Promoting Extempore Among Your Faculty

Instructional Technologists, Department Chairs, or Language Program Coordinators are often tasked with promoting innovative teaching solutions to more effectively meet the program’s learning objectives. However influential these administrative roles may be, their success in leading and implementing curricular innovation at the program level is contingent upon motivating individual faculty to support any initiatives.

Here is a secret I will share as a faculty member with no administrative role myself: I’m motivated by arguments that prioritize students’ needs, rather than institutional needs. In other words, if a curricular innovation, especially one involving technology adoption, is brought up as a way for the institution to save money, I tend to be skeptical about its actual benefits for student learning.

If, because of your administrative role, you are being encouraged to promote Extempore among your faculty as a more cost-effective alternative to a language lab, here are some student-first (not institution-first) arguments that can boost adoption among your colleagues.

Extempore significantly reduces the amount of class time needed to assess oral skills. Show your faculty how, instead of blocking a week of instruction to conduct one-on-one interviews with all students, they can just take 10 minutes of one class session to obtain spontaneous speech samples from everybody. More instructional class time = more time for students to practice the target language.

Assigning oral homework regularly offers much needed speaking practice for the shier students. Many of our students experience foreign language classroom speaking anxiety, a well-documented form of communication apprehension that affects students’ confidence during spontaneous speaking activities. One of the symptoms of this form of learning anxiety is task avoidance: students feel too shy or too uncomfortable speaking in the foreign language, so they just don’t do it. In classroom interactions (for most, this is the only time to practice their speaking skills), the more extrovert students tend to dominate the activity, they speak more, and thus improve their speaking. As a result, the shier students don’t get enough practice. By asking all students to complete the Extempore recordings outside of class, even the shier students get the practice they need to build their skills and thus their confidence in speaking the foreign language.

Mobile-Assisted-Language Learning (MALL) has been shown to effectively promote language development. In a relatively recent meta-analysis of 44 peer-reviewed journal articles and doctoral dissertations testing the effectiveness of mobile-assisted language instruction with 9,154 participants, Sung, Chang and Yang (2015) conclude that this type of technology integration does in fact improve learning with a mean effect size of .55. Research shows that mobile devices are valuable language-learning tools and Extempore is one way to integrate mobile learning into our curriculum.

Extempore is a user-friendly tool to implement Speaking Portfolios. Portfolios are student-centered learning tools that, among other benefits, promote learners’ self-regulation and ownership of the learning process. When used to foster the development of oral skills, electronic speaking portfolios can also boost students’ confidence to speak up in face-to-face interactions.

Extempore is designed by teachers for teachers. All of these reasons got the Extempore team (mostly teachers) to conceive of and build this tool for our own courses. They may as well convince other like-minded teachers to try it!

Sung, Yao-Ting, Kuo-En Chang & Je-Ming Yang (2015). How effective are mobile devices for language learning? A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 16, 68-84.