The Most Fundamental Concept of Sociocultural Theory – Human Mind is “Mediated”

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Mingfei Xu

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 mx217@cam.ac.uk

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 University of Cambridge

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0  Abstract

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 During the past few years, many studies in the domain of second language (L2 for short) learning have been conducted from the sociocultural perspective, which highlights the role that language interaction plays in learning and regards L2 learning as social rather than individual in nature (Mitchell & Myles, 2004).Within the sociocultural perspective, mediation can be seen as a shift from other-regulation to self-regulation in the process of progression in autonomy in learning a second language. Both studies to be analysed in this article reveal that collaborative step-by-step scaffolding is important in language cognition. Lina Lee’s study paid particular attention to the five-level collaborative scaffolding adapted by Aljaafreh and Lantolf to observe the moment-by-moment scaffolding between experts and novice language learners and how learners initially resort to other-regulation and then gradually self-regulate. Similarly, De Guerrero and Villamil also analysed the scaffolded help of writing revision between the two English as Second Language (ESL) students, which occurs within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) activation and how the writer achieved self-regulation in the end. These two studies provide useful evidence of peer mediation in the language classroom. Firstly they show evidence of learning as a result of interaction between language learners of different abilities; and secondly their interaction can take place either online or face-to-face. There is a range of ways in which the mediation impacts on the learners’ L2 development.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0  Keywords: mediation, sociocultural perspective, regulation, ZPD, scaffolding

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 1. Introduction

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 1.1 The Sociocultural Concept of “Mediation”

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 During the past few years, many studies in the domain of second language (L2 for short) learning have been conducted from the sociocultural perspective, which highlights the role that language interaction plays in learning and regards L2 learning as social rather than individual in nature (Mitchell & Myles, 2004). According to sociocultural theorists, humans are “fundamentally socially organized Entities” (Lantolf, 2007, p. 32). To gain a comprehensive and thorough understanding of sociocultural theory (SCT), we must first comprehend the concept of “mediation”. Lantolf (2000b) stresses that:

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 The most fundamental concept of sociocultural theory is that the human mind is mediated. […] Vygotsky argued that just as humans do not act directly on the physical world but rely, instead, on tools and labour activity, which allows us to change the world, and with it, the circumstances under which we live in the world, we also use symbolic tools, or signs, to mediate and regulate our relationships with others and with ourselves and thus change the nature of these relationships. (p. 1)

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 According to the Soviet development psychologist, Lev S. Vygotsky, we human beings apply certain devices, such as hammers, bull dozers, etc. to link to the world of objects (Lantolf, 1994). Correspondingly, some symbolic tools also help us organize and control high-level mental processes, such as “voluntary attention, logical problem-solving, planning and evaluation, and voluntary learning…” (Lantolf, 1994, p. 418). This is why Vygotsky drew the analogy between technical/mechanical tools and psychological tools to illustrate the indispensable function of psychological tools to us human beings (Lantolf & Appel, 1994). There is no doubt that second language acquisition consists of high-level mental processes; therefore, the human mind is mediated especially when learning a second language. However, it was not until the 1990s that SCT was applied to second language learning. Since a great amount of research has explored the application of SCT to understanding processes of second language learning in the classroom, taking a deep view of this theory is of great necessity.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 1.2 Vygotsky’s Classification of Mediation

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 Vygotsky divided the concept of “mediation” into three categories: mediation through material tools, mediation through psychological tools and mediation with other human beings. With regard to material tools as mediators, anything applied by human beings to master nature can be included, ranging from wooden sticks to laptops (Vygotsky, 1978).

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 The second sort of mediation is accomplished through another individual (Vygotsky, 1978), which is especially true according to sociocultural theory, which considers human beings as social rather than an individual. In the development of L2 learning, this other individual can be a teacher, an expert, a peer or the child’s parents.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Psychological tools play a crucial role in mediating the psychological processes of the human mind. This kind of tool has changed along with human history. For instance, in the past, psychological tools consisted of casting lots, tying knots and counting fingers. As time passed, these psychological tools were upgraded and evolved into “symbolic tools”, which include numbers, arithmetic systems, music, art and, above all, language (Lantolf, 2000). As to the importance of language in mediating between human minds, Vygotsky argued that, as children grow up, speech is firstly used after an action, then during the action, and finally when the action begins (1978). This argument evidently argues that language is closely connected to higher mental activity. Likewise, Lantolf (2000) proposed that, from one generation to another, language consistently reshapes but assists human beings’ communicative and psychological needs. It should be noted that, in the L2 learning process, both the first language (L1) and the L2 can be chosen and function in different ways. As the articles to be analysed apply L1 as mediation through psychological tool, it will be further addressed later.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 In this essay I will examine the sociocultural conception of mediation by discussing two studies which report on the role of two different forms of mediation of second language learning: computer mediated communication and face-to-face interaction. However I first need to discuss other key sociocultural constructs which are related to the idea of mediation and help us understand how medication function in the process of language learning.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 1.3 Zone of Proximal Development, Scaffolding and Regulation

