Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effects of Cognitive Styles on the Use of Hints in Academic English: A Learning Analytics Approach

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

The Effects of Cognitive Styles on the Use of Hints in Academic English: A Learning Analytics Approach

Article excerpt

Introduction

Theoretical background

English has been an international language so Asia schools consider English as the first "foreign" language (Yang & Zhang, 2015). Thus, how to enhance English abilities is a critical issue in non-English speaking countries because such abilities affect the overall competition ability of a country (Chen, Hsu, Li, & Peng, 2006). However, previous research found that English learning may be a challenge to students (Ombati, Omari, Ogendo, Ondima & Otieno, 2013). On the one hand, a universal problem that language teachers raise is that most learners feel reluctant to read English materials on their own (Arnold, 2009). On the other hand, some researchers attributed the reasons for such a problem to the lack of learners' motivation and self-efficacy (Milkova & Hercik, 2014). Moreover, Wu, Huang, Chao, and Park (2014) indicated that learners may not be able to construct relationships between different vocabularies and may not possess abilities to deduce, analyze, gauge, organize, or apply such vocabularies. This may be due to the fact that learners usually learn new vocabularies by rote memorization, which often causes boredom (Min & Hsu, 2008).

A number of approaches can be applied to solve these problems. Among them, E-assessment is a popular activity adopted by teachers (Wang, Li, Feng, & Liu, 2012). E-assessment, which refers to the evaluation of the knowledge or skills of learners in a computer-based environment, has received much attention in educational settings (Fox, 2013). For instance, Hwang and Chang (2011) incorporated E-assessment into a local culture course and examined relationships between learning interests and learning attitude. 61 students, who participated in their study, learned the historical background and the transit of local culture via E-assessment. The results indicated that learners' learning interests and learning attitude in the culture course were greatly improved after they used E-assessment. Additionally, Zlatovic, Balaba and Kermek (2015) employed E-assessment to support an informatics course and investigated students' learning strategies and learning performance. 351 learners from higher education institutions, who enrolled in an introduction to informatics course, participated in their study. The results showed that the E-assessment not only had positive impacts on their learning strategies, but also improved their learning performance.

In addition to the aforementioned advantages, the E-assessment also has other advantages, including improved question styles using interactive multimedia technology (Linden & Glas, 2010), improved validity and reliability (Xiao & Lucking, 2008) and helpful for learners to review what they have learnt (Butler, Karpicke, & Roediger, 2007). In brief, using E-assessment to support learning is helpful. Nevertheless, E-assessment also has some problems. For instance, it only emphasizes on whether learners can understand and remember what they have learnt out of the context (Sanchez-Vera, Fernandez-Breis, Castellanos-Nieves, Frutos-Morales, & Prendes Espinosa, 2012). In other words, such a process does not generate new teaching opportunities for teachers and new learning opportunities for learners. Actually, ideal assessment should be more comprehensible and contribute to make new opportunities for teaching and learning. The other problem is that learners' anxiety still exists. Such anxiety may negatively affect students' learning motivation or learning performance. To address these issues, there is a need to provide learners with scaffolding, which can reduce their anxiety and let them work well under pressure (Hsieh, Jhan, & Chen, 2014). Scaffolding refers to support or guidance provided by a mechanism so that learners will not think that a task is too difficult to effectively complete (Belland, 2014). This is because scaffolding uses dialogue to help learners develop ideas they most likely would not have had on their own but such ideas are recognized as the outcome of their own thought (Game & Metcalfe, 2009). …

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