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Nevine Kamal CEP 822 Article Review The effect of computer-based grammar instruction on the acquisition of verb tenses

in an EFL context. Abstract In this article, the authors Abuseileek and Rababah presented the results of two experiments that compared between computer-based grammar instruction and teacher-based grammar instruction. Each method involved teaching particular verb tenses using two teaching approaches: ruleoriented approach and structure-guessing approach. The results of the post-tests revealed that the computer based instruction group with its two subgroups- rule oriented and structure guessingout performed significantly the teacher-based grammar instruction groups. In addition, the results showed that both teaching methods-computer-based and teacher- oriented with the two approaches rule oriented and structure- guessing were effective in teaching English verb tenses. The abstract was not clear enough as it did not identify the research problem and the reason for carrying out such study. The abstract was not specific and illustrative of the article. It lacked indicating the problem of the study, the major hypothesis, and the subjects who participated in the study. Literature review The article touched on previous studies in the field of ESL teaching and technology. They pointed out that research stressed that computer assisted language learning (CALL) has provided varied and meaningful ways to help ESL students master the language. Computer activities could be used for multiple purposes ranging from drill and practice exercises to real authentic communication. The authors emphasized that although computer-based grammar instruction has much potential for EFL learners, it has not received the same attention as communicative CALL. The authors summarized the advantages of CALL that have been reported in landmark articles. In general, the advantages of using CALL could be attributed to the fact that computer adds variety, interactivity and individuality to the learning experience. In addition, studies showed that using CALL activities reduces class teaching time by 30% and allow learners to be in control of their own learning. Most importantly, by using computers for the presentation, explanation, and application of grammatical points, more classroom time could be dedicated to real communication that focuses on expressing meaning and using appropriate grammatical structures to express the meaning. The authors pointed out the fact that research in the field of computer-based L2 grammar instruction in rare. They reviewed some of the important literature in the field of computer-based L2 grammar instruction and reported on important studies such as Nagata (1996), Nutta (1998),

Torlakovic and Deugo (2004). Such studies indicated the effectiveness of computer-based grammar instruction for L2 learners and in some situations, computer based grammar instruction was more effective and beneficial that teacher-based grammar instruction. Since the study was based on measuring the effectiveness of teaching methods and approaches, the researches discussed specifically two teaching approaches: rule-oriented and structureguessing. Grammar is usually introduced to ESL learners using either approach. The authors defined these terms to help the readers understand the procedure and aim of the study. Deductive instruction or rule-oriented is a process in which learners are taught the rules first and are given specific information about the language at the beginning of a language class before engaging students in language practice. On the other hand, inductive method or structure -guessing is a process that involves exposing the learner to samples of language from which students will be able to identify patterns and reach generalizations. The researches emphasized the fact the both methods are beneficial in L2 grammar teaching and learning. The authors pointed out that as far as the literature is concerned, there are only two studies (Doughty, 1991 and Robinson, 1996) that investigated the effectiveness of both approaches -deductive and inductive- in L2 grammar teaching and learning. Not only this, but few studies compared the effectiveness of deductive approaches in traditional teaching and computer-based teaching. Therefore, according to the authors, the aim of this research is to fill up the gap in this area in the field of L2 grammar instruction, in particular in Saudi Arabia. The study did not cite clear review of the literature in a detailed and coherent way. The three studies that were cited by Nagata, Nuta, and Torlakovic and Deugo about the positive effect technology in teaching L2 grammar were not discussed in details and were not related to each other to allow the reader understand the purpose and the conclusions such studies reached. In addition, this article did not mention any further studies that showed contradictory results in the area of computer-based grammar instruction for L2 learners, though there are some important ones in this area. Moreover, the authors referred briefly to Doughtys study (1991) and Robinsons study (1996) that compared the effectiveness of two deductive teaching approachesrule-oriented and structure-guessing. The researchers did not provide any summary of the articles to help the readers understand the effectiveness of each approach in learning L2 grammar. Some definitions should have been mentioned; especially that terms such as computer assisted language (CALL) and computer assisted instruction (CAI) recurred several times in the article. On the other hand, the researchers defined the terms deductive and inductive approaches.

Problem The problem statement was not clearly-if not at all- stated in this article. The problem was not visible to the average reader, and it required several readings to establish why the researchers felt this study needed to be done. In my view, it was limited to the researchers capabilities and resources. Neither the need for the study nor the hypothesis/ hypotheses is clearly stated in the present study.

