The following Action Research plan was created using the four-stage procedure described in Craig Mertlers book Action Research: Improving Schools and Empowering Educators. The four stages are: planning, action, developing and reflecting. All of these are reflected in the study below.
Having a topic or a question that is too broad will make it difficult to design and measure a study. I have narrowed down my ideas to identify a problem concrete enough for action research.
Problem: French level 4 students struggle with conjugating verbs correctly in their writing and speaking. Why? They don’t know their conjugation. Why? They don’t do drills. Why? They aren’t fun. Why? It’s repetition and takes effort.
The topic of my action research is to find out if technology can help my students increase their accuracy with verb conjugation when writing and speaking.
My fundamental action research question is: How does technology affect student accuracy with verb tenses when writing and speaking?
This is a topic of high importance for foreign language teachers, since successfully creating a sentence will always involve using a verb. Students inability to utilize verbs correctly results in misunderstandings, poor test scores, the inability to compete in the National Contest, low confidence in their abilities to communicate effectively, and an over-reliance on resources to both speak and write, impeding them from communicating openly and spontaneously in the target language. In my 8 years of teaching I have yet to find a method to help the majority of my students reach a competent level of spontaneous communication. The few that study hard or have strong recall can master this skill, but the rest struggle their whole high school language career. Finding a way to help them to use verbs accurately and confidently would be an incredible breakthrough in my class as well as impact the other classes in our World Language department.
I settled on this idea after seeing how blended learning and the use of technology can positively impact a foreign language classroom. The studies I read which led me to this conclusion are available in my Literature Review.
The participants of this study are level 4 Honors French students. They are mainly juniors in High School and have French first period every week, with 40 minute classes Monday Wednesday and Friday and two 55 minute classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The class is 80% White and 20% various minorities including Turkish, Indian, Filipino, Chinese and Middle Eastern. None of the students in this class are economically disadvantaged. 40% of the students have a GIEP (Gifted Individualized Educational Plan) and 10% have an IEP. All of them speak English as their first language and none of them speak the target language at home, although 2 are bilingual in a different language. All of the students in the class have smartphones which is the device of choice for the research study.
The results of the study were to be shared with the faculty members in the World Language department, 11 members at the High School level of which all but one are female.
Procedures and instruments
The purpose of the action research study is to discover if the consistent use of technology in a blended classroom can affect accuracy with verb conjugation when speaking and writing, as well as in a typical standard test.
The implementation as well as observations began in December 2017. The students were given an initial survey on SurveyMonkey to measure their level of confidence with verb conjugation as well as their attitudes and outlooks regarding the technology which they were expected to use. The technology chosen consisted of three online sites: Conjuguemos, Duolingo and Quizlet. Students were asked to access these with their smart devices through the free apps. They joined the classes created by their teacher so that their progress could be monitored. Devices were available in the classroom for students whose devices were dead or not functioning.
Each first period class began with a 5 minute verb drill on the site Conjuguemos. Their goal was to achieve an 80% on the assigned tense. No more than 10 minutes per class were allotted for this activity.
The students used Quizlet Live two times per week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in class to review the same tense that they were working on with Conjuguemos.
Students were assigned that same Quizlet and completed the flashcard and matching activity each week. This was their homework and was completed outside of class.
The third site they used was Duolingo which reviewed basics through a variety of games. Duolingo was also completed outside of class and the weekly goal was to collect 50 xp, which is the equivalent of points. These three sites were used during the entire 8 week action research study.
The last step to the procedure was to have the students complete a final survey to gauge their level of confidence and perceived level of competence with verb conjugation, as well as their perceptions of the sites they used over the 8 weeks. It was crucially important that the same methods and the same assessments be used during the entire 8 weeks, making the measurements reliable and valid.
The rest of the class activities continued to be the regular mixture of readings, listenings, writings, class discussions and review games.
Data and Analysis
This is an exploratory mixed-method study combining mainly quantitative research data with a qualitative survey. Before the procedural implementation began, in January of 2018, students took the t-test baseline assessment to test their basic knowledge with verb conjugation in French. This was a 27 question summative assessment used as the repeated measures t test. They were tested on the 9 tenses they learned during the previous year. The tenses were as follows: present, perfect, imperfect, pluperfect, conditional, past conditional, future, future perfect and subjunctive. It is pertinent to measure their competency in this area as they were retested with the same exact test at the end of the 8 weeks to measure the differences.
During the first two weeks the data collected consisted of both their scores on Conjuguemos. Completion rate of the weekly two activities on Quizlet as well as completion of the goal on Duolingo was also collected. Assessments were given every two weeks consisting of a 100 word journal writing and a 1 minute spoken recording for which they had 3 minutes to prepare. These were graded for verb usage accuracy only. They were tested on week 2, week 4, week 6 and finally week 8. Those scores were collected as well with computer software. Finally they were given the repeated measures t test that they took before the procedure began. Results were collected and compared with the initial results in a graphics chart. The qualitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics to establish both measures of central tendency and measures of relationship between the results on the sites and the results on the assessments. Computer software was used. The data was recorded in Google Sheets and then charted in graphics to reveal any variations and changes over the 8 weeks. Survey answers were analysed and coded to identify consistencies between any perceived benefit of the sites as well as confidence in their ability and increases in verb accuracy.
In summary, data was recorded and measured in the following areas:
- Perceptions of the technology
- Level of confidence with their skill
- Percentage of completion of the weekly Duolingo, Conjuguemos and Quizlet assignments.
- Weekly average scores for Conjuguemos drills
- Verb accuracy rate with journal writing
- Verb accuracy rate with recorded speaking
- t-test results (both at the beginning of the study and at the end)
Find samples of the survey, the t-test, and the written assessment here. [link will be included]
Timeline for action research
- December 22nd 2017: Administer the survey
- January 3rd 2018: Administer the t-test
- January 8th 2018: Begin to implement the technology
- January 22nd 2018: Writing assessment (speaking one day later)
- Feb 5th 2018: Writing assessment (speaking one day later)
- Feb 19th 2018: Writing assessment (speaking one day later)
- March 5th 2018: Writing assessment (speaking one day later)
- March 7th 2018: Administer the t-test
- March 8th 2018: Administer the survey
- March 2018: Assess and organize the data, create graphics and write conclusions
Sharing and communicating results
Any statistically significant results were presented and discussed at the Department Meeting in April 2018, as well as communicated with the Administration at the High School.
[Results will be summarized in this section and graphs and the Google Sheet will be included as well]
Reflecting on the process
Reflection is the key to growth. After conducting the survey it was important to take some time to revisit the action research plan itself and examine what worked, what did not work, as well as what might be done better next time. Obtaining concrete results regarding an initiative is hard work and yet also very satisfying. The process itself will be sure to be repeated with other problems/ challenges in the World Language department, yet there are always ways to improve or streamline the process. Insights and thoughts based on the experience were recorded for further use and consideration when implementing another action research study of this type in the future. [Any significant reflections for change will also be included here]
Mertler, C.A. (2016). Action research: improving schools and empowering educators (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.