LINGUIST List 15.13

Mon Jan 12 2004

Diss: Applied Ling: Mynard: 'Synchronous...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. mynardjo, Synchronous computer-mediated communication...

Message 1: Synchronous computer-mediated communication...

Date: Sun, 28 Dec 2003 06:07:25 -0500 (EST)
From: mynardjo <>
Subject: Synchronous computer-mediated communication...

Institution: University of Exeter
Program: Education and Lifelong Learning; TEFL
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Joanne M Mynard

Dissertation Title: Synchronous computer-mediated communication and
learner autonomy in female Emirati learners of English

Dissertation URL:

Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics

Dissertation Director 1: Patrick Dillon
Dissertation Director 2: Salah Troudi

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the extent to which computer-mediated
communication can facilitate the development of learner autonomy in
female Emirati learners. The participants of the study were a class of
university students taking a writing component of a foundation English
course in a university based on an American model. Learners like the
ones described in this study often experience difficulties when they
enter Western style higher education institutions. They are often
unable to take responsibility for their studies or apply successful
strategies for learning (Shaw, 1997b). The learners' difficulties are
often due to the fact that they have usually only experienced an
approach to secondary education which offers them few opportunities
for the development of learner autonomy or the development of
higher-order thinking skills (Farquharson, 1989; Bel Fekih, 1993). In
addition to this, there are few opportunities within the UAE society
for national women to interact with people outside their immediate
families and close circle of friends in order to develop these skills
in other ways.

Synchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) has been reported to
offer opportunities for learners to develop autonomous learning skills
(Hoven, 1999). It gives them the opportunity to construct knowledge
while interacting with people from different sociocultural backgrounds
(Jonassen, 1996). As the focus is away from the teacher, learners have
the opportunity to participate in more autonomous ways than in
regular classrooms.

The results of the small-scale study show that participants
demonstrated the capacity for certain aspects of autonomous learning
while interacting with guests in chat rooms. These capacities
included self-reliance, decision-making, prioritisation, audience
awareness, collaboration, reflection, applying a range of
comprehension and coping strategies, and risk taking. The participants
did not show evidence of autonomous learning in all areas however. For
example, they did not appear to demonstrate a high level of
metacognitive awareness as they were not comfortable in taking
responsibility for initiating the task, addressing their areas of
weakness, or demonstrating that they had a more than cursory
understanding of how chat was benefiting their learning.

These findings suggest that in order for learners to benefit fully
from CMC, they need to already have a developing level of
metacognitive awareness. The study highlights a need for instructors
in higher education institutions in the UAE to incorporate support
mechanisms into their courses. These mechanisms should assist the
learners as they develop the necessary processing functions and skills
for autonomous learning. The findings suggest CMC may have a
beneficial role to play in providing such support for these learners.
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