Promoting Spoken Interaction and Student Engagement With Board Games in a Language Teaching Context

Promoting Spoken Interaction and Student Engagement With Board Games in a Language Teaching Context

James York (Tokyo Denki University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2015-4.ch001
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This article provides information on an action research project in a low-level EFL setting in Japan. The project aims were to 1) foster spoken communication skills and 2) help students engage with their own learning. The project investigated the applicability of board games as a mediating tool for authentic communication as part of a wider TBLT approach to language development. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from 115 first- and second-year Japanese university students via teacher observations, informal discussions during class time, and a questionnaire at the end of a seven-week intervention. Responses to the questionnaire indicated that the framework was perceived to be valuable in both fostering communicative skills and improving student engagement. Methodological improvements were also suggested. Implications applicable to teachers working in similar contexts are discussed, as well as possible improvements for future implementations.
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An explorative framework for conducting game-based language teaching (GBLT) is introduced in this paper. This terminology is nascent in the field of second and foreign language teaching, and applied linguistics in general, where, I argue, there is an over-focus on learning, with little teacher mediation (see York, deHaan & Hourdequin, 2019; deHaan, accepted for publication). The framework was designed in accordance with task-based language teaching (TBLT) theory and practice. This paper presents a report of preliminary findings regarding the implementation of the framework in a beginner-level context at a Japanese university. Data was gathered in the form of classroom observations, informal questioning of students during class time and a formal questionnaire given to learners at the end of a 7-week implementation. The questionnaire contained both qualitative and quantitative measures and this paper provides a detailed analysis of students’ responses to both, as well as implications for future implementations.

Context of the Study

The framework under review in this paper was designed to be used in low-level English classrooms. This specific domain was selected based on two criteria.

Firstly, the author of this paper is involved in teaching low-proficiency learners. Additionally, the author is based in Japan where there is a call from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to improve English teaching pedagogy in order to foster communicative skills more effectively. MEXT aims to nurture students that can “assertively make use of their English skills, think independently, and express themselves” (2014, p.3). I argue that teaching from a constructivist perspective is key to achieving MEXT’s goal. Pedagogical considerations should include learning through the joint creation of social experiences and encouraging learners to become active agents in their learning. The model introduced here was designed to promote such skills.

Secondly, there is a growing number of studies appearing that investigate the use, and benefits of virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and commercial off the shelf video games in a number of contexts, both educational (for a review see Clark & Jeremy, 2010; Squire, 2011) and language learning specific (Peterson, 2016, Reinhardt, 2019). The common research paradigm for exploring the implementation of games in language learning contexts is for researchers to use digital games (Peterson, 2011; Allen, Crossley, Snow & McNamara, 2014) and to focus narrowly on the affective and cognitive benefits of games for learning. That is, often in laboratory experiments or extracurricular contexts with little to no teacher mediation prescribed (Rama, Black, van Es, Warschauer, 2012; Scholz & Schulze, 2017). For board games, research is still immature despite the potential benefits of the media in low-level EFL classrooms. These benefits range from affective and cognitive benefits for students to ease of implementation, familiarity, cost and policymaker-appeasing benefits for instructors (see Jones, unpublished thesis). In this paper, a theoretical rationale for a particular instantiation of a GBLT pedagogical intervention and a report on the effectiveness of the designed framework in promoting student agency and engagement is provided. A preliminary evaluation of the framework by a group of 115 learners is analyzed and discussed, which inform future implementations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

GBL: Game-based learning.

GBLL: Game-based language learning.

SLA: Second Language Acquisition.

DGBLL: Digital game-based language learning.

ZPD: Zone of proximal development.

L1: First language (in this study - Japanese).

L2: Second language (in this study - English).

MEXT: Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

GBLT: Game-based language teaching.

TBLT: Task-based language teaching.

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