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Silvia Sobrado’s design narrative: Use and effectiveness of ICT based tools in lab sessions for Modern Foreign Language teachers and students

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Silvia Sobrado
31 March 2014

Use and effectiveness of ICT based tools in lab sessions for Modern Foreign Language teachers and student


Language teacher conducting the research


Comprehensive mixed independent day-school. The ability profile of the senior school is above the national average.  The use of ICT in MFL teaching is highly regarded by the school as regular use of the language laboratory is compulsory.  


To investigate and evaluate the use of learning materials and Internet-based technologies (IBT) on Modern Foreign Language (MFL) sessions in the language laboratory and analyse their perceived effectiveness on developing students’ specific language skills, engaging them in language learning. The target focus group of this study is Year 11 MFL students and their teachers.


A qualitative research methodology (November 2013)  was used for this study sampling 5 MFL teachers and 67 Year 11 language students  who were asked to complete the questionnaire in order to assess their use, and gauge their opinion of, ICT based resources and activities currently used in the language laboratory.  Both the student and the teacher questionnaires were of a similar structure and content based on Tesekleves, et al. (2013) and J, Stepp-Greany (2002) research papers.

The questionnaire was divided into five different categories:

  • Materials used in a language lab session
  • Internet based technologies
  • Perception regarding teacher role and facilitation
  • Perception regarding effect on learning, language skills and relevance
  • Perception on interest and engagement


  • Electronic is the most used lab material and video the least used in MFL lab sessions. However, students consider video the second most valued tool contributing to their learning (40%) 
  • Electronic is the most used lab material for independent learning.
  • Tools integrating Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL); Language learning websites or blogs are the most used Electronic resources.

  • Students identify personal improvement in different language skills as results of using the language lab: Listening (90%), Reading (85%), Writing (61%) and Speaking (54%). 
  • All teachers questioned stated that there is no relevant impact on students’ writing or speaking skills and that they observe little improvement in the students’ reading skills, identifying a positive effect on listening skills only. 
  • Students unanimously feel that language lab sessions contribute to their knowledge of grammar (91%) and vocabulary (83.5%).  The majority of teachers agree that there is a positive impact on students’ grammar learning but are less convinced regarding vocabulary acquisition (40%). 


The study had several limitations. The information is self-reported and contained several factors that may influence student perception, these have not been considered e.g. independent school setting, ability profile of students is above the national average, small number of participants and teaching sets, prior language lab experiences, students studying several languages, student’s differing personalities and teacher individual practice and experience. 

An improved design of the semantic differential scale questionnaire should be adopted, as the one used in this study was ambiguous and caused some students’ to be confused.  It should include the number and opposite adjectives at both ends of a scale to clarify the scoring methodology as suggested by Cohen et al in Stepp-Greany research (2002).

Results are based on a small sample of participants, thus small changes in answers create disproportionally large changes in percentage results. This study would be improved by canvassing a larger number of students, from different backgrounds, in order to gain a better insight into the general use and perception of technologies used in the Language Labs across secondary education in the UK.

The study illustrates that students enjoy sessions in the language lab and consider it to have a positive impact on their receptive skills.  On the contrary teachers are sceptical and question any real improvement on students’ language skills.  More empirical studies should be conducted to establish the relationships between ICT tools perception of achievement by students and the actual achievement measured by summative assessment.


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Dave Martin
7:50pm 31 March 2014

Some interesting differences between student and teacher perceptions, even taking into account your reservations about the methodology Silvia.

Two that struck me forcibly was student preference for video and the fact that it was little used; something that could certainly be acted on and second that whilst students felt that vocabulary acquisition was rated at 83.5% the teachers scored it as low as 40% which must be worth exploring further?

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