J. Dobberfuhl-Quinlan

Brigham Young University (UNITED STATES)
Over the decades, modern language instruction has been influenced by behaviorist and constructivist schools of thought. While behaviorists have favored imitation and rewarded language-like behavior or performance, constructivists have emphasized social learning and active connection with content. Perhaps somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum lies a confluence of ideas, emphasizing certain types of communication and performance that depend on cognitive constructs. Methods of communication in language learning may be a prime example. As described in their Performance Descriptors for Language Learners, the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) identifies three modes of communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational (2012). While it may seem straightforward to achieve these modes of communication in a face-to-face classroom, the pragmatics of communication in blended and online language courses may prove more complex. Further, the incorporation of authentic materials into the learning experience can add another layer of complexity. As language instruction continues to evolve from traditional classroom/face-to-face experiences to more student-guided, highly scaffolded online or blended experiences, the consideration of tri-modal communication becomes increasingly significant.

Brigham Young University developed a series of blended and online intermediate German courses which use authentic cultural materials, unique technological resources, and constructivist-minded synchronous interactions to achieve all three modes of communication. This paper reports on the approach the university took to the course development, the aspects of the tools and resources implemented, and preliminary findings as to the effectiveness of this pedagogical intervention (pre- and post-implementation findings).