The Effect of Color Coding on the Performance of EFL Students


This chapter provides a comprehensive discussion of the previously described research process in terms of its findings. The preceding section introduced a combination of qualitative and quantitative results that reflect the effect of color coding on the performance of EFL students in their grammar studies. In this chapter, these findings are further expanded to illustrate the interpretation of the data obtained over the course of the research. Next, the significance of the findings for the field of EFL studies in Saudi Arabia, and in general, is discussed at length. A special emphasis is laid on the qualitative component of the study, which allows for explaining the learners’ perception of the proposed color-based method. It appears valuable to include this component for a better understanding of the participants’ reaction to the intervention. This way, it is possible to identify the strengths of the method while searching for additional points of growth. In addition, the section devotes a considerable part to the methodological challenges faced during the project. The aspects of the study that ensure its validity and credibility are equally discussed, along with the limitation and future research projections.

Meaning of the Results

The results that have been obtained in the course of the present study show major variations between the situations in which the proposed intervention is applied or not applied. The primary idea of the method was to improve Saudi female students’ understanding of English grammar. More specifically, the emphasis was laid on the English quantifiers and articles. As suggested by the work of Albaqami (2020), these grammatic features pose major troubles for Saudi learners, as the Arabic language interference has a serious effect on the learning process. It was theorized that learners remain in a state of subconscious dependence on the patterns imposed by their native language. Under these circumstances, it becomes difficult to master the fluency of the grammar constructs unless the teacher finds an effective way of counteracting the interference. The proposed intervention serves this particular purpose by addressing alternative channels of the information reception.

First of all, traditional language teaching practice implies the use of the standard media that deliver the knowledge from its source to the learners. Specifically, these methods include the use of textbooks and oral explanation that gradually translate into the practical application of grammar constructs, both written and oral (Clinton et al., 2019). In the case of Saudi female students, this approach has shown limited efficiency, as the inherent interference of the Arabic language prevents learners from forming a comprehensive understanding of the constructions’ functions and area of application. This situation is not surprising per se, as it is only natural for a person to resort to familiar concepts in a situation characterized by an elevated difficulty. In many cases, foreign language studies are a stressful experience that engages many resources on behalf of the cognitive mechanisms of an individual. As such, a foreign language learner is prompted to operate with familiar constructs and contexts to combat the uncertainty of the new uncharted territory.

The most dangerous aspect of this situation is embedded in the fact that the prolonged use of incorrect grammar constructions risk becoming the norm on the level of reflexes. In other words, if a learner continues to make the same mistakes one time after the other, they form a habit that only becomes more difficult to eradicate moving forward. This idea implies that the traditional media of the grammatical knowledge transfer do not suffice for overcoming the influence of interlingual interference to a sufficient degree. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable for teachers to engage additional instruments capable of enhancing the learners’ resources in terms of mastering the new knowledge. In this regard, the color-coding method is deemed as a highly promising avenue of attaining higher levels of success in English as a foreign language. This method is discussed, for example, by Clinton et al. (2016), who lay an emphasis on its mnemonic potential for learners. More specifically, in addition to the textual domain of knowledge transfer, color-coding relies on the visual support that affects drastically different parts of the brain.

The discussed method has been theorized as an effective mnemonic instrument across various educational contexts. The review of the contemporary body of literature, provided in a previous section, is another argument in favor of its perceived usefulness. The idea of the conducted experiment was to test the applicability of the method in a specific context of Saudi female EFL learners mastering English quantifiers and articles. As the retrieved findings suggest, there is strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of the color-coding method in EFL studies. The participants showed increased performance in evaluation, exhibiting higher levels of knowledge understanding, as well as its retention. Spoken differently, not only did color-coding support the immediate perception of the new material, but it also contributed to long-term mastery of the subject matter.

