«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors Goertler, Senta Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»
In order to answer these research questions, a multiple-case study with a multifaceted research design was conducted. In the first informative phase, previously collected chat transcripts from German-as-a-foreign-language courses were analyzed, and corrective feedback moves and participation styles of the instructors were categorized.
This information was then used to create the training manual for the teachers in the second, main phase of the study. In this main phase, three third-semester German courses taught by two teachers were observed and studied over the course of one semester. The classes were intended to include one 20-minute chat sessions per week focusing on researcher-designed activities on the vocabulary themes and grammatical structures covered in these courses. However, in reality the chat sessions sometimes lasted longer or shorter, or had to be canceled altogether for technological or curricular reasons. To assess students’ language ability and language improvement, achievement pre- and post-tests were administered in week 2 and week 15, respectively, of the semester which focused on the most relevant structures taught in third semester German. Students also completed pre- and post-surveys which asked them to comment on their attitudes and experiences with corrective feedback and technology. For a more detailed view specifically of the chat sessions in their circumstances in the physical and virtual environment, self-report forms were completed by the students at the end of each chat session, and monthly classroom observations were conducted taking detailed observation notes. These data were then combined and considered in order to understand the interactions between these students and teachers, and the effects of these interactions on student learning.
The first research question is informative. In order to find out how teachers participate when they chat with their students a sample set of transcripts from the two teachers in the main phase of the dissertation, were analyzed. The teacher turns were analyzed and categorized according to their functions in the chat conversations.
Furthermore, corrective feedback moves were analyzed and categorized. In a selection of transcripts from the three third-semester German courses from the main study all errors and corrective feedback moves were coded in order to establish patterns of error treatment.
The first question and its subquestions are:
(1) How do two case study teachers participate in foreign language classroom chatting?
(b) What form does corrective feedback take during chatting in this study?
The second question is approached through the analysis of transcripts and preand post-tests administered and collected in the three third-semester German classes under investigation in this study. Again the transcripts which were coded for errors, and corrective feedback moves provided information about the dominant form of corrective feedback used by teachers with six case study subjects selected based on the total time spent chatting. This information was then analyzed in relation to measurements of language improvement, such as the number of words produced, evidence of learner uptake, and gain scores between pre- and post-tests covering all relevant structures taught in these classes. This research question explores which types of corrective feedback were used as well as the effectiveness of that feedback for each of the case study subjects. In addition observed errors and observed feedback was also analyzed and considered.
The second question and its subquestions are:
(2) What influence do corrective feedback styles have on students’ learning, as
(a) language production during the chat as measured through word count;
(b) learner uptake as measured by evidence of correction uptake within the
(c) and improvement of the structures taught during third-semester German classes as measured by a achievement pre-/post-testt?
The third question was answered using the coded transcript data from the six case study subjects, in which errors and corrective feedback moves were coded. This coding was used to identify patterns between errors and consequential moves in the SCMC.
The third question and its subquestions are:
The fourth question investigates the students’ perceptions of the teacher’s role and how well they match with the actual practice. The perceptions of the teacher’s role are taken from the student surveys and to some extent also from the self-report forms. The actual practices used were analyzed by categorizing teacher moves in the transcripts for the virtual context, and by analyzing the notes from the classroom observations for the physical space.
The fourth question and its subquestions are:
(4) (a) How do students perceive the teacher’s role in the chat room and in the physical space? (b) How do these perceptions correspond with actual practices?
The fifth question is particularly interesting for program administrators, considering whether SCMC activities could be scheduled outside of class time or from remote locations. With the help of the students’ self-report forms, informal conversations with the teachers, and classroom observations, physical moves were recorded to develop ideas for modifications of SCMC activities should they occur out of the classroom. The
fifth question and its subquestions are:
(5) (a) Which parts of the interaction are happening in the physical space and not in the virtual space? (b) What modifications would have to be made when moving SCMC activities to a remote location?
1.3 Background to the Study CMC is communication mediated through the computer and can take asynchronous (Email, Message Boards) as well as synchronous (LAN/IRC chats, MOOs) forms. It can be used within or outside of the classroom, with classmates or with outsiders i.e; participants not enrolled in the class. Either way, this form of communication, in contrast to face-to-face communication, affords some anonymity. As a written form, it is slower than the spoken language and allows the participants time to edit their messages, to read and re-read other participants’ messages, and to simultaneously send messages. In contrast to oral communications, messages can be ignored, and the managing of turn-taking in some regards becomes easier (Kern, 1995).
However, the fact that interlocutors can be ignored can lead to chaos in turn-taking (Bump, 1990; Kern, 1995). The latter can, however, be controlled through smaller group sizes (Beauvois, 1992 suggests small conferences; Bump, 1990 suggests 4-5 participants). Although CMC is written, especially synchronous CMC shares many aspects with the oral genre of communication, such as a conversational style, spontaneity, and informality (e.g., Böhlke, 2003; Gonzalez-Bueno, 1998; Kern, 1995). Furthermore, as a written medium, pronunciation is not an issue. In the absence of paralinguistic features, everything must be expressed in writing (Donaldson & Kötter, 1998). Yet, when CMC occurs with speakers in the same physical space, such paralinguistic features may be employed in the physical environment. Since the onset of CMC, conventions have been developed by participants to make up for the lack of paralinguistic signs such as emoticons, all CAPS, or extensive punctuation (Kern, 1995).
