Language and Speech Laboratory

The potential of collaborative writing among young EFL learners in a school context: One step beyond quantitative measures

Amparo Lázaro Ibarrola, María Ángeles Hidalgo Gordo.

42 Congreso Internacional de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos (AEDEAN) in Córdoba

Since Swain’s (1995) Output Hypothesis and Long’s (1996) Interaction Hypothesis, the potential of interactive output tasks for language learning has been firmly established. Although most research has concentrated on oral language, an emerging body of work on collaborative writing in L2 contexts has found quite unanimously that it promotes accuracy to a greater extent than individual writing, although no differences have been found in fluency or complexity (see Storch, 2011 for a review). In addition to this, when authors analyze the language related episodes (LREs) pairs generate while writing together, a great amount of them are devoted to discussing the language form and are considered beneficial for the participants. Authors have thus concluded that, when writing 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 underresearched population: young learners of English as a foreign language. More specifically, it examines the 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 divided in two groups. In one group (N=19) the learners produced the composition individually and in the other group (N=40) the learners produced the composition in pairs and their conversation was recorded. The writings were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative measures. Qualitative measures included the evaluation of the written products on a global scale (modelled on Storch’s (2005) scale). Quantitative measures included the three main dimensions of language performance, complexity, accuracy and fluency (CAF) and, in the case of the pairs, the LREs generated during the conversations were also codified. Regarding the quantitative measures, and contrary to previous studies, no differences in any of the CAF components were found when comparing the compositions written individually with the compositions written in pairs. In contrast to this, the qualitative analyses showed that, in general, the pairs obtained higher scores. Their compositions were deemed as being more coherent, easier to follow by the reader and providing a more complete description of the picture prompt. Finally, the analysis of pair talk revealed 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. The importance of including holistic measures when analyzing written products as well as the potential of children pairs when writing collaboratively are discussed. REFERENCES Long, 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 learner factors in bringing about learning through writing. In H. Byrnes & R. M. Manchón (Eds.), Task-based language learning—Insights from and for L2 writing (pp. 27–53). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins. 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. Annual Review 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 University Press.