In a recently published book, Mohammad T. Alhawary (2018): The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Second Language Acquisition, an interesting chapter is dedicated to a research that investigated whether Vialogues is effective in supporting pre-service Arabic student-teachers to transfer pedagogical theory to practice. The chapter in the book is titled Effect of Using a Collaborative Video-based Self-evaluation Activity on Helping AFL Student-teachers Tie Theory to Practice. The chapter was written by Raghda El Essawi, currently Associate Professor at the Dept. of Applied Linguistics, The American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt. Her main research area is Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language (TAFL).
Essawi conducted the research at a TAFL MA program where her students used Vialogues as an artifact to facilitate reflections on TAFL pedagogical theories and to connect theories with practice. The research questions of the study were:
Q1: What are the dominant levels of reflection mirrored in post-video dialogues, self-evaluation texts produced by student-teachers?
Q2: What are the indications of the dominance of detected levels of reflection regarding participants' progress toward tying theory to practice?
In the study, the students videotaped their demo teaching and posted the videos on Vialogues. Then they formed groups and made observations on each other's teaching. Finally, they wrote self-evaluation papers on the strengths and weaknesses of their teaching and how they would make improvements. The students' reflection papers were analyzed on the depth of their self-reflection based on the following criteria (Table 18.1):
In the results, Essawi found that Level 3 was the dominant type of reflections (Table 18.2). The author also conducted case studies on several individual students. In the conclusion, the author wrote:
Despite research indicating the positive effect of collaborative reflection and video-based tools in helping teachers reach higher levels of reflection and relating theory to practice, the results of the current study indicated that activity relying on collaborative reflection and use of video-based tools was only partially successful in fulfilling the targeted goal ... student-teachers are capable of making reflective notes that describe and justify their general teaching behavior, but are unable to discern, associate with and then articulate abstract teaching rationales beyond specific teaching behavior in every key aspect of teaching ... a process of training through professional mentoring could have a positive effect on student-teachers' ability to use levels of reflection that encourage relating theory to practice.
Limitations of the study - As the author pointed out, the limited number of participants and only one demo teaching session could have affected the outcomes. I also feel the results could be more convincing if there was a control group.
- Vialogues will work more effectively if the learning activities are situated in a larger pedagogical context. Mentorship should be provided in/outside Vialogues to help student-teachers internalize the knowledge and relate theory to practice.
- The Vialogues team should look to make Vialogues conform to current e-learning standards such as the Experience API. This will make it easier for instructional designers and curriculum developers to incorporate Vialogues as a component of a larger curriculum.