Learning English as a foreign language in a blended mode of face-to-face and online discussions : a case study in a university in Taiwan

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses – 2014 Archive

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Su-Ching Huang

PhD thesis, conferred 2014

Learning English as a Foreign Language in a Blended Mode of Face-to-face and Online Discussions: A Case Study in a University in Taiwan. Previous studies have documented many beneficial results arising from integrating online discussion with face-to-face instruction for language learning, yet the interactive process of students within both formal and informal contexts remains to be explored.

This research examined the dynamics of student learning in blended face-to-face and online discussions in and after class in the context of learning English as a foreign language (EFL) in a university in Taiwan. An embedded case study was applied with a mixed-methods approach to investigate how students jointly accomplished tasks, and how this blended approach had contributed to their English learning. The data collected include the qualitative data of observations on three groups of 14 participants, three focus groups with 11 participants, 72 online discussion logs of the three groups and the quantitative data of 45 questionnaire responses.

The findings revealed that students learned primarily through mediation of L1 and L2, through collaborative interaction, through co-construction of meaning, and from teacher and peer scaffolds. Students tended to provide information and suggestions in face-to-face discussions by using L1, but they expressed thoughts, gave comments and probed questions in online discussions by using L2. Students changed their interactive patterns from passive to active by mutually assisting each other in accomplishing tasks. Data also showed that students recognised that blended discussions had contributed to their cognitive, language, interactional and affective gains. Blended discussions were perceived as learner-centred undertakings that increased participation, collaboration and engagement. Four key factors were observed to have affected learning in this blended instruction.

The research concludes that blended discussions changed the conventional EFL classroom culture and had a positive influence on student learning in terms of interaction, processes of meaning construction and perceptions.

Keywords: Online Discussion, Computer-Mediated Communication, Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Blended Learning, Collaborative interaction, Co-construction of Meaning

Supervisor: Associate Professor Huizhong Shen