- Peer Review: English grammar in context
English grammar in context
- Dec 13, 2022 by English
This online course introduces users to the basics of prescriptive versus descriptive grammar and guides users through a basic understanding of grammatical features of spoken English. The self-guided course can be completed via a website or downloaded as a Word or PDF document to be completed offline. Besides written activities embedded in the course structure, there are no supplemental materials. It is best suited for individual use, especially for university students beginning their study in linguistics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, or teaching grammar.
- Type of Material:
- Recommended Uses:
Individual, self-paced learning
- Technical Requirements:
Chrome, Microsoft Word, Adobe PDF/other PDF viewer
- Identify Major Learning Goals:
- To understand why studying grammar is important,
- to understand the difference between descriptive and prescriptive grammar, and
- to understand basic grammatical features of spoken British English
- Target Student Population:
College general education; beginning linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, or anthropology students, or those interested in teaching any of the above.
- Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Understanding of basic to intermediate grammar terms and rules.
The fact that the resource acknowledges both descriptive and prescriptive grammar practices and then focuses on the former is a major positive point. Additionally, the course doesn’t focus on metagrammar and instead immediately puts the concepts in context, and users can begin applying concepts: the resource practices what it preaches. The resource is also based in research, is self-contained, and provides accurate information. Finally, the course is written in an approachable, personable tone.
It isn’t clear why the course includes the information that it does: there’s an odd balance between what the course assumes the user already knows and what it’s trying to teach. While the course says that it will describe how grammar can be used in both written and spoken contexts, only the latter is touched upon, therefore not completely demonstrating or summarizing the concept. There is some outdated terminology referring to American Indigenous populations and an incomplete overview of the history of prescriptive grammar, making the information not entirely current or relevant. Finally, the course seems to be biting off more than it can chew, and therefore seems to include an inadequate amount of material.
If the course takers may find some of the activities challenging, so they are advised to ask English teachers/instructors for help.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
While the course seems like it’s geared towards native speakers of Standard English, it acknowledges other varieties and attempts to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Activities throughout the modules keep users engaged and help to practice concepts learned, which are interrelated and progressively built upon. Additionally, this course can be used to build upon previously-learned concepts related to grammar, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, and/or spoken standard varieties of English.
By the end of the course, the course takers can download a statement of accomplishment. This, in fact, encourages the takers to exert efforts to finish the course successfully.
Again, the course suffers from learning outcomes that are too broad to fit into this course’s scope or timeframe. The course also isn’t clear on what prerequisite knowledge is required to successfully complete the course. Additionally, while it’s a good thing that the course relies on a descriptive approach, that philosophy might make the course’s activities more difficult for non-native English speakers or speakers of other varieties of English, as the activity directions rely on users’ instincts to successfully complete the activities. Finally, while there are activities throughout the modules, there is no assessment method featured in the course.
As this is a standalone course, it can’t integrate into assignments easily nor can it be used to measure student learning outcomes.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The course is easy to use and access, as users can use the website or download the course as a Word doc or PDF, which is reader accessible. Both the PDF and Word docs have links to previous sections (when mentioned in the text), and on the website, users can navigate forwards and backwards between modules/sections at the bottom of the screen. There’s a table of contents on the left side of the screen that outlines where the user is with links to all other sections of the course. Additionally, users can print individual sections from the website for another way to access the course offline. Additionally, as aforementioned, the course includes activities to keep the user engaged. Activities all include a time guide as to how long to spend on the activity, and the website features a hidden “discussion” section with answers or guidance. The Word doc version has all the discussion sections housed at the bottom of the doc and linked in their respective beginning activities, and these “answers” have a link back up to the corresponding activity for ease of use. Another activity includes embedded videos that include the accessibility features of: fullscreen, fast forward/rewind, adjustable volume, play/pause and stop buttons. One of the videos also includes the option to download and a transcript, which can be printed or copied to the computer’s clipboard and pasted elsewhere to complete the companion activity.
First, the activities’ instructions aren’t always clear or easy to follow. Second, the sole attempt at multimodality is the course’s embedded videos, which are only available on the website (not even linked in the PDF or Word docs), and the video quality is not great. Besides that and the aforementioned activities, the course isn’t very engaging.Furthermore, color is only used to denote activities or links to other sections; italics, underline, and bold are used to highlight or call attention to parts of the text, which doesn’t make for a visually appealing resource. Additionally, the activities and ability to control course pacing are the only interactive elements of the course, and the display of the activities are not equal between modes. The PDF doesn’t have the discussion section hidden, so users can see the suggested answers before they themselves complete the activity. Finally, in terms of high quality design, the long paragraphs make reading a bit laborious, and it’s difficult to difficult to distinguish paragraphs in all modes (website, Word, and PDF).