Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Gestured pronunciation instruction: Better online?
It is now well-established in several fields that "Students learn more when their teacher has learned to gesture effectively" (Alibali, Young, Crooks, Yeo, Wolfgram, Ledesma, Nathan, Breckinridge-Church and Knuth, 2013). In pronunciation work use of "live" models is typically limited to either "talking heads" often zeroing in on the mouth or a recording of an instructor presenting something resembling a typical lesson with explanation and practice. If you have never spent some time experiencing some of what is now out there from the learner's perspective, stop for a bit and join us when you have. Most of it mind-numbing, at best.
Although there is no research that I am aware of focusing in on the specific contribution of video to pronunciation instruction, the assumption seems to be simply that the "better" (the production quality), the more effective. There is a rapidly growing market for web-based, visually compelling teaching of pronunciation.

One of the obvious problems with video-based instruction, especially the more visually captivating, ironically, is the potential for viewers to drop back into "TV-trance-mode", absorbing but not doing much processing or demonstrating meaningful engagement. (There is also a very serious issue with visual modality overpowering auditory and kinaesthetic, as well.) In pronunciation work, where re-education of the body is central, not enthusiastically joining "the dance" is a deal breaker . . . One key contribution of gesture to instruction is to create stronger engagement and enhancement of moment-by-moment attention.

A 2014 study, The effect of gestured instruction on the learning of physical causality problems by Carlson, Jacobs, Perry and Ruth Breckinridge-Church demonstrates how systematic use of gesture by instructors on video can significantly improve learning of another "physical" process. Subjects who viewed the "gesture-articulated" instructor, rather than just the spoken presentation did better on the post test. This study is particularly relevant in that it deals with gesture enabling cognition of what is a very "tactile" concept, that of manipulating gear movement and direction.

AMPISys, Inc.
In haptic pronunciation teaching as unpacked in several earlier posts, it is apparently the case that not only is gesture with video more effective, but gesture+video+touch is even better. The basic reasons for that are that (a) touch makes gesture not only more systematic but (b) provides it with more impact, (c) whether done by the learner or just observed. And furthermore, (d) just training learners in haptic-anchored gesture, at least initially, is for many, if not most, instructors simply too far outside of their comfort and zone of "haptic intelligence." (See Research References page)

I came up with this system over a decade ago and still use videos (of myself) when introducing students to the basic gestural inventory, or pedagogical movement patterns (PMP). I'm just so much better online . . . (and you will be, too!)

Alibali, M., Young, A., Crooks, N., Yeo, A., Wolfgram, M., Ledesma, I., Nathan, M.,  Breckinridge Church, R. and E. Knuth. (2013). Students learn more when their teacher has learned to gesture effectively. Gesture 13:2, 210–233.
Carlson, C., Jacobs, S.,  Perry, M. and R. Breckinridge-Church. (2014). The effect of gestured instruction on the learning of physical causality problems. Gesture 14:1, 26–45.

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