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Is collaborative writing beneficial for young EFL learners of low-language proficiency?

by Nuhi Bllaca (University of Vienna, Austria)

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Working in pairs or small groups in activities that promote oral interaction is a common practice in foreign language (FL) classrooms. However, collaboration in writing activities is a far more less practice because writing as opposed to speaking, is considered a more individual rather than a collaborative activity. Therefore, the present study set out to investigate the writing performance of young EFL learners working in pairs and individually to complete a story based on a set of photographs. Hence, to operationalize the present study, 45 learners of A2 English as a foreign language were assigned to work in pairs (n=15) and individually (n=15) to complete a writing task. Their written texts were analyzed employing a global rating rubric which measured the written products in terms of task achievement, coherence and cohesion, grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. In addition, learners who worked in pairs were audio-recorded and their pair talk was analyzed for language-related episodes (LREs). LREs were coded for their focus, such as lexis-focused, form-focused, and mechanics-focused, to establish learners’ focus while engaged in the collaborative writing task. Furthermore, LREs were then analyzed for their resolution and categorized as correctly resolved, incorrectly resolved, and unresolved to understand whether learners of low-language proficiency were capable of solving correctly their language-related problems raised during the text co-construction process. After data analysis, it was revealed that writing in pairs benefits the writing performance in terms of the outcomes of the written texts, as pairs outperformed individuals in task achievement, coherence and cohesion, grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. However, the differences between scores of individuals and pairs were significant only in vocabulary and mechanics. Interestingly, results of the pair talk showed that pairs produced a greater number of lexis-focused LREs than form-focused and mechanics-focused LREs. However, only the differences between lexis-focused and mechanics-focused LREs were statistically significant. In terms of resolution, pairs managed to resolve correctly a high proportion of LREs produced.

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Key words: collaborative writing; global rating rubrics; young EFL learners; language related-episodes

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