Vyatkina, N. 2020. Corpora as open educational resources for language teaching. Foreign Language Annals; 1– 12
Corpora, large electronic collections of texts, have been used in language teaching for several decades. Also known as Data‐Driven Learning (DDL), this method has been gaining popularity because empirical research has consistently shown its effectiveness for learning. However, corpora are still underutilized, especially with learners of languages other than English, at lower proficiency levels, and in non‐university contexts. This is regrettable because DDL has a great potential for developing modular flipped content, especially for hybrid, remote, and online courses. This article first provides an overview of DDL applications and findings of empirical research. Next, it outlines obstacles to wider DDL implementation as well as available and possible solutions. Corpus user guides and exercise collections tied to specific corpora are discussed as one promising direction, and an example of such new open educational resources for teaching German is presented. The article concludes with a discussion of implications and future directions.
The above overview shows that corpora have been successfully used in language teaching for decades. Corpus‐based word frequency lists have informed teaching syllabi and materials, and both teachers and learners have used corpora directly to search for language use examples and explore patterns. Such inductive DDL applications have led to significant learning gains, especially in vocabulary and grammar knowledge, and have been frequently more efficient than non‐DDL teaching methods while at the same time enhancing learner autonomy and providing individualized learning experiences. These aspects of DDL make it especially suitable for applications in hybrid, remote, and online courses. Corpus‐based modules can be developed to supplement and enhance existing syllabi with digital and flipped content. Students can conduct corpus searches individually on their own computers and at their own pace, and report the results to the teachers via worksheets or other conventional media. This type of work would also contribute to larger educational goals such as developing students’ critical thinking, analytical ability, and digital literacy.
Although DDL has predominantly targeted EFL and ESL university students, there is no inherent reason for why it should be restricted to these contexts. The field has recently been expanding, and the readers of this journal can take heart in the fact that DDL can also work with LOTEs, primary and secondary schools, as well as beginning learners. There is still a great potential for growth in these areas. Publication of teacher guides and DDL exercise collections integrated with specific corpora would be especially helpful to teachers. Incorporating Corpora , introduced above, is an exemplar of such a project that presents an alternative “third way” to hands‐on and hands‐off DDL, a middle ground “between the polished, albeit limited, linguistic information neatly systematized in dictionaries and the countless other linguistic facts that can be gleaned from corpora, but which only experienced corpus users are able to access” (Frankenberg‐Garcia, 2014, p. 141). The pilot study conducted with the project’s materials showed that even lower‐competency learners were capable of autonomous DDL when it was scaffolded through an online guiding interface. It is planned to continuously maintain, update, and expand the project’s modules as well as to test them with other teachers and students, including those in secondary schools. Although Incorporating Corpora is focused on a specific German corpus, it can serve as a model for creating similar materials for other languages and corpora, and it is hoped that other DDL researchers and practitioners will follow suit.