Comparación de Métodos: Tres Aproximaciones a la Enseñanza de Pronombres de Objeto de Español
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The purpose of this investigation is to determine the comparative effectiveness of three distinct pedagogical approaches by conducting an experiment in which three groups of students were taught according to the theoretical premises that support each approach. The three groups were then tested to reveal which method was most effective. The target structure for the experiment was Spanish object pronouns. This particular structure was chosen because it is one with which students (particularly English speakers) struggle; for example, in English, the pronoun him is the same regardless of its usage as a direct object, as in: “Sally hit him,” or as an indirect object, as in: “Sally gave him the gift.” In the first example, the appropriate Spanish pronoun would be lo, whereas in the second example, the appropriate pronoun would be le. Also, students have trouble understanding Spanish pronouns’ appropriate place in syntax, which is before the verb, as opposed to English pronouns’ position after the verb. These and other factors make Spanish object pronouns difficult for students to grasp, and therefore difficult for teachers to teach.
Over the course of two semesters, I taught three groups of students enrolled in Spanish 1410 (elementary level) at Texas State University, San Marcos. At the outset of the experiment, all three groups of students took a pretest that covered direct and indirect object pronouns in English in order to determine how much they knew about the grammatical function and usage of the target structure before instruction began. Throughout the semester, each group was exposed to a different style of instruction of the target structure: the traditional approach, the constructivist approach, and a hybrid of the two, which is referred to in this work as the semi-constructivist approach.
The traditional approach, which is the approach most commonly found in textbooks currently in circulation, typically explains the function and usage of object pronouns in English and then compares them to their function and usage in Spanish. The constructivist approach allows students to form hypotheses about the function and usage of object pronouns in Spanish based on a limited number of example sentences, and then students continue to test those hypotheses as exposure to the target structure increases. The semi-constructivist approach allows students to hypothesize about the structure, but their independent inquiry is supplemented with traditional instruction. Each group of students had different homework assignments and in-class supplementary materials based on the style of instruction they received.
The target structure was included on three separate unit exams as well as the course final exam. The percentage of correct responses to the exam items that featured the target structure was then compared across the three groups in order to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of each method.