This study utilizes the mixed qualitative and quantitative approach to investigate the effect of color-coded teaching on learners’ accuracy of articles’ and quantifiers’ use. The qualitative research methods are applied to examine the impact of color-coded teaching on the perception of the grammar structure. The qualitative part of the analysis consists of interviews with six randomly selected experimental group members. The primary idea behind the implementation of qualitative research methods is to perform an “in-depth and illustrative” analysis and “understand the various dimensions of the problem” (Queirós, Faria, & Almeida, 2017, p. 370). The ultimate inferences from the interviews are retrieved via content analysis that involves the examination of the common ideas proclaimed by the participants, as well as their common words and phrases.
The critical advantage of this research method lies in its flexibility, the possibility to retrieve meaningful and unexpected results and generate innovative ideas related to the topic of the study. In the process of interviews interpretation, the author tried to evaluate them objectively and do not interfere with the personal opinion. Besides, the objectivity of the results was achieved through the application of quantitative research methods. At the same time, it should be noted that the interview was conducted only to 6 participants, and this sample might not reflect the view of the entire population.
The quantitative research methods are utilized to analyze the effect of color-coded teaching on the use of articles and quantifiers. The researcher has conducted an experiment to test whether color-coding could improve assimilation of information and memorizing vocabulary and grammar. The purpose of this investigation is to ascertain whether the variables have a cause-and-effect relationship or not. Within the framework of the experiment, the author has conducted four tests that check participants ability to use English articles and quantifiers correctly. The content of these tests will be discussed in detail below in the paper.
As it has already been mentioned, the quantitative part of the research ensures the objectivity of the study. The significant features of quantitative research (systematic data collection and statistical analysis) are present in the paper (Queirós et al., 2017). Another considerable advantage of this research method is that it makes it possible for the author to statistically test the initial hypothesis on the existence of cause-and-effect relations between the variables.
The combination of the two research approaches enables the author to reveal and demonstrate the immediate effect of the phenomenon in question. Another significant advantage of the given research methodology is that it allows the author to combine findings retrieved from the analysis of primary and secondary sources with the experience of participants of this study. The present research requires a mixed research design because it ensures more comprehensive and reliable results and, consequently, a more profound understanding of the investigated phenomenon. This way, the combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods makes the study more comprehensive and reliable.
- What is the effect of color-coding grammar instruction on Saudi English as a foreign language learners’ accuracy of article use?
- What is the perception of Saudi English as a foreign language learners towards color coding grammar instruction?
At the beginning of the data collection stage, the total number of students ready to participate in the study was more than 100. However, the sample size was reduced to 82 students because some of the initial participants withdrew from the experiment due to personal reasons. A sample of 82 pre-Intermediate learners was selected based on the results of the Oxford Quick Placement Test (University of Cambridge: Local Examinations Syndicate, 2001). The purpose of administering this test was to determine the language proficiency of the participants and select pre-intermediate students. The test consists of 60 tasks developed by Oxford University Press and University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in 2001.
The researcher applies a convenience sampling method to ensure that the selected sample represents the population, avoid sampling bias, and guarantee that the retrieved results are credible and statistically significant. Besides, convenience sampling renders the findings of these two studies more comparable (Dias de Oliveira, 2015). All the participants of the experiment are female students aged between 18 to 19 years from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They are Saudi and Arabic native speakers and were enrolled in the institution at the time when the study was conducted. All students were enlisted in the English class provided by the English Language Institute (ELI) at the university to learn English with the goal of fulfilling the requirements of college entry. The Preparatory Year English course offered at ELI is a CEA-certified program that consists of four levels: Beginner (ELIS 101), Elementary (ELIS 102), Upper Elementary to pre-Intermediate (ELIS 103), and Intermediate (ELIS 104). English proficiency level of the experiments participants was rated as pre-Intermediate.
After the test on language proficiency level, the researcher distributed a project information sheet that elucidates what the learners might expect during the experiment. Later, the same information was verbally explained to the audience. Finally, the participants were asked to sign a consent to the processing of personal data. Before the experiment, the retrieved sample was divided into the color-coding and the non-color-coding groups. The former group is an experimental one and consists of 51 participants. The latter group, i.e., the control group, includes 31 respondents. The total number of participants and their grouping is represented in Table 1 “The Participants Group and Number.”