Objectives and research questions The purpose of the study was to compare the effectiveness of computer-based grammar instruction and traditional-based grammar instruction as well as the two teaching approaches rule-oriented and structure-guessing in both contexts for freshmen English majors in the English Department at King Saud University instruction. The researchers clarified the two terms as follows: rules-oriented grammar instruction means introducing the rules to L2 students first and providing illustrative examples. Structure-guessing approach means introducing illustrative examples first that help learners reach the rules themselves after giving them time to think about the examples and help them reach generalizations. The researchers identified five specific research questions: 1- Are there any significant differences between the groups due to method of instruction (computer and traditional)? 2- Are there any significant differences between eh groups of learners due to teaching approach (structure-guessing grammar instruction versus initial rule-oriented grammar instruction)? 3- Are there any significant differences between the individual verb tenses due to method of instruction (computerized and traditional teaching), and teaching approach (structure-guessing and rule-oriented)? 4- Do computer-based structure guessing and rule-oriented instructional treatments have an effect on acquisition of verb tenses as measured by the post-test? 5- Do teacher driven structure guessing and rule oriented instructional treatments have an effect on acquisition of verb tenses as measured by the post-test? The purpose of the study was clearly and concisely stated and agreed with the title. The authors objectives were answerable. The researchers wanted to test the hypothesis whether computer based grammar instruction is as effective as teacher driven grammar instruction.

Procedures and Methodology Setting and subjects The study was carried out at King Saud University during the fall semester of 2005-2006. According to the researchers, the classes were conducted in the media lab. The subjects of the study were 128 male freshmen students enrolled in remedial grammar classes. The study focused on the following grammar topics: simple present tense, simple past, simple future, present perfect, and present continuous. The subjects were divided into four groups and were taught by the same teacher forming two experiments based on the teaching method: Group 1: Computer-based structure -guessing instruction (28 students) Group 2: Computer-based rule-oriented instruction (33 students) Group 3: Teacher-driven structure- guessing instruction (30 students) Group 4: Teacher-driven rule-oriented instruction (28 students)

The aim of having four groups is to compare the effectiveness of teacher and computer based instruction with regard to rule-oriented and structure guessing approach. The authors did not mention whether the sample was random or nonrandom. While this was a good sample size, the problem lied with the distribution of the sample. A larger sample with regard to all groups would have aided in the data analysis. It is worth mentioning that the authors did not describe in details the socioeconomic background of the subjects to help the readers to construct a clear picture of the whole setting. In such studies, it is necessary to mention the mean age of the subjects and their educational background. In addition, nothing was mentioned about their level of English and whey they were enrolled in grammar remedial classes. Furthermore, the structure of the program and the remedial grammar classes were not explained. On the whole, the description of the subjects and the setting is very limited and vague. Such deficiency did not help the readers to construct a clear view of the whole process. Whats more, the researchers mentioned that the four groups were taught by the same teacher, but they did not identify who that teacher was: was he one of the authors or a different teacher? Besides, nothing was mentioned about the background of the teacher in terms age, experiences, qualifications, and gender. Likewise, the researchers did not mention the process by which they choose the students for each group and what needed to be done to overcome the uneven number of the subjects and how such thing would not affect the results of the study. To add, the researchers did not point out the fact whether the subjects were aware that they participated in the study or not. Instructional software, material and tests To implement this study, the authors developed two types of instruments: a software program and pre-post tests. An instructional program to teach five English verb tenses: simple present, simple past, present perfect, present continuous, and simple future has been developed. The authors used PowerPoint presentation software for the instructional program for its feasibility, availability, and ease of use. The researches added animation and graphics to make the program interactive to a certain extent and interesting. Links to relevant websites related to the topics students study were added to the program. Net-support school program was used to send and receive assignments and feedback on assignments. The material was developed in two versions: computer-based and teacher driven. In each version, the material was presented using the two deductive approaches: rule-oriented and structure- guessing. Both versions were identical but one was presented in a paper form for the teacher-driven classes and computerized form for the computer-based instruction. Both versions were identical in terms of verbs, sentences, dialogues. The only difference was the type of feedback students received. A test was designed by the researchers and was used as a pretest and a post test. The aim of the pre-test was to measure the subjects knowledge with regard to the required verb tenses. In

