Running Head: awesome chinese: theoretical based instruction

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Awesome Chinese: Interactive Multimedia Tool for Learning Chinese Idioms

Pei Ju Chang

California State University-Monterey Bay

IST 520 Learning Theory

Professor Lockwood

May 15, 2012



There is an abundance of hardcopy resources for learning Chinese idioms. For example, ‘broken heart’,’ give someone a hand’, ‘ crack someone up’, ‘hold your tongue’, ‘scream your lungs out’, ‘lost your mind’ etc. Students can learn expressions like these by reading a book and then completing a quiz to test their understanding. At one time this process was an effective learning method because that is all there was; however, the use of technology for learning has become a vital part of education, as we now know it. We now live in a digital era with tools, such as, smart boards, smart phones, smart document cameras, and smart tables. Many people cannot imagine life apart from all of these digital and mobile devices. As a result, technology is playing an essential role for modern learners. Thus, using the computer and web to conduct interactive learning activities is beneficial and productive. This is true for the user as well as an organization, which is concerned with the time away from productivity and the money that costs.

After completing this training module, learners will be more confident speaking colloquial, culturally appropriate, and grammatically correct Mandarin Chinese. They will obtain this knowledge using a current and technologically based form of instruction with traditional and modern learning theories.

Description of Potential ‘real-world’ Training Module

Problems and Constraints

Using Chinese idioms require more advanced skills in terms of language application. People who are well educated use these idioms frequently. On the other hand, colloquial slang is used as a vital portion of native speakers’ daily conversation. However, due to the complexities and insufficient cultural understanding, students often encounter problems where they have learned terms and yet still don not know when and how to use these terms to convey what they mean. For example, Burke discussed in his 1998 research that he used, the phrase “What’s up?” to greet his friend from Italy. The Italian friend looked up to the sky and was confused (p. 20). Burke further stated that “if you’ve chosen not to teach slang or idioms to your students, that’s certainly your decision, but you must admit that the average native speaker does use a certain amount of slang and idioms in everyday speech” (p.21). The student will be at a disadvantage if there is not an understanding of cultural idioms for the new language.

There is a rich source of printed learning materials on the correct usage of idioms and slangs (Algeo, 1991; Chapman, 1986; Dumas, 1978). Only a small percentage of these sources use interactive, multimedia learning tools, which may provide the learner a chance to see, hear, and practice the use of the proverbs or slang from a specific context or scenario. This exercise will help prevent the student from finding themselves in embarrassing situations where they have used a term that means something other than what they meant literally.

Today, students of Chinese can learn the language through text books, web sites, language tutorial CDs, DVDs, and paid computer programs, as well as electronic devices such as iPhones and other smart-products. It is obvious that there are quite a number of learning programs, as well as devices, that assist Chinese language learners in acquiring the target language; however, it is noticeable that a search for interactive, instructional tools, that may advance the learning skills of Chinese idioms, can rarely be found.

Applicable Theories

Key constructions

The key constructions are with three goals in mind. The first goal is based on Bandura’s social learning theory to present the Chinese idioms to Chinese language and cultural learners through fun, entertaining videos to lay a basic foundation. The second goal will be based on behaviorism to deepen the leaner’s understanding through stimulus-response theory in the interactive activities, and to enhance the learner’s comprehension of the subject. The third goal is focused on self-efficacy, brought up by Bandura, that is to ensure leaners’ comprehension of the cultural idioms and to use it in a social context with minimal or no errors and to further strengthen learners confidence.

Main components of the theory

This project is created based on the following learning theory: Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, Bandura’s social learning theory, Skinner’s operant conditioning, Narrative and Storie’s theory and Thorndike’s connectionism theory. The purpose of the design is for learners to interact with the computer; therefore, Vygosky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) was not taken into consideration.

There will be a session later in the paper that describes the project in detail with a step-by-step description. In this session, the overall arching theory that embraces and nests the project will be discussed.