Table 1: The Participants Group and Number
|Group||1.00||experimental colored group||51|
|2.00||controlled no color group||31|
The instruments operated under the classroom experimental design use a pre-test, post-test (post-test 1, post-test 2) and delayed test designed by the researcher. The questions included different language elements such as morphology, syntax, and semantics. To ensure that the questions were composed correctly, two English language instructors revised them and provided feedback. All the comments were taken into consideration, and the necessary changes were introduced. The pre-test consisting of 34 multiple choice type questions (MCQ) was designed to test the participants prior knowledge of how to use articles and quantifiers. These questions are related to the targeted grammar (a, an, some, and any) and contain other items as distractors. The example for these questions is presented below.
I have got …………..banana for him.
Can you help me? I want to ask you……………. questions?
Can you give me…………. bottle of water from the fridge.
The first post-test (post-test 1) contains 7 MCQ questions that evaluate the students understanding of the rule of using articles. The example of the first post-test is presented below.
I have got …………..banana for him.
Can you give me…………. bottle of water from the fridge.
The second post-test (post-test 2) contains 11 questions that evaluate respondents understanding of the quantifiers’ use. The number of items in each test is different because the topic of quantifiers is more complex and, hence, there are more rules to be tested. Still, the difference in the number of these two tests items was eradicated through calculating the proportion of correct and wrong answers instead of their precise number. The example of the second post-test is presented below.
This salad is awful! There isn’t………….salt in it.
Can you help me? I want to ask you……………. Questions?
The researcher conducted a delayed test that consists of 18 MCQ questions related to both articles and quantifiers after one month from the intervention.
Lastly, as a part of the qualitative approach, interviews were used to collect data. An interview is a popular quantitative research method because it allows retrieving opinions and attitudes of the respondents (Dornyei & Csizer, 2012). This, in its turn, grant a scholar a chance to gain some unexpected insights related to the investigated problem. The questions for conducting the semi-structured interviews are based on insights gained from other literature (Dias de Oliveira, 2015; Münchow, Mengelkamp, & Bannert, 2017). The researcher interviewed six randomly selected students from the experimental group with five questions that correspond with the academic literature. These five questions target all the topics that the author feels like discussing in the interview. For this reason, there was no need to create more questions. Besides, since the interview was semi-structured, these questions only set the direction for the discussion without imposing any limitations. The purpose of these interviews was to retrieve more detailed information from the participants, make them express their opinions, and understand their personal experiences of the color-coding technique in the teaching intervention. Below there are some examples of the interview questions.
Interview Questions Examples:
- Throughout the lesson, what did you focus on?
- Do you think using colors help you focus more? Explain.
- When you had your test did you remember the colored words, and did it help you remember it?
- During the test did you remember some of the slides? Did you see them in your mind? Did you see the colors? Explain.
For the full lists of the tests’ questions refer to the appendices.
Participants were given consent forms issued by the Research Department in ELI for research concerning human subjects. This means that their involvement in the current study is on a voluntary basis. The distributed forms also contained information regarding the procedures of the experiment. This way, the participants were aware that they would have to take four tests related to the English language, participate in interviews, and do other experimental activities. The consent forms were translated into Arabic (native language) to ensure that the students correctly understood its content. In addition to that, a prior session was given to verbally explain the consent form details and answer the question of the participants related to the research procedure. Since the participants speak English at the pre-Intermediate level, the interviews were conducted in Arabic because it is their native language. This strategy ensures that participants fully expressed their thoughts and that any information was misinterpreted due to the language barrier. These interviews were transcribed and translated by the researcher and double-checked by the colleague.
The consent forms signed by the participants also impose an obligation on the author not to disseminate the personal information of the participants, their responses, and their results of the tests. The author guarantees the confidentiality of the respondents data and anonymity of everything they told during the interviews or wrote during the tests. The researcher writer also confirms that this study is not intended to harm somebody.
The given research paper does not face any ethical issues because it is plagiarism-free, does not falsify the results of the tests and interviews, and analyzes them correctly. The study does not represent any conflict of interest because the researcher is not guided by financial, political, or personal vested interests. The author also confirms a significant personal contribution to the creation of this paper and guarantees that an unidentified third-party actor did not perform this work. The author acknowledges the full responsibility for the finding and everything that is written in this study.
To select the targeted group for this study, the Oxford Quick Placement Test (University of Cambridge: Local Examinations Syndicate, 2001) was administered to all ELIS 103 students. This was done to ensure that all the participants were at the same English language proficiency level. Based on the results of this test, 82 students at the accurate pre-intermediate proficiency level were selected. The students whose knowledge of English was at a higher or lower level than pre-intermediate were excluded from the participation in the study.