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 To gain a better understanding of mediation, we must examine several relevant concepts in advance, the first of which is the zone of proximal development. For SCT theorists, an unskilled individual learns the target language through collaborative communication with another individual, who is usually an expert with proficient knowledge. The other individual’s support directs the attention of the learner to the learning target and prompts them to take successive steps to solve a problem, known as scaffolding (Wood et al., 1976). According to Vygotsky, it is insufficient merely to be aware of an individual’s achieved performance, which is also known as the history of development. Having a view of an individual’s potential development which can be realized through assistance or additional mediation is equally or even more important (Lantolf, 2000). In other words, ZPD, which takes into consideration both the present performance of an individual and his/her potential development, highlights the function of mediation. To be more specific, in the context of second language learning, mediation, which takes the form of negotiated assistance, must be sensitive to a learner’s ZPD in order to be efficient in the process of language learning (Lantolf, 2000; Nassaji & Swain, 2000).

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The initial process of learning, assisted by others, is known as other-regulation. When the individual becomes sufficiently mature and skilled, he or she is then capable of functioning alone or with only slight external mediation. When individuals appropriate the process of mediation and control their mental activity, their other-regulation transforms into self-regulation. The process of internalization can be regarded as having been accomplished at this point, as the scaffolding has been withdrawn.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 1.4 The Focus of This Essay

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 A great number of studies have adopted the theoretical framework of sociocultural theory. This present work will mainly focus on mediation through human interaction by resorting to language use, including L1. In this essay, my intention is to evaluate how the human mind is mediated in L2 learning by analysing two studies, on expert-to-novice and peer-peer mediation respectively. The first study conducted by Lina Lee, entitled Focus-on-Form Through Collaborative Scaffolding in Expert-to-Novice Online Interaction (2008), explores how corrective feedback was negotiated through expert-to-novice online interaction, whilst the second, Activating the ZPD: Mutual Scaffolding in L2 Peer Revision (2000), by María C. M. De Guerrero and Olga S. Villamil, evaluates the mutual scaffolding between two peers in writing revisions. Although the first study analyses expert-to-novice scaffolding through computer mediated communication whilst the second focuses on peer-peer mutual scaffolding in L2 learning, both demonstrate that the role of L1 in mediating L2 learning is vital. Moreover, examining these two papers allows us to analyse the different ways in which expert-to-novice and peer-peer interaction mediates L2 learning. Collaboratively, the two empirical studies serve to suggest that mediation can facilitate L2 learning. In the next two sections, a critical review of these two studies will be presented, including a general evaluation of mediation, other-regulation and self-regulation, and the use of L1 in the process of mediation, followed by my commentary.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 2. Empirical Study I: Lina Lee’s Study on Collaborative Scaffolding in Expert-to-Novice Online Interaction in Focus-on-Form

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 With the widespread use of computers and the rapid growth of the Internet both at school and at home, Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) has been widely applied as an approach to support L2 learning. Murray (2000) defined this kind of communication as interpersonal communication achieved by a computer. However, different forms of CMC show different characteristics. Based on the time consumed during communication, CMC can be divided into synchronous and asynchronous types (Fotos & Browne, 2004). Moreover, considering the number of participants involved in the communication, CMC has three categories: one-to-one communication, one-to-many communication and many-to-many communication (Fotos & Browne, 2004). Lina Lee’s empirical study uses computers as a platform to achieve a focus-on-form procedure through collaborative communication between experts and novices. In this way, it can be considered as synchronous, one-to-one communication for improving language development. With the above information as background, a detailed discussion of this study will now be presented.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 2.1 The Study