Experimental Group Performance

Within the framework of the present experiment, particular attention was devoted to the performance of the experimental group. Such a division was necessary to ensure an objective outcome of the study that could be interpreted correctly, leading to solid conclusions. The experimental group consisted of 51 randomly assigned students who received the material with the described innovative approach. It is important to note that the knowledge of articles and quantifiers was not entirely new to them. Most of the learners have been familiarized with these grammatical concepts since school, where English is commonly taught as a primary foreign language. Nevertheless, as practical observations suggest, their mastery and accuracy of the article and quantified use in written and oral speech have been sub-optimal. The reasons for this tendency lie in the aforementioned domain of interlinguistic interference, meaning that the learners subconsciously refer to the familiar constructs of their mother tongue, which outweigh the application of the foreign material.

Furthermore, the value of the chosen language aspects (i.e., quantifiers and articles) is related to the aforementioned issue of their prolonged inaccurate use. In the long term, this phenomenon creates a habit of inaccuracy, which only becomes more difficult to eradicate over time. This way, both experimental and control groups have had a history of improper use of articles and quantifiers, making it the teacher’s primary objective to seek the effective means of overcoming this tendency by applying new methods of knowledge transfer.

The experimental group (EG) was subjected to the innovative intervention that relies on color coding when explaining grammatical topics. More specifically, a combination of green, yellow, and blue colors was added to the visual supporting materials in order to create stronger associations that engage a larger variety of cognitive mechanisms within the students. As the process of data analysis has shown, EG learners demonstrated a better performance in terms of grammar accuracy at all stages. As can be inferred from the previously introduced Table 4, both groups had similar starting conditions with a mean of 10.96 for EG and a mean of 10.94 for the control group. In other words, the difference between the two groups is statistically insignificant, and all students possessed a relatively similar level of knowledge in regard to the grammatic material in question. However, as the study process developed further, the EG diverged from the standard performance rates, showing higher levels of mastery.

This data implies that the experimental groups benefited from the use of the innovative color-coding method used in the course of the study. By the ending phase of the project, the mean difference amounted to over 3 points, which reflects a major contribution of the method to the knowledge. The tendency is explained by the fact that the EG saw more active participation of the learners’ cognitive mechanisms that enhanced the capacity of the brain. In addition to the standard, text and speech-based explanations, they benefited from the visual supporting materials. Interestingly, the visual aspect of the knowledge transfer has been purposedly made rather simplistic. The presenter avoided the use of complex visual constructs, limiting this aspect to the use of a selected variety of colors. However, even in this case, the effect of the visual support on the performance of students has become evident.

Perhaps, the reason for this outcome is that their cognition operated on two major levels that complemented each other to create a synergy of knowledge acquisition and retention. On the conscious side, the textual materials and oral presentations contributed to the immediate transfer of knowledge, which is a standard learning procedure that has stood the test of time across centuries. At this point, though, the effect of the interlingual interference reaches its peak, preventing the thorough processing of the newly refreshed knowledge and its subsequent adaptation to the language practice. The subconscious color-based instrument factors into the learning process at this exact stage, adding leverage that helps the cognition overcome its inherent linguistic bias by creating stronger associations with accurate grammatical constructs.

As a result, experimental group learners showed an advanced performance across all key stages of the process, which reflects the superiority in two key areas of knowledge acquisition. First of all, the immediate reception of the explanation is important, as it forms the long-term performance image within the learners. With the help of the color, EG students received the material better, which is reflected by the superior evaluation results. Second, the stage of knowledge retention is, perhaps, even more important than the immediate reception ability. It accounts for the long-term application of the grammar that remains in the memory long enough to become a habit. Experimental groups excelled in this regard, as their post-test performance continued to rise in comparison to the control group.

Control Group Performance

As established by the pre-test phase of the study, the control groups (CG) saw similar starting conditions as the rest of the students who took part in the present project. The CG had a smaller number of members, with 31 students forming it. The primary idea of this random group division was to illustrate the difference in performance rates between the two major groups who were given similar treatment in the course of the article and quantifier studies of EFL. Both contexts (of EG and CG) had the same set of constants, which were as follows: pre-test performance, background knowledge, the topic covered, depth of the material coverage. There were two key variables that outlined the difference between the two groups. The presence of color played the role of the independent variable that was, at the same time, the reflection of the central hypothesis of the project. The dependent variable of the experiment, and its key projected finding, was reflected by the learning outcome, as affected (or unaffected) by the presence of color.