addition, the pre-test was used to find out any significant differences between the groups before the instruction. The same test was used as a post-test to measure the effectiveness of computer based and teacher driven instruction. The test consisted of of ten multiple choice questions with four choices for each item. One is the model answer and other three distracters. All the tenses were mixed. The pre-test was given two day prior the beginning of the study and the post test was given after four weeks at the end of the study. At the end of the study, all groups received the same test, but the teacher-driven groups received paper-based test and the computer-based group received computerized test. To ensure test validity, the researches gave the test to three experts in remedial grammar instruction to review the test in terms of clarity of instructions, relevance of questions to the content that was studies, and suitability of distracters. The recommendations of the experts were taken into consideration and implemented. Not only this, the test was piloted as midterm exam for two semesters for a number of sections to ensure its validity. Cronbachs Alpha- measuring instrument- was used to determine the acceptability of the test. The authors explanation of the instructional instruments, participants, and methods lacked depth and brought up several questions with regard to the reliability and validity of the software program, instructional material, and tests. In terms software program and material, the content of the program as well as the printed material were not validated by other experts or a validating committee to ensure the suitability of the content to objectives of the study. In addition, the authors did not mention the source they referred to for developing their instructional material. Furthermore, there was no mention of the weekly hours students have to spend in class or in the lab for their grammar course. Though, the authors claimed that the computer based group and the teacher driven group received identical information, they did not justify how web-links that were included computer-based instruction were compensated in the teacher-based instruction. It seems that by including such links, the two groups did not receive the claimed similar instructional material and this has risked the validity of the instructional instruments. As for the test (pre-post tests), though the authors mentioned that it was validated by a group of experts to ensure its relevance to the course contents, clarity of instructions, and suitability of distracters, the authors over looked mentioning the time frame students had to take answer the questions, the marking scheme (blind grading or not), the proctoring procedure, and the marker (the researchers or someone else). Such information is necessary to identify the validity and reliability of the tests and the software program. Furthermore, the researchers mentioned that the post test included ten multiple choice questions with four distracters to measure the students mastery level of taught verb tenses. Readers might questions the reliability of such a short text and that it could not used as an indicative of the students competence level in grammar. Though the authors provided sample of screen shots of the program that was used for computerbased instruction, they disregarded any information with regard to the role of the teacher during the lessons. As readers, we could not identify the role of the teacher in the teacher-driven instruction and the method for error correction. Besides, the authors did not clarify the type of computer based instruction and how it was conducted, for example, did the teacher monitor the students during the lab sessions and answered their questions or such classes were totally self-

study. Moreover, it was clear in the article where the teacher driven classes were conducted- in the lab or regular classroom. Such information is essential to ensure the validity of settings. Needless to say, the researchers ignored mentioning their role in the study; in other words, who taught these classes and what are the teachers or teacher qualifications and experience? Another point that is worth mentioning is the fact that the authors did not define or explain what is meant by Cronbachs Alpha and the reason for using this measuring instrument to validate the pre-post test. Finally, the authors did not mention in this section that focusing only on male students would limit the results of the study and another study needed to be carried out with female students to be able to draw generalized results. One last point, the study was relatively short as was pointed out later. The researchers mentioned that it took only four weeks during the fall semester in 2005-2006. A longer study would give more reliable data and allow drawing more general conclusions. Statistical analysis The authors discussed the statistical techniques they used in the study. The independent variables were computer-based versus teacher-driven instruction and rule-oriented versus structureguessing instruction. The dependent variable was the scores of the post test. The researchers used multiple statistical measures such as means, standard deviation, ANOVA, and Multiple Comparison to find whether there were significant differences between groups scores of the post-test. Analysis of the pre-test showed that there were no significant differences between the groups and thus any differences in the post test could be attributed to the method of instruction. The methods and instruments used to analyze the data were generally explained, but no detailed discussion of the statistical techniques was given in this particular section of the article. Results There was a need to find if there was any significant difference between the pre-post test results of groups in method (computer-based versus teacher-oriented), and approach (structure-guessing and rule-oriented). One-way ANOVA analysis of variables was used for pre-test scores; the results revealed that there was no significant difference among the four groups. The researchers concluded that any difference on the post-test could be related to grammar instruction and not due to prior knowledge. Furthermore, the researchers revealed that there were significant differences between the mean scores of the four groups on the pre-post tests. They concluded that such difference could be related to the instruction the students received whether teacherdriven, computer-based, rule-oriented, or structure-guessing. The five research questions that were proposed by the researchers were answered. The first question Are there any significant difference between the groups of learners due to method of instruction (computer-based versus teacher-driven instruction)? was answered and the results revealed that there was a statistically significant difference at (p.05) between the mean scores of the computer-based instruction and teacher-driven instruction on the post test. The difference