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Lee’s study investigates how expert-to-novice online interaction mediates L2 form-focused learning. The study was conducted over a semester at a large public university in the United States. Fifteen expert-to-novice pairs, consisting of 30 students of Spanish, were involved in different types of task. The students were grouped on the basis of their language proficiency. This study attempted to answer three research questions: “does collaborative interaction between expert and novice speakers of Spanish foster a focus-on-form procedure during synchronous CMC” (Lee, 2008, p. 57)? If so, “how do expert speakers provide timely corrective feedback to draw learners’ attention to L2 forms that lead to learner-generated corrections” (Lee, 2008, p. 57)? In addition, “from the learners’ perspective, how does expert scaffolding affect the way in which corrective feedback is negotiated” (Lee, 2008, p. 57)? To answer these research questions, three types of two-way exchange task (jigsaw, spot-the-differences and open-ended question) involving collaborative interaction were chosen. An additional source of information was the reflective logs written by novices to report their observations and reflections upon this study.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 2.2 How Mediation is Interpreted and What Kind of Evidence on Mediation is Presented

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 A close look at this study shows that various mediators are involved in the process of negotiation regarding corrective feedback on Spanish grammar. First of all, the tasks were carefully designed by the researcher to stimulate the process of error correction. Lee (2008) concluded that different task types influenced the amount of corrective feedback. As mentioned above, three types of two-way exchange task, including jigsaw, spot-the-differences and open-ended questions, were chosen. The tasks were deliberately designed, as the first two types were convergent with one closed outcome, whilst the last type was divergent with multiple outcomes. Since they belonged to different types, they influenced the mediation process on different levels. For example, when novices were doing the open-ended question tasks, which are mostly meaning-oriented, they tended to self-repair their errors. On the contrary, spot-the-difference tasks, which require L2 learners to interact by applying particular lexical items, received the lowest self-repair moves (Lee, 2008, p. 58). It seems that, as the novices had to pay more attention to meaning in the later tasks, they were likely to be less conscious of their errors in the forms of the language, and therefore made more mistakes and needed to correct them. In brief, “tasks function as mediator as it influences the amount of corrective feedback between experts and novices” (Lee, 2008, p. 55).

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 In the second place, CMC serves as a platform for the negotiation of corrective feedback on Spanish grammar. In Lee’s study, interaction is organized through a chat room on Blackboard, through which corrective feedback is more efficiently negotiated in terms of form-focus processing. Unlike traditional corrective feedback negotiation, which is always carried out face-to-face, the chat room provided a relaxing, visual way for the experts and the novices to negotiate. In most instances, corrective feedback was displayed on the computer screen, which facilitated the error correction, as the correction itself mainly focuses on language form. For instance, in providing corrective feedback on the use of pido ‘I ask for’ versus pedi ‘I asked for’ and caminé, ‘I walked’ versus caminó ‘he walked’, the written text on the screen attracted sufficient attention to the linguistic forms. Furthermore, another characteristic of CMC that benefits expert-to-novice negotiation is that the written discourse can be retrieved by means of the vertical scroll bar. In this way, participants can be more relaxed when corrective feedback is in process without worrying about face-saving issues compared with face-to-face interaction. Based on this synchronous CMC, students can be highly engaged in the corrective feedback.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Furthermore, experts also play an important role in mediating the L2 through providing guidance and interacting with novices. Vygotsky (1978) interpreted language as a means of both communication and intellectual development. The language use between the teacher and students, playing an intellectual function, mediated the students’ learning of the particular variation (Vygotsky, 1978). Based on the perspective of a sociocultural theory of mind, which claims that cognition and knowledge are dialogically constructed, learners construct meaning through interacting with others. Although, in this study, the collaborative correction was through chat, a written form of communication, it displays the characteristics of both writing and speaking.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 In this study, expert scaffolding played an important role in corrective feedback by providing confirmation feedback at the right time. We can glimpse how corrective feedback is accomplished when an expert provides appropriate feedback at the key moment. For instance, when a novice produced the wrong form ‘esquí’ instead of the correct form ‘esquíe’ to narrate his former experience, the expert immediately but gently gave a confirmation check by directly repeating the wrong verb with a question mark. After receiving this hint, the novice tried his best to self-correct the form by using metatalk in time. At that moment, even though without assistance, the novice was able to self-correct the linguistic form, which can be called self-repair, and will be further discussed later.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Another instance of the experts’ role in mediating is how scaffolding is achieved in the students’ ZPD. When a pair was conducting an open-ended question, for example, at the beginning, the expert just provided minimal scaffolding by first agreeing with the novice’s opinion but gave a hint by suggesting “something is not right in the verbs”. When the novice required further assistance by showing that he had no ideas, the scaffolding developed into more detailed assistance by directing attention to the non-target-form. However, when the novice asked for more help, as the grammatical knowledge was beyond his scope, the expert assisted him by directly providing specific help and finally the novice made self-repairs. Up to this time, it can be argued that scaffolding was accomplished with the expert’s assistance.

