August 11, 2000 (Preliminary Report)

10.  Conclusion and Final Remarks
The experiment thus confirmed the hypothesis stated at the outset that the BLC Concordancer is an effective tool for non-native writers of EBP in significantly reducing the number of linguistic surface errors and thereby improving the overall quality of the messages they write in English. The average numbers of errors the Experiment Group made in articles and prepositions in Tests 2 through 7 were significantly lower than those made by the Control Group. The reason for this difference can only be attributed to the use of the BLC Concordancer.

Notwithstanding the above conclusion, however, it is clear that the BLC Concordancer and the data-driven language learning methodology associated with it are no panacea for all the problems our students have. As Granger and Tribble (1998: 199) warn, DDL as an emerging methodology "raises as many questions as it might appear to answer."

First, success with the concordance-based approach of DDL seems to be strongly associated with several specific parameters -- such as student's cognitive level, learning style, current levels of linguistic proficiency and computer literacy. This means that the method may only be effective for certain types of students. With regard to the level of linguistic proficiency, it seems clear that the DDL approach is particularly suited for learners at intermediate to advanced  levels, although theoretically the approach can also be adopted by beginners or near-beginners.

Second, as discussed in Section 9, the data-driven approach to writing based on KWIC concordance data is only effective for certain types of linguistic forms whose use is more or less determined locally -- either within the phrase or the clause in question. Others such as those related to textual and discoursal aspects of writing necessarily require a wider context, and thus will not easily lend themselves to analysis in KWIC format. It is, therefore, important to view DDL as complementary to other methods of language learning and teaching, rather than a replacement for them.

Despite these and other limitations and shortcomings, DDL has a major advantage over traditional language learning and teaching styles in that it helps learners cultivate and strengthen their inductive skills by favoring "learning by discovery" (Tribble and Jones, 1990: 12). If successfully applied, it has the potential of turning otherwise monotonous language learning into an exciting scientific endeavor in which "learners can become active participants in this voyage of dicovery into patterns of the language -- a voyage which may induce increased motivation for foreign language learning, including some of its hitherto least popular components, such as grammar" (Granger and Tribble 1998: 209).


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Appendices
1.  A printout of the DDW Project 2000 Homepage, including the purpose statement of the Project
    and instructions to the participants
2.  A printout of the online Entry Form.
3.  A printout of the online version of the first assignment, Test 1.
4.  A printout of the top page of BLC Concordancer Website.
5.  A sample printout of the BLC Concordancer's search result.