Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Collaborative Writing Practice on Efl Learners' Writing Accuracy, Complexity and Fluency

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Collaborative Writing Practice on Efl Learners' Writing Accuracy, Complexity and Fluency

Article excerpt

Introduction

In applied linguistics, concept of practice, although always important, has been treated differently at different times. Before Krashen (1982), and Krashen and Terell (1983), the concept was associated with the practice on producing the language products, mainly writing, speaking and doing exercises, believing these can help consolidate one's learning. However, Krashen (1982) and later on, Krashen and Terell (1983) radically broke with this tradition in that they saw a minimal role for the practice with the product believing that it is meaning-focused processing of the right (comprehensible) kind of input which results in the acquisition of competence, the idea being that a great deal of comprehensible input over time can lead to considerable fluency and accuracy in learning a second language. Nevertheless, studies conducted with students in Canadian immersion programs (e.g., Swain, 1985), showed that even though students had been exposed to great amounts of comprehensible input in French, and were somewhat fluent in it, they had still not acquired grammatical competence in that their performance reflected many syntactical errors in French.

Out of this controversy, Swain (1985) suggests that "output" is a missing factor. She proposes the Comprehensible Output Hypothesis in which she claims "output practice that extends the linguistic repertoire of the learner as he or she attempts to create precisely and appropriately the meaning desired" (p. 252) is an essential condition for second language (L2) acquisition. Swain (1985, 1995, 1998, 2005) also points out some crucial functions of output practice in second language acquisition including noticing function, hypothesis formulating and testing function, metalinguistic function and syntactic processing function.

As Swain's was in line with a premise shared by the fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive sciences and second language acquisition, all of which believe that learning does not take place without noticing (Robinson, 1995; Schmidt, 1990, 2001; Tomlin & Villa, 1994), it seemed to open a more tangible perspective to second language researchers and teachers than that advocated by Krashen and his followers. Nevertheless, what kind of output practice may result in better comprehension of the language, and, thus, will promote learning more has raised its own concerns and issues.

Therefore, a line of studies ( e.g., Dekeyser, 2007; Shehadeh, 2011) have tried to investigate the types of collaboration that are conductive to learning in a more meaningful way. The results have led researchers to develop and refine their conception of the output practice and to suggest that collaborative tasks (such as Information Gap Tasks) may be perhaps one of the best ways to get students to produce comprehensible output. The reason that these types of tasks and other kinds of pair and group work activities may be useful is that, whereas individually learners may be novices, working together they have access to their partner's knowledge and can essentially rise above their individual level of competence (Swain, 1995). By doing this, learners working in a pair or in a group can produce comprehensible output beyond their competence level and learn something new (or at the very least, consolidate existing knowledge).

However, compared to research that examined the benefits of collaborative work for the spoken discourse, research investigating the benefits of collaborative work for the written discourse in L2, especially collaborativ writing (CW), is scant (Storch, 2005; Storch & Wigglesworth, 2007). For instance, Storch ( 2005, p.153) states that "although pair and group work are commonly used in language classrooms, very few studies have investigated the nature of such collaboration when students produce a jointly written text." Storch points out that most past studies on collaborative work in the L2 classroom "have examined learners" attitudes to group / pair work in general, rather than to the activity of collaborative writing" (p. …

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