Interaction, meaning-making, and accuracy in synchronous CMC discussion: The experiences of a university-level intermediate French class
Lisa A. Jurkowitz, The University of Arizona, United States
The University of Arizona . Awarded
A primary goal of foreign language instruction today is to increase opportunities for authentic communication among students. One way to accomplish this is through synchronous computer-mediated classroom discussion (CMCD). While this electronic medium is highly interactive and beneficial for second language acquisition (SLA) on many levels, studies have noted that learner output in CMCD is often inaccurate. In order to heighten students’ attention to features of the target language (TL), SLA research suggests integrating a focus on form (FonF) within meaning-based activities. In the CMCD literature, however, FonF has not been widely treated. The current study addresses this gap by documenting the linguistic and interactional features present in intermediate, university-level French students’ synchronous discussions. Furthermore, students’ perceptions of their general experience with CMCD are qualitatively examined.
In this study, students participated in CMCD once a week, for 16 weeks. Discussion prompts encouraged them to use their French meaningfully to communicate with each other while paying attention to accuracy. To make form salient, students set pre-chat language goals; their transcripts were graded on both content and accuracy; they received whole-class and personalized feedback on their transcripts; and they corrected a percentage of their errors. Results show that balancing the concurrent pressures of form and content was challenging for the students. Likely determined by their proficiency level as well as the medium of CMCD itself, students produced mainly short and simple messages in the present tense; used an average range of vocabulary; and wrote with variable grammatical accuracy. As for being accountable for their language usage, 9 students responded very well. Most importantly, focusing on form was not found to be incompatible with students’ ability to engage in rich, meaningful, and enjoyable communication. While focusing on accuracy, students shared their opinions and aspects of their personal lives while remaining in the TL. Moreover, they used French for a range of social, strategic and interactional functions. Students also reported the overall experience as highly motivating and rewarding. These findings point to CMCD as a valuable means of increasing authentic classroom communication and indicate that attention to form need not be sacrificed in the process.
Jurkowitz, L.A. Interaction, meaning-making, and accuracy in synchronous CMC discussion: The experiences of a university-level intermediate French class. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Arizona.
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