UBC Theses and Dissertations
Second language speakers’ participation in computer-mediated discussions in graduate seminars Yim, Yoon-Kyung Kecia
One of the most significant trends in higher education in recent decades is the growing interest in online education. Considering second language (L2) speakers' reticence in academic oral discourse, which has been a recurring theme in the field of second language acquisition, examining L2 students' socialization into academic online discourse has particular urgency. In exploring how different forms of instruction shape L2 students' class participation in academic courses, 1 examined: (a) how students understood their participation in online forums as revealed by interviews and an examination of their online discourse; (b) how various factors constructed their identities in face-to-face and online learning communities; and (c) how L2 students assumed participant roles in online discussion activities. Two online graduate courses were examined for a semester in a large Canadian university, using qualitative case study methodology. Data included written questionnaires, interviews, classroom observations, online Bulletin Board (BB) texts, and course documents. Using activity theory as a conceptual framework, I analyzed L2 students' participation. The results, in turn, helped me identify the framework's inadequacies, such as downplaying the role of students' agency in appropriating academic discourse. A unique contribution to educational research, furthermore, is the method developed here for analyzing participant roles on the BBs. Two online courses, seemingly similar to each other in the way that they both used the online BB as a means to discuss course reading materials, fostered differing levels of register, engagement with other participants, comfort, and participant roles among students. The BBs in the two courses were a mediating tool with which students could exercise agency in their learning process, and L2 students, in particular, could gain more power over course-related discourse than the face-to-face setting allowed. The findings from academic online discourse also suggested that educators can apply some of the key lessons learned from online education to conventional face-to-face classes and vice versa.
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