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 However, based on what has been discussed, I conclude that it is somewhat contrived to separate each type of mediation, as many of them function together in the process of L2 learning. For instance, when students apply L1 to help each other to understand precisely what a task is about, it is a process whereby the task as a mediator, use of L1 and peer mediation combine in the L2 learning process. To gain a better understanding of how language learning is perceived as a mediated process, it is necessary to separate each type during analysis.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 2.3 Other-Regulation and Self-Regulation

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 As shown in the previous section, the final step in the mediated process is that the novice can self-repair. To gain a better understanding of the process, we can examine how novices first benefit from other-regulation in the first several steps of an interaction and eventually are able to self-regulate during the feedback correction within the ZPD. Thus, the following discussion indicates successful regulation when the novices used preterit forms since they were sensitive to the ZPD.

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 The experts have a dual role, as teachers and peers. On the one hand, novices and experts are of a similar age and thus are treated “less as authority figures” (Lee, 2008); on the other hand, as the experts had received training and acquired sufficient language ability, they were able to act as teachers when negotiating with novices. In other words, the experts’ role was different from that of a typical teacher, who always leads the discussion, being to monitor the discussion by taking a leading role as well as dealing with form-focus correction collaboratively with novices (Lee, 2008).

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 To be more specific, taking episode 6  which illustrates how Mike made the improvement from other-regulation to self-regulation as an example, the novice initially had difficulty with the preterit tense forms, as he used the present tense twice to describe what had happened in the past (Lee, 2008, p. 63). In the role of monitor, the expert first responded to the novice by agreeing with him, by saying: “What a mess! Obviously the mother is not happy”. Then, he provided a hint to draw the novice’s attention to the form of the verbs. This discourse, along with the later question narrowing down the specific type of verb form and even using metalinguistic hints to correct errors, reflects that the expert had an authoritative tone. Meanwhile, the novice admitted that his verbs in the past were not good enough and then made a second attempt to identify the error. It can be seen that the novice was able to engage in collaborative feedback and, therefore, by the seventh week, he had already arrived at the self-regulated stage as he used the two verbs correctly without the expert’s help. This is consistent with what we consider to be other-regulation, which is “what individuals can achieve with external mediation at one point, they are frequently able to do without this assistance at a later time” (Lantolf, 2000, p. 18).

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Despite the fact that other-regulation can transfer to self-regulation if the scaffolding is sensitive to the novice’s ZPD, corrective feedback may not be negotiated when the novice misunderstands the goal of corrective feedback. For instance, in episode 8 (Lee, 2008, p. 65), the novice viewed the interaction as meaning-oriented. Therefore, he did not try to solve problems of the form but repeated that he did not understand or like verbs. Another possible cause is that, though Lee did not mention it in the paper, the tone of the expert was not friendly enough, as he directly pointed out the wrong forms and said “you should” without considering the novice’s affective factors, thus giving rise to difficulties in negotiation. In this way, the novice may feel anxious when solving semantic problems as well as syntactic problems.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 2.4 Use of L1

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 The use of L1 in L2 acquisition has always been a controversial topic. However, more and more studies have been conducted to justify the appropriate use of L1 in L2 learning. Antón and Dicamilla (1999, p. 237) have argued that “L1 use provides, through collaborative dialogue, an opportunity for L2 acquisition to take place” to maintain intersubjectivity, “an atmosphere of cooperation and understanding that allowed them to implement the task”. Also, L1 provides each learner with scaffolded help during interactions. In line with Antón and Dicamilla, Lee also evaluated the role that L1 plays in the collaborative interaction between experts and novices in form-focused L2 learning. L1, deployed as a mediating tool, enables the feedback negotiation of L2 forms, including lexical and syntactical errors. For instance, when the novice focused attention on specific L2 forms and was encouraged to self-repair the aspectual problem, he asked “Should I use ‘llegó’ instead of ‘llegaba’? and answered himself that it should be ‘she arrived’ not ‘she was arriving’. Through using L1, Lee claims that the novice re-oriented herself and negotiated the correct form with the expert. When the expert suggested that there was still a formal mistake and the novice needed more help, the expert used L1 to explain the L2 grammar rule, which can be seen as scaffolded help within the novice’s ZPD, which led to the novice’s final self-repair.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 2.5 Commentary

