Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Prof. Rhonda Oliver

Second Advisor

Prof. Francois Mangenot

Abstract

Within language teaching and learning, tasks have been advocated for use as they are thought to set up ideal conditions for language acquisition to occur. With the emergence of the Internet in the last decade, and the deployment of technology in schools, Web-based tasks, referred to as Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) are being used by an increasing number of teachers. Teachers who employ Web-based tasks in their classrooms, commonly set these up so that learners complete them in a collaborative mode. This requires learners engaging in a process of task negotiation and, at times, task redefinition, which in turn requires more than just linguistic knowledge from the learners. The purpose of the present research was to identify the impact of Web-based tasks both on the learning process and the learners’ performances. Three intact classes from French high schools, consisting of learners of English as a foreign language, completed a Web-based task. The product of the different stages of its completion and the corresponding video recordings were the database for this study. Attitude questionnaires and cultural awareness tests were also collected and analyzed. In doing so, issues of attitudes and motivation as well as learner competence and language proficiency were examined. These were documented in different experimental settings, including in turn ICT and/or collaboration. The results suggest tasks, whether Web-based or not, do not hinder language production and, in fact, learners respond favourably to them, especially when working collaboratively. Further, the study shows that collaboration has measurable positive effects on the learners’ attitudes, processes and performances. These include: positive outcomes in relation to the learners’ persistence of effort; their involvement with the task; their understanding of the task’s implicit demands; their quality of writing; the products they ultimately produce; and the processing of higher-order skills. Yet the findings also suggest that these benefits are somehow diminished when technology is used, although this in turn is affected by the learners’ familiarity with the tasks and their levels of technological literacy. Even so, these results raise the question of how Web-based tasks can be best implemented in language classrooms, and suggest that further research is still required in this area.

Comments

This thesis is presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctorat en Sciences du langage - Didactique et linguistique

Faculty of Education and Arts.Edith Cowan University, and, Laboratoire de linguistique et didactique des langues étrangères et maternelles (LIDILEM) UFR Sciences du langage. Université Stendhal - Grenoble 3.

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