A comparison of different teaching methods in MFL with MLD students.
Parallel year groups in French were allocated to either a teacher-led group lesson, or one involving individual activities, both practising the same body of vocabulary. Pre, post, and delayed post- tests were taken. There was variable attendance, yielding an average of about 8 pupils in each group.
KS3 students in a school specialising in Moderate Learning Difficulties, with also between 30 and 50% Emotionally and Behaviourally Disturbed, in parallel year groups
Participation was part of normal lesson format and was not offered as optional. Both groups were taught a new set of vocabulary for a two week [two lesson] period. In each year, one group was given a 5 minute introduction followed by individual independent activities practising the vocabulary. The other group followed a teacher-directed interactive lesson, using the course book, tape and flashcards. All classes were taught by the same teacher.
Pre-tests tested for both retention of previously learned material and also new, unseen material to be used in the experiment.[In AT3, reading] Post-tests were carried out the week following the two lessons and again 4 weeks later. These were identical to each other and tested only new vocabulary in each of the 4 ATs. All were very simple in order not to ‘threaten’ the students. Scores were compared to assess how effective each method had proved at instilling the vocabulary. Small group numbers and relatively high absenteeism made the number of students who had completed the whole process few, and so could not claim to be representative of a greater picture. Also, in Y9, one whole group was not present for one of the two teaching weeks and so the data is flawed in that respect. Y7 and Y8 results are more consistent.
Both methods increased retention where data is reliable. There were initial differences between the two groups, with those assigned to Teacher Directed intervention having higher scores initially. The effect size between the two groups in Y7&Y8 was diminished from 0.72 to 0.64 after the intervention. This suggested that the independent style produced slightly better retention. The difference in mean scores for each group was only 1% of items correct, so this is only a slight advantage. When only AT3 results were compared [as only AT3 in the new vocab. was in the pre-test], a marked difference in favour of the teacher-led lesson appears. The Independent Style group improved from a mean of 40.1% to 81.8% in the post-test, and the Teacher- led group from 39.3% to 97.8%. This was a difference in mean improvement of 16.5%. More data needs to be collected to claim reliability.
Both methods were considered valid, neither being outstandingly more effective than the other. Both would therefore have a place in the curriculum. More research is needed to produce reliable data.