This project will use screen-recording software to monitor students of different skill levels as they engage in a standardized writing task. The written product and composition process for each student group will then be compared. This project will also have a longitudinal aspect, as students will be monitored multiple times throughout their academic careers.
The project will initially enroll approximately 50 first year university students. First, ethnographic methods will be used to categorize the educational histories of the participants. Variables such as IELTS score, nationality, and nature of secondary education (Arabic vs. English, public vs. private) will be considered. The participants will then perform a standardized writing task. The task will be recorded and the recordings, along with the written product, will be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. In terms of product, variables to be measured may include error rate, sentence length and complexity, and orders of thought (higher vs. lower). In terms of process, revision rate, typing speed, cut and paste activity, and cursor location (indicative of the writer’s locus of attention) may be measured. Connections between these variables and educational histories will then be charted, as will any potential connections between writing behaviors and quality of written product. To provide insight into how process and product change in response to university education, the participants will be tested multiple times throughout their academic careers.
This project responds to the basic problem of helping students who are speakers of English as an Other Language learn content in STEM fields more easily. The project proposes to develop and test the efficacy of a suite, or set of web-based and other types of applications that could be used by students and instructors in and out of class time as learning supports. These might include the use of immediate captioning of lectures through Microsoft Presentation Translator, captioned/annotated videos of recorded lectures; text-to-voice mobile apps for reading assignments; vocabulary banks for technical terms; and other as-yet unidentified applications as well. The project builds on two principles. First, it is design-based and builds on information collected about learning practices in and out of the classroom to design interventions (solutions) that are ecologically sound. Second, the project assumes that interventions need to be unobtrusive, requiring little or no alteration of curriculum or instruction. This second principle points to the need to develop applications mainly for use by students rather than course instructors, although instructors will be aware of and may offer input into the design and content of the applications. This research also builds on the ongoing analysis of data on Moroccan university students’ learning of English collected as a Fulbright Senior Scholar (2014-2016).