Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology

Major Professor

Tony Erben

Co-Major Professor

Jeffra Flaitz

Keywords

Vygotsky, sociocultural theory, reading in a foreign language, WebQuest

Abstract

This study investigated collaborative online reading from a Sociocultural Theory (SCT) perspective. Building on, yet transcending, research into learning strategies, the research focused on the concepts of mediational tool use, strategic behavior, and patterns of dialogic engagement of college student dyads as they completed a series of three collaborative WebQuests in a beginning German as a Foreign Language (GFL) class. On-screen actions and verbal interaction of six dyads of beginning GFL students were recorded during three short-term, collaborative WebQuests. Full motion screen recordings were transcribed, and relevant episodes were coded for mediational tool use and strategic behaviors. All dyads used their L1 as well as the L2 in mediating task success. The distinction between L1 and L2 was fluid, as students accessed a combination of psychological tools according to their own goals, ability, and orientation.

Although the L1 was the dominant tool employed by the participants in this study, over time some students were able to use the foreign language as a psychological tool for completing the assigned task. Eleven combinations of mediational tool use were identified and related to levels of regulation. Students strategic behaviors fell into five categories: affective, contextual, socio-procedural, cognitive, and other. The ratio between constructive and destructive strategic behaviors provided insight into the overall collaborative climate. Cognitive strategies were further divided into three theoretically salient categories: mediation a student s own regulation of L2 tool use, mediating the partner s regulation of L2 tool use and mediating collective regulation of L2 tool use.

Student dyads exhibited high frequencies of both self-mediation and collective mediation, which indicates that these students were working in their own and their partner s zone of proximal development. The nature of the dialogic engagement varied by dyad, but remained relatively stable over time. Students goals and orientation towards the task impacted their overall collaboration. The role and development of L2 proficiency warrants further investigation. In peer collaboration, more symmetric dyad constellations may lead to more collective scaffolding and more positive dialogic engagement.

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