Evaluating a Combination of Training Methodologies Course Work

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The purpose of this study is to present, implement, and evaluate a combination of instructional methodologies/strategies beyond current practices for teaching Arabic language to military personnel attending the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey, California. The intent of such instruction is that students (military personnel) will improve their pass rates on the various examinations that test their listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency in Arabic. Furthermore, this must be done in a way that also provides a subjectively improved classroom experience, both in terms of education and enjoyment.

This study will be qualitative in nature, and will consist of interviews conducted at various points throughout a manufactured framework for the Arabic Language instructors teaching Arabic as a second language at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). The study will provide a realistic oral proficiency preparation and practice whether it is for the military purposes or for civilian needs. The primary metric for testing this hypothesis is to determine whether an overall more productive and enjoyable classroom experience is gained through these new methodologies.

This study will determine a wide range of successful instructional methodologies by applying counseling or one-on-one and negotiation instructional methods delivering the Arabic language to American military students in a 24 week course. This has the potential to lead to surpassing or equal results of the (DLI) 61 week course, which mainly focuses on oral proficiency. This will be done while considering the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) scale and topics required in order for learners to excel and reach the advanced basic level or the first native speakers level (level 2) in less time than the current DLI course length or any equivilant civilian course length.

In addition, this study will narrow the gap between the previously introduced methods and findings of learning the Arabic language as a second Language while introducing and describing how to implement and apply a combination of instructional methodologies, considering previous studies that highlighted the instructional difficulties or even difficulties of the language that the majority of the American students face such as fluency, comprehension, vocabulary retention, different pedagogical approach than English language. Needless to mention the nature of curriculum content (FLO) topics, the accelerated process of learning and the technique that students should start to adopt and overcome in order to produce the new language while demonstrating their language skills and ability.

The objective of this research is to identify those methodologies and explore how Arabic could be efficiently and effectively delivered while overcoming those difficulties of an enhanced oral proficiency. The study will disclose how to avoid the challenges that occur during the process of learning the language especially at the oral communication level or the speaking skill and introduce a new key of approaching the Arabic learning in order to improve language acquisition more rapidly. The effectiveness of the new approached method “oral interaction positive corrective modeling” will be measured against the current performance held at the main schools of the DLI. The results of the OPI test conducted for the Ft. Huachuca, AZ (LTD) students will be compared by the OPI test results conducted for a similar group of students taught the language through the same main curriculum however with the pace of the DLI program of the main schools in order to conclude the best performance and achievement.

In general, there are only a few studies that have introduced new applications of instructional methodology for delivering Arabic to American students. In line with the problem statement and reviewing the topics for this step of the dissertation development, there remains “an unprecedented interest in and awareness regarding the importance of developing, and adopting, new methodologies in the teaching of Arabic language (Taha-Thomure, 2008) in general or as the observers stated after 9/11.

Variables

In my study, my research questions are as follows:

Q1: What is the most efficient methodology for delivering the Arabic language to American students especially military personnel?
Q2: What is the best way to assess each participant’s ability to become an Arabic language qualified Soldier in less time than the current Defense Language Institute (DLI) 61 week course?
Q3: How to provide students learning Arabic pedagogically correct instruction that will result in an acceptable and passing OPI score while overcoming administrative difficulties?
Q4: How to overcome the difficulties and challenges, found in previous research that has revealed learning issues American students face while learning Arabic?

For the purposes of this study, there are two simple variables. The independent variable in this instance is the Arabic language learning intervention pilot study taking place at the DLIC; this is the curriculum whose true performance will be measured. This group will receive intriguing immersion and participation routines that are meant to provide a more comprehensive and effective, as well as overall positive effect on the students' learning and oral proficiency of the Arabic language. After the intervention, the students will be given open-ended interviews in order to determine how they feel about their performance and the curriculum as a whole.

The dependent variable is the normal Arabic defense language course, which will run concurrently with the experimental curriculum intervention. The reactions and the perspectives of the students undergoing this curriculum will be measured in terms of how they feel compared to the experimental group. By gauging the opinions of those who did not receive the intervention, the comparative effect of the intervention on the experimental group can be reasonably determined.

Data Collection

The research strategy method of inquiry in this study is a qualitative case study method in which the researcher will explore, investigate, and identify a combined instructional method of approaching the Arabic language as a second language. This will be done through a pilot program conducted over the past three years at Ft. Huachuca, AZ LTD, with three groups of students who completed the program with DLI instructors.

At the beginning of the intervention, interviews will be given to each participant in the new curriculum. These questions will cover issues of quality of education and comfort within a classroom setting. The overall purpose of these questions is to gauge the participants' general feelings toward the issue of second language acquisition and foreign language learning courses - what their expectations are, what they anticipate they will get out of the process, etc.

