Type of Document Dissertation Author Tai, Su-Lin URN etd-07112005-173509 Title An Exploration of Social Interaction and Vocabulary Appropriation among Advanced Adult ESL Learners Engaged in a Threaded Discussion Forum Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Middle and Secondary Education, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Frank B. Brooks Committee Chair Elizabeth Platt Committee Member Frederick L. Jenks Committee Member Vanessa Dennen Committee Member Keywords
- Advanced Adult ESL Learners
- Multiple Voices
- Threaded Discussion Forum
- Vocabulary Appropriaton
- Social Interaction
Date of Defense 2005-06-17 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
A threaded discussion forum has been used in fully online or blended courses at institutions of higher education in the United States. However, how advanced adult ESL learners interact with peers collaboratively to complete assigned tasks is still uninvestigated. The aim of this study was to investigate social interaction emerging in a threaded discussion forum, particularly when adult ESL learners were assigned to argue about controversial issues. This study also investigated learners’ word appropriation strategies when encountering unknown words during task engagement.
Grounded in sociocultural theory, the study was conducted to investigate how adult ESL learners could benefit from postings by more capable peers and use text-based communication as thinking devices (Harasim, 1990; Lotman, 1988; 1990; vanLier, 2000; Warschauer, 1997; Wells, 2000) to complete the assigned tasks. The investigation regarding social interaction focused on three aspects: 1) the roles of expert and novice emerging during task engagement; 2) the functions of the postings composed to sustain arguments; and 3) multiple voices emerging in arguments for meaning construction. Lotman’s (1988) notion of functional dualism of texts, Wertsch’s (1998; 2000) notion of interaction in social space, and Bakhtin’s (1979) notion of awareness of otherness were employed to analyze how multiple voices in texts illustrated the process of how participants borrowed, adopted, and transformed other voices into voices of their own.
The participants in the study were assigned to read two controversial articles about assisted suicide and the mandatory school uniform policy and then were divided into two groups to argue for or against the assigned topics. They were instructed to fill in a pre- and a post-task vocabulary knowledge scale to indicate their vocabulary knowledge from the assigned readings. After a preliminary analysis of the pre- and post-task vocabulary knowledge scale as well as posted messages, the researcher conducted post-task interviews with individual participants to clarify questions arising during the preliminary analysis.
Results of the study suggested that during task engagement the roles of expert and novice fluctuated, depending upon different circumstances. Individual participants were able to 1) initiate threads to start arguments; 2) provide arguments to transform the developing discussion into a new direction; and 3) embed words identified as unknown in postings to provide contextual assistance for the novice to infer word meanings and compose responses. The analysis of the functions of the postings revealed that they served as dual functions for knowledge transmission as well as knowledge co-construction. Questions were embedded in postings for various purposes, especially for challenging rather than expecting answers, and uptake played a crucial role in engendering extended argument. Multiple voices in the threaded discussion allowed the participants opportunities to expand arguments as well as meaning construction regarding unknown words encountered during task engagement. With regard to word appropriation strategies to maintain the flow of interaction, the participants flexibly employed various strategies to infer word meanings before they were able to compose responses.
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