Cognitive Skills through CALL-Enhanced Teacher Training

Cognitive Skills through CALL-Enhanced Teacher Training

Jane Vinther (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-065-1.ch008
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The efficacy of computer-based activities that can incorporate grammar as well as language acquisition is at the centre of debates in CALL and SLA. The concern for this chapter is the integration of CALL in the language classroom in a blended learning environment that includes the acquisition of grammatical content and its effect on language acquisition at a level where the learners are proficient users and communicators. The courseware under investigation was shown to be an effective learning tool for the metalinguistic curriculum and the acquisition of particular English structures, such as tenses and adverbials, but not for morphology. The results give grounds for the conclusion that, if the courseware invites students to apply cognitive skills (rather than mere drills), there will be an effect on language acquisition through the knowledge of grammar.
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Several studies in a number of countries have found that language teachers often appear to lack sufficient background knowledge of the metalinguistic syllabus, including the lack of a metalanguage in which to talk about language (see for instance Newman & White, 1999). The same is the case for student teachers in Danish universities. When Danish and other Nordic students enter university, they are already proficient users of English with eight to ten years of English language learning behind them. They are basically treated like native speakers in the expectations they are met with concerning reading and comprehension skills. However, they lack knowledge of some of the formal aspects of the language and the ability to discus linguistic and conceptual aspects of the language in metalinguistic terms (Borg, 2003; Vinther, 2004). Grammar is an unfamiliar concept to many of them, and the little explicit grammar instruction they did receive in their pre-university education was on a very basic level and functional/pragmatic in nature.

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