This project contains an opening theme song page, the topic choice pages, the main instructional video pages, the comprehension checkup pages, and feedback pages. All of aforementioned pages will be purposefully shown based on the Gagne’s nine events of instruction.

Next, the video instruction was purposefully designed as a role model based on the Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory for the learner to imitate and to follow. As Gredler mentioned “the behavior of a model must produce reinforcement for a particular behavior and positive emotional reactions must be aroused by the learners.” (p.357). Bandura emphasized the influences on self-regulation and self-efficacy, which he explained with a triangulated reciprocal determination. There are: internal events and behavior and environment. In other words, the environment changes the child’s behavior as well as influence the child’s beliefs and motivation. Oppositely, the belief can dominate the change of behavior, which can then control the environment.

Following the video section is the nine tabs for learners to choose from. The nine tabs contain various topics include colors, plants, human body parts and animals. For example, if the learner selects animals they will see a video that introduces the idiom that Chinese people use to express the phenomena with names of animals or particular animal movements. This page is designed based on Bandura’s Self-regulated Learning Theory, that learners are capable of monitoring their own thoughts and feelings, while choosing the learning strategies that will help them to achieve their personal goals (Gredler, p.367). In this session, the learner has the choice of whether he or she would like to or needs to learn idioms with names of animals, numbers or things.

Following by that is the knowledge checking session, where Skinner’s Operant Conditioning jumps in and takes over. Skinner identified frequency of responding as an adequate measure of the likelihood of future response. In other words, when learning occurs, responses increase. (Gredler, p.100).To insure this instructional module is effective, there is immediate reinforcement given when learners go through the comprehension checking session. Thorndike originally identified three major laws of learning to explain the associations or connections between the stimulus and appropriate responses (Gredler, p.47).

  1. The law of effect: A positive response strengthens reinforcement, while negative response weakens reinforcement.

  2. The law of exercise or repetition: the more responses to the stimulus, the longer they will last.

  3. The law of readiness: certain conduction units, in a given situation, are more predisposed to conduct than others.

For example, if they selected the expected response, then the computer will give a positive encouragement by stating, “that was a brilliant idea, you are absolutely right.” However, if the learners did not choose the anticipated answer, then a dialog bubble will pop up and say, “hmm, I see, let’s go back to the video once more, this time, listen carefully to the host when he is explaining about the face” (Gredler, p.47).

Another session is the scenario plot writing that is built upon the narrative learning theory, as Clark and Rossiter emphasized that learning in adulthood is integrally related lived experience (p.63). Therefore, it is important to recognize that construction of a narrative is not purely a personal process; it is also social in nature (p.63). It is important to allow adult learners to think out loud and make a connection with their live experience and the learning of the Chinese idiom.

Learning Theories in Practice

This instructional program will follow Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction:

  1. Gain attention. Learners will first log on to the computer and link to the Awesome Chinese website. The theme song will play. This theme song is sang by an American learner who dressed up as a Chinese person and sang in Chinese. Learners are expected to look at this modeled behavior as a strong motivation.

  2. Inform learners of objectives. As soon as the song is done the learner will click on the individual video clip. Next to the video clip there will be a pre-test session, which explains the learners’ objectives and where new vocabulary will be introduced. For example, learners will see and hear the following statement, “yi means one, er means two, san means three, hua means flower, and yi means mind. What do the words number, flower, and mind have to do with describing a person’s concentration? Want to find out more? Click on the video and you will find out.”

  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning. In the middle of the presentation, both the host and the hostess purposefully create some dialog to fulfill the purpose of connecting the similarities of the to-be learned idioms to the learner’s native language.

  4. Present stimulus material. During this session, the host and the hostess will bring in some artifacts and props to assist the learner’s understanding of the discussed topic. For example, the hostess brings in three stuffed animals with the intension of handing them over to the host. She accidently dropped them all, at which point the host says, “Hey, you are furry handed and furry footed, which means you are being clumsy and careless.”