Both sets of materials were identical in terms of their emphases and contents, as shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2. The only difference between the two presentations consisted of the colored nature of the materials that were given the experimental groups. Therefore, the CG received the educational intervention sans colored presentations, which excluded the role of the supporting visual materials from the equation. Under these circumstances, the control group showed a gradual increase in their test results on the subject matter. However, this increase was not as positive as in the case of the experimental group. Spoken differently, CG learners reacted to the teaching materials, but they showed lesser effectiveness in comparison to their peers who benefited from the presence of color. The visual representation of the data in Graph 1 shows that the two lines have coinciding starting points, which continue to diverge as the learning process advances. With a positive range of the mean value, the control group saw improvements in their grammatical accuracy, which does not allow the researcher to deem traditional methods of grammar teaching as ineffective.

Pretest Performance

The investigation of the learners’ pretest performance was a key stage of the present research, as it determined the starting ground of the experiment. It needs to be reminded that the distribution of students into control and experimental groups was completed on a purely randomized basis. In other words, there was no pre-existing condition that could affect the outcome of the experiment under the influence of bias. At this point, the learners operated with their prior knowledge of the subject matter that had been largely determined by their previous educational experiences. English is a foreign language commonly taught at schools, and the foundation of the basic grammar is formed during this period. However, as observations suggest, school activities often lack student engagement and proactive interest in terms of mastering the new material. Spoken differently, younger students do not make sufficient efforts to master the foreign language in all the variety of its forms. This lack of awareness creates a favorable environment for the development of interlingual interference, directly causing persistent inaccuracies of article and quantifier use, as well as other grammatical features outside the scope of this project.

The aforementioned tendencies entail the presence of subpar performance exhibited by studies of English as a foreign language at their higher education stage. The pretest performance was evaluated exclusively on the basis of pre-existing knowledge prior to subjecting the participants to any subsequent teaching. This stage revealed rather homogeneous results of all students who partook in the project, regardless of their group assignation. The pretest mean results for the experimental group were of 10.96 points, and the control group yielded a mean of 10.94 points, which accounts for an overall mean of 10.95 points with a standard deviation of 1.531.

The design of the pre-test phase contributed to the comprehensive evaluation of pre-existing with a three-tier, 30-question assignment that treated the subject in its various forms, both in isolation and in context. The participants exhibited limited knowledge of the subject matter, with the results being rather consistent across the groups. This fact implies that the problem being addressed is not incidental and is faced by many learners of English as a foreign language. Furthermore, the pretest phase contributed to the integrity of the experiment by revealing a similar starting ground for both groups.

Post-test Evaluation Performance

Once the pretest evaluation showed that the experimental group and the control group are in similar conditions in regard to the quantifier and article knowledge, the study proceeded to its next stage. As described previously, both groups were provided with the same treatment that consisted of teaching them grammar material that was familiar to them but had a history of inaccuracy. The topics and practical examples were identical in both cases, with the sole difference being the independent variable of color. As shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2, the same materials for the EG had colored elements, engaging new sections of the brain to create stronger visual associations. Thus, based on the design of the experiment, there were no additional factors that could affect the performance of the students. In this regard, the immediate post-explanation evaluation began to show the diverging nature of the two groups’ performance. The control group saw an increase in its performance that improved their mean test results up to 15.26, which is an approximately 50% improvement in comparison to the pretest knowledge.

Such results are optimal in that they show that students are capable of receiving the information via traditional methods and enhance their performance in a test environment. However, the learning outcomes of the experimental group students are found more impressive, with the immediate post-test results having the mean of 17.31 points with a standard deviation of 0.836. This shows the increased ability of colored to affect learners’ cognitive mechanisms by promoting the immediate understanding of the material in the short-term. With the starting point being the same for both groups, these figures illustrate the role of color in promoting the receptiveness of students to teaching materials. They all examined the same rules and examples provided by the same teacher whose only variable was the presence of color in the presentation. Yet, the mean evaluation results varied by over 2 points that could only be the product of the color effect. Hence, color contributed to a better understanding of the material via the engagement of visual memory in combination with traditional avenues of knowledge transfer.

