Academic literacies and attitudes of EFL students in a CMC environment

Malik, Altaf ur Rehman (2015). Academic literacies and attitudes of EFL students in a CMC environment. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f860

Abstract

There is a growing volume of research showing that academic literacy is discipline specific. To become proficient in a specific discipline and be a part of a discourse community, learners have to learn ways of communication acquired through understanding and practising the necessary genres associated with that discipline. Both synchronous and asynchronous Computer-mediated communication (CMC) provides opportunities for learners to be a part of that discourse community and learn particular ways of discourse in a collaborative environment. This research investigated how a group of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners in a Saudi Arabian university was introduced to academic writing by completing CMC tasks collaboratively. Learners' interactions were examined via a descriptive design to explain how students negotiate academic literacy using synchronous chat and asynchronous discussion boards. Data were gathered from 6 sources: observations, survey questionnaires, texts of participants' online discussion entries, online peer feedback, students' assignments, and interviews. Data were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively to investigate how these EFL undergraduate students negotiate their academic literacy in a CMC environment in terms of language functions and focus; how CMC influences both the process and the product of student's academic writing activities; and what EFL students' attitudes were towards CMC in the process of acquiring academic literacy. Data analysis revealed the various discourse functions EFL learners used in their online discussions. Results indicated that computer-mediated communication facilitated students' understanding of tasks and performance of writing activities and promoted collaboration. Analysis of the students' draft and revised essays in the online peer review activities showed that students integrated peers' feedback into their revisions and benefited from such activities although they were not satisfied with the quality and quantity of feedback. A comparison of the students' participation in the face-to-face classrooms with their participation in both synchronous and asynchronous CMC activities afforded through Blackboard® learning management system (LMS) revealed more active interaction during CMC activities in terms of its content and quality. Finally, the EFL students perceived that CMC facilitated their acquisition of academic literacy in academic writing and promoted collaboration despite some limitations.

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