Date of Award


Document Type

Senior Scholars Paper (Open Access)


Colby College. English Dept.


Philip Bither

Second Advisor

Charles Ferguson

Third Advisor

George S. Maier


Characteristic of the acquisition of most skills, the learning of a foreign language requires formalized, systematic training. Computer-assisted instruction provides the necessary individualized drill with accompanying reinforcement. The "BASIC" CAI course, MODALS, represents the culmination of nine months of research and programming of the instruction of German modal auxiliaries; the complex of sixty seven interconnected sub -programs provide drill of all six modals in five different tenses. Subsequent to the in-class introduction of new lecture material concerning the modals, any student may then proceed to the computer terminal, there undertaking further study of the subject. MODALS lacks an answer recording device, thereby ensuring that the system shall be used an a voluntary basis: the responses of the student cannot be retrieved by the professor for grading purposes. Following instructions carefully designed to maximize ease of utilization, the student supplies the German word corresponding to the English phrase bracketed at the end of the German sentence fragment. A correct answer continues the program whereas the incorrect response evokes a diagnostic message explaining the principles behind the set of questions. In either event, t e computer proceeds to determine what subsequent material would benefit the students most, and implements its decision. Thus each student receives individualized instructions based on his demonstrated level of training. The computer avoids wasting the pupil’s time on material already mastered, proceeding at the pace automatically adapted to each student. In addition to the advantage of immediate corrective feedback, frequent responses are elicited to maintain the attention and concentration of the student. The accompanying reinforcement responses include a wide range of comments to further ensure the pupil’s maintained interest. Throughout MODALS special spacing and indentations have been utilized for optimum readability as well as for aesthetic considerations. The success of MODALS necessarily remains undetermined until a significant number of students have had the opportunity to use the program. Further, the success of computer-assisted instruction requires the contribution of considerably more programming efforts in additional aspects of grammar or other appropriate academic fields.


Computer, Computer-Assisted, German Grammar, Development