Intervention studies typically target a focused aspect of language learning that is studied over a relatively short time frame for a relatively small number of participants in a controlled setting. While for many research questions, this is effective, it can also limit the ecological validity and relevance of the results for real-life language learning. In educational science, large-scale randomized controlled field trials (RCTs) are seen as the gold standard method for addressing this challenge—yet they require intervention to scale to hundreds of learners in their varied, authentic contexts.
We discuss the use of technology in support of large-scale interventions that are fully integrated in regular classes in secondary school. As an experimentation platform, we developed a web-based workbook to replace a printed workbook widely used in German schools. The web-based FeedBook provides immediate scaffolded feedback to students on form and meaning for various exercise types, covering the full range of constructions in the seventh-grade English curriculum.
Following the conceptual discussion, we report on the first results of an ongoing, yearlong RCT. The results confirm the effectiveness of the scaffolded feedback, and the approach makes students and learning process variables accessible for the analysis of learning in a real-world context.