WELCOME

Kelly M. Ryan
Saint Anselm College
 

This web page contains information pertaining to my senior thesis:
 

A FOREIGN LANGUAGE INTERVENTION:
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FLEX PROGRAM



 
 
 
Abstract Background of the Study About the FLEX Program
Design and Procedure Results Discussion and Conclusion
Future Research Possibilities Keywords

 
 

ABSTRACT

    In recent research, it has been suggested that newly introduced foreign language programs can benefit the education of foreign language students.  This study focused on the FLEX (Foreign Language Experience) program, one that is designed to introduce students to a foreign language based largely with an emphasis on culture.  In past research, it has been shown that students who have a greater understanding of the culture of the country of the foreign language will have a greater desirability to further pursue language study.  This study hypothesized that the FLEX program would increase cultural awareness and enthusiasm for foreign language study.  The measures used to assess the FLEX program were two surveys that were created by the experimenter.  These surveys were to assess and evaluate the FLEX program's effects on students cultural awareness and their enthusiasm to further pursue a foreign language.
    The results of this study indicate that there were significant findings for both cultural awareness and enthusiasm based on the FLEX program.  It can be concluded upon, based on these results, that the FLEX program does increase cultural awareness within the student as well as an increased desire to further pursue a foreign language.  The increased cultural awareness that the FLEX program has shown to demonstrate can be greatly beneficial for many reasons.  In addition to the added knowledge that the student will acquire, there is also the education of a new culture, one that is different from their own.   With this knowledge, stereotypes and pre judgments could be prevented if not eliminated if the culture awareness was introduced at a younger age.  The aspect of increased enthusiasm is also one that can benefit the student both inside and outside the classroom.  With this new desire to further pursue a foreign language, students will pursue the language longer, thus becoming closer to fluency within the language, and then being able to communicate more effectively in the world.
 
 

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

    Hello. My name is Kelly Ryan and I am a senior at Saint Anselm College.  As a requirement for a Bachelors degree here at Saint Anselm’s, all psychology majors must complete a senior thesis. The topic I have chosen for my senior thesis is a foreign language intervention.  I am assessing and evaluating the impact a FLEX (Foreign Language Experience) program has on students and their motivation and desirability for pursuing a foreign language education.
     The FLEX program is an educational foreign language program that focuses on introducing the student to a foreign language and its culture.  In addition to the introduction to the language and culture, the FLEX program is designed to create motivation and enthusiasm for further interest in pursuing language study.  Because the FLEX program is an introduction to a language, one must not expect to achieve significant fluency or significant vocabulary recall based on the nature of this program.  The foreign language the I have chosen to introduce is the Spanish language
 
 

ABOUT THE FLEX PROGRAM

       The FLEX program is an educational foreign language program that focuses on introducing the student to a  foreign language and its culture.  In addition to the introduction to the language and culture, the FLEX  program is designed to create motivation and enthusiasm for further interest in pursuing language study. Because the FLEX program is an introduction to a language, one must not expect to achieve significant fluency or significant vocabulary recall based on the nature of this program.  The foreign language the I have chosen to introduce is the Spanish language.  The FLEX program is an educational foreign language program that focuses on introducing the student to a  foreign language and its culture.  In addition to the introduction to the language and culture, the FLEX  program is designed to create motivation and enthusiasm for further interest in pursuing language study. Because the FLEX program is an introduction to a language, one must not expect to achieve significant fluency or significant vocabulary recall based on the nature of this program.  The foreign language the I have chosen to introduce is the Spanish language.
DESIGN AND PROCEDURE

     The participants were first asked if they would like to participate in the study.  Upon agreement, the participants were sent home with a cover letter and a brief description of the study for both the parent or guardian as well as for the participant to look over.  After they carefully reviewed the description, the participants were then asked to fill out informed consent forms.  Due to the fact that all the participants were under the age of eighteen, the parent or legal guardian was also requested to fill out consent forms.  The participants were also reminded at this time that if they did not wish to participate in the study at any given time they were able to leave.
    Once all the consent forms were collected, the seven participants were all placed into one group.  The experimenter met with this group once a week for a total of forty minutes per session in a classroom at Bartlett Elementary Public School.  These meetings lasted for four weeks in total.  On the first meeting, there was the Culture Awareness Survey and the Enthusiasm Survey that were administered to each of the participants to complete.  Every meeting there after consisted of the Spanish intervention based upon the FLEX program.  The intervention included games and activities that allowed the participants an introduction to the Spanish language and culture.
 At the conclusion of the four week intervention, the participants once again were asked to complete the same Culture Awareness Survey and Enthusiasm Survey that they received at the beginning of the experiment.  Upon completion of these surveys, the participants were asked if there were any questions that could be answered at this time regarding the study.  At the conclusion of the study, each of the students were presented with a certificate of appreciation for all their hard work and dedication that they all portrayed throughout the experiment.  Also the participant and guardian were given a debriefing form that was reviewed prior to their departure.
 
 


RESULTS

     Two paired-samples t tests were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the FLEX program intervention in respect to the areas of culture awareness and its effectiveness on the students enthusiasm to further pursue language study. As already stated, there were a total of seven participants within the study.
     The first paired-samples t test was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the FLEX intervention on increased cultural awareness.  The results indicated that the mean for the cultural awareness survey post-test (M=84.71, SD=13.96), was significantly greater than the mean for the baseline cultural awareness survey pre-test (M=78.14, SD=12.72), p=0.001.  Therefore there was statistical significance within the aspect of cultural awareness.  The mean difference was 6.57 points between the two 120 point cultural awareness scale test.
     The second paired-samples t test was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the FLEX intervention on the students enthusiasm to further pursue language study.  The results indicated that the mean for the enthusiasm survey post-test (M=20.43, SD=1.9) was significantly greater than the mean for the baseline enthusiasm survey pre-test (M=15.29, SD=2.81), p=0.000.  Therefore there was statistical significance within the aspect of enthusiasm.  The mean difference was 5.14 between the two 25 point enthusiasm scales.
 
