Graduate Student Sheena Steckl Receives UTA

CLCS graduate student Sheena Steckl receives a UTA for her work with first-year Arabic students. Below is the transcript of her proposal for the project.

 “Flipping Arabic: Online Grammar Lessons and a Communicative Classroom”

The purpose of this UTA is to improve learning outcomes and increase language proficiency among first-year Arabic students.  The flipped classroom method has been used in STEM courses to improve learning outcomes by increasing class time spent engaging with content.  In these programs, instructors assign video lectures for homework and class time is instead spent with the instructor supervising and coaching students as they work through equations and solve problems.  Foreign language courses have recently began adopting these techniques, creating grammar videos for students to watch at home, leaving class time free for communicative language learning and speaking with peers.  Communicative language teaching (CLT) is based on the notion that students learn a language by using it, communicating with other in real-world scenarios.  CLT has proven to be an effective form of language instruction, but time constraints leave instructors rushed to teach grammar while also allowing time for communicative activities.  This problem is exacerbated in Arabic classrooms, as the grammar system is vastly different from English—research has demonstrated that the rate of language proficiency is reduced when the L2 has dramatically different structures from the L1—a lot of class time is spent teaching grammar.  For this reason, Arabic students would benefit from online grammar instruction in lieu of traditional homework assignments.  

It is believed that employing a flipped classroom methodology in Arabic can lead to increased proficiency.  One of the benefits of presenting grammar online is that students can pause and replay videos as needed, and they can revisit lessons at a later date.  This allows students to learn the grammar at their own pace: students who need a concept explained more that once can take the time to watch the video again, while other students may not need to do this.  Many instructors employing flipped techniques in their language classrooms use existing educational videos found on the internet, but because Arabic is not taught in the US as much as other languages such as Spanish and French, there is a paucity of existing quality resources.  Furthermore, creating videos specifically designed to accompany course materials ensures the planned curriculum can be followed and video lessons can be tailored to the needs of students at the U. Increasing proficiency among Arabic learners is especially significant because student surveys have revealed the majority of students seek to use their language skills in a professional setting and are not simply filling a graduate requirement.  

This UTA project combines a number of innovative teaching methodologies to improve learning outcomes for Arabic learners.  Furthermore, the ACTFL testing will allow for a quantitative assessment of proficiency pre- and post-flipped classroom implementation.  Such data is uncommon in educational and foreign language instruction research, so findings can be analyzed and published.