Exploring Low-Proficiency EFL Learners' Dyadic Interactions in Collaborative Writing

  • Bing-Qing Lu

Student thesis: Master's Thesis

Abstract

Supported by sociocultural theory and empirical studies on collaborative activities in the second language (L2) contexts, collaborative writing (CW) is believed to provide L2 learners with opportunities to interact with each other to co-construct knowledge and thus has been increasingly popular in L2 classes. However, assigning two or more learners to work in CW tasks does not always create conditions conducive to L2 learning, which is mediated by pairs’ interaction patterns. Much research on pair dynamics in L2 writing settings to date has centered on intermediate and advanced L2 learners by using Storch's (2001) global qualitative method, while little is known about how low-proficiency L2 learners interact with each other. Given that L2 learners would shift their roles when talking about different aspects of writing, the current study employed a case study approach with the descriptive statistics of Zhang's (2019) quantitative method and focused on 10 low-proficiency EFL learners from Taiwan to explore their dyadic interactions in a CW task in terms of interaction patterns, pairs' focus, and the outcome and implementation of discussed language-related episodes (LREs) during the interaction and in the draft. Segmenting five pairs' audio transcripts into episodes, the study coded all task-related episodes as content, organization, language use, and task management and calculated the characters and words produced by each pair member in different aspects. The major results and findings can be summarized as followed:
1. These pairs shifted their roles when discussing different aspects of writing in a CW task. Specifically, one pair (pair 3) functioned in a collaborative interaction pattern in every aspect of writing, and one pair (pair 4) formed a dominant/passive interaction relationship during the whole process of writing. The other three pairs (pairs 1, 2, and 5) constantly adjusted their interaction relationships regarding different aspects of writing. This result supports the fluid nature of pairs' dynamic interactions and the view of the interchangeable role of L2 learners in collaborative tasks. Also, this study highlights the importance of treating peer collaboration as a dynamic construct and the necessity of exploring learners' interaction patterns from a micro-level perspective.
2. The content was the aspect that low-proficiency EFL learners pay most attention to and value most, followed by language use, task management, and organization. The requirements of the task, pairs' proficiency in English, and writing instruction might influence pairs' focus on task management and organization.
3. These low- proficiency EFL learners could resolve the majority of discussed LREs (75.2% of total LREs) and benefit from CW. Moreover, three out of five pairs (pairs 1, 3, and 4) consciously or unconsciously changed the outcome of LREs discussed when they composed the text.
In sum, combining a case study approach and the descriptive statistics from Zhang's (2019) study, this study further explored how low-proficiency EFL learners interacted with each other, supported the fluctuating nature of interaction patterns, and provided some pedagogical implications for applying CW in L2 courses.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHui-Tzu Min (Supervisor)

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