The potential of collaborative writing among young EFL learners in a school context: One step beyond quantitative measures
Since Swain’s (1995) Output Hypothesis and Long’s (1996) Interaction Hypothesis, thepotential of interactive output tasks for language learning has been firmly established.Although most research has concentrated on oral language, an emerging body of workon collaborative writing in L2 contexts has found quite unanimously that it promotesaccuracy to a greater extent than individual writing, although no differences have beenfound in fluency or complexity (see Storch, 2011 for a review). In addition to this, whenauthors analyze the language related episodes (LREs) pairs generate while writingtogether, a great amount of them are devoted to discussing the language form and areconsidered beneficial for the participants. Authors have thus concluded that, whenwriting to learn, collaborative writing might be very effective for enhancing accuracy(Manchón, 2011; Philp, Adams & Iwashita, 2013).This study extends the possibilities of collaborative writing to an underresearchedpopulation: young learners of English as a foreign language. More specifically, it examinesthe writings of 60 11-year-old students of English in the same school in Northern Spain.All the learners had to write a composition based on a picture prompt. They were dividedin two groups. In one group (N=19) the learners produced the composition individuallyand in the other group (N=40) the learners produced the composition in pairs and theirconversation was recorded. The writings were analyzed using qualitative and quantitativemeasures. Qualitative measures included the evaluation of the written products on aglobal scale (modelled on Storch’s (2005) scale). Quantitative measures included thethree main dimensions of language performance, complexity, accuracy and fluency (CAF)and, in the case of the pairs, the LREs generated during the conversations were alsocodified.Regarding the quantitative measures, and contrary to previous studies, no differences inany of the CAF components were found when comparing the compositions writtenindividually with the compositions written in pairs. In contrast to this, the qualitativeanalyses showed that, in general, the pairs obtained higher scores. Their compositionswere deemed as being more coherent, easier to follow by the reader and providing amore complete description of the picture prompt. Finally, the analysis of pair talkrevealed that the children produced a large number of LREs, mostly form-focused (72%),and with a target-like outcome (72.22%), which might per se be positive for learning. Theimportance of including holistic measures when analyzing written products as well as thepotential of children pairs when writing collaboratively are discussed.REFERENCESLong, M.H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W.C. Ritchie& T.K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of Language Acquisition: Vol. 2. Second Language Acquisition (pp.413-468). New York: Academic Press.Manchón, R.M. (2014). The internal dimension of tasks: The interaction between task factors and learnerfactors in bringing about learning through writing. In H. Byrnes & R. M. Manchón (Eds.), Task-basedlanguage learning—Insights from and for L2 writing (pp. 27–53). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: JohnBenjamins.Philp, J., Adams, R., & Iwashita, N. (2013). Peer interaction and second language learning. New York:Routledge.Storch, N. (2011). Collaborative writing in L2 contexts: Processes, outcomes, and future directions. AnnualReview of Applied Linguistics, 31, 275-288.Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In G. Cook & B. Seidlhofer (Eds.),Applied linguistics. Studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson (pp. 125-144). Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.