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Lee’s study demonstrated that CMC supported the feedback negotiation between the pairs and thus helped the novice members to pay attention to the L2 forms for both syntactic and lexical errors. In the process of error correction, the experts were able to provide step-by-step scaffolding at the proper time, and too much interference in corrective feedback should be avoided as it will influence the novice’s error correction negatively. In what follows, critical comments will be given from four perspectives.

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 Compared with most studies related to the successful collaborative scaffolding achieved within L2 learners’ ZPD (Foster & Ohta, 2005; Lee, 2004), this study examined instances of failed corrective feedback. When direct and explicit assistance were provided to the novice, corrective feedback was not negotiated. The collapse of scaffolding seems to suggest that feedback must be made within the ZPD and, therefore, over-intervening should be avoided. The pedagogical implication is that teachers should not ‘over-intervene’ in teaching but should only intervene when they know that the learner is well-prepared and waiting to accept the intervention.

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 Nevertheless, it should be noted that there are some limitations to this study. First of all, the validity of the status of the experts’ role in this study is unclear. Thus it is difficult to generalize from this evidence that experts can assist novices in the process of corrective feedback. As mentioned above, the students were regarded as experts only because they had obtained an advanced level of proficiency based on a Spanish Oral Proficiency Test (Lee, 2008). However, the 15 “experts”, six of whom had not had a graduate degree, were still students, of a similar age to the novices. Moreover, although a training session was provided for them to supply proper scaffolding in online interaction due to their lack of experience of being a teacher, the time was limited to two hours. In such a short period, it is doubtful whether the comparatively capable students could become as competent as experts. In this way, the conclusion cannot be generalized to all teacher-student collaborative scaffolding. Second, the conclusion that the type of tasks had an impact on the amount of feedback seems to lack sufficient evidence. This conclusion was drawn in accordance with the quantitative analysis that found that open-ended questions received the highest rate of self-repair while spot-the-differences tasks, which required the novices to pay attention to both meaning and form simultaneously, resulted in the lowest number of self-repairs. This conjecture seems reasonable to some extent, but other factors involved in the feedback negotiation were not taken into consideration. For instance, in the practice of scaffolding, L1 was used for either grammar explanation or lexical problem solving in both jigsaw and spot-the-difference tasks, whilst only L2 was used in the open-ended questions. The relationship between the amount of L1 use and self-repairs demands further exploration. Finally, another factor that may weaken Lee’s argument is that too many factors that might have influenced the effect of collaborative scaffolding were examined in this study. Although the study provided some new views on corrective feedback, the role that experts play, the types of tasks, the use of L1 and CMC should be further compared. Further research is needed to explore the effect of scaffolding, for example, by comparing the efficiency of feedback negotiated through CMC or face-to-face collaboration. Another area worthy of investigation is to compare the differences between the focus-on-form and focus-on-meaning conditions of scaffolding in CMC.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 3. Empirical study II: Maria C. M. De Guerrero and Olga S. Villamil’s Study on Mutual Scaffolding in L2 Peer Revision

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 3.1 The Study

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 The previous study investigates expert-novice mediation, whilst this study is among one of a series of studies carried out by De Guerrero and Villamil on the scaffolded peer revision of ESL (English as second language) learners’ writing. This study analyses the interaction of two students selected from 40 dyadic interactions, as it was sufficiently rich and varied to reveal the process of mediated learning. The participants in the study were two male ESL college learners whose mother tongue was Spanish. They joined the ESL communication skills course and participated in revision sessions, one of which was selected to be analysed in detail in this paper. The role of “reader” or “writer” was allocated to one of the learners on the basis of their performance in the composition, but they were not informed of their roles. To analyse the study, the interaction between the two students was audio-taped and then transcribed. The writer’s first draft was treated as an additional source. The revision process is divided into 16 episodes and a microgenetic analysis was applied. The aim of the study is to observe the mechanisms by which revision strategies take shape and develop in the inter-psychological space created when two learners are working within their ZPD (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000). In the following section, I will mainly focus on how the reader acted as a mediator to help the writer to shift from a reliance on other-regulation to self-regulation.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 3.2 Other-Regulation and Self-Regulation