 


DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

    The results of this study, based on the two paired-samples t tests that were conducted, indicate that there were significant findings with respect to the FLEX intervention and its effectiveness on increased cultural awareness as well as enthusiasm to further pursue language study.  These results indicate that the FLEX program may have positive effects on the students to increase their cultural awareness and their enthusiasm to further pursue language study.  The results of this study are congruent with past research that has conducted within this area.
     Due to the fact that there has been a newly sparked interest within the foreign language area, this study and its significant results may open doors to options for teachers that have been considering a new type of foreign language instruction, or introduction to a foreign language.  For this study has shown that the FLEX program does influence the student and does promote further education of a foreign language.  With this knowledge, perhaps educators that have been skeptical of these new educational programs will begin to accept them and acknowledge the progress that they have shown within past research.
       A large aspect of the FLEX program is the focus on cultural awareness as opposed too grammatical and vocabulary retention of the foreign language.  While this may be a new beginning point for studying a foreign language, this method has proven to show great benefits.  Through the emphasis of the culture, students are able to have a more personal connection to the language.  The student is able to relate themselves to the people of other countries, while at the same time gaining a foreign language education.
    Through this program the student is introduced to a new language and culture.  With this introduction comes the added benefit to understand what life is really like for those of another culture.  To be able to understand that while others may be different for where they live, they to must deal with many of the same daily problems that you do.  This program would allow students to understand the background of those in other countries, as well as why their  food, clothing and traditions are different then our own.  “The program allows the student to become comfortable in their interactions abroad with individuals who speak other languages and who have cultural backgrounds different from their own.  In short, they are comfortable as members of the world community”  (Branaman & Rennie, 1998).
    Perhaps with this cultural education, there would be more acceptance of those that are different.  With that acceptance, there could several benefits experienced by all.  For with the education of cultural awareness, stereotypes that lead to negative behavior could be prevented.  There would be less amounts of discrimination that is so predominant in this country, in addition to an overall acceptance of others without pre judgments based on differences.
     With this aspect, perhaps another large issue that is predominate within the United States could also be touched upon, that is the issue of cultural acceptance.  It is a know fact that the while the United States has been labeled a “melting pot”, general acceptance of those that are different is not generally the case in this country.  Perhaps with a focus on cultural awareness while maintaining a foreign language education, there could be a greater benefit than that that was first assumed with a foreign language program.
    And while elementary foreign language education is still a large consideration for most of this country, these added benefits of an introduction to cultural awareness would have a greater benefit if introduced at a younger age.  For there would be no competing with preexisting stereotypes and judgments one might have if the FLEX program was introduced at an older age.  The earlier the student is introduced to different cultures, the fewer negative attitudes instructors must overcome (Andrade & Ging, 1995).
    In addition to the added benefits of the FLEX program and its emphasis on cultural awareness, there is also a large focus on creating enthusiasm within the student to further pursue language study.  Due to the fact that the FLEX program is only an introduction to the language, the desire to continue with the language study is crucial to the overall benefits of the FLEX program.  For if the students do not wish to continue, then all that was introduced would be at a loss.  However, the FLEX program has been proven to create enthusiasm within the student, thus they want to continue on with the language study.
     A large benefit experienced from this enthusiasm created through the FLEX program is the students desire to voluntarily wish to pursue language study.  This could have a great impact on the low numbers of students who continue on with further language study. “United States student are painfully behind where they should be with foreign language and continuation rates”  (Nikol, 1999).
    Perhaps with the changes experienced within the student as well as the educational atmosphere, traditional foreign language classrooms could experience the effects of the FLEX program.  If the FLEX program is only an introduction to a language but experiences so many benefits, both inside the classroom and outside, the benefits within a traditional classroom would be that much greater.  With the FLEX program, students understanding and enjoyment is exhibited beyond the regular Spanish classroom  (Heining-Boynton, 1999).  In addition to greater knowledge of the language, that which is not experienced within the FLEX program, traditional classrooms could experience the wonderful benefits with an addition of a cultural awareness aspect.  Thus experiencing all the benefits attributed to the increased cultural awareness.
    The overall benefits of a “revised” traditional classroom would experience even greater effects if introduced at a younger age.  Through all the literature that suggests that foreign language is beneficial if introduced at a younger age, once again the overall benefit would be greater to those students if the traditional classrooms considered the addition of a cultural awareness aspect.
    Overall, the FLEX program has proven to be an asset to foreign language education.  Its effects can be experienced both inside and outside the classroom, thus creating overall benefits.  While the world of foreign language education is slowly experiencing a new focus of interest with educators and experimenters with respect to new interventions, hopefully this new interest will continue to be pursued and not experience the fading out that the foreign language world has already experienced.  Through time and perseverance the ideal foreign language classroom is attainable, it is just a matter of time before the world will reap these very profound benefits.
 
 

FUTURE RESEARCH POSSIBILITIES

    For those that are considering doing a similar project, here are a few suggestions to for further research and projects in this area:
            -larger sample size
            -longer time period for the intervention
            -vary the ages of the subjects
            -variation with the surveys, create separate pre and post
 
 


KEYWORDS

    Foreign language, FLEX program, cultural awareness, enthusiasm, early childhood education
 
 

If you have any questions or comments about this project please feel free to contact me at

kryan@anselm.edu