The results of the changes made to the curriculum during the semester were encouraging.
Students responded positively to the introduction of the pre-class vocabulary assignments. They did not object to the increase in independent study time that this change entailed. As one student responded: “I like vocab assignments because they help me remember and keep track of new vocab.” Another student wrote “I like how this activity showed the different forms/tenses of the word, provided the English translation, and also used the word in a sentence. I think seeing the word in a sentence really helped me on the quiz.” Vocabulary assignments were clearly preferred to a “learn-as-you-go” approach, where all new vocabulary would be learned at the time it was encountered in texts, audio or conversations.
The students did not agree on which type of assignments they liked best. There was no clear preference for either one of the structured vocabulary assignments (Quizlet and VoiceThread) or the unstructured (vocabulary lists). Students appreciated when the assignments provided learning support such as interactivity and instant learning feedback, but there was no consensus on which type was preferred. It may be that offering a variety of assignments is a good way to satisfy differences in student preferences and learning styles.
The pre-study did not provide an answer to whether structured or unstructured pre-class vocabulary assignments were more effective for vocabulary learning. The students performed equally well on all three assignments. Given the low number of participating students, this was to be expected.
The question whether pre-class vocabulary assignments were more effective than no pre-class vocabulary assignments was not sufficiently answered. The students performed equally well on all assignments. It was interesting to note the high performance on assessments even when no supportive vocabulary assignments at all were administered. It is likely that these high-performing, motivated students possessed the necessary learning strategies to apply key vocabulary to interpretive tasks even without instructional support.
Why provide pre-class vocabulary assignments if there is no measurable effect on learning outcome? The reason these assignments were introduced in the first place was to free up more time in the classroom for student interaction in Swedish. In this regard, the pre-class assignments were a success. During the weeks when students had worked on the pre-class assignments and thus came to class prepared, less time was spent on vocabulary introduction. This left time for approximately one extra 10-minute interactive activity per class. In a 50-minute class, this is a significant gain.
The characteristics of effective assignments were identified as productive vocabulary memorization, measurable progression towards the course goals, ease of use, ability to hold students’ interest and reasonable time expenditure for students and instructor. The three assignments introduced in this course all fulfilled these criteria. They will be considered for use in future SWED 2020 DILS courses.
To conclude, students who enroll in SWED 2020 DILS are generally motivated and competent language learners. Their achievements reflect their high motivation level. They tend to perform well on assessments, particularly on the high-stakes projects. Their excellence is reflected in the outcome of the pre-study. The results on the newly introduced vocabulary assignments and corresponding reading and writing assessments are encouraging, but it is too early to draw conclusions until further studies have been completed.