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Even though the study is mainly about mutual scaffolding in L2 peer revision and the role of the reader and writer is previously arranged according to their writing level, their roles changed during the correction process. During the cognitive change of both participants, the writer experienced the mental process move from other-regulation to self-regulation.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 In the first stage, the learner who played the role of the reader behaved as an expert, providing direct help with authority. For instance, by repeatedly stating “you should”, “you have to”, or “you shouldn’t”, the reader played a dominant role in the interaction to provide other-regulation (Guerrero & Villami, 2000, p. 57). At this stage, the writer initially focused exclusively on the reader’s corrections and almost totally accepted them by continuously responding “yes” and justifying his behavior autonomously. Later, there is evidence that the writer felt slightly doubtful about the reader’s correction by responding “Uh hmm…” and “but if I write it like that, I find it somewhat, I don’t know, unnatural” (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 57) In spite of this, he still accepted the reader’s correction, as can also be observed in his final draft, as he correctly used the particular form of the verb.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 However, the writer gradually expressed frustration at the fact that he had made so many mistakes in one sentence and was corrected by the reader too frequently. The reader sensed the writer’s unease and tried to change his role from that of “expert” to “knowledgeable peer” and stimulate the writer’s awareness that he was expressing his own view. By suggesting “I want you to give your opinion”, the reader tried to readjust his own role to that of an audience member. He intimated “a clear distinction between his role as a ‘reader’ or a facilitator, and his partner’s role as the author who is ultimately responsible for the text” (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 59). During this period, the reader’s regulation takes the form of psychological influence and affective support. As the reader encouraged more active involvement from the writer in the interaction, the writer tried “to regain authorship” (p. 59) as he started to offer his own suggestions about improving the text.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 When both participants mutually gave and received feedback, Guerrero and Villamil claim that a “mutual scaffolding” (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 59) took effect. In episode 6 (p. 59), both participants came across an incorrect sentence but neither of them knew how to correct it. At this stage, “task regulation was shared between reader and writer thorough the interaction” (p. 59). When the reader identified the “trouble source” (p. 60), the writer immediately refused to accept this correction. As the reader insisted on his suggestion and the writer felt somewhat distracted, the writer tried to prevent the collapse of his scaffolding. Then, the interaction progressed and self-regulation and other-regulation coexisted. During this period, they were more like two peers scaffolding each other’s learning.

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 In the last episode provided by the authors, Guerrero and Villamil argue that self-regulation was finally constructed for both the writer and the reader. In the case of the writer, after receiving the reader’s modifications, he started to reject the correction firmly and even provided scaffolding for the reader. This arguably provides evidence that the reader had finally reached the point of self-regulation in his learning.

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 3.3 Use of L1

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Unlike Lee’s study, in this study, Spanish as L1 (Spanish) was continuously used in the interactions between the participants. As De Guerrero and Villamil put it, L1 was used as a lingua franca throughout the communication to finish the task. First of all, L1 was applied as “an instrument of task control” (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 64). As a linguistic resource, L1 use facilitated the peer-revision, especially due to the nature of the task. For instance, in episode 3 (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 57), the reader regulated the task by using L1 to distinguish various verb endings to guide the writer through the use of the future tense. The reader was guided to compare certain forms of his L1 to the corresponding form of the L2. In this way, the task during this period of the interaction was manipulated and problem-solving was facilitated.

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Moreover, though the researcher did not provide a detailed analysis, L1 also helped the reader and writer to achieve intersubjectivity. This can be best demonstrated by the episode 6 (p. 59). In this segment, the students shared a moment of laughter as there was a common knowledge in their shared culture with regard to the ambiguous word “bloody”. In Spanish, this word also refers to a drink which looks like blood (“sangría”). Since both the reader and the writer shared the L1, they thus understood the joke, as they share the understanding of the situation. Besides, by repeatedly use “yes” and “OK”, a supportative relationship was built up between the writer and the reader. No matter these markers were used to reflect the interlocutors’ agreement or just to “maintain interpersonal contact”, L1 use in this way showed “socio-affective function” (Gánem-Gutiérrez, 2009, p. 335).

