Using task-based e-mail activities in developing academic writing skills in English as a Second Language
AuthorLi, YiLi, 1964-
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study investigated the efficacy of using e-mail in the form of a class mailing list to help ESL students practice and develop academic writing skills beyond the spatial and time limits of a writing classroom. In this study, e-mail writing tasks of different purposes, audiences and task structures were integrated into a process-oriented freshman ESL writing class. The subjects of this study were 22 ESL students in a freshman composition course. In an ex post facto design (Hatch & Lazaraton, 1991), this study involved within-subject repeated measures of data collected from different e-mail writing tasks over the course of a semester. Data analysis included (1) computerized text analysis focusing on the linguistic and textual features of written discourses at the levels of syntactic complexity, lexical richness, textual cohesion and grammatical accuracy; (2) holistic and analytical assessments by ESL raters focusing on the overall rhetorical features and quality of writing. The results indicated that there were syntactic, lexical, textual and grammatical differences in ESL students' writing performance on e-mail writing tasks of different rhetorical purposes, and there was also variation between e-mail tasks involving an interactive audience and those involving an non-interactive audience, and between structured versus non-structured e-mail tasks. In particular, in e-mail tasks in which an interactive audience was present, students tended to produce texts that were linguistically more complex. Besides, students wrote with a higher level of syntactic and lexical complexity in the non-structured e-mail tasks than in the structured ones, indicating more sophisticated use of language when the student were given more freedom and control of the learning activities. The results also showed obvious tradeoff effects between linguistic complexity and accuracy, i.e. while students produced texts that were linguistically more complex, there was less attention to grammatical accuracy. Furthermore, the results suggested that motivation, attitude, and anxiety had some significant contributions to the variation in ESL students' writing performance while they composed in an electronic mode.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching