An exploration of social interaction and vocabulary appropriation among advanced adult ESL learners engaged in a threaded discussion forum
Su-Lin Tai, The Florida State University, United States
The Florida State University . Awarded
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.
The participants in the study were assigned to read two controversial articles 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 knowledge of vocabulary 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. The analysis of the functions of the postings revealed that they served as dual functions for knowledge transmission as well as knowledge co-construction. 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.
Tai, S.L. An exploration of social interaction and vocabulary appropriation among advanced adult ESL learners engaged in a threaded discussion forum. Ph.D. thesis, The Florida State University.
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