was in favor of computer-based instruction and the researchers concluded that computer-based instruction could be more effective in teaching English verb tenses. To answer the second question posed in this study, a comparison between the two groups (structure-guessing approach and rule-oriented approach) was made to find whether there are any significant differences between them. The results of the t-test (T=6022, p. <.5) showed that there was a significant difference in favor of the structure-guessing approach in the two groups (computer-based and teacher-driven instruction) versus the rule-oriented approach in the other two groups (computer-based and teacher-driven instruction). The researchers inferred that structure-guessing approach is more effective that rule-oriented approach in teaching the tenses included in this study. The third question Are there any significant differences between individual verb tenses due to method of instruction (computer-based versus teacher-driven instruction), and teaching approach (structure-guessing versus rule-oriented)? was answered by having comparisons among different verb tenses to find any significant differences among them. The mean score of the structure-guessing approach for both teaching methods (computer-based and teacher driven instruction) was higher than the rule-oriented approach for both teaching methods (computerbased and teacher-driven instruction). The results of post tests revealed that structure-guessing computer based instruction group out performed rule-oriented approach for both teaching methods. This was the case for simple present, simple past, simple future, and present continuous. Yet, the results of the present perfect tense showed that there were no significant differences among the four groups. Finally, to determine impact and effectiveness of the method and approach of instruction on acquiring particular tenses, ANOVA test and Multiple Comparisons instruments were used to reveal any significant differences among and within the groups. The results showed significant differences between the groups in favor of computer-based instruction and structure-guessing grammar approach. On the other hand, there was no significant difference between students performance in rule-oriented group and structure-guessing teaching driven group. On the whole, the results were well organized, sectioned, presented, and reported objectively. The tables were well organized, but due to the complexity of the statistical instruments used, this would not stand alone to the average reader. Using mean and slandered deviations was meaningful and consistent with the effort made to find out the difference among the four groups. Conclusion This section is general consistent with the results of the study and attempted to provide and integration with literature. The conclusion section highlighted some important findings such as computer-based group outperformed the teacher-driven instruction in all tenses except for the present perfect. The authors pointed out that the results of their study were in the line of other studies such as Nuttas (1998) and Torlakovic and Deugos (2004), whose results provided evidence for the positive effect of using CALL in teaching grammar. The researchers reported the positive impact of using technology in learning ESL grammar. They pointed out that the use of technology tens to make the class more interesting so it creates motivation. Technology helps

students to control the pace of learning and make choices in what and how to learn. Use of technology can improve the critical thinking skills. Furthermore, technology provides students with natural and authentic context in which they can practice the language. Results pertaining to the teaching approaches, the results of the study were in the line of Doughtys (1991) that asserted the effectiveness of structure-guessing approach in teaching grammar. The results of the present were in favor of the structure-guessing approach over ruleoriented approach in teaching verb tenses except for the present perfect tense. The researchers explained the reason why students scored low on the present perfect tense when taught by structure-guessing approach. They attributed this to two main reasons: first, the complexity of the structure and that it involves different overlapping using that makes it hard for the language learner to conceptualize them. Second, there is no present perfect tense in Arabic. The researchers also attributed the low performance of students with regard to simple future when taught by rule-oriented to the fact that this tense has difference uses in English which are not found in Arabic. For this section, the authors did not provide a brief review of the purpose of the research and the research problem that urged them to carry out such study. There was no summary given to provide continuation of thought and create coherence to the article. The conclusion was based on the findings; yet, it did not logically discuss some of the findings and relate them to literature, especially those attributed to the low performance of students with regard to the present perfect tense and simple future. It is worth mentioning that the findings of the current study come in the line with the theoretical and practical studies surveyed in the article in which the studies that provided evidence for the effectiveness of using technology in learning ESL grammar. Nevertheless, the authors did not mention other studies that showed contradictory results, and this could be a weak point in the research. In addition, the authors attributed the low performance on present perfect tense to the above two mentioned reasons, yet, this conclusion was not supported by literature. The authors relied in the fact that they are Arabs and provided an explanation that has to be supported by literature. Furthermore, the authors provided a vague explanation to the fact that students scored low on future tense when taught by the rule-oriented approach. This brings up several questions: first, if this tense was used differently in Arabic and that made it hard to conceptualize, how student were able to score better in the structure-guessing than rule-oriented. Moreover, their explanation was not supported by literature. Furthermore, no clear examples from Arabic were provided to enable readers to see the differences. Limitations and Recommendations The authors identified several limitations that needed to be taken into considerations. They pointed out the results of the study cannot be generalized because of the limited number of participates, the short period of the study- four weeks, and it excluded female students due cultural and administrative factors that were uncontrollable. In addition, administering a post test

and a mid-term post test at a later stage would allow the researchers to draw more reliable results. Recommendations were limited to a call for further research to investigate the similarities and differences between the learners native language and English on the acquisition of verb tenses using structure-guessing and rule-oriented approaches in computerized and traditions teaching contexts.

List of references The format used in listing the references was consistent and all references given were cited in the article. The authors cited a variety of articles. They referred to old and recent journals, and graduate studies in their research. In contrast, the researchers did not rely on books in their essay as they referred to one book only. Overall critique To conclude, this study focused on identifying the effect of computer-based instruction in learning English tenses versus traditional teacher-based instruction. Two teaching approaches (structure-guessing and rule-oriented approaches) were investigated in relation to the above mentioned theories. The results of the study came in general consistent with the literature that reported the positive effect of using technology in learning English verb tenses. The authors successfully showed the relationship between teaching methods and approaches and acquiring specific verb tenses. The article was laid out in easy to read format. Yet, it could be difficult for ordinary readers to identify the type of relationships the authors wanted to establish and identify. The researchers failed to explain the relationship of technology in learning ESL grammar with the approach of instruction. The method of instruction was touched on briefly supported by brief review of literatures. Whereas, the instructional approaches (structure-guessing versus rule-oriented) were briefly mentioned and were not supported by enough literature. The authors cited some relevant references in the literature review section and the discussion section pertaining to the effectiveness of computer-based instruction in teaching ESL grammar. The literature review was limited to some extend and was not well summarized nor coherently discussed to how the existing relationships between the two teaching methods (computer-based and teacher-driven) and the two approaches (rule-oriented and structure-guessing). It is necessary to point out that are several issues that the researches overlooked and were reported earlier in the review. I will touch on them briefly since they have been already mentioned. It was obvious that the researches did not define some of the important terms. Such definitions would have been helpful in following the article. The problem of the research was not clearly stated though it could be implied as the reader reads through the article. In addition, there was no clear hypothesis stated in the article, though readers can identify the relationships the authors want to establish. The authors did not provide clear explanation of the history of the subjects (age, background, education level, majors, and level of

English, contact hours of instruction in English per week). The method of instruction was not clearly stated as well as the role of the teacher in this study. In addition, the researchers did not mention the source they used for the material they developed. Moreover, giving a test of ten Multiple choice questions was not a clear indicator of the students mastery of the required grammatical points. The results and findings were stated well organized and reported. Nevertheless, the researchers did not refer literature to explain some of the findings, in particular, the low mean scores of acquiring present prefect. They were satisfied by claiming that it is not found in Arabic and thus, it was hard to conceptualize by Arab students. The conclusion was in general logically stated, but it needed further support from the literature to ascertain its value. The researchers relied on the fact that they both are Arabs and explained why it was hard for students to acquire English present perfect and simple future. A comparison between these structures with the Arabic structure supported by enough literature would have been more informative and valuable. On the whole, there was a definite need for further review of literature to develop and support the study. The article did get a little complicated in reporting the data due to the type of research questions posed in the study and the complicated-to some extentstatistical procedures. Overall, though there are quite significant drawbacks in the article, this study has shed light on the benefits of using computers in learning English grammar. It also has attempted to bridge the gap between theoretical and practices sides of using CALL in teaching grammar in Saudi Arabia. Finally, this study may encourage other researchers to conduct further studies on the same topic, which would enrich relevant literature.

References AbuSeileek, A., & Rababah, G. (2007). The effect of computer-based grammar instruction on the acquisition of verb tenses in an EFL context. The JALT CALL Journal, (3), 59-80. Retrieved February, 6, 2011 from http://jaltcall.org/journal/articles/3_1&2_AbuSeileek2.pdf