Digital Recording Platforms and Integrated Performance Assessments in Second/Foreign Language Learning

Digital Recording Platforms and Integrated Performance Assessments in Second/Foreign Language Learning

Pete Swanson (Georgia State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch029


The teaching and learning of a new language can be daunting for both instructors and learners. Second/foreign language teachers must overcome a multitude of impediments in which to bring students to higher levels of language learning. Research using digital voice recording software indicates that by integrating such technology into the curriculum, there are multiple benefits for both instructors and students. In this chapter, the author discusses the challenges language teachers face and then outlines six free digital voice recorder options that are available to teachers. Afterward, the author advances a series of curricular and procedural considerations for the integration of digital voice recordings in the language-learning classroom before discussing findings from studies focused on the use of digital recordings for educational purposes. The chapter concludes with a discussion of best practices using digital voice recordings for integrated performance assessments and a discussion of new avenues for future research.
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Developing and nurturing student engagement in the 21st century classroom continues to be a challenging endeavor regardless of content area given a multitude of obstacles such as the perceptions of irrelevance of content and the affective barriers. Moreover, the high stakes testing educational environment has overwhelmed many teachers as instructional time is lost due to working around testing schedules in the required content areas (Zellmer, Frontier, & Pheifer, 2006). While few would not support the notion of high educational standards and expectations for every student, No Child Left Behind has prioritized instruction in and the allocation of resources to the core areas of science, mathematics, and reading (Swanson, 2010), resulting in narrowing of the curriculum (Rosenbusch, 2005; Rosenbusch & Jensen 2004). The challenges teachers face can be especially daunting for novices, those within the first five years of teaching, because many times they are given the most challenging assignments with little to no professional support (Kalogrides, Loeb, & Teille, 2011) and have little voice in the creation of school policy (Futernick, 2007).

While all teachers learn to contend with such barriers to teaching and learning, second/foreign language (S/FL) teachers must learn to overcome other obstacles such as student perceptions of the irrelevance of authentic language applications and lowering student anxiety about learning a second language. Theoretically, when the affective filter is high, a student may experience anxiety, stress, and a lack of self-efficacy that hinders second language acquisition. Conversely, a low affective filter facilitates risk-taking behaviors when practicing and acquiring a new language (Krashen, 1981). For S/FL language teachers, performance anxiety — the feeling of uneasiness, worry, nervousness, and apprehension experienced by non-native speakers when learning or using the target language —is often reported as one of the most influential factors that can impede or facilitate language learning (Horwitz, 2001; Krashen, 1985; Swanson, 2013a). Despite the factors that can impede language learning, the use of innovative technology combined with best practices in teaching languages can help foster a low-anxiety language learning environment and improve student motivation to learn languages.

Working within these constraints and many others, teachers continue to work admirably to get the most out of every instructional minute in the classroom while trying to enhance student achievement as class sizes continue to increase. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the challenges, which S/FL teachers face, present six digital recording platforms that can help improve P-20 S/FL learning by student lowering anxiety and increasing instructional time, discuss curricular and procedural considerations of using a free and open source software for oral language assessment, present existent research using technology for such purposes, and provide best practices for using digital recording software for assessment purposes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Second/Foreign Language (S/FL): For the purposes of this chapter, whether an individual is part of a language program termed as foreign language , immersion , or even second language , the teachers and their students are collectively grouped as S/FL teachers and students because they share the same educational goal, learning a new language.

Traditional Method of Oral Language Assessment: An approach where instructors assign speaking tasks and then listen to and evaluate student performance in class.

Performance Anxiety: The fear an individual experiences when requested to perform in front of an audience.

MP3 Files: A digital audio recording file format that compresses the size of the file for storage purposes.

Affective Filter: The Affective filter is a theoretical screen between learners of a second language and the input needed to learn and acquire a second language. If the filter is high, the learner is blocking out input. Conversely, if the filter is lower, more input is received. Learning environments with low levels of anxiety are deemed better for language learning.

Oral Language Assessment: The evaluation of an individual’s speaking ability in the target language.

Three Modes of Communication: The three modes describe the Interpretive domain (the appropriate cultural interpretation of meanings that occur in written and spoken forms), the Interpersonal domain (active negotiation of meaning among people), and the Presentational (the creation of oral or written messages).

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