At the end of the intervention, the participants will be interviewed once more, this time to discern what elements of the process worked for them - what level of comfort they had with the material given the curriculum tested, and how well they feel they learned. Their opinions on the pace and difficulty of the curriculum will also be recorded via interview questions. The results will then be analyzed and discussed, in order to determine whether the research question (this new method of intervention for Arabic DLI courses is a more comfortable and effective curriculum than currently exists) is supported.

Analysis

I plan on using a concept chart to track the number of times specific words are uttered in an interview. Since the effects of the intervention on student satisfaction and overall comfort, there is no strict qualitative scale that will accurately convey the straightforward feelings sought by the researchers from the participants. With that in mind, the interviews will be reviewed after conducting all of them to look for common words relating to students' reactions to the intervention. "Good," "bad," "great," "comfortable," "difficult," "easy," "understandable," "incomprehensible," "effortless," "manageable," and the like are all words that will be examined in terms of how to describe the process as a whole. The frequency of these words will then be placed into the concept chart, with size of concept relating to how often the words were used to describe the intervention.

Once the concept chart is made, I will have the list of words most frequently used to describe the intervention (or the control class, as need be). The concept chart itself will be a tremendously helpful barometer to determine which words carry the most emphasis, and offer the closest thing to a consensus among the participants regarding the efficacy of the intervention. These words will be divided among four categories: Group, Word, Frequency Used and Quality (Good, Bad, Neutral). The first category indicates whether the participant who stated the word was in the Control (C) or Intervention (I) group - if the same words are uttered in either group, they will be distinguished by C or I group and counted individually. The second category identifies the word itself (e.g. "good," "comfortable"), and the third category indicates how many times it was said within either control or intervention group. Finally, the word will be categorized by quality; the context of the word will be identified as "Good" (positive), "Bad," (negative), or "Neutral" (indifferent to the intervention).

The pivot table, subsequently, will be organized in descending order of these categories. In the final table, each group will be given separate sections on the table, with each word arranged in order of frequency (high to low). The frequency will be listed next to them, with the final column denoting the quality of the word. This method of reporting the data should yield a fairly accurate representation of the participants' thoughts toward each group. As the feelings of the participants toward the education experience the intervention provides is the primary research objective of this study, these descriptive terms, analyzed and reported in this way, should yield the results we desire.

Validity and Reliability

Over the course of this study, there are several ways by which validity, ethics and integrity will be maintained. Access to the setting will be gained through complete transparency with Defense Language Institute administration and staff. They will be completely apprised of the purpose of the study, and the methods used in conducting it. If they do not consent to the study, it is not performed. The nature of the study does not put people at any physical or mental harm, removing that potential ethics issue.

The setting itself is conducive to a significant level of integrity and validity of the results. The Defense Language Institute currently exists as an operating school in which defense languages are taught to students, who have already signed up for these classes. The study will be focusing on participants of a particular pilot course for a new methodology for teaching Arabic; they are not collected by the researchers, and so there is little to no chance of researcher bias in the selection process. Bias will be diminished by the existing presence of the classroom setting; the goal of the study is to examine the effectiveness of this new methodology in this precise environment (military defense language institute), so questions of external applicability will be minimized. The conducting of the methodology itself will be performed by staff not including the researchers, which will also diminish bias and prevent questions of integrity.

Informed consent letters will be offered to each student before the curriculum begins; those who do not wish to participate in the study will not be recorded or interviewed. During the interview process, spontaneous and open-ended questions will be favored in order to minimize bias and leading on the part of the interviewer. The participants will have little to no interaction with the researchers unless absolutely necessary; while rapport building may be used to a small extent to gain more detailed answers in the interviews, friendship developing will be avoided as that might bias results. Any instances of shared construction of answers or clearly prompted questions will be included in the study and weighed accordingly. All participants will be asked the same questions, and effort will be made to gain insight into each participants' response to the curriculum. All responses will be recorded by audio so as to ensure that the participant's exact words are used in the results. A research diary will be kept to record all potential major decisions made in the conducting of the study for accountability purposes; this offers a complete account of the research process to guarantee integrity.

In conclusion, the study itself will be reasonably protected from ethics and validity issues. The methodology itself is not conducted by the researchers, giving a higher chance that the results gleaned will be viewed objectively. The interview process will be methodical, minimized in terms of bias, and the participants will be kept informed about the overall purpose of the study. No part of the study requires the participant to be uninformed about what the researchers are doing, and so informing them minimizes ethical issues and a potential information imbalance.

References

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 
Shank, G. D. (2006). Qualitative research: A personal skills approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ:Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Schram, T. H. (2006). Conceptualizing and proposing qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall 
Taha-Thomure, H. (2008). The status of Arabic language teaching today.
Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues.Vol. 1 No. 3, 2008 pp. 186-192. Retrieved from Proquest June 3, 2011

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