Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Everson, Michael

Second Advisor

Wesely, Pamela

First Committee Member

Schrier, Leslie

Second Committee Member

Plakans, Lia

Third Committee Member

Alessi, Steve


Adopting a Socio-Constructivist theoretical framework, this study investigated the French language discourse produced by a focal group of five intermediate learners of French while immersed in a virtual learning environment (VLE) and engaged in a problem-based activity. Adopting a mixed methods approach, this study analyzed both quantitative and qualitative data to examine the second language (L2) negotiation and co-construction of meaning process in this group's discourse; as well, it investigated these learners' emerging L2 critical thinking, problem solving, and technology literacy skills. Results indicated that the discourse produced by these students was significantly impacted by the problem-based activity itself, and characterized by a progressive trend towards higher levels of L2 critical thinking, with sustained episodes of negotiation and co-construction of meaning. Most notably, the discourse analysis indicated that it was during the consensus-building phase of the problem-based activity that most instances of higher level critical thinking occurred. Moreover, the 3-D representation of learners (as avatars) and space, as well as the immediacy of synchronous chat-based interactions in the VLE had a positive social, motivational, and linguistic impact on this process. These results lend support to the claim that VLEs, with an underlying problem-based and consensus-building component, provide optimal learning opportunities for learners to develop L2 critical thinking and problem solving abilities. Discussion is offered about the benefits of a mixed methods approach to research, as well as about the reliability and validity of Hull & Saxon's (2009) Interaction Analysis model for L2 discourse analysis. Implications for the L2 classroom as well as for future research on L2 negotiation of meaning are also provided.


education, foreign language, negotiation of meaning, problem-based learning, second language acquisition, virtual learning environments


xv, 256 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 245-256).


Copyright 2012 Aurore Patricia Mroz