. It is important for the reader to understand the conceptual process of designing a website, include the rationale of the project, target audience, purpose of the website etc (December and Ginsberg, 1995).