Grammar for French Studies
Grammar for French Studies
Dr. Peter Tame, French Studies, School of Languages, Literature and Arts
The Area of Study
Approximately 140 students study French every year at level 1. Students with A-level French take French Studies A and B which are compulsory. For these modules, there are 5 classes per week:
- three elements of Français Pratique designed to develop complementary language skills: Français Pratique I is organised around aspects of contemporary French life and society; Français Pratique II focuses on the consolidation of grammar; Français Pratique III is the oral component of the language course.
- Contextes du Français (lecture)
- Contextes du Français (seminar)
The students are typically post A Level or post Leaving Certificate (98%). Their level of ICT skill is variable, although the assumption is that they have had some exposure through the ICT Induction offered by Information Services to all new students prior to starting the courses. The students also get some ICT support in their Français Pratique I element e.g. learning about PowerPoint.
The ICT Element
PROF is a CALL grammar package written primarily for level one undergraduate learners of French but it may also be useful at post GCSE / Advanced level. The package is intended to enable the learner to revise and consolidate his/her knowledge of French grammar. It is divided into twelve chapters; each chapter contains an overview, a brief description of the grammar point to be revised followed by a dialogue, a longer grammar presentation and sets of exercises.
The package provides the essential grammatical foundation of the language. It is an important component for enhancing students' grammar skills as it has replaced the teaching of grammar. There are grammar tests but they are not part of the overall assessment procedure.
Originally, the students studied the material during supervised classroom sessions in the Faculty of Humanities' computer rooms. Having spent some time supervising classroom sessions, staff felt that they did not need to be there; this led to a change in the way the package was used. There was a move from a tutor-directed class session to autonomous learning with an interim period where there was a tutor present at the start, and then the students were left to work through the material on their own. The package has now moved to the University's Language Centre computer rooms and students are expected to use the material in their own time.
Incentives to Innovate
Grammatical accuracy is vital to all aspects of French studies. Previously, staff had given lectures on grammar but these were found to be dull, and clinics and remedial sessions did not work. Furthermore, neither staff nor students were satisfied with the grammar book that was being used in tutorials and lectures. It was felt that a computer-based package might provide a guided, but more lively and interactive way to consolidate basic knowledge of language structures. In addition, the approach could be flexible and more tailored to the needs of the student; students could return to review areas of difficulty as often as they felt the need.
The material was developed as part of the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP), which ran at QUB from 1993-1996. Peter Tame was the subject expert and worked with an educational technology consultant funded through the TLTP. There was a lot of staff input both in how it was developed and is used. In 2003, Dr Tame secured some funding through the University's Innovations Fund to update the package in collaboration with the Educational Technology Unit.
Following the development of the package an evaluation was carried out which sought to assess student satisfaction and identify what aspects required change. More recently, it is now seen as part of the course delivery and is evaluated as part of module evaluations. The students make little reference to it; it appears largely to be taken for granted.
Effects of ICT Embedding
- Methods of delivery used by the tutors have moved from a structured teacher-led face-to-face session to a more autonomous model where the student works through the material according to his/her needs
- Initially teacher-guided but now student led i.e. students take responsibility for studying the package.
- Greater degree of interaction with the grammar materials
- Students have more control over timing and content of study; the students decide what and when they study.
- Students receive immediate formative feedback through grammar tests.
- Developing their knowledge and application of grammar.
- Offers some application and thus development of ICT skills
- Develops students' self-organisation/autonomy i.e. they decide when and what to study.
Management of the module/course unit:
- Students can easily access the materials through the Student Computer Centres in their own time.
- Supports dealing with the diverse needs of large student numbers
- Staff do not have to spend so much time on the basic grammatical skills; they can focus on other areas that are more difficult, such as translation, résumé writing, and so on.
The programme has proved to be very successful in providing accelerated, autonomous training for individual students at Level 1. However, feedback from staff and students indicates that the package now needs to be updated and enhanced by:
- providing a spoken version of the dialogues. An audial version will
- reinforce and consolidate the students' understanding of rules and structure in grammar,
- develop and improve students' listening ability and audial comprehension, and
- help students to improve their pronunciation of French.
- extending the feedback currently available to provide a more detailed and tailored explanation of grammatical points/errors.
- integrating the existing material with Queen's Online. This will enable staff to monitor students' use of the learning materials through the student tracking facilities, and their progress in grammar exercises through the assessment tools.