Modelling typical online language learning activity

Montoro, Carlos; Hampel, Regine and Stickler, Ursula (2014). Modelling typical online language learning activity. In: CALL Design: Principles and Practice; Proceedings of the 2014 EUROCALL Conference, Groningen, The Netherlands,, pp. 237–240.



This article presents the methods and results of a four-year-long research project focusing on the language learning activity of individual learners using online tasks conducted at the University of Guanajuato (Mexico) in 2009-2013. An activity-theoretical model (Blin, 2010; Engeström, 1987) of the typical language learning activity was used to analyse and interpret data. The study revealed (1) problems for learners to move beyond the task’s objective (i.e. making a video) to attain the set language learning outcomes (e.g. developing speaking skills), and (2) the prevalence of orality over literacy in learning practices. Methodologically, a sample of 10 learners individually engaged with a purpose-built task. This was followed up by stimulated recall sessions (Gass & Mackey, 2000). The resulting video data was segmented using the concept of disturbances (Montoro & Hampel, 2011, p. 124; adapted from Engeström & Sannino, 2011), that is, deviations in learner behaviour from teacher expectations. Twenty-three dimensions and six processes were used to categorise data. A major systemic contradiction (Engeström, 2001), stemming from institutional and societal mass-production and efficiency-oriented practices, emerged, which partly led learners to take an other-than-language-learning orientation associated with, for instance, their underuse of learning tools and an over reliance on memory, perception, oral instruction and private speech.

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