Participants received written instructions and consents forms in Arabic. Afterward, the researcher explained the intervention’s elements and the importance of the intervention to the selected students. Then, they signed a consent sheet on their voluntary participation in the study. Students were also informed that the objective of the experiment is to evaluate second language learning techniques. After that, the participants were randomly divided into controlled (non-color-coding) and experimental (color-coding) groups. Both groups were placed in separate classrooms, and each was presented with English grammar materials. The experimental group received color-coded materials, whereas the materials of the controlled group were black-white. The study was conducted over a period of six weeks during regular class times.
Table 2 “Experiment’s Time Frame” taken from SPSS reflects the pre-test and post-tests, measuring the dependent variable both before and after exposure to the independent variable. In addition to the pre-test and post-tests, this study also includes delayed testing of both the colored group and the experimental group. To determine whether the English proficiency level of the sampled students has improved after applying the experimental learning technique, they were given one pre-test and two different post-tests before and after the teaching intervention. The pre-test was conducted before the experiment, the first post-test was conducted at the first week of the intervention that covered articles, and the second post-test was held at the second week of the intervention that was dedicated to quantifiers.
Table 2: Experiment’s Time Frame
|1||Before the intervention||Pre-test|
|3||One month after||Delayed|
The delayed test was applied to examine the effect of color-coding instruction in the long-term perspective. The distributed tests were designed by the researcher to estimate the effectiveness of the color-coding technique in the process of teaching students a foreign language. The students had to complete the test that consisted of 18 items within 30 minutes; however, each of them finished the test during varying time intervals.
The first week started with the pre-test of the students who agreed to the experiment. The participants were allocated 30 minutes to write down their answers to 30 questions. The information obtained from the tests is essential for the proper evaluation of their previous knowledge of the targeted material. After the test, the students were invited to attend classes on the use of articles and quantifiers in English.
The learning process constituted of three-part activities in which the articles were treated in isolation; an introduction of the difference between countable and noncountable nouns was included. The researcher constructed two sessions for the first week, each class lasted for two hours. In the first class, the participants of the study were introduced to the indefinite English articles (a, an) by first explaining the difference between count and noncount nouns. The explanation was complemented with multiple examples that helped them catch the difference between the types of English nouns. When the theoretical explanation was completed, the articles appeared on the screen one at a time, in precisely the same order across all conditions. The articles were introduced in color for the experimental group, whereas the control group members saw the articles in black and white.
The presentation that was used during the classes was not purely theoretical. The educator also incorporated various activities and concept-checking questions. Additionally, the presentation slides depicted ways in which the indefinite articles could be integrated into sentences. The classes were similar for experimental and control group students, and the only difference was that information in the presentation for the control group was not colored.
The first week of the experiment ended with the first post-test that is also called in the study as an immediate post-test 1. At the end of the second session on English articles, both groups of students were asked to complete a post-test within 30 minutes. The researcher uses the results of this test to reveal whether the performance of the students from an experimental group is better than the one of members of the control group.
In the second week of the experiment, the students were introduced to the English quantifiers that are “some” and “any.” The structure of the classes that were conducted during the second week resembles the structure of the previous weeks sessions. This way, the English quantifiers appeared on screen in the same order across all slides. For the experimental group, the quantifiers were introduced in color, and for the control group, the scheme was colored in black and white. The different methods in which quantifiers could be integrated into sentences were also depicted at the presentation slides in black and white for the control group and in color for the experimental group.
The second week of the experiment finished with the second post-test that is also referred to as immediate post-test 2 in this paper. The participants of both groups were allocated half an hour to complete the test. The results of these tests are used by the researcher to understand whether the representation of the learning materials on English quantifiers in color significantly affects the learning outcomes.
The final week of the experiment included two sessions that summarized all the learning material from the previous two weeks. These classes were held during the fourth module of level 103. One month after the end of the second set of classes on English articles and quantifiers, the participants took a delayed test. This test was based on the previously examined learning materials. Similar to the three preceding tests, this time, students also had 30 minutes to complete the delayed test.
During the final week of the experiment, six students from the experimental group that consisted of 51 members were individually interviewed. After students in the experimental group completed the delayed test, the organizer of the study asked them whether they would like to participate in the qualitative research. This way, the students who agreed to be interviewed provided their names and telephone numbers, and email addresses. Respondents were asked during the quantitative instrument if they would like to participate in the qualitative. The researcher randomly selected six students from those who expressed interest in participating in interviews. The interviewees were selected by simple random sampling to ensure the generalization of the study results. Prior to participating in the discussions, the researcher informed the students of the aims and purposes of the interview, described the process, answered their questions, and asked them to sign an informed consent form.
