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Title:Think, talk, read and write better English: improving L2 literacy skills of Malaysian schoolchildren through collaborative reasoning
Author(s):Ma'rof, Aini Marina
Director of Research:Anderson, Richard C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Anderson, Richard C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Christianson, Kiel; Zola, David; Gaffney, Janet S.
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Collaborative learning
Cognitive reasoning
Classroom discussions
Critical thinking
Cognitive engagement
Second Language
L2 literacy skills
Classroom-based intervention
Collaborative Reasoning
Abstract:This quasi-experiment study reports on the improvement in oral and written skills of Malaysian schoolchildren who generally struggle in English literacy attainment and have very limited opportunities for extended talk in the language, which is their L2. In this study, 430 Form 2 (8th grade) Malaysian students from twelve classrooms from three public secondary schools in a semi-urban area in Selangor, Malaysia were randomly assigned to either participate in Collaborative Reasoning (CR) sessions, an intellectually stimulating, collaborative and productive approach to classroom talk, or to serve as a waitlist control group, receiving CR after the project ended. Students in the CR group participated in twice a week, small-group discussion sessions after reading stories with unpredictable endings, with each session lasting between 20 – 30 minutes. The CR discussions are intended to create a forum for students to listen to one another think out loud as they learn to engage in higher order thinking skills in the second language through reasoned argumentation. Students use their personal experiences and evidence from the texts to support their conclusions and consider each other’s points of view. Prior to the intervention, all students were assessed on reading fluency to determine initial L2 proficiency status (IRF), a Need for Cognition test modified for children to determine students’ degree of tendency to engage in thinking activities (NFC), and a self-report questionnaire to survey students’ initial interests in L2 talk (IIT) and literacy activities in the L2 (IILA). After a 6-week intervention, students were assessed on a second reading fluency test, oral and written language production, transfer of argumentative reasoning skills, and interest in group discussions in the L2. The CR group made significant and substantial gains on measures of reading fluency, oral language production, and written language production in their second language. Results showed that experiencing CR accelerated Malaysian students’ rate of talk and both oral and written output, and improved performance in terms of syntactical complexity and vocabulary diversity. Students also showed significant gains in argumentation and reasoning in English. In both the oral and writing tasks, students produced higher number of reasons. CR students were also more likely to produce spontaneous counterarguments and rebuttals. CR enhanced students’ overall interest in L2 discussion and they perceived that having experienced Collaborative Reasoning discussions made them think, read, and write better in English. Taken together, the results of this study entail significant implications for the English literacy instruction of Malaysian children.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Aini Marina Ma'rof
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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