Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Applied Linguistics and Technology

First Advisor

Carol Chapelle


Despite the growing interest in examining the link between peer-peer collaborative dialogue and second language (L2) development in recent years (Swain, Brooks, & Tocalli-Beller, 2002), much of the empirical work in this regard focused on face-to-face communication, leaving the operationalization of collaborative dialogue in text-based synchronous computer-mediated communication (SCMC) largely unexplored. In addition, while the bulk of the existing studies concerned L2 learners’ incidental learning of the linguistic structures they had difficulty with during their collaboration on communicative tasks (e.g., Watanabe & Swain, 2007), little is known about the connection between collaborative dialogue and second language acquisition (SLA) when L2 learners are faced with preselected language features that are intended for learning. Furthermore, L2 learners’ perspectives on collaborative dialogue and its contribution to L2 growth were for the most part ignored in the literature. This study seeks to address these gaps through the examination of English as a Second Language (ESL) learners’ collaboration on English idioms that are frequently used in academic discourse. Drawing on sociocultural SLA (Lantolf, 2000; Lantolf & Thorne, 2006) and the concept of “languaging” (Swain, 2006), it explores how episodes of collaborative dialogue are carried out during SCMC-based dyadic interaction, its association with SLA, and L2 learners’ opinions about its effectiveness.

Sixteen intermediate learners of English as a Second language (ESL) enrolled in a college-level academic writing class participated in the current study. They filled out a questionnaire, collaborated on four English idiom learning tasks, completed a pretest and posttests, wrote reflective journals, reflected on their interaction in stimulated recalls, and responded to survey and interview questions. Within a case study design, this study drew on both quantitative and qualitative observations for data analysis. Specifically, qualitative analyses in the current study were conducted on the basis of questionnaire responses, discourse analysis of chat transcripts, and interview and stimulated recall transcripts. Quantitative measures consisted of descriptive statistics in the form of frequency counts, percentages of each type of communication strategy use and scaffolded assistance, gain scores on posttests, and Likert-scale survey results. Qualitative and quantitative results were triangulated to ensure the thoroughness and accuracy of interpretations.

The results of this study revealed that in working together on the English idiom learning tasks, the participants engaged in the four patterns of dyadic interaction that have been documented in the literature on face-to-face dialogue (Storch, 2002), notably collaborative, expert/novice, dominant/dominant, and dominant/passive. Additionally, the specific patterns that the members of the dyad adopted seemed to be influenced by their perceptions of and attitudes toward the collaborative interaction and the nature of the tasks. Furthermore, during SCMC-based collaborative dialogue, the participants employed a wide array of communication strategies to manage and maintain their online exchanges, which facilitated their socialization into the academic discourse and communities. They also offered each other scaffolded assistance such as the use of contextual information while deciphering the meaning of the target idioms. Through mutual scaffolding, the participants advanced through their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and achieved the transition from other-regulated to self-regulated performance. Finally, compared with the dyads with low posttest scores, the dyads with high posttest scores on the whole produced longer and more complex episodes of collaborative dialogue that clearly evidenced their cognitive processing of the target idioms, and the participants in general had a positive attitude toward the use of online chat for collaboration and target idiom learning through languaging.


Copyright Owner

Xuan Teng



File Format


File Size

302 pages