Delayed Post-Test Performance

Finally, the delayed evaluation phase was perceived as the most interesting one within the framework of the study. It accounts for the long-term memory and the ability of learners to retain the newly obtained or refreshed knowledge for prolonged use. In the context of the specific learning outcomes addressed by the present study, this idea means overcoming the influence of persistent habits of inaccuracy that are likely to originate from the earlier school period. The objective of improving the delayed performance of students is the ultimate envisaged outcome of the proposed intervention. As established earlier, the lack of engagement and understanding at the initial stage contributes to the poorer delayed performance, as the knowledge eludes from memory prior to becoming embedded in the linguistic habit paradigm. In order to eradicate the issue, more effective techniques that promote retention are highly necessary. In this regard, the present study considers color to be a variable that has a positive effect on the retention abilities of learners.

Drawing from the immediate post-test evaluation results, it was theorized that the experimental group students would have a higher mean performance rate in delayed examinations. They showed better post-test figures in the first place, meaning that the depth of their understanding of the material was superior, allowing for better residual knowledge in the long term. As Table 4 suggests, both groups saw a decrease in their delayed performance, as the information loss occurred upon transition from short-term to long-term memory. The control, no-color group exhibited a mean of 13.81 (15.26 post-test), and the experimental group results had a mean of 16.49 (17.31). Thus, both categories of learners fell victim to the established tendency of long-term information loss, which is a natural consequence of the human memorizing process.

As expected, the experimental group still performed better than their CG counterparts, which once again solidified the importance of visual support in presentation. However, at this stage, it appears more valuable to compare not the absolute figures, but the degree of performance decrease after the immediate post-test stage. For the control group, the mean results decline by 1.45 points. A similar figure change for the experimental group was twice as low, with a mean of 0.82. This implies that the use of color contributes not only to the perception of the knowledge but also to its retention in the memory of the learner. If the decline rates were similar, it would mean that color has little or no effect on the long-term retention of material and delayed performance. However, the twofold difference observed in descriptive statistical analysis implies that the independent variable in question affects the dependent variable on two levels: short-term and long-term.

Qualitative Data

It goes without saying that the quantitative component of the present study is of paramount importance for the understanding of the subject matter. It has long been theorized that color-coding effectively complements the process of language teaching, creating stronger visual bonds within the learner’s memory (Clinton et al., 2016). This hypothesis is based on years of academic research, observations, and tests that prompted the leading academic minds to believe in the value of the approach. Now, as the descriptive analysis showed a clear positive correlation between the presence of color coding and the performance of students who experienced the intervention, there is a solid quantitative confirmation to the hypothesis. However, the qualitative aspect of the present study is not to be underestimated since it reflects the perception of students on the use of the method. In other words, it engages the psychology of the implementation process, which is a major determinant of success.

This data was obtained in the course of one-on-one interviews with the participants and divided into three major groups after the thematic analysis of the narratives. The first group reflected the perceived dichotomy and monochromous and colored materials in the eyes of the learners. On the basis of six participant interviews, the presence of color is deemed as a positive feature by a fine margin. This implies that the diversity of visual presentation sees positive response from the learners, supporting student engagement along with vivid interest in the process. These factors contribute to the bilateral nature of the learning process. According to the participants, colors create a sense of visual emphasis, allowing them to distinguish the key elements of knowledge more easily. Thus, their cognitive resources are economized, and the reduced stress contributes to positive associations.

Next, the overall usefulness of the proposed intervention was discussed at length. The key idea of this discussion category was to determine whether students acknowledge the prospects of the innovative approach. Through the analysis of the discussion, it was interesting to observe the essential aspects outlined by the learners. First of all, they confirmed the role of colors in creating a positive flow of the presentation. Black-and-white materials lack diversity, which requires increased attention and often makes them hard to follow. In the case of colored visuals, the students reported better perceived cohesiveness of the presentation. It is theorized that such an impression stems from the perceived thematic division of the knowledge that creates a sense of structure instead of forcing the learners to do so. This results in positive feedback from the group, which, in turn, renders the process more positive, and the lack of negative emotions promotes learning along with retention.

