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Transforming the Economics of Language Learning (Part 5) Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Archived Posts

Helping an unmotivated student limp over the finish line. Is that a distasteful or unworthy goal in language training? No, not at all. It’s important and exciting to raise your language program’s lowest outcome.

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“Often, less motivated learners just need […] a straightforward work path that is clearly useful, in their self-interest, and actually easier and more comfortable than slacking.”

Students vary from program to program, but they mostly share the same goal: to achieve a particular level of proficiency or performance in a certain amount of time. After graduation, your students may deploy in a military unit, do research with scientists overseas, provide humanitarian disaster assistance, study for a technical certificate, enroll in a college, take a proficiency test to prove they still have the minimum proficiency required for a job they are already performing, interview visa applicants, read patent filings, or just continue on to the next year of the program. Whatever the case, the organization sending students to you would be thrilled to have them exceed standards at graduation, but they need you to make sure that everyone at least meets the minimum standard.

Reliability. That’s what we call a language program’s worst normal outcome. Reliability answers the critical question, “Can I trust that, barring illness or other special circumstances, everyone I send through this program will learn at least the minimum I need them to learn?”

Earlier in this series (see Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4), we discussed how DABL (Declaratively Accelerated Blended Learning) improves the overall speed and logistics of language teaching, learning and sustainment and raises median outcomes. However, DABL’s impact on reliability is particularly striking. DABL radically increases the quantity and quality of work performed by less-talented or less-motivated students, and meaningfully lifts a program’s typical minimum outcome. If you’re reading this, you know how incredibly hard that is, and how amazingly good it feels to pull it off.

A key to student motivation is “face validity.” Is it obvious that the work I’m doing is valuable for me? DABL specialists are very deliberate about creating the “lexical core” of a curriculum unit that students need to master before showing up in class. It’s not just a vocab list. Which specific words and phrases are the most valuable to master in order to excel in that class? What are the most useful words, common inflections, grammatical patterns, and collocations?

In a DABL program, students master the lexical core of each unit on the computer, then carry that mastery into an exciting, energetic and well-crafted classroom focused on that unit. The student knows what’s required before class, and the computer tracks both time-on-task and completion. The requirement is clear, there is nowhere to hide, and the student’s work is immediately rewarded by better and more comfortable class participation. A student who regularly completes the computer work and shows up in class will almost always meet the graduation standards.

The stronger the alignment between the computer work and the class, the greater the face validity, the clearer the value, the stronger the motivation. Often, “slackers” just need their slacking path to be made more visible and less comfortable at the same time they are presented with a straightforward work path that is clearly useful, in their self-interest, and actually easier and more comfortable than slacking. DABL does that well, and the results can be transformational.

In Part 6, we’ll look more closely at how DABL makes assignments addicting and satisfying.

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About the Author: Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!

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