Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Linguistics

First Advisor

Judith Liskin-Gasparro

Abstract

Using both quantitative and qualitative methods of inquiry, this dissertation study undertakes an exploration of the dynamics of the social interaction in discourse co-constructed by pairs of college students in telecollaborative tandem exchanges. Two groups of participants, Mexican learners of English as a foreign language and American learners of Spanish as a foreign language, participated in video-based telecollaborative tandem exchanges where they worked in pairs to discuss topics assigned by their instructors, communicating half the time in Spanish and half in English. According to the principle of reciprocity in tandem learning, the participants switch between the roles of native speaker (NS) expert and non-native speaker (NNS) learner as they invest equal time, effort, and interest in each language part of the chats. Grounded in sociocultural theory (SCT) for second language acquisition (SLA), this study addresses research questions pertaining to (1) the distribution of talk between the members of each pair and between the language parts of the exchange, (2) the distribution of interactional resources deployed by the members of each pair to establish and maintain intersubjectivity and build a relationship, and (3) the individual experiences of participants regarding their positioning in and perspectives of the exchange. Addressing the three research questions allowed the researcher to look at the telecollaborative tandem exchanges from the perspectives of language production, social aspects of interaction, and individual experiences and perspectives to gather a deeper understanding of the tandem context.

The analysis of three data sources—survey responses, chat transcripts from one chat of the semester-long telecollaborative tandem project, and post-project participant interviews—shows that the principle of reciprocity posited by tandem theorists as equal time, effort, and interest in each language part underestimates the complexity of the construct as it was created by the participants in the telecollaborative tandem interactions examined in this dissertation study. A mixed methods approach allowed the researcher to deconstruct and reconsider the construct of reciprocity in telecollaborative tandem learning. The telecollaborative tandem exchanges examined in this study were not reciprocal between language parts of the exchange in terms of language production, use of interactional resources, or tandem participant positioning. Instead, they presented complex pair relationships that used language differently in each language part to establish and maintain intersubjectivity, as well as the strong desire of the participants to position themselves and their partners as peers rather than take on the roles assumed to characterize the tandem context; that is, NS as expert and NNS as learner.

In accordance with these findings, telecollaborative tandem learning should be approached with an open understanding of the concept of reciprocity in which the participants co-construct their relationship through meaningful social dialogue as peers, rather than through the roles of NS expert and NNS learner. Based on the findings of this study, the expert–learner model of reciprocity may be too rigid and too static for the dynamic context of telecollaborative tandem learning.

Public Abstract

This dissertation study explores the dynamics of social communication in video-based Internet chats between pairs of college students—Mexican students learning English and American students learning Spanish. In these exchanges, the pairs of students discuss topics assigned by their instructors, talking half the time in Spanish and half in English (tandem learning). According to the principle of reciprocity in tandem learning, both members of the pair switch between the roles of language expert (in their native language) and language learner (of the other language) as they invest equal time, effort, and interest in each language part of the chats. With an emphasis on the social nature of the interaction, this study answered research questions pertaining to (1) the distribution of talk between the members of each pair and between the language parts of the exchange, (2) the distribution of resources used in the pair interaction to establish and maintain a shared perspective and build a relationship, and (3) the individual experiences and perspectives of the participants regarding how they oriented to each other as they spoke.

The analysis of three data sources—survey responses, transcripts from one online video chat in the semester-long project, and participant interviews—shows that the principle of reciprocity suggested by tandem theorists as equal time, effort, and interest in each language part underestimates what actually happens in the online conversations. Rather than orient to each other as language experts or language learners, the participants related to each other as peers and new friends, focusing on their shared interests or their shared struggles as language learners. As a result, the participants’ language use was not reciprocal in terms of language production, use of resources for accomplishing interaction, or the way they oriented to each other in the two languages. Instead, they used language differently in each language part to establish and maintain a shared perspective.

Based on these findings, tandem learning should be approached with an open understanding of the concept of reciprocity in which the participants build their relationship jointly through meaningful conversation as peers, rather than through their roles as language expert and language learner. Based on the findings of this study, the expert–learner model of reciprocity may be too rigid and too static for the dynamic context of tandem learning.

Keywords

publicabstract, Computer-mediated communication, L1/L2 positioning, Reciprocity, Second Language Acquisition, Tandem Exchange, Telecollaboration

Pages

xiv, 308 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 270-308).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Brianna Rae Janssen Sanchez

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