Finally, there was another narrative element that prevailed in the interviews, which came as a relative surprise within the framework of this project. More specifically, learners tend to identify the color-based approach as more “fun” as compared to the traditional black-and-white teaching. The interviewees laid a special emphasis on the creativity of this method, which not only supported the retention of knowledge bus also made it more enjoyable for them. This piece of data was surprising and valuable at the same time since it reflected the role of enjoyment in the process. Modern students appreciate the materials whose importance does not outweigh their easiness to perceive and process. Innovative learning should utilize the favored means of knowledge transfer, addressing all senses of the student. Perhaps, the aforementioned absence, or reduction, of stress contributed to this sense of “fun” that accompanied the experimental group. This shows the value of positivity and enjoyment in modern learning, as it is vital to generate positive feedback from the students. This way, they feel more invested in the process, thus becoming more receptive to the knowledge.

Significance of the Results and Implications

The present research makes a valuable contribution to the educational framework of English as a foreign language, especially in Arabic countries. First of all, it addressed one of the prominent theories that encourage the use of diverse supporting visuals in the presentation of new and repeated materials. Scholars, such as Turan and Akdag-Cimen (2020), have voiced their concerns regarding the obsolete nature of traditional methods of language studies. As a matter of fact, language is a highly specialized area that adheres to its own principles, seeing the influence of diverse factors. While the major principles of overall pedagogy exist, language studies cannot be treated identically to, for example, medicine or natural sciences. For many researchers, language is a living organism and a unique entity that can only be mastered with a sufficient degree of effort made by the learner. In this regard, it will not be enough to merely broadcast the knowledge from a teacher to their students, expecting the latter to retain most information. Language should be presented in a format that is both informative and understandable. Color-coding fits into the described framework, as it extends beyond the standard paradigms of information exchange that often entail subpar levels of language mastery.

In a way, language studies may remain trapped within the constraints of the past. The development of modern technology has created a range of media that are both efficient and accessible across most educational contexts. Indeed, colored print and digital media were in shortage in prior days, limiting the educators’ ability to diversify the visual aspect of their materials. Now, the situation is rapidly changing, as the arsenal of tools expands exponentially. In this regard, it is highly important the appraise the value of diversified visuals for the learning outcomes. This study illustrates that, in addition to being “innovative’ or “fun”, color-coding of grammar topics has a direct positive impact on the performance of students.

Not only does it improve the reception of the knowledge, but it also promotes long-term retention, which is likely to lead to a better level of EFL mastery overall. Furthermore, this idea is supported by the specific quantifiable data that illustrates the concrete tendencies observed in a practical environment of learners subjected to the method in question. Ultimately, the project provides new evidence in support of color-coding as an efficient tool that supports grammar knowledge retention and better learning outcomes in EFL.

Validity of the Study

The validity of the study was one of the key aspects upon which the current project relied when designing the methodological approach. First of all, the central hypothesis, around which the entirety of the project was built, is the product of comprehensive academic research. In order to ensure a solid framework for the project, a review of the contemporary body of knowledge was completed. Throughout this review, a series of recent, up-to-date pieces of literature were analyzed in regard to the subject. This process helped the researcher form a complete picture regarding the current state of the knowledge, while identifying the existing research gaps to address. This way, the thesis relies on concrete academic data that has informed its research questions and procedures, strengthening the connection to the contemporary body of knowledge.

Furthermore, the practical side of the project was equally driven by the pursuit of validity at all stages. The primary idea was to eliminate the influence of researcher and participant bias on the datasets prepared for analysis. For this purpose, the initial recruitment process was rather homogeneous, engaging the students of similar academic backgrounds and experiences. These students were then divided into control and experimental groups on a purely random basis that ensured the integrity of the process. Furthermore, the findings of the pretest evaluations revealed that the mean results of the two major groups virtually coincide. Thus, the validity of the sample selection procedures was maintained. Next, the experimental stage on its own was designed to make the two datasets vary only in terms of one independent variable. Naturally, this variable was the presence of color in teaching materials that were otherwise identical. Because of the measures taken to counteract bias, the validity of the process was ensured, making it possible to treat the obtained findings as relevant and solid academic data.

