Task-Based Language Learning and Learner Autonomy in 3D Virtual Worlds

Task-Based Language Learning and Learner Autonomy in 3D Virtual Worlds

Iryna Kozlova (University of Pennsylvania, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8179-6.ch032
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This chapter investigates whether a problem-solving task with an environment exploration component mediates learner autonomy in a 3D virtual world (VW). Two groups of English as a foreign language (EFL) learners were to collect information by exploring the 3D VW and eliciting information from player avatars to complete the task. An analysis of student interaction reveals that only one of the groups acted as autonomous learners by generating new topics based on their observations in the environment; eliciting information and controlling the topics when interacting with the player avatars; and initiating repair leading to input modification, negotiation of meaning, and modification of output. Results suggest that learner autonomy could be promoted in 3D VWs by improving the clarity of task instructions and by designing learning tasks in such a way that students would be able to complete the tasks only if they share their observations with peers and player avatars.
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Sociocultural theory considers learners to be active agents. Within this framework, autonomy is defined as the “human ability to act through mediation, with awareness of one’s actions, and to understand their significance and relevance” (Lantolf, 2013, p. 19). Mediation is defined as a learner’s interaction with others and with their experiences with culturally constructed objects, or artifacts, which help carry out various tasks (Lantolf, 2000). While language is viewed as a culturally constructed artifact, it is also a learning object; therefore, autonomous language learners are those who make the conscious choice of using a language in order to learn it. Likewise, learning tasks and computer technology are artifacts that mediate language learning (Lantolf, 2000) and seem to have the potential to also mediate learner autonomy.

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