Trends and Issues in CALL Research: A Glance
A variety of approaches to the development and use of computer-assisted language
learning (CALL) have been attempted since computers have been utilised for language
learning and teaching. During the past ten years, in particular, there has been
a large increase in the number of publications which discuss the potential of
computers in second and foreign language learning and teaching. However, there
is still considerable debate about the effectiveness of CALL while researchers
and practitioners investigate specific ways that CALL provides better learning.
This paper briefly surveys research on CALL, addressing general trends and
issues which have appeared in CALL research.
II. Research in CALL
Under the influence of the use of educational technology in language instruction, CALL
has been shaped and developed since the 1960s, and, by the 1980s, it had become
a rapidly expanding field (Ahmad, Corbett, Rogers & Sussex, 1985; Higgins
& Johns, 1984; Underwood, 1984). Early CALL researchers introduced a number
of computer applications and practical ways in which computers could be used to
improve language learning and teaching, and, as Pederson (1987), Chapelle and
Jamieson (1989) and Dunkel (1991b) point out, the researchers attempted to
demonstrate the effectiveness of CALL by comparing learning outcomes in
computer-based instruction with those in traditional classrooms. In addition,
as Chapelle (1996) notes, researchers examined cognitive and affective aspects
of individual learners in CALL settings during the 1980s (Chapelle &
Jamieson, 1986). At the same time, early drill-and-practice CALL software began
to be produced in various
In the discussion of CALL effectiveness, since the middle of the 1980s, a significant shift in research focus has occurred away from simple comparison between computer-assisted and non-computer-assisted language instruction, which predominated in the early stage of CALL history (see, for example, Morrison & Adams, 1968; Barrutia, 1970), to more concrete and specific research questions. Conrad (1996) synthesises these alternative directions of CALL studies as follows:
Along with this kind of movement, Pederson (1987) urges that "comparative research that attempts to illustrate the superiority of computers over some other medium for delivering language instruction should forever be abandoned" (p. 125). Such an increased argument initiated by researchers in educational technology (Clark, 1983; Salomon, 1979) has widely and deeply expanded the views of CALL research. For example, Chapelle and Jamieson (1989) suggest that researchers should ask difficult questions about "lesson features, learning processes, and learner characteristics" in order to understand "how particular CALL materials can be used effectively in the complex second language acquisition process" (p. 59). Focusing on discourse analysis, Chapelle (1990) and Esling (1991) discuss the discourse learners produce during CALL activities. With regard to classroom research, Johnson (1991) proposes to expand CALL research to social interactional environments of the classroom.
Recent research in CALL has reinforced the links between CALL and second language classroom
research (Chapelle, 1996). However, empirical CALL studies in the classroom have
not been extensively conducted as yet. Surveying academic journals, Conrad
(1996) presents statistical information on the lack of empirical studies in the
area of CALL. According to his calculation, only 20% of all articles in seven
applied linguistic journals (i.e., Modern Language Journal, Foreign Language
Annals, Unterrichtspraxis, French Review, Hispania, System,
In her review of research into CALL effectiveness, Dunkel (1991b) concludes:
Systematic evaluation of the effectiveness of all aspects of CALL must continue; however, new focuses as well as methods of research inquiry will need to be developed if we are to gauge correctly the power of the computer to effect (sic) different aspects of second language acquisition. (pp. 23-24)With a similar view, Biber (1992) notes:
Research on the success of CALL lags far behind the development and implementation of CALL materials in the classroom, and exaggerated claims for language learning with CALL, particularly of second language, have led to some disappointment and confusion. (p. 268)Therefore, it is argued that much more empirical research on CALL needs to be produced, especially in the language classroom using CALL applications for second and foreign language instruction. This implies that there is still a great demand for research into CALL practice.
III. Concluding Remarks
CALL has evolved over a period of time in the area of language learning and teaching. A number of approaches to CALL research have been attempted to answer questions raised by CALL researchers and practitioners. The research directions have been considerably expanded since the middle of the 1980s. Regarding the development of research design and CALL software, Dunkel (1991a), Pennington (1989), Pennington and Stevens (1992), Smith (1987, 1989) and Swartz and Yazdani (1992) showed noticeable work done in the 1980s and provided directions of CALL theory and practice in the 1990s through useful collections of CALL research activities.
This paper has reviewed previous and current research on CALL and explored trends and issues in CALL
research. It has provided a sketch of recent studies in the area of CALL and
suggested that more CALL research needs to be connected with language classroom
research. By conducting more empirical research on CALL, deeper insights into
the use of CALL will be offered, and the potential and limitations of computer-assisted
instruction for enhancing second and foreign language learning and teaching
will be more clearly identified.
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