Personal PD (cont.): Does CALL Make a Difference?

Leaky, J. (2011a). Chapter 3: Has CALL made a difference. In J. Leaky. Evaluating Computer-assisted Language Learning: An integrated approach to Effectiveness Research in CALL (pp. 59-72). New York: Peter Lang.

Summary

In this chapter, Leaky (2011) examined the various ways that CALL researchers have attempted to explore the effectiveness of CALL interventions. He carried out this work by discussing the four major debates of CALL efficacy research; viz., whether or not CALL leads to learning gains, whether or not CALL is comparable to non-CALL pedagogies, what combination of pedagogical interventions are best for learners, and what measurables should be focused on in efficacy research. His discussion showed the steady evolution of CALL research towards a greater focus on theory-based, data-driven analyses of CALL and its impacts on language teaching and learning. He concluded by offering suggestions for future CALL efficacy research, which were centered on four areas: awareness of resource development and selection criteria, clarity around the teaching context and its influences on language learning, focus on the pedagogical interventions used, and an investigation of how CALL is integrated into the language learning curriculum.

Response

As I learn more about CALL, I’m actively seeking pieces that address one of my greatest concerns. Specifically, most CALL professionals that I have interacted with have been so excited by their work—and, it’s refreshing to see an academic passionate about their field—but, they seem to favor technology over pedagogy. I’ve seen too many presentations on how corpora tool X will revolutionize my students’ ability to acquire academic vocabulary, or how grammar checker Y will lead to professional quality writing by my novice students. In this piece, Leaky states unequivocally that CALL only works when it is a logical extension of pedagogy. That is pedagogy, and the needs of the students must come first. Then CALL should only be implemented as a support for pedagogical choices and to scaffold student learning. This is, to me, critical in thinking about CALL’s place in ELT. Also, Leaky (2011) provides a good tool-for-thought when it comes to evaluating CALL interventions through the paradigm presented in his conclusion (see summary, above)

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