Using a virtual learning environment for the development of L2 academic reading
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 14:48 authored by Andrew Bown
The use of a virtual learning environment is a common feature of language programs at colleges and universities worldwide, with the potential to support language development both inside and outside the classroom. This thesis takes a mixed-methods approach to investigate the support provided, via a virtual learning environment, to second language (L2) readers at two colleges of higher education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This support takes the form of elaborative feedback within online reading exercises, and post-reading computer-mediated synchronous discussions (CMSD). The first study, involving 71 students at Ras Al Khaimah Men's College, builds on previous research into elaborative feedback in two ways. Firstly, think-aloud protocols and retrospective interviews were utilized to examine how learners working independently interact with elaborative feedback while completing online reading comprehension exercises. Secondly, the study examined how strategic instruction in the use of elaborative feedback affects its usefulness. The results of two quasi-experiments showed no significant effect for elaborative feedback in comparison with knowledge-of-response feedback as an aid to reading comprehension, nor for the effect of strategy instruction on the usefulness of elaborative feedback. In contrast, findings from the qualitative analysis of think-aloud sessions, interviews and online surveys lend support to the use of elaborative feedback, suggesting that it can assist learners with text comprehension through rephrasing and through helping them to locate answers to comprehension questions within a text. The second study investigates the use of post-reading CMSD in combination with elaborative feedback with 202 students at Ras Al Khaimah Men's and Women's Colleges. It builds on previous research, as no previous studies had explored the use of postreading CMSD and elaborative feedback with Arab learners. While the results of a quasi-experiment showed no significant effect for post-reading CMSD on reading comprehension, the qualitative analysis of discussion room logs, interviews and online surveys suggests that such discussion can enhance L2 reading comprehension, and promote both negotiation for meaning and exploratory talk (Mercer, 1995). Furthermore, the analysis suggests that elaborative feedback can act as a useful support to such discussions.