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Crosspollinating Universal Design for Learning and Computer-assisted Language Learning: A Case Study

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportRapportForskningpeer review


  • Henrik Kasch
Abstract in English

This PhD dissertation examines the viability of combining Universal Design for Learning (UDL) - and computer-assisted language learning (CALL) posing the research question: What happens to language learning processes if learners are furnished with augmented compensatory or remedial means of representation in foreign language classrooms and how can this contribute to existing studies in both computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and universal design for learning UDL?

The study is primarily a qualitative empirical case study inspired by critical realism - especially intensive critical realist studies combining hermeneutic-phenomenological method with a critical realist epistemological stance. The research question has been investigated against two general hypotheses:

I) a UDL-CALL cross-pollinated learning design is viable, not only struggling learners and learners with disabilities can benefit from remedial functions in the design and
II) these functions can be used and pedagogically designed to reach out to and be of assistance to both mainstream and struggling learners’ language learning processes.

These two general hypotheses underpin three corollary hypotheses, fleshing out the two general hypotheses on how UDL-CALL designs may be of help to the whole language classroom:

Hypothesis 1: UDL-CALL learning designs are useful to all learners, i.e. can help students in general and not just struggling ones to learning engagement in ways that support foreign-language acquisition and/or their learning processes in general.
Hypothesis 2: Learners use functionalities in different but pedagogically viable ways in their language-learning process, and functionality usage is expected to vary across student performance strata.
Hypothesis 3: Creative or unexpected non-remedial (but still pedagogically viable) uses of functionalities are expected and may even go beyond originally intended assistive-remedial uses.

The theoretical underpinnings of the investigation and the object of study derive from theories applied in and pertaining to the combined UDL and CALL fields of research. Theoretically, the study examines the conditions for theoretical viability of cross-pollinating UDL and CALL in a study of a classical CALL model and the classical UDL model of the learning brain. Empirically, the viability is studied in three serial classroom interventions in Danish year-seven English-as-a-foreign language (EFL) classrooms. To the end of empirically studying UDL-CALL designs and provide all learners in foreign language classes with UDL-inspired functionalities, a UDL-CALL design Ebook-prototypes have been constructed by the author using the CAST.org Bookbuilder platform. The study uses three texts from an existing EFL course book for Danish state schools. The individual Ebook prototype is informed by the above theoretical study of UDL-CALL viability. It features a native (English) text-to-speech with synchronous highlighting functionality, bilingual (English and Danish) compendious contiguous, i.e. not lemma- or base form-based, multimodal glossing (text and sound and where deemed multimodally semiotically helpful pictorial glossing) as well as re-telling functionalities in English and Danish and a response field for reflecting on the text read. Interviews of consenting students representing different levels of EFL performance have been carried out by the author to construct knowledge with the informants of how they used functionalities (if they did), what it felt like to use them and what they thought about how these could help them to learn English (if they thought they could). Interviews (n = 32) were transcribed aiming at verbatim standards and iteratively coded in a dialogue with theory ensembles with the CALL and UDL fields as well as state of the art empirical research.

Findings present a case for the viability of cross-pollinating CALL and UDL in foreign language teaching. The general viability of a UDL-CALL design in EFL classrooms is offered support by findings suggesting that, generally, the design studied tends to promote a reading-plus behaviour conducive to language learning in all learners and to lead to increased overall learner engagement by its augmented access to language input. The design also appears to reach out to struggling learners, promoting inclusive practice by augmented access to textual meaning content and language input in general.
ForlagAarhus Universitetsforlag/Folkeuniversitetet i Aarhus
Antal sider471
StatusUdgivet - 8 nov. 2021

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