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Investigating the effectiveness of web-based stylistics teaching Dawn Archer, Mick Short & Stephanie Strong Lancaster University This presentation will.

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1 Investigating the effectiveness of web-based stylistics teaching Dawn Archer, Mick Short & Stephanie Strong Lancaster University This presentation will probably involve audience discussion, which will create action items. Use PowerPoint to keep track of these action items during your presentation In Slide Show, click on the right mouse button Select Meeting Minder Select the Action Items tab Type in action items as they come up Click OK to dismiss this box This will automatically create an Action Item slide at the end of your presentation with your points entered.

2 2 The pilot experiment Pilot testing the web-based introductory stylistics course for first year undergraduates References –Short, M. and D. Archer (2003) Designing a world-wide web-based stylistics course and investigating its effectiveness. Style 37(1): –McIntyre, D. (2003) Using foregrounding theory as a teaching methodology in a stylistics course. Style 37: N.B. Course not complete: drama section taught by lecture/ seminars –One term course –Three hours of contact time: students encouraged to work in pairs

3 3 Investigative instruments Questionnaires –Initial –Medial (after poetry and prose) –Final (last week of the course) Tape-recorded interviews (following questionnaires) Tape-recorded focus group discussions (following questionnaires) Observations by tutors and observers of workshop sessions Informal

4 4 Initial questionnaire: topics covered Their familiarity with the web Their views as to the perceived (dis)advantages of web-based courses Their attitude towards paired-work Their previous experience of English language in general, and stylistics in particular … All had several years experience … Main advantage: Able to review material/work at own pace … Main disadvantage: Impersonal/tutor contact limited … 40 against, 19 in favour … Mixed

5 5 Mid-course questionnaire Scale reflecting students general opinion of the course overall Very interesting Not at all interesting Easy Difficult Clear Unclear Fun Boring + - Advantages - material can be reviewed/can work at own pace - able to discuss ideas with partner Disadvantages – No tutor/two-hour session too long/hard on eyes

6 6 Our response to the mid-way feedback –Tutor-led group discussions –Students also given 10-minute break after the first hour However, whole group discussions were proving problematic Switched to small discussion groups Students not expected to work solidly for two hours –Computers too noisy/room layout not amenable –Proved popular –Reasons given: helped to break down shyness barriers, less intimidating, easier to hear, a break from the screen, more personal

7 7 Scale reflecting students general opinion of the course overall Very interesting Not at all interesting Easy Difficult Clear Unclear Fun Boring End-of-course questionnaire

8 8 Perceived (dis)advantages (in hindsight) Disadvantages –Too much stuff/grammar sessions too difficult –A criticism of the course, whether web-based or lecture/seminar-based Advantages –Paired-work ultimately seen as a positive (2-to-1) NB. Paired-work could still prove problematic, especially if partner missed a session or worked at a different pace –Accessibility (especially useful for revision) –Length of sessions –Self-taught (= no lecturer present?) –Too demanding (especially in respect of time)

9 9 Changes to be introduced 3 X 50 minute sessions New venue – dedicated to Linguistics teaching More amenable to teaching - Able to split the groups, enabling better group discussions Better screens - Less tiring on the eyes

10 10 CWA results Issue of controlled variables … Students, texts and markers were different However … Mick acted as a standardiser for sample scripts Standardisation also a feature of the Self Assessment project (McIntyre et al, this conference) No significant statistical difference when compared to last years marks (52.7 compared with 55.4 (53.5: 57.1 if zero marks discounted))

11 11 Conclusions … to date Web-based courses do not disadvantage students Students prefer combination of lecture/seminars and web- based materials Course rating good (but not as good) Social element difficult to replace Web-based learning best when distance-mode


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