The interviewer selected responses only of 10 percent of the experimental group members because of the time constraints, i.e., it appeared not to be feasible to talk to more students. However, during the interpretation of the results, the author objectively evaluated the answers to escape bias and subjectivity. Even though the opinions of the randomly selected six students might not reflect some peculiarities of the experimental teaching method, they still enable the author to receive the basic feedback on the effectiveness of the classes and estimate the proposed instrument through the lens of English as a foreign language students.
Classroom Intervention Materials
The teaching intervention in this study lasted for four weeks. The teaching material was developed in the form of PowerPoint presentations. The topics covered in class include articles (a, an) and quantifiers (some, any). The study employs two experimental conditions and compares the results of the experimental colored group with the results of the controlled non-colored group. Consequently, the classes of the control and experimental groups were held in two different classrooms where each group was exposed to only one of the two experimental conditions. More precisely, the learning materials of the experimental group were color-coded, and the slides presented to the control group were black and white. The content of the materials for the two groups is identical and includes schemes and examples on how to use a, an, any, and some. Both the color-coded group and the black and white color scheme were being managed by the experimenter.
Prior to conducting the real experiment, the researcher piloted the pre-test and two immediate post-tests on 30 students in module three. Then, the author analyzed the responses and received feedback from these students. Based on the comments, several adjustments were made to the teaching materials and the tests. As it has already been mentioned, during the first week of module four, students took a placement test, and the level of only 103 students was appropriate for the study. Still, later the sample was reduced to 82 students because some of them refused to participate for various reasons.
Figure 1 provides an example of one of the PowerPoint presentation slides used in the experimental group classroom. Figure 2 illustrates an example of one of the PowerPoint presentation slides displayed to the controlled group.
Scoring Procedure and Data Coding
The learning outcomes are measured by the accuracy of articles’ and quantifiers’ use. The pre-test and post-tests were rated with respect to the number of correctly answered questions. The total number of correct responses was averaged and used in the following calculations as a comprehension index. For every question, a student could get either 0 or 1 point. 0 indicates that the participant answered a question incorrectly, and 1 indicates that the provided answer was correct. Therefore, for each test, a student could gain from 0 to 1 point where 0 is means that there are no right answers and 1 means that all answers are correct. The researcher manually scored the items and double-checked them for precision.
To measure the long-term effectiveness of color-coding, the study subjects were examined with a delayed test. Additionally, some of them later were interviewed to understand their perception of the examined teaching method. The present analysis was coded for categories that appeared as themes relevant to the research question. The interviews advocate for identifying key concepts which are based on data provided by participants.
As the central concepts appeared from the collected information, participants’ perception of the effect of color-coded learning was evaluated. Moreover, the researcher employed initial coding strategies such as the line-by-line and word-by-word coding of data collected from the interviews using the methodological techniques presented in Charmaz (2014). The researcher also used the analysis of these initial codes to formulate a systematic coding structure. Furthermore, the NVivo software was used in creating memos that simplified the process of summarizing central themes into clusters (Zamawe, 2015). The clusters and insight that were retrieved from the conducted interviews are discussed in detail in the following chapters of the present study.
The author investigates the quantitative aspect of the study via the application of the SPSS 20.0. This software was used to analyze and obtain the statistical difference between the experimental and the control group throughout the three tests (pre-test, post-tests, and delayed test) and ensured the highest accuracy of the calculations. In SPSS, the author conducted an analysis of variance (ANOVA) and ensured that the analyzed measures were not repeated to escape the distortion of the experiments results.
The qualitative data collected during the interviews were processed via the NVivo software. One of the significant advantages of this program is that it could automatically transcribe audio files with recorded interviews. Hence, during the interview process, the researcher was focused on communication with a respondent, not on notes taking. The transcribed text was translated and then coded. Then, the author once again applied NVivo to identify the respondents’ common themes, ideas, and phrases. The NVivo software visualizes the textual data in the form of word frequency charts that is immensely helpful in analyzing interviews.
The present study has several constraints, including the size of the sample and its representativeness. The first constraint is the sample size that consists of participants from four English classes at ELI. It was very complicated to ensure the same exposure of the input. Secondly, since the present university is an all-female institution, all the participants in the study are females. Since the all-male branch of the university is located separately, it was challenging to collect data from both genders and organize classes that could be attended by the students of both units. Consequently, this point restricts the generalization of the results. At the same time, to mitigate this issue, the author assumes that the effectiveness of the proposed teaching method and the opinion of the students on this issue are not related to their gender.
The third methodological challenge is that the present research focuses only on a single university in the region, King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. For this reason, the study cannot be widely generalized. Nonetheless, similar experiments could be conducted in other universities in Saudi Arabia, and such results will provide a more profound understanding of the effectiveness of the use of color in the learning materials.
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