Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Learner-Centered Blogging: A Preliminary Investigation of EFL Student Writers' Experience

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Learner-Centered Blogging: A Preliminary Investigation of EFL Student Writers' Experience

Article excerpt

Introduction

For several years, educators and researchers have tried to incorporate Web 2.0 tools in their instructional approaches and empirical projects in order to promote students' writing skills and motivation to write (e.g., Lin, Lin, & Hsu, 2011; Richardson, 2009; Wang, 2014). Among the best-received applications have been blogs, which have successfully gained a foothold in education (cf. Sun & Chang, 2012) and have been widely seen as an effective approach to teaching writing to EFL/ESL students in particular (e.g., Halic, Lee, Paulus, & Spence, 2010; Lin, Li, Hung, & Huang, 2014; Vurdien, 2013; Ward, 2004). Specifically, it has been suggested that the use of blogs could augment student interactions via written language, enhance their learning motivation towards writing, and ultimately improve their writing performance (Arslan & Sahin-Kizil, 2010; Blau, Mor, & Neuthal, 2013; Halic et al., 2010; Nguyen, 2012; Trajtemberg & Yiakoumetti, 2011; Taki & Fardafshari, 2012; Vurdien, 2013). Additionally, blogs have been viewed positively by EFL/ESL students as a novel, interesting, and creative platform on which they can freely blog their thoughts (Chen, Liu, Shih, Wu, & Yuan, 2011; Ducate & Lomicka, 2008; Nguyen, 2012; Noytim, 2010; Pinkman, 2005; Trajtemberg & Yiakoumetti, 2011; Wu, 2008).

Given the multiple benefits, it is no surprise that blogging has been widely perceived as a promising approach to facilitating teaching and learning (Churchill, 2009; Dyrud, Worley, & Flatley, 2005). However, its strong justification seems to have been established without taking account of some recurring issues in blog studies, in particular the increased work-load on blog teachers (cf. Levy, 2009, cited in Lin, 2014) and the inactive blogging models among students (Chiao, 2006; Lin, 2012; Wu, 2008). So far as the present researcher knows, these aspects still await further attention before the blogging effects claimed in most prior studies can be uncritically embraced in practical pedagogy in ESL/EFL writing classrooms. To investigate these issues, the present study conducted a 16-week learner-centered blogging project, where EFL student bloggers were given total responsibility over their learning process while writing blog entries. The language instructor involved was exempted from any extra work, which in itself allowed a fairer assessment of the effects of blogging on student writers. The project was expected to shed light on the following research question: Does integrating learner-centered blogging into the EFL writing classroom have an effect on EFL students ' writing performance and learning attitudes? To address this question, the researcher first verified whether or not student bloggers' writing performance improved after the experiment, and then whether the participants experienced enhanced learning attitudes (motivation and self-efficacy in writing), the same qualities commonly mentioned in previous studies as positive effects of blogging in writing classrooms. Next, the participants' blogging experience was qualitatively explored via interviews, and their blogging patterns were related to these accounts. The researcher believes that these multiple examinations yielded valuable insights on the efficacy of the blogging approach.

Literature review

Classroom blogging has been reported to bring about varied effects on language students, including improved learning interests and attitudes, student interactions, and writing skills (e.g., Arslan & Sahin-Kizil, 2010; Chen et al., 2011; Halic et al., 2010; Nguyen, 2012; Trajtemberg & Yiakoumetti, 2011; Vurdien, 2013). The multifarious blogging effects are likely to be ascribed to the nature of blogs as an open platform inviting an increased readership (Ward, 2004) and cultivating a strong sense of ownership/authorship (Oladi, 2005, cited in Warschauer & Grimes, 2007). These impacts have been argued to serve as an impetus for student writers to be more thoughtful and careful when working on the content and structure of their postings (Arslan & Sahin-Kizil, 2010; Godwin-Jones, 2003; Noytim, 2010; Ward, 2004). …

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