Most of the early research and use of CMC in the classroom utilized the Daedalus Integrated Writing Environment’s synchronous discussion feature, InterChange (see Kern, 1995; Ortega, 1997). Today, language teachers can choose from a variety of different software programs affording them the opportunity for remote as well as local CMC, synchronous as well as asynchronous communication, and the options of picture, video, and voice capabilities.
Research on CMC has identified some advantages and some potential dangers of the use of computer-mediated communication in the classroom. Some of the benefits discussed are a positive influence on language development and also a democratization of participation.
While CMC studies have analyzed the discourse in CMC, most studies have ignored the role of the teacher and the analysis of errors and error treatment. In SLA, research discussions about effective error treatment are ongoing, and have focused on either classroom face-to-face interactions or natural face-to-face conversations outside of the classroom, but not on CMC. Within SLA research positions on the role of corrective feedback is controversials. Some argue that corrective feedback is not necessary for SLA since it is a process similar to first language acquisition (e.g., Krashen, 1985). Others say that corrective feedback is helpful for adult second language (SL) learners, especially in regards to speed of language acquisition and accuracy (e.g.,. Long & Robinson, 1998;
Nicholas, Lightbown & Spada, 2001; Panova & Lyster, 2002). And still others argue that adults cannot learn a second language in the classroom without corrective feedback (e.g., Higgs & Clifford, 1982). Furthermore, which kinds of corrective feedback are most beneficial is also controversial. In addition, research has not come to a consensus as to effective measures of corrective feedback. A more thorough discussion on the research on corrective feedback will follow in chapter two. Since error treatment and its effectiveness are controversial and context-specific, an in-depth descriptive study of error treatment in CMC is necessary.
1.4 Theoretical Grounding This study is informed by the interactionist framework in SLA which will be discussed in more detail in chapter 2. The interactionist framework is a sociolinguistic, sociocultural perspective of SLA, based on the assumption that elements of interaction are essential for first and second language learning.
Within an interactionist framework input (e.g., Gass, 1997; Krashen, 1985), output (Swain, 1985), interaction (Long, 1996), and the negotiation of meaning (e.g., Gass & Varonis, 1985) are considered beneficial and crucial elements of language learning.
During CMC participants have the opportuntity to be engaged in interactions with peer learners as well as the teacher. This allows them to receive input, though most input will be non-target like at a third-semester German level. In addition, students can test out there own hypotheses about the target language through their own language production in the chat. Together with the teacher and the other students, they have the opportunity to interact and negotiate meaning.
1.5 Rationale for the Study Previous research on CMC has focused on the learner, while only a few findings pertain to the role of the teacher. However, in order to best use CMC in the classroom, teachers and teacher trainers need to understand how to maximize the benefits of CMC in foreign language classrooms. Further, since it is becoming more common for universities to offer online courses, understanding the role of the teacher during CMC will help educators design such courses in a more effective way. Considering the research on CMC and SLA to date, this dissertation is important for three reasons: (1) the effectiveness of corrective feedback in second language acquisition remains controversial; (2) the role of corrective feedback in chat has been underexplored; (3) the role of the teacher in CMC has not been explored adequately.
To my knowledge, the only study investigating (2) and (3) above is Ene, et al.
(2005). The Ene et al. study resulted from a class project and was hindered by many of the constraints of such course assignments, leading to methodological flaws. Furthermore the study was based on the assumption that the teacher’s presence or absence in the chat discussions would have an effect on students’ behavior. While some connections between the teacher’s presence or absence and students’ behaviors were observed, the major difference appeared to be between the two teachers themselves. Initially the teachers were assumed to have a similar teaching style as had been observed in the classroom setting. However, their behaviors during the chat sessions were different, with one teacher focusing on form and the other on content. The teacher focusing on form appeared to have a silencing effect on the students. However, due to the lack of timestamping of individual postings in the transcripts, this could not be determined beyond a reasonable doubt. Yet, the impact the second teacher’s participation style had on the students was suggested by the transcripts as well as students’ comments acquired through survey. Hence, this dissertation builds on the foundation created by Ene et al. (2005), and specifically investigates the influence of teacher participation style on students’ uptake, language learning, and language production.
1.6 Definition of Key Concepts The following definitions of key concepts are an introduction to the terminology used in this dissertation. As discussed before, teacher turns, corrective feedback, and errors were categorized. These categories and coding procedures are discussed in chapters three and four. At this point only the salient concepts are defined.
A chat is an electronic conversation occurring in real-time utilizing a server. In the case of the chat in this study, the server is local and can only be used in the College of Humanities computer labs.
CMC (computer-mediated communication) is communication using the computer and can be synchronous and asynchronous. As discussed earlier, CMC can be used in a variety of ways in the classroom.
Corrective feedback moves are turns made by the student, teacher, or the students’ partner correcting one’s own or other’s mistakes. These feedback moves include implicit and explicit feedback forms following an error.
An error in this study is defined as a morphological, lexical, syntactical, or pragmatic error. Any non-standard language use is considered error, even those that could be considered as regional varieties. However, errors in spelling and capitalization were not considered, neither for the coding of errors nor for the coding of correction.
Error uptake are instances in which one person made an error and in a consequential turn in the same transcript another person made the same kind of mistake.