Exploring young EFL learners’ patterns of interaction in collaborative writing: Engagement in LREs

Shanghai Center for Research in English Language Education: First Biennial Conference
Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai (China)

Research carried out on collaborative work has explored the patterns of interaction (henceforth, patterns) that occur in L2 learning (Storch, 2002), as well as the level of engagement (LoE) in language-related episodes (LREs) (Storch, 2008). Patterns refer to learners’ mutuality/engagement to each other’s contribution; and equality to the degree of control over the task at hand. LREs are any part of the dialogue where learners talk about the language they use (Swain and Lapkin, 1998). Storch (2008) categorized LoE in LREs as elaborated, when learners are actively engaged in the LRE; or limited, when the involvement in the LRE is scarce.There is a dearth of studies on patterns and LoE in LREs, and especially of studies conducted with young learners (YLs) as participants. It is important to understand to what extent YLs are engaged in collaborative work, as this might affect their L2 performance.In order to shed more light on these issues this study explores the patterns and LoE in LREs of 62 Spanish EFL learners (ages 11-12) when they completed a dictogloss in pairs. The general pattern of each of the 31 dyads was identified and their LoE in LREs was later contrasted with the pattern corresponding to each dyad. Four patterns were identified: collaborative, cooperative, facilitative/cooperative and dominant/passive. Most dyads featured a cooperative pattern, with high equality but mid-low mutuality. Despite the different patterns identified, LoE in most LREs was elaborate. These findings support the benefits of collaborative work for YLs and will be further discussed in relation to pedagogical practices.References:Storch, N. (2002) Patterns of Interaction in ESL Pair Work. Language Learning, 52(1), 119-158.Storch, N. (2008). Metatalk in a pair work activity: Level of engagement and implications for language development. Language Awareness, 17(2), 95-114Swain, M. & Lapkin, S. (1998) Interaction and second language learning: Two adolescent French immersion students working together. The Modern Language Journal, 82(3), 320-37.