  5. Provide learner guidance. After watching a video, learners will be invited to click on a page, which will then take them to the next slide for several interactive, comprehensive questions.

  6. Elicit performance. After answering the questions, learners will then be directed to a page where they will have to create a scenario to explain how they will apply the learned idiom in real life. This activity connects the new information to their life experiences.

  7. Provide feedback. The interactivity includes a feedback section where the windows pops up with more elaboration or explanations to clarify learners doubts after they are done with the exercise. For example, if the learner choses “A” while the response should be “C” then the computer will have a message bubble pop up and say, “A is a possible choice but in this case...explanation. Therefore, the answer should be something else. Watch the video again and focus on how the host replies to the question asked by the hostess.”

  8. Assess performance. Before exiting the program there will be a question and answer section where the user and instructor may communicate. The user can provide an example of using the learned idiom.

  9. Enhance retention transfer. Through the use of software, learners can go back and retake the lesson or recommend the website to anyone who is interested in learning Chinese idioms through this interactive learning tool

Instructional Modules

The hardware includes a desktop computer, installed software, such as Adobe, Microsoft Word, and Explorer, and a web browser, such as Firefox. The first task is to properly log on to the school computer to find the webpage. Once they successfully get to the page they will be welcomed by a homepage, which contains a brief verbal introduction and instruction of how to manipulate this tool. After that, an attention gaining theme song will start playing to welcome and grab the attention of the user. Learners at this point are welcome to finish the song or choose to move forward. The next slide is a table of content with special effects. Learners will have a choice of learning idioms related to various subjects ranging from number to objects. For example, an animal, body parts, numbers, or colors.

Take body parts as an example, a picture of a person will come up to guide learners to select a particular body part. As soon as the learner clicks on the selection, the video of the selection will start to play. A native speaker, who will play the role of host or hostess during the module, introduces each video clip. The theme is another example. If the user choses The Heart, both hosts start to talk about the “flower heart, three hearts, two minds, one heart, and one mind.” They will give examples such as, “the heart is not on the horses back…etc.”

Learners are allowed to pause and play the video at their will. They are also encouraged to play the entire video until the end before they move on to quiz. Once they are in the quiz session, the user will find a variety of questions in relation to the video, which will randomly come up on the web page. The last section of the module is the scenario portion, where the learners are encouraged to create their own story with a plot.

Intended Target Audience

Merriam described Knowles’ five assumptions underlying andragogy in her research, which are:

1. Adults know what they want, and can direct their own learning.

2. Cognition has rich life experience that can accelerate their learning.

3. Has strong motivation in learning related to their social status.

4. Is interested to implement the learned knowledge to put to use.

5. Learn more by internal factors than external factors.

This training is designed for adult learners who are currently enrolled in the Chinese program at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. There are 700 participants, of which 85% are male and 15% are female. These 700 military soldiers are from all branches of the services and range in age from 18-35. Depending of the length of service in the military, their rank varies from First Class to Colonel. The learning styles are also different, 60% of them are visual leaners, 15% of them are kinesthetic and 10% of them are audio and the remaining 15% are tactile learners. Their learning method is also different. Fifty percent of them are inductive learners, with the other 50% being deductive learners. The educational background also varies. Sixty percent possess a high school diploma, 35% possess an undergraduate degree or incomplete college degree, and 5% hold a graduate degree. The proficiency level will also vary. Forty five percent of the target audiences are in beginning level, where they can only understand basic listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Chinese. For example, they can verbally communicate and can comprehend when they hear daily greetings and simple conversation. They perform the first level of writing, rough sentence structure with grammar errors, and their vocabulary and grammar knowledge is minimal. They can read short passages with simple language. The next group is 35% of the target audience, which are the semester II learners. They are at intermediate level; know the language but not much about the meaning beyond or the meaning the author tried to convey. Likewise, they are reinforced with any context involved with embedded cultural pieces that require the user to have a prior knowledge. Students in this level can read and understand articles in a particular field. They can write a paragraph, listen to simple movies and T.V. episodes. The remaining 20% are the semester III advanced learners, who have native-like proficiency. They have the ability to listen to daily news reports, write journals, and have regular and professional conversations in a specific background, such as, economy, geography, culture, and society. They can read at higher levels in various topics, such as, materials that college level students would study in law, medical, science, financial, technology and politics.

