Macquarie University
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The same project but different approaches to language learning in collaborative digital storytelling projects

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:27 authored by Nishioka Hiromi
Language learners working on the same project may not learn the target language in the same way and to the same extent. This raises two important questions: What factors encourage language learners to learn in multiple ways? Do language learners use and learn the target language effectively during the project? These questions are of great interest to language educators who wish to enhance the language learning process and outcomes when implementing long-term collaborative projects. This project explored how 14 learners of Japanese learned the target language while completing collaborative digital storytelling projects. Studies of language learning during short-term collaborative learning tasks have demonstrated that language learning takes place in contexts where learners work together by discussing 'Language-Related Episodes' (Swain& Lapkin, 1995, 1998) with peers (e.g., Fernández-Dobao, 2012). However, the ways in which learners engage in language learning during long-term collaborative projects have received scant research examination. Understanding the language learning processes is of great mportance to educators to improve their ability to provide appropriate pedagogical support to learners to enhance their language learning experience. This study implemented collaborative digital storytelling projects with 14 learners of Japanese to answer the following three research questions: 1) What patterns of dyadic interactions do Japanese language learners develop during collaborative digital storytelling projects; 2) How do they use collaborative dialogue to resolve their language problems during this projects; 3) Do they use alternative resources other than their linguistic knowledge, and if so, what resources do they use; and 4) What factors mediate how they engaged in language learning. During the long-term collaborative project, the participants created culture-related digital stories in pairs using their preferred working styles. The duration of the research project was three to six sessions outside the classroom. To understand the language learning processes engaged in by the participants from multiple perspectives, seven types of data were collected including video recordings of the pair-groups' interactions and individual semi-structured interviews. To distinguish the patterns of learner interactions while completing their projects, task and role allocation, and frequency of peer interactions to discuss task procedures and language problems were examined. Language learning inside spoken interactions with peers was analysed by drawing on the participants' 'collaborative dialogues' (Swain, 1997). Also explored was the way in which participants engaged in Japanese language learning outside of collaborative dialogue with peers by applying the concepts of 'contradictions' in Engeström's (1987, p. 98) Activity System and 'resources' (Palfreyman, 2006, 2014). This study examined the mediating factors by also drawing on interacting activity systems Engeström (2001). This study found the seven participant pairs developed multiple language learning trajectories and engaged in division of labour when completing their digital storytelling projects. Unlike the findings reported in studies of short-term collaborative tasks, six of seven pair groups engaged in much fewer interactions to discuss LREs after dividing their tasks and roles. Despite these constraints for language learning, the participants also engaged in language learning outside of peer interactions by using multiple resources strategically. Various factors in their activity systems such as preferred learning style, rules, tools and communities mediated the participants' patterns of peer interactions and language learning pathways while completing their projects. These findings suggest the importance of providing pedagogical support to language learners to enhance learning outcomes by using resources strategically both in inside and outside of collaborative dialogue with peers.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction : analysing task management and language learning in collaborative digital storytelling projects -- Chapter 2. Literature review : language learning in long-term projects and short-term tasks -- Chapter 3. Theoretical framework -- Chapter 4. Research methodology -- Chapter 5. Patterns of peer interactions in collaborative digital storytelling projects -- Chapter 6. Comparing language learning in collaborative dialogue with peers during collaborative digital storytelling projects -- Chapter 7. Language learning using alternative learning resources in collaborative digital storytelling -- Chapter 8. Factors mediating language learning in collaborative digital storytelling projects -- Chapter 9. Implications, limitations and further research -- References -- Appendices.


Empirical thesis. Bibliography: pages 430-447

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Phil Benson

Additional Supervisor 1

Stephen Moore


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