A Mobile-Device-Supported Peer-Assisted Learning System for Collaborative Early EFL Reading

By Lan, Yu-Ju; Sung, Yao-Ting et al. | Language, Learning & Technology, October 2007 | Go to article overview

A Mobile-Device-Supported Peer-Assisted Learning System for Collaborative Early EFL Reading


Lan, Yu-Ju, Sung, Yao-Ting, Chang, Kuo-En, Language, Learning & Technology


Collaborative learning methods which emphasize peer interaction have been widely applied to increase the intensity and effectiveness of EFL reading programs. However, simply grouping students heterogeneously and assigning them group goals does not guarantee that effective collaborative learning will ensue. The present research includes two studies. In Study One, the weaknesses of collaborative learning in a traditional EFL setting were observed. Then, in Study Two, a mobile-device-supported peer-assisted learning (MPAL) system was developed for the purpose of addressing the identified weaknesses. Two classes of twenty-six third grade students participated in the present research to examine the unique contribution of MPAL to collaborative EFL reading activities. The collaborative behavior of elementary EFL learners was videotaped and analyzed. Detailed analysis of the videotaped behavior indicated that MPAL helped improve collaboration in elementary school level EFL learners and promotes their reading motivation.

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INTRODUCTION

Due to increased globalization and internationalization in recent decades, English has become the lingua franca of the world due to its widespread use in academia, business, commerce, and technology (Spolsky & Shohamy, 1999). As a result, study of the English language has increased worldwide. In Taiwan, formal English as a foreign language/English as a second language (henceforth referred to simply as EFL) instruction begins at the elementary school level. However, because of the limited opportunities for exposure to English, Hirvela (2004) highlighted the importance of providing reading materials to second language (L2) learners so that they can learn the rhetoric and writing styles of the language through reading. Moreover, there is a growing recognition that reading provides important opportunities for L2 development (Day & Bamford, 1998). Reading is especially important for learners of EFL in an educational setting with limited L2 resources (Gehard, 1996). Therefore, the teaching of English reading is receiving increasing attention from EFL teachers and researchers.

To achieve the reading goals set for elementary learners, intensive intervention programs have been viewed as an effective approach (Clay, 1993; Foorman & Torgesen, 2001; Hiebert, Colt, Catto, & Gury, 1992; Slavin, Madden, Karweit, Dolan, & Wasik, 1992; Taylor, Frye, Short, & Shearer, 1992). Further, collaborative learning that includes groups working together and peer assistants has been widely used in English reading programs to create the necessary intensity and strong support for learning. Numerous studies have confirmed the positive educational effects of collaborative learning on the instruction of English reading. Collaborative learning (or peer-assisted learning) can improve the cognitive activity of students (Hartup, 1992) and their reading outcomes (Greenwood, 1996; Ghaith, 2003; Slavin, 1988). Collaborative learning can also increase motivation and satisfaction (Ushioda, 1996), as well as the enthusiasm of students through the achievement of goals as a group (Nichols & Miller, 1994).

Although the effectiveness of collaborative learning in EFL reading has been clearly demonstrated, a collaborative learning environment in an EFL classroom in Asia may differ markedly from one in the West. Other pedagogical challenges (such as the diversity of students' reading ability, social and economic differences, class size, time constraints, and available resources) become problematic when EFL teachers try to adopt collaborative methods for reading instruction in traditional EFL classes (Curtis, 1998; Lan, Chang, & Sung, 2004; Reed, 2002).

Mobile technology is currently a feasible approach to overcoming many of the obstacles in current methods of EFL reading instruction. Standing on the shoulders of the giant, CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning, e. …

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