Volume 21 Number 2

Explaining dynamic interactions in wiki-based collaborative writing
Mimi Li
Wei Zhu

This article reports a case study that examined dynamic patterns of interaction that two small groups (Group A and Group B) of ESL students exemplified when they performed two writing tasks: a research proposal (Task 1) and an annotated bibliography (Task 2) in a wiki site. Group A demonstrated a collective pattern in Task 1, but switched to an active–withdrawn pattern in Task 2. In contrast, Group B exhibited a dominant–defensive pattern in Task 1, but switched to a collaborative pattern in Task 2. These patterns were substantiated by group members’ ongoing task approaches in terms of equality and mutuality, reflected via the analyses of language functions, writing change functions, and scaffolding occurrences over the course of joint wiki writing. The dynamic interactions within small groups were explained from a sociocultural theory perspective. Participants’ emic perspectives from interviews and reflection papers supplemented with wiki discourse revealed that three sociocultural factors help account for the variations of interaction patterns: dynamic goals, flexible agency, and socially constructed emotion. This study reinforced the role of sociocultural theory in exploring and explaining peer interactions in the online writing task environment. Implications of the study for research and pedagogy are also discussed.

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