Meaningful Practice on the Computer: Is It Possible?


  • Reiner H. Schaeffer

    1. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO
    Search for more papers by this author
    • 2

      Reiner H. Schaeffer (Ph. D., The Ohio State University) is Associate Professor of German and French at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado.


ABSTRACT This study investigated the effectiveness of structural and semantic computer practice across two levels of verbal aptitude. The experiment was conducted at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado with students enrolled in beginning college German who had had no previous high school language training. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three groups: (1) Structural Practice, (2) Semantic Practice, and (3) No Practice (Control). Groups 1 and 2 practiced a specific grammatical concept on the computer utilizing structural and semantic exercises, respectively. A structural exercise could be accomplished based on knowledge of structure alone, while a semantic exercise could be successfully completed only through understanding the meaning of the item/problem. The control group had no practice. All three groups were administered a 40-item posttest consisting of both a structural and a semantic measure. The results of the study support previous research on the importance of meaningful (semantic) practice in the second language learning process. This study further suggests that the advantages of meaningful language practice are evidently independent of interpersonal interactions. In short, it seems that what goes on directly between student and material is an extremely important factor.