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 To summarize, “L1 was considered valuable to the extent that it […] promoted achievement of the goal and stimulated reflection, reconsideration, and restructuring of the L2” (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 64). This argument echoes Antón and Dicamilla’s finding that L1 is an important tool for collaboration.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 3.4 Commentary

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 De Guerrero and Villamill’s study on L2 peer revision focuses on mutual scaffolding between the reader and writer with their respective ZPD. An important finding of this study is that L2 peer revision scaffolding seems to be mutual rather than unidirectional (Guerrero & Villamill, 2000). This study saw an improvement in both the writer and reader. As for the writer, with the scaffolding provided by the reader, he gradually became self-regulated and independent in revision. Likewise, the reader also experienced a growth in his L2 writing and revision.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 However, some limitations can be found in this study. First of all, it was not supported by convincing evidence that the reader was able to receive scaffolded support from his peer and to develop his ability in L2 writing and revising. Comparatively speaking, more information was coded about the development of the writer’s language in order to support the claim that he benefited cognitively from the interactions. In addition to the audio taped conversation, the researcher also used the writer’s first and final draft as objects to analyse. However, a study exploring the reader’s cognitive development during the writing revision was not conducted. To detect whether the scaffolding is mutual, a more detailed study might be undertaken. The researcher could have compared the reader’s pre-writing material with his post-writing material to examine the process of development. Likewise, a research journal recording the mental process of the reader could have been employed as a research method as well. In addition, the subjects of this study were not well selected, as the participants consisted of two male students. On the one hand, the data collected are too limited and can hardly be generalized. On the other hand, the data result may be different if two female students or a male and female pairing were investigated, to explore the influence of gender as a variable in peer revision. Apart from this, another limitation of this study is that the writer’s final draft as additional sources of investigation deserves more thorough consideration. The writer’s final draft of writing was completed at home a week later. During this period, close observation such as why the writer corrected his errors or why he chose not to adopt the appropriate forms suggested by the writer was not explored. In this case, the possibility of other factors such as the teacher’s or parents’ interaction was not taken into consideration in the writer’s revision process, which may weaken the validity of this research. Finally, L1 was continuously used as a mediating tool. However, the two participants were intermediate ESL college learners who were capable of using L2 in peer revision with L2 as additional assistance. Whether L1 should be applied occasionally in L2 learning or can be mainly used in the interaction should be further researched.

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 4. Conclusion

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Within the sociocultural perspective, mediation can be seen as a shift from other-regulation to self-regulation in the process of progression in autonomy in learning a second language. Both studies discussed in this essay reveal that collaborative step-by-step scaffolding is important in language cognition. Lina Lee’s study paid particular attention to the five-level collaborative scaffolding adapted by Aljaafreh and Lantolf to observe the moment-by-moment scaffolding between experts and novice language learners and how learners initially resort to other-regulation and then gradually self-regulate. Similarly, De Guerrero and Villamil also analysed the scaffolded help of writing revision between the two ESL students which occurs within the ZPD activation and how the writer achieved self-regulation in the end.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 It should be noted that microgenetic analysis is appropriately applied in both studies. As discussed in the introduction, microgenesis is an effective approach in revealing the process of how mediation scaffolds the learners’ language cognition and their independent self-regulating competence. A learner’s cognitive development is “a process undergoing changes right before one’s eyes” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 65). Due to this reason, certain scaffolding strategies can be evaluated in particular moment in the interaction which can shed light upon the issue of when scaffolding skill should be applied as students come across different obstacles in L2 leaning.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 Moreover, the use of L1 facilitates collaborative interaction in second language learning both as a social and cognitive mediating tool. In Lee’s study, the use of L1 helped the expert and learner to negotiate particular L2 forms and reduced cognitive burden. Moreover, L1 also enable the experts and novices to maintain intersubjectivity, “a shared perspective on the task” (Antón & Dicamilla, 1999, p. 240). Apart from paying attention to L2 form, they had a shared communication. In De Guerrero and Villamil’s study, L1 was used as a linguistic resource to control tasks and also to achieve intersubjectivity, as L1 reflected share knowledge in their own culture. The use of L1 provides an argument that psychological tools play a crucial role in mediating the psychological processes of the human mind. Nevertheless, choosing L1 or L2 as mediated tool in SLA still requires further and broad research.

