Improving Electronic Laboratory Study in English as a Second Language Programs

A Case in Point


  • Suzanne E. Lindenau



With or without electronic language laboratories, Americans seem convinced
that they cannot learn foreign languages. Foreigners do not seem to share this
peculiarly American phobia. They not only think they can learn English, but they also
are responsible for the growing number of university-sponsored English as a Second
language (ESL) programs. Since many ESL programs have a required lab component,
a case-study approach to one such lab requirement could give valuable insight into
the effectiveness of mandatory ESllaboratory study and ways to improve it.
Seventy-five ESL students in five levels were observed during required lab study
under three conditions: (1) working independently with commercial ESL audio tape
programs; (2) working independently with lab-specific audio tape programs, namely
exercises with instructions tailored to the electronic labs being used; and (3)
lab-specific tape programs in a controlled lab environment, that is, an instructor at
the console monitoring and correcting students.
The results clearly suggest that maximum improvement in lab study effectiveness
occurs in a controlled lab environment, namely with an instructor at the console--an
instructor who works actively with the students, monitors their progress, and corrects
their mistakes.