Volume 18 Number 3

Effects of Interactive Chat Versus Independent Writing on L2 Learning
Medha Tare, University of Maryland
Ewa M. