Beginning French II, Old Dominion University
The proposed course will be beginning French II that is offered in hybrid and traditional face–to–face formats. Students range from undergraduate freshmen to seniors and graduate students of diverse backgrounds from all 50 states and more than 80 nations. The beginning French II hybrid section makes use of the online content materials developed through Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative, and the traditional beginning French II sections rely on variations of the online or printed textbook version of “Points de départ” and student activities manual. The approach of each course, regardless of format, is consistent with the goal areas of ACTFL’s world readiness standards for learning languages, including the five C’s: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. The goals of both course formats are to move toward communicative competence and an appreciation for Francophone cultures. To that end, the learning outcomes of the course are:
- to communicate orally and in writing in natural sounding French and in culturally appropriate ways
- to read with comprehension both informational and literary texts taken from authentic French sources
- to understand French when spoken by a variety of people using authentic speech patterns and rates of speed
- to increase awareness and understanding of cultural institutions and culturally determined patterns of behavior
- to develop critical thinking skills as they apply to language learning
- to link language study to broader and complementary discipline areas
incorporating tele-collaborative conversations using TalkAbroad will facilitate students learning of the French language and the Francophone world with meaningful real-world practice that will better prepare them to transition from beginning to intermediate levels of study.
The beginning French two courses are designed for the student who has had no exposure to or training in the French language. It provides a solid foundation in the language, grammar, and civilization, stressing an aural/oral approach. Through class participation and use of online course content, students are encouraged to use French by speaking and repeating simple phrases and vocabulary on a daily basis in order to build a solid base of vocabulary and correct grammar structures.
The hybrid course is an interactive video-based course and is divided into thematic lessons of one week duration. The beginning of each lesson is always a step sequence, from simple recognition of language in a video dialogue to written and spoken production of variations on that language. A number of activities are offered to the students in which the language learn is used in understanding new texts or videos or any creative production (conversation or writing). similarly, the traditional course format focuses on the Francophone world through integrative, process oriented approach to the development of language skills. Each course format provides for a doctor learning giving the students greater freedom with the content and tailoring the course to students’ individual needs. Consequently, students progress through the weekly course content at their own pace and are more fully engaged in their own learning process.
Because our current course curriculum has limited class contact hours, an online telecollaborative component is necessary for students to practice speaking. For the purposes of this study, telecollaboration will refer to “the use of online tools to connect language learners in different countries for the development of collaborative project work and intercultural exchange” (O’Dowd, 2007). Our online tool will be the TalkAbroad platform for synchronous interaction.
In the past, an effort was made to incorporate “free” online versions of a telecollaborative “exchange” into the course curriculum with disappointing results. Scheduling conflicts, participation commitments, language level appropriate conversations, and technology glitches are routine challenges (O’Dowd, 2007; Bohinski & Leventhal, 2015; Chun, 2011). Students were asked to go online with native speakers who were not properly trained to engage with beginning level students of French. Participation was not always guaranteed and there was no way to provide the native speaker with purposeful assignments in advance or at all. Conversations tended to go off track and result in student frustration with the language. Lapses into English were commonplace. This curriculum plans to remedy this.
The proposed curriculum will develop students’ intercultural communicative competencies with the use of dedicated telecollaborative conversations online using TalkAbroad. Two purposeful assignments with native speakers from TalkAbroad will engage students in real-world situations in order to practice vocabulary and grammar structures acquired in class beginning as early as week eight (greetings, likes/dislikes, family, studies, leisure activities, and immediate plans for the future) and again in week 13 (greetings, clothes/fashion, cell phones, living arrangements, and events in the past). A speaking rubric will be used to assess students’ recorded conversations, including: comprehensibility, fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and task completion.
To demonstrate oral proficiency (the production of appropriate and meaningful communication), the course is aligned to the NCSSFL/ACTFL “Can-Do Benchmarks” for interpersonal communication and interpretive listening from novice–low to intermediate–mid. These statements are intended to be progress indicators for students to use as a self assessment tool (National Standards, 2015). Students are able to use the benchmarks as a pretest or self assessment before and after their meeting with their international partner. In such a way, students are able to set personal goals for the next synchronous interaction. More importantly, students can use the benchmarks and the TalkAbroad experience to feel confident about their functional language use. In turn, this confidence builds motivation that will help students to succeed not only at the beginning language levels, but will inspire students to continue to the intermediate and advanced levels of study. Such an experience will also help students better understand the Francophone world and the importance of language study as a whole that may encourage them to consider study abroad opportunities.
Students will be asked to reflect on their growth and progress with the telecollaborative conversations using Google’s e-Portfolio. As part of the weekly self reflection process, students will be required to write about their impressions of the TalkAbroad experience, including their perceived linguistic improvement (confidence in speaking, understanding of spoken French, and understanding about the Francophone culture of their partner). In this way, students are able to validate their French language process and, as a formative assessment, determine where they need to focus more attention before their next telecollaborative conversation assignment. An emphasis on carefully planned telecollaborative conversations and project management will be key to better assisting our students to transition to the next level of French with confidence in their communicative and intercultural competencies.
The results of our curriculum development project provide promising evidence of the potential benefits of tele-collaborative conversations at the novice level for French language study. Not only were students motivated by the real-world application of the two telecollaborative conversations, but they were also able to process their own language learning progress with the Can–Do Statements. This learner centered approach helped to chart a course for improvement from assignment 1 to assignment 2. E-Portfolio impressions as well as the survey comments reflect the overall project as a motivating factor that prompted students to review in preparation for the second conversation. This preparation often included research on the home country or city of the native speaker. In addition, a better understanding of cultural differences was revealed in some of the 30 minute recorded conversations as students went beyond the scripted assignment. A newly developed appreciation of lifestyles, politics, education, etc. was apparent. Moreover, some Old Dominion University students expressed an interest in study abroad activities.
With the success of the tele-collaborative project, our French faculty has plans to incorporate telecollaborative conversations at all levels, from French 101 to advanced levels.
- “The TalkAbroad program was great. I had great and amazing partners from Canada. They were all honest and easy to talk to. The TalkAbroad experience, I can say I have learned a lot and therefore want to travel to different Francophone countries to experience more of their culture and traditions.”
- “Even though the TalkAbroad conversations made me ridiculously nervous, was actually very helpful.”
- “It was really hard in the first assignments because I didn’t know what to expect. I was not ready. With the second conversation I prepared myself more carefully and the conversation partner was really interesting to talk to. I noticed a good improvement.”
Betty Rose Facer, Old Dominion University