Totally flipped: Learning Italian grammar

Docenten Carlo en Luisa in de door hun ontwikkelde video

Mastering the grammar of a new language requires, above all, a great deal of practice, but the time to do so has become less in the recent years, Italian lecturers Carlo Giordano and Luisa Meroni found. Therefore, they looked for a way to give their students enough time to practice Italian grammar. Through the Educational Resources Pool (EMP, in Dutch: Educative Middelen Pool) they were given time and support to put their idea into practice: capovolgèndo la classe! Or: flipping the classroom.

Quality assurance

The number of language acquisition courses in the Italian Language and Culture programme has decreased in the recent years. Students, therefore, have less time to practice and to master the grammatical rules. Despite the efforts of lecturers, it proved challenging to maintain the language level required by the programme. 

Luisa: ‘To solve this we wanted to use the flipping the classroom-methodology in our language courses. Through this we wanted to give the students the opportunity to practice and reflect before classes. And as such, there will be more time in the classroom to apply and deepen the knowledge.’

Animated videos

With extra hours and educational support from the EMP Luisa and Carlo have made fifteen short videos on specific grammatical topics. Each video starts off with cartoon strips in which the topic is introduced. In the rest of the video, Carlo and Luisa explain that topic and provide examples with which the students can practice. 

The videos were made with ‘FeedbackFruits interactive video’, through which they could directly integrate the assignments in the video. Students watched the video on Blackboard where they could immediately test their knowledge of the subject matter. What they did not understand was discussed in class.

Educational support

Ivana Brasileiro and Marjolein Cremer (Educational Consultancy & Professional Development) were involved in the project ‘Videogrammarly’ as educational consultants. They helped with choosing a suitable format for the language videos and helped with the scripts and the didactic structure. Luisa: ‘so much is possible with the videos, this makes it difficult to keep them short and effective. Ivana and Marjolein kept us on track, gave us targeted suggestions, and, for example, tips on which exercises we could include in the videos.’ 

Students reacted positively

In the course evaluations the students were asked for their opinion on the grammar videos. Almost all students were very positive. 

  • They stimulate my learning process and prepare me for the lessons. I can also rewatch them if something wasn't completely clear.
  • Having a base before the grammar lessons is also way more effective, then you can ask questions about the difficult parts and not having to focus on the basics.
  • Grammatica explanations were very clear. It is also convenient that you can replay the video when you don't understand something. This way you can't miss any of the explanations.
  • The explanation of the grammar topics were always very to the point and clear. Perfect to rewatch before exams, and with the visual aids good to understand.

Luisa: ‘We think that the videos are appreciated partly because they are very interactive. Students are regularly asked to stop the video, practice and continue. And each video starts with a cartoon in which we appear as animated figures. We even made a video with our bloopers to spice it up, which was often watched by the students’.

Good study results

Since the project started students achieved better results in the areas covered in the videos. Luisa: ‘And this when the videos specifically cover the most difficult subjects! Hopefully it is not a coincidence, and we will see the same results next year.’

Also for other programmes? 

The way in which the Italian lecturers have implemented flipping the classroom, can also prove interesting for other (language) programmes. Luisa: ‘On top of the advantage that students get from the videos, it also creates continuity in the programme as not all lecturers explain the grammatical rules in the same way.’

The project continues

Carlo and Luisa will also use their videos in the coming academic year. The method was first used in two Bachelor’s courses, but it is now extended to the advanced course Italiano 4. This means that new videos will need to be made. The application for the extension of the project has been approved. 

Curious?

On the EMP

The Educational Resources Pool (Educatieve Middelen Pool, EMP) offers faculties the option of requesting educational advice and support for the improvement and innovation of their education. The EMP can be used for support with a single course, a study component, method, or instrument as well as a complete curriculum, educational organisation, or quality assurance. 

This article is the first in a series of articles about EMP-projects of the UU.