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Impact on Students

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?

Improved Learning

The oral proficiency skills of students in the redesigned course were tested in reading and listening using assessments designed around guidelines from the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages. Students in both groups were also assessed using the regular Spanish placement examination used by the University, and mid-term and final exams. Finally, students engaged in a Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview—a more complex measure of proficiency.

Students were first given a pretest on these measures in which no differences were found between students enrolled in traditional sections and those enrolled in redesigned sections. On the Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview, redesign students performed significantly better than traditional students on six of eight dimensions of language proficiency. There were no significant differences between the two groups on the remaining two dimensions. There were no significant differences in foreign language proficiency or achievement between the traditional and redesign groups on the post-tests, although the results for the redesign group were generally slightly higher.

After these findings were established in the spring of 2001, the redesign was more fully implemented, but there were variations in delivery mode. The first finding in the fall of 2001 was that students performed significantly better under a three-day rather than a two-day meeting schedule. In the spring of 2002, the course team investigated the interaction between the experience of instructors and the weekly meeting format. The collective findings of the various implementation phases suggested that under the redesigned course format, a two-day meeting schedule could produce student outcomes equivalent to a three-day format if experienced personnel taught the redesigned course. The pedagogical changes in both the in-class and on-line components of the course probably work in concert and help compensate for any loss in contact time.

Improved Retention

There were no significant differences in retention rates between the traditional and redesign groups.

Other Impacts on Students

The impact of cognitive style on student outcomes was investigated using the Strategies Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) as an independent variable to predict student performance on mid-term and final examinations, together with whether or not they experienced the traditional or redesigned format. The overall results of these analyses did not indicate any significant differences between the redesigned course and the traditional course in terms of learning strategies and styles. These results suggest that the redesigned course does not discriminate in favor or against any particular approach to learning any more or less than the traditional course.

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