Exploring the use of anchored instruction in intermediate level German foreign language education

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Oestreich, Tina Marie Deveny

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This study investigates the benefits of implementing content-based instruction (CBI) and culturally authentic film in intermediate level (IL) foreign language (FL) courses to promote increased knowledge of target language and culture. The premise of the study is that contextualizing FL instruction at the IL using authentic film will enable students to improve their knowledge of the target language and culture, learn to view film as a rich source of information, improve their critical thinking skills, and develop skills that will allow them to continue learning outside of the classroom. The participants consisted of third semester students of German. They received training in describing and analyzing film set in pre-WWII Germany by working with a framework for recording important social, technological, economic, political, scientific and geographic features present in film, as well as by answering basic questions about plot and characters. In addition, a small group of Germanic Studies graduate students completed the same pre- and posttest assessment activities and served as a comparison group. In a pre- and posttest assessment, participants were asked to summarize the contents of film clips set in pre-WWII Germany. The graduate students’ summaries were used to create a ‘master summary of the contents of each film. Explicit, factual information was analyzed by counting the number of explicit ideas (propositions) generated by each individual. The data revealed that both the experts and IL students decreased in the number of propositions they generated in the posttest, but the IL students improved significantly in terms of the proportion of propositions they included from the master summary. However, they did not improve in their ability to include propositions using only German. Other types of information were analyzed qualitatively using discourse analysis. Both the graduate ‘experts’ and IL students included much inferential knowledge in their summaries, and some intermediate level students also included meta comments that addressed their ability to complete the summary task using German. The study revealed that integrating authentic film in IL classrooms using a CBI approach assists FL students in increasing their ability to summarize events seen in culturally authentic film.