Accounts From an Online Reading Group for English Language Teachers Worldwide: A Case Study on Dialogue and Online Interaction

Lima, Maria Cristina Barbosa (2014). Accounts From an Online Reading Group for English Language Teachers Worldwide: A Case Study on Dialogue and Online Interaction. PhD thesis The Open University.



New technologies have increased access to written texts, while creating new ways of reading and of sharing responses. Yet, despite the centrality of reading in language learning, and the expanding use of computer technology in English Language Teaching (ELT), many questions concerning the integration of these two fields of knowledge remain unanswered. This study explores a global online discussion forum which links over 1,400 ELT professionals and students of TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages). The ELT Online Reading Group makes literary works in English available to participants in over 75 countries and, by facilitating asynchronous discussion, contributes to their professional development. This study investigates readers’ responses to literary texts and their comments on such texts. It adopts Bakhtin’s concepts of dialogue and heteroglossia as the theoretical framework for the analysis of data collected from the forum. The forum posts are complemented by an online survey and by semi-structured narratives provided by selected Group members. The data are analysed in terms of compositional features, interactive patterns, and participants’ accounts of group participation. The findings suggest that readers engage in dialogue with literary texts by making use of the language and features of the fictional narrative in the composition of their comments. The findings also suggest that the internal dialogue that Bakhtin observes in the novel is also present in the fabric of the texts which participants create in order to discuss literary works in the Group online environment. The thesis concludes with some reflections on the validity and limitations of this study, and a discussion of its possible implications for ELT professionals, educators and researches working on various disciplines in social sciences, arts and humanities.

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