Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Study of the Design and Implementation of the ASR-Based iCASL System with Corrective Feedback to Facilitate English Learning

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Study of the Design and Implementation of the ASR-Based iCASL System with Corrective Feedback to Facilitate English Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

English is an important subject in formal education in Taiwan. Students learn English as a subject at school from third grade on, and students in junior and senior high school spend about 5 to 6 hours per week learning English (Su, 2006). Furthermore, some colleges even require students to take at least one English course when they are freshmen and to pass an English examination before they graduate. On the other hand, few adults have the chance to keep learning English after graduating from school, especially those who are not English majors. Adult learners may have insufficient exposure to English because of their time limitations and types of work. Besides, it is a common phenomenon in Taiwan that second language learners are more willing to read and write in English than to speak the language. One of the main reasons may be the limited learning materials that students are exposed to, and the cultural belief that passing exams, which are mostly paper and pen tests, is the most important goal of being a student. Moreover, the factors of large class size and limited class time make it difficult for teachers to provide every learner with equal opportunities to practice English speaking in regular classroom sessions. As a result, a student may have learned English for a number of years and yet still find it difficult to speak in basic English.

On the other hand, the advancement of computer assisted language learning (CALL) systems has facilitated learning and teaching. The repeated training of skills that computers provide increases the opportunities for exposure to the target language, while computer-based practice models reduce learners' language learning anxiety in front of instructors or peers (Campbell, 2003; Arslan & Sahin-Kizil, 2010). Further, automatic speech recognition (ASR) based CALL systems provide learners with an integrated environment in which they obtain immediate evaluation of their English utterances, and allow them to practice at any time to enhance their speaking (Chiu, Liou, & Yeh, 2007; Chen, 2011). However, many issues in the feedback design of ASR-based CALL programs require further research. Related research has shown that in speaking-practice CALL programs, learners tend to produce more accurate utterances when they are provided with corrective feedback, rather than just opportunities to speak (Mackey & Goo, 2007; Chwo, 2012). The importance of providing learners with corrective feedback while using CALL programs has been recognized by several studies (Neri, Micha, Gerosaa, & Giuliani, 2008; Chen, 2011). Nevertheless, few studies have evaluated the feedback design of ASR-based CALL systems because most are commercial package software which lack pedagogical strategies for the provision of feedback (Neri, Cucchiarini, Strik, & Boves, 2002; Engwall & Balter, 2007), and few developers have carefully taken targeted learners' needs into consideration during system development. Moreover, the requirement to develop ASR technology is technically demanding and challenging, needing researchers with different domain knowledge and with both technical expertise and a learning technology background to work together.

Research questions

Understanding the abovementioned research background, we formed an interdisciplinary research team, and attempted to construct an intelligent computer-assisted speaking learning (iCASL) system in which the ASR web-service technique and pedagogical corrective feedback are integrated. Previously, we had explored our targeted learners' requirements for using ASR-based programs for speaking learning (Wang & Young, 2012). In this study, we adopted the previous evaluation results into the system implementation and aimed to examine whether the developed system has the potential to provide learners, especially adults, with extended opportunities for practicing English speaking after graduating from formal education. …

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