Learners' Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Blogging for L2 Writing in Fully Online Language Courses

Learners' Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Blogging for L2 Writing in Fully Online Language Courses

Lina Lee (University of New Hampshire, Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Durham, NH, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2017010102
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Abstract

The study explores how the application of blog assignments facilitated the L2 writing process and how blogging affects the way students view blog-based L2 writing instruction and peer feedback. The results showed that beginning students had a positive attitude toward the use of blogs because it gave them agency over their learning, and engaged them in co-construction of knowledge with their peers. While scaffolding through peer feedback affected students' self-regulated efforts to make improvement on written content and increase language accuracy, strategies for effective use of feedback from the instructor was important. This study concludes that blogging not only empowers students to be creative with the content, but also promotes attention to language forms. L2 educators are strongly encouraged to take full advantage of the widely available blog technology by incorporating it into their teaching methods to further promote critical reflection and collaborative interaction within socially bounded online learning environments.
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Introduction

The primary goal of foreign language (L2) instruction is to develop learners’ communicative competence, including writing proficiency. Writing in L2 is often perceived as a challenging task because it requires the learner not only to generate and organize ideas, but also to use linguistic knowledge to express meaning effectively. In recent years, the process-oriented approach to writing has gained in popularity, as this approach stimulates learners to become more actively involved in the writing process. As learners go through multiple stages of planning, drafting, receiving feedback, revising, and publishing (Cumming, 2009; Williams, 2005), they improve the quality of writing through constructive feedback, by reflecting on the applicability of the comments, and incorporating them into revisions (Ferris, 2003; Lam, 2013). According to Hyland and Hyland (2006), peer feedback increases learners’ autonomy and the ability to edit their own writing. Despite its potential benefits, writing through a cyclical approach is a time consuming task. For example, in the traditional classroom setting, scheduling one-on-one or small group conferences with students to provide feedback on their writing is a labor intensive process. For this reason, computer-mediated writing, including blogging, affords the opportunity for students to work independently (e.g., content creation), and collaboratively (e.g., peer feedback), during the writing process (Armstrong & Retterer, 2008; Lee, 2010).

L2 blogs have been increasingly used for different pedagogical purposes. While personal blogs foster self-expression and self-reflection (Lee, 2012a; Murray & Hourigan, 2008; Yang, 2009), collective blogs promote co-construction of L2 knowledge through social interaction (Lee, 2011a; Richardson, 2011). Through blogging, students not only create and update content, but also share and exchange ideas with others within a virtual learning community. Given that blogs are asynchronous modes of computer-mediated communication (CMC), students write at their own pace without time pressure, which allows them greater freedom to reflect critically upon the content and form. The instantaneous nature of content publishing for a broad audience rather than for a sole instructor increases students’ motivation to produce quality work. Archived entries that document students’ work over time enable teachers and students to assess writing in progress as well. Additionally, through the process of blog writing, students assume multiple roles, as they post their own entries, and read and respond to each other’s postings. Through asynchronous CMC feedback, students negotiate both meaning and form, and further help each other develop new ideas and identify linguistic problems (Dippold, 2009; Lee, 2012b). As stated by Ware & Kessler, (2013), feedback through asynchronous interaction tends to focus on linguistic adjustments. As a result, students strengthen their writing skills by expanding their lexicon and improving their grammatical accuracy (e.g., Armstrong & Retterer, 2008; Lee, 2010; Lin, 2015; Sun 2010).

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