Grant: A Cornell University FABIT (Faculty Innovation in Teaching) Award.

PIs: Prof. Barbara Lust and Maria Blume

Purpose: We intend to advance two interdisciplinary courses which comprise Cornell University's most fundamental offerings on language acquisition, by integrating their course content with current technological advances allowing creation, archiving and distribution of digitized multi-media data and related materials. The courses involved are an interdisciplinary survey course in the area of language acquisition (i.e., Language Development) and a complementary lab course (i.e., Language Development Lab) which was initiated through an NSF Instrumentation and Lab Improvement (ILI) Grant from the NSF division of undergraduate education (RUE) to Cornell's Cognitive Studies Program and instantiated at Cornell through CISER (Cornell Institute for Social and Economic Research). The ILI grant, and the associated lab course, advanced undergraduate education at Cornell by fostering the integration of scientific research experience for undergraduates in basic education in the area of language knowledge and acquisition, a central component of Cognitive Science.

We intend to develop in these courses several technological advances in the study of language acquisition which were initiated through an NSF grant to Cornell which sponsored a UFE (Undergraduate Faculty Education) Workshop on Computational Assistance to undergraduate education in this area. This Workshop —Linguistics and the Language Sciences: New Computer Based Methods and Materials for Undergraduate Education— was conducted at the Linguistic Society of America 1997 Linguistic Institute, at Cornell University from June 30-July 6, 1997. Students in these courses are seeking skill both in (i) the study of language, and in (ii) the study of the child as a developing organism, with particular focus on the child's language development. In general, the students are seeking to learn (iii) general principles of science, i.e., the scientific method, applied to this particular area of Cognitive Science.

We must address students in these courses who come from a wide array of disciplines across campus: ranging from Human Development to Linguistics and Psychology and including Computer Science, Biology and Society and others. Students who come from Linguistics do not have a background in Developmental Psychology; those who come from Psychology (or other areas) do not have a background in Linguistics. Students from other fields such as Computer Science may not have a background in either Linguistics or Psychology.

For the study of the scientific method of research in this area of language acquisition, students must be able to see and hear language samples (from the child) which are elicited in various experimental paradigms which have been developed in the field, and to apply scientific methods of hypothesis formation, factorial design, transcription, coding and analyses to these audio- and visual- data. Otherwise, students do not have access to actual data, i.e., raw information, on the basis of which they can reach conclusions in testing of hypotheses. Transforming the original data (audio and video samples) into reliable linguistic data involves several steps. The scientific process of transcription and analysis of these forms of speech data must be taught to the students, so that they have a sense of the data upon which research papers or texts are based.

At the same time, students in Developmental Psychology, as well as students from other areas across campus, wish to learn the methods for the study of children's language by actual experiences with children. It is not possible to give every student much access to real children during the lab course for many reasons (some of then being Human Subjects Committee requirements as well as New York State requirements). Moreover, significant training is necessary before a student can work with a child professionally, and before a student can work with a child in a research manner. At present, actual experience with a child is open only in a limited manner to students at the end of the lab course, after they have been trained in all of the available methods and principles for research with children. Lack of earlier actual experience with children dissuades many students from taking the lab course. Students are not having sufficient learning experience with regard to their desired interaction with real children