Sun (2012) examined how speaking practice through voice blogs would have an effect on college students’ speaking performance and investigated the participants’ perceived gains in speaking. The participants were 46 college students (15 females and 31 males) in Taiwan, studying English as a FL with an average of 9 years. Two research questions were addressed in the study (p. 496):
- Does extensive speaking practice via voice blogs improve learners’ speaking performance?
- What are learners’ perceived gains in speaking skills after extensive speaking practice via voice blogs?
In order to address the first research question, the participants’ oral performances in their blog entries were compared through a quasi-experimental research design. To investigate the second research question, following the speaking practice conducted through voice blogs, a survey including seven Likert-type items was administered to the participants.
The English class the participants attended aimed to improve their oral and public presentation skills and was conducted for 18 weeks. During that time, as an out-of-class activity, the participants were asked to provide 30 entries in their voice blogs as well as 10 responses as reactions or replies to their classmates’ voice messages. The participants decided for themselves while providing their entries on their blogs. That is, the teacher did not provide a strict requirement for the participants to follow. Moreover, grammatical accuracy was not stressed by the teacher. The first and the last three voice blog entries provided by the participants were subject to content analysis. Two raters analyzed the entries in terms of fluency, pronunciation, accuracy, and complexity.
The results showed that 76% of the participants believed that their oral proficiency was improved through providing entries on their voice blogs (Mean =3.89, SD =0.75), which means that they showed positive attitudes towards the use of voice blogs and agreed that voice blogs had positive effects on their speaking skills. However, these perceived improvements were not supported by the analysis of their blog entries. The content analysis comparing the participants’ first and last three voice entries indicated that there was not any difference regarding accuracy, pronunciation, and complexity prevailing in these entries. As also indicated by the author, this may be attributed to the fact that as students were free on deciding what and how to say, they may not have paid attention to accuracy, pronunciation or complexity. In other words, this out-of-class activity provided them to express themselves freely without caring about what was generally taken into considering in a classroom. The author did not provide any details on whether these activities were graded or evaluated; however, as far as I understand, these activities did not count towards their course grade. As such, this might also account for the fact that the perceived positive attitudes or gains in their speaking skills were not reflected in their entries. As stressed by the author,
…. the insignificant improvement in speaking skills in the study may be due to the fact that development of speaking skills might take more practice and longer time than the development of writing skills in an EFL context. Future research employing longitudinal study could shed new light in this regard (p. 501).
Sun, Y. (2012). Examining the effectiveness of extensive speaking practice via voice blogs in a foreign language learning context. CALICO Journal, 29(3), 494-506.