Methodological Challenges

As is often the case, the preparation of the project could not avoid the influence of several methodological challenges that had to be counteracted. First of all, it was essential to maintain the right balance when it came to the sampling process. The idea was to encompass as many students as possible to have a larger variety of outcomes. With higher samples, tendencies become clearer, and findings are more objective, which explains such a necessity. At the same time, there were natural limitations to the recruitment process. The intention was to preserve the validity of experiments through the homogeneous nature of the participant groups. In other words, learners were expected to be on approximately the same level of English mastery, age, and educational background. Otherwise, the expansion of the sample beyond this point would compromise the integrity of the project, making it more difficult to outline the specific trends. Hence, the sample was limited to four classes of Saudi female students of EFL from the same institution. This way, the sample was broad enough for a full-scale evaluation, while remaining largely homogeneous.

Limitations of the Study and Prospects for Future Research

The methodological challenges encountered by the design of the study have largely determined its primary limitations. More specifically, the sampling potential of the project was limited by the heterogeneous criterion introduced for further validity. As a result, the total number of participants who followed through the project to its completion was only 82. While it is large enough to demonstrate the effect of the discussed variable, it is still too early to generalize the findings.

Secondly, all of the 82 participants were female students from a Saudi institution of higher education. Therefore, the observed quantifiable effects are exclusive to the women’s cognition, and the results for male students may differ due to the objective variations in brain structures. Furthermore, the study reflects a specific language pair engaged in the process of learning. The participants were native Arabic speakers from Saudi Arabia learning English as a foreign language. In other words, the Arabic interference in EFL studies was addressed. There exists a great number of language pairs and learning contexts, in which the method may show other tendencies. Even if the general trend is maintained, the exact correlation for knowledge perception and retention may differ.

In terms of future research, the matter at hand provides promising avenues for additional exploration. Most importantly, it is imperative to extend the scope of similar research to a higher level. For example, the subsequent studies are to include other language pairs and combinations of studies. If the framework is applied to EFL, it may be useful to examine its application among the native speakers of other languages, such as Farsi, French, German, Spanish, Russian, and many others. Moreover, the effect of the framework on the native speakers of other Arabic dialects across the Middle East and North America is another area of knowledge to cover.

On the level of Arabic students learning English as a foreign language, the sample itself can be extended to encompass male or male-and-female participant groups with a higher variety of backgrounds. It is interesting to see how the students with advanced English skills or, on the contrary, no prior training at all will react to the modifications in the visual component of their studies. Next, other age groups can be included, from elementary school to older adults. Finally, other grammatical topics should be used for subsequent studies, as the present one remained centered on English articles and quantifiers.


Ultimately, the findings obtained in the course of the practical experimentation correlate with the expectations advanced during the preliminary stage. Students of both control and experimental groups started with identical means scores and received similar teaching with the sole difference consisting of the independent variable of color. As theorized, the experimental group showed better performance throughout the project. Their mean results were better during both immediate post-test evaluation and delayed post-test evaluation. Both groups saw a decrease in their test performance at the delayed evaluation stage, but the decline of the experimental group was twice as smaller as the one of the control group. This data indicates that the presence of color in grammar teaching contributes to both the reception of knowledge and its retention in the long-term. Qualitative student discussions revealed their appreciation of the method, as it contributes to the informative, focused, and enjoyable manner of the knowledge transfer. Further studies in this direction should be able to generalize the findings, highlighting their applicability to a variety of contexts and language pairs.

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ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'The Effect of Color Coding on the Performance of EFL Students'. 27 April.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "The Effect of Color Coding on the Performance of EFL Students." April 27, 2023.

1. ChalkyPapers. "The Effect of Color Coding on the Performance of EFL Students." April 27, 2023.


ChalkyPapers. "The Effect of Color Coding on the Performance of EFL Students." April 27, 2023.