'Reflective conversation' in the virtual language classroom

Lamy, Marie-Noelle and Goodfellow, Robin (1999). 'Reflective conversation' in the virtual language classroom. Language Learning & Technology, 2(2) pp. 43–61.

URL: http://llt.msu.edu/vol2num2/article2/


In the Open University of the United Kingdom, the principle that distance language learners should be encouraged to reflect on their own learning has traditionally been central to the design of conventional (i.e., print, audio, and video) course materials. However, since computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies have created the possibility for learners to interact with each other and with teachers and native speakers--thus providing opportunities for practice and intrinsic feedback on communicative competence--an issue has risen around the continuing role of conscious reflection. Is conscious reflection, in fact, still necessary in a more interactive learning environment? We argue here that it is, and that a challenge is facing the developers of the virtual language classroom to combine the processes of conscious reflection with those of spontaneous interaction. In our view, the medium of asynchronous conferencing is particularly well suited to such a combination as it is flexible with regard to place and pace, and able to support both monologue- and conversation-like forms of written language exchange. Here we examine the kinds of reflectiveness and interactivity that are mediated through such exchanges, and discuss their value for learning. We examine some examples of CMC exchanges generated during an online course in French, and propose a pedagogy which focuses on the generation of what we are calling "reflective conversation," that is, computer-mediated asynchronous discussion around language topics and language-learning issues.

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