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Furthermore, by comparing the two studies, first of all, we can conclude that a learner can benefit from either a more capable person or a peer at the similar level. In Lina Lee’s study, more proficient learners were identified as “experts” and the researcher examined the roles they played as teachers in the interaction, supporting their peers in solving linguistic problems when collaboratively accomplishing tasks. In De Guerrero and Villamil’s study, the peer in the role of “reader” is also shown to support the “writer” in improving their revision practice. However, on some occasions, the “reader” was not equipped with the relevant knowledge to solve a linguistic problem and therefore the interaction did not lead to improved learning and understanding.  Such being the case, a regression may be caused, which means that the learner does not achieve development in their learning process (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000, p. 61). De Guerrero and Villamil show that sometimes the writer was able, at a later date, to resolve the linguistic mistakes on his own. This may have been a result of “self-regulation” which had developed over a longer period and been scaffolded by peer interaction. Moreover, a peer’s scaffolding is beneficial as scaffolding is mutual rather than unidirectional, thus under the collaboration, both peers can develop within the ZPD.

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 On the whole, these two studies provide useful evidence of peer mediation in the language classroom. Firstly they show evidence of learning as a result of interaction between language learners of different abilities; and secondly their interaction can take place either online or face-to-face. As I have indicated in this section, there is a range of ways in which the mediation impacts on the learners’ L2 development, such as applying L1 or L2 and benefiting from a more capable person or a peer at the similar level.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0  

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 References

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Antón, M., & DiCamilla, F. J. (1999). Socio-cognitive functions of L1 collaborative interaction in the L2 classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 83(2), 233–247. doi:10.1111/0026-7902.00018

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 De Guerrero, M. C. M., & Villamil, O. S. (2000). Activating the ZPD: mutual scaffolding in L2 peer revision. The Modern Language Journal, 84(1), 51–68. doi:10.1111/0026-7902.00052

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 Foster, P., & Ohta, A. S. (2005). Negotiation for meaning and peer assistance in second language classrooms. Applied Linguistics, 26(3), 402–430. doi:10.1093/applin/ami014

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Fotos, S., & Browne, C. M. (2004). New Perspectives on Call for Second Language Classrooms. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 Gánem-Gutiérrez, G. A. (2009). Repetition, use of L1 and reading aloud as mediational mechanism during collaborative activity at the computer. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 22(4), 323–348. doi:10.1080/09588220903184757

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 Guerrero Nieto, C. H. (2007). Applications of Vygotskyan concept of mediation in SLA. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, (9), 213–228.

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 Kozulin, A. (1998). Psychological Tools: A Sociocultural Approach to Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 Lantolf, J. P. (1994). Sociocultural theory and second language learning: introduction to the special issue. The Modern Language Journal, 78(4), 418–420. doi:10.2307/328580

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 Lantolf, J. P. (2000a). Second language learning as a mediated process. Language Teaching, 33(02), 79–96. doi:10.1017/S0261444800015329

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 Lantolf, J. P. (2000b). Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 Lantolf, J. P. (2007). Sociocultural source of thinking and its relevance for second language acquisition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 10(01), 31–33. doi:10.1017/S1366728906002768

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 Lantolf, J. P., & Appel, G. (1994). Vygotskian Approaches to Second Language Research. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 Lee, L. (2004). Learners’ perspectives on networked collaborative interaction with native speakers of Spanish in the US. Lnaguge Learning & Technology, 8(1), 83–100.

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 Lee, L. (2008). Focus-on-Form through collaborative scaffolding in expert-to-novice online interaction. Language Learning & Technology, 12(3), 53–72.

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 Mitchell, R., & Myles, F. (2004). Second language learning theories. (2nd ed). London: Hodder Arnold.

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 Murray, D. E. (2000). Protean 1 communication: The language of computer-mediated communication. TESOL Quarterly, 34(3), 397–421. doi:10.2307/3587737

84 Leave a comment on paragraph 84 0 Nassaji, H., & Swain, M. (2000). A Vygotskian perspective on corrective feedback in L2: the effect of random versus negotiated help on the learning of English articles. Language Awareness, 9(1), 34–51. doi:10.1080/09658410008667135

85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: Development of Higher Psychological Processes (New edition.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0 Wood, D., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 17(2), 89–100.

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