Pajares discussed in his research that gender does matters in terms of language art, studies show that “gender differences in motivation might be linked to differences in achievement with their finding that females were generally more intrinsically motivated to study English than men.” Thus, he concluded that male students tend to be more confident in their math and science abilities than are female students , on the other hand, female students typically report stronger self-efficacy in language arts. (pajares, 2002; pajares& Valiante, 2006; Miller, 2000)


A good instructional design must follow the learning theory path to meet the learner’s needs. In this case, there are several obstacles in the way. First of all, time is the main constraint. The project is going to be an ongoing one and will need to be refined over time. However, due to the purpose of this Capstone, there may not be enough time to refine the project to perfection. Another challenge will be for the designer, who will encounter a security concern. Due to strict regulation, instructors are not allowed to have personal contact with military personnel. Frequent feedback from the users’ perspective is vital in terms of modifying the project. Ideally for the usability purpose, if the user can view and operate the project and send the feedback to the designer, this would be less time consuming. However, under the restriction, it will be difficult to get feedback from the user for future refining. In order to cope with these challenges, the designer will create a smaller module for the purpose of the capstone and continue with the project to flesh out the content of this interactive learning tool. To overcome the obstacle of the security restriction, the designer will plan to invite six learners to participate in a usability test held once a month at the computer lab of Asian School I, in building 450. These beta testers are going to look at the project with critical eyes and provide feedback on how effective they feel this project is, as well as the navigation and functionality of design.


The Awesome Chinese interactive multimedia learning module is mainly designed under the consideration of various learning theories to responds to the training needs of Chinese language students. At the same time they will learn idioms and fundamental mechanics of the Chinese language. The training will provide multimedia video introduction, and interactive, comprehensive question exercise, and an engaging scenario application. These activities will assist learners in gaining knowledge of the background, origin, and application, as well as the usage of the idiom, and will prepare the learners for the real world communication in the target language.

Related Reference

Algeo, J. (1991). Fifty years among the new words: A dictionary of neologisms, 1941-1991. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Burke, D. (1998). Without slang and idioms, students are in the dark. ESL Magazine, 1(5), p.20-25.

Clark, M. C. & Rossiter, M. (2008). Narrative Learning in Adulthood. . New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, fall , Jossey-Bass , San Francisco.

Chapman, R. (1986). New dictionary of American slang. New York: Harper Row, publishers.

Gredler, M. (2008). Learning and instruction: theory into practice. Pearson, Columbus, Ohio.

Lampton, D. M. (2007). The Faces of Chinese Power. Foreign Affairs January, February

Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: pillars of Adult Learning Theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 89, spring Jossey-Bass , San Francisco.

Miller, J. (2000). Exploring the source of self-regulated learning: The influence of internal and external comparisons: Journal of Instructional Psychology, 27(1), p.47-52

Pajares, F. (2007). Self-efficacy of college intermediate French students: Relation to achieve ment and motivation: Language Learning 53(7), p. 417-442Pedersen, E. M. (1993) American studies through folk speech. Messana: Rassegna di Studi Filologici Linguistici e Storici, 14, p.187-206.

Sandrock, P. (2006). Critical: need language. The Language Educator, April, 7-8

Sweley, M. H. (2006). Chinese Fever. The Language Educator, 11(6).

Wu,W.L. (2005). The Role of Form-Focused Communication Activities in Complex

Grammar Learning: the Case of Relative Clauses in Chinese. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2005)

Xu, L. (2006). Multilingual Momentum. Essential Teacher, 3(2), 12-13.

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