Improving English Vocabulary Knowledge of Visually Impaired People: A Design-Based Research Approach
Vocabulary knowledge is at the center of foreign language learning, and related to writing, reading, listening and speaking skills as indicated in the literature (Allen, 1983; Ellis, 2001; Krashen, 1989; Laufer, 1988; Schmitt, 2000; Stein, Neßelrath, & Alexandersson; 2010). Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) and Computer Assisted Vocabulary Learning (CAVL) made a huge impact and created vast opportunities for English as Foreign Language (EFL) in that respect. Despite these developments, Visually Impaired (VI) people still have challenges to learn the language due to lack of appropriate teaching approach, assistive technology, adapted learning materials and awareness (The Grundtvig Learning Partnership, 2008-2010).
This study was inspired by the need to cover the gap in EFL of VI adults in Turkey and to understand the design and development process of Speaking Eyes (web based instruction tool and mobile apllication) developed for providing VI adults with an accessible environment to learn accurate spelling of English vocabulary. This study was guided by the following research questions:
How do the design, development, and implementation processes of Speaking Eyes progress?
How do Visually Impaired adults explain their experiences while using Speaking Eyes?
This study tried to make contribution to the literature by implementing a study meets the particular needs of the VI in terms EFL vocabulary learning. Depending on the purpose of the study Design based research (DBR) (Brown, 1992) methodology guided this study. Firstly, need analysis of the practical problem was conducted with VI university students and teachers. Following this, design and development process of instructional tools was started based on the needs, existing design principles and technological tools. Design and development process was an iterative process composed of three main cycles of testing and refinement. The final product was enhanced solution based which aimed to solve investigated practical problem.
There were ten participants in total who were voluntary to participate in this study. All of the participants were adults who had at least basic level English knowledge and had basic computer skills. In this study three data collection instruments were utilized to collect the data which were demographics questionnaire, an interview protocol and observation method with think-aloud protocol.
It can be concluded that Speaking Eyes is a promising tool that have potential to provide opportunities for VI EFL learners in vocabulary building process. Since blind or VI people face with challenges and difficulties while learning a foreign language (Stein, Neßelrath, & Alexandersson; 2010), the key issue in this process is to provide individualized instruction which is modified based on their needs (Guinan; 1997). The major necessity for VIs is providing the orthographic forms of the vocabulary with auditory format.