Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Student Engagement in Long-Term Collaborative EFL Storytelling Activities: An Analysis of Learners with English Proficiency Differences

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Student Engagement in Long-Term Collaborative EFL Storytelling Activities: An Analysis of Learners with English Proficiency Differences

Article excerpt


English proficiency is considered a critical competence in today's increasingly globalized society. In many Asian countries, English language education was introduced into primary schools years ago (Chen, 2013). However, owing to students' various access levels to resources, English proficiency differences among students are becoming apparent (Baldauf, Kaplan, Kamwangamalu, & Bryant, 2011), meaning that students come to school with significant differences in their English proficiency. Such a difference has become a critical pedagogical concern (Chang, 2006). English as Foreign Language (EFL) teachers, particularly in elementary education, are facing significant pedagogical challenges to cater to individual students' needs (Nunan, 2003) such as the adoption of various language learning strategies (Uhl Chamot & El-Dinary, 1999) and different proficiency levels (Wang, 2008). It is often observed that when the teacher targets and designs his/her instruction for a certain proficiency level, the more or less proficient students in the class would be neglected and thus become disengaged. In particular, language learning is a long-term process in which learners' motivation and engagement change over time, and engaging learners of various proficiency levels in language activities of extended periods of time is a critical challenge and research focus.

Engagement, as a multi-dimensional factor, has been reported to be associated with students' enjoyment, motivation, confidence, perceived usefulness, performance, and flow perceptions in technology-enhanced language learning (Liu, Wang, & Tai, 2016). Various technologies have been adopted in language learning settings to facilitate the learning of students of different proficiency levels, and to increase engagement to overcome this challenge. Digital storytelling has been reported to effectively foster young EFL learners' interest in learning (Figg & McCartney, 2010). However, it remains unknown whether students of different proficiency levels can equally benefit from digital storytelling. Students' dynamic and changing patterns of engagement during the learning process are also unknown. Thus, in this study, we implemented a long-term technology-enhanced collaborative storytelling activity and examined young students' long-term flow perception, use of learning strategies, and pair performance in relation to their English proficiency level. Data were collected from 30 collaborative storytelling sessions over the 17-month period, so as to identify the changing patterns in student engagement (Herrington, Oliver, & Reeves, 2003; Liu et al., 2016). Student engagement was examined according to the flow theoretical framework (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975) and the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (Lan, 2005; Oxford, 1990) to better understand the interplay of the students' engagement, use of learning strategies, and pair performance in the learning activity.

Literature review

Digital storytelling

Storytelling is an effective teaching strategy for young EFL learners, and the integration of technologies in storytelling instruction provides students with opportunities to synthesize verbal and imagery representations based on their initial understanding (Lotherington & Jenson, 2011). Digital storytelling (DST) "takes the ancient art of oral storytelling and engages a palette of technical tools to weave personal tales using images, graphics, music, and sound mixed together with the author's own story voice" (Porter, 2005). The literature has confirmed that DST can improve multiple language skills, including sentence construction ability (Kim, 2014; Tsou, Wang & Tzeng, 2006), writing (Figg & McCartney, 2010; Yang & Wu, 2012; Yoon, 2013), listening comprehension (Yoon, 2013), and oral skills (Tahriri, Tous, & Movahedfar, 2015). In addition to the benefits which traditional storytelling could bring, the multimedia feature of digital storytelling has been reported to be beneficial in terms of capturing attention, fostering interest to learn, and enhancing engagement in learning activities (Di Blas, Garzotto, Paolini, & Sabiescu, 2009; Figg & McCartney, 2010; Sadik, 2008). …

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