Friday, August 26, 2011

Anna Kolesnikova expects computer-delivered grammar tutorials to have a real place in the study of second language acquisition at the college level in the future.

“Many people don’t want to see explicit grammar in the classroom and I believe they are correct,” said Kolesnikova, a teaching assistant in Russian at the University of Iowa who earned her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition in May, 2011. “You should use classroom time to make students communicate and learn about the culture. In this way, we will see students utilize more and more tutorials outside the classroom that help them learn grammar.”

Kolesnikova’s dissertation, entitled “Investigating effects of computer-based grammar tutorials,” examines the effectiveness of these tutorials. Her research focuses on three different modes of computer-based tutorials in German – one with static text that can’t be edited and voice-over narration, one with animated text and a voice-over narration, and one with a recording of a real teacher.

Kolesnikova concluded that all three modes can be effective tools for language learning as along as the information is organized.

“The studies show that rarely is one mode better than another,” Kolesnikova said. “If one mode is better, it’s because methodology favors one of them. I was doing everything to not favor one of the modes.

“If you look on YouTube, there are thousands of different tutorials. Students use them, but research hasn’t focused on them.”

Kolesnikova uses an inductive learning approach in the classroom. During each session, she devotes five minutes of class time to grammar, with the remaining time spent speaking, writing, and answering questions in the second language.

Students learning via this method can study grammar through online tools, which means they can use class time to acquire language skills best learned through personal interaction.

“I believe you have to have a conscious knowledge of grammar to help you improve faster,” Kolesnikova said. “If you have this kind of jump start, it helps you progress better because you don’t require discovery-based learning where you learn the rules by yourself from examples or practice. That approach works well, but it takes a while.”

Since earning her Ph.D., Kolesnikova worked part time for the UI’s International Programs this summer, assisting the Fulbright Scholars during their stay at the University of Iowa. Kolesnikova recently received a part-time teaching position in the UI’s Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures.

For this native of Moscow, Russia, the University of Iowa feels like home.

“People here are amazing,” Kolesnikova said. “You feel like you’re a family in FLARE.”

FLARE (Foreign Language Acquisition Research and Education) is the interdisciplinary program at the University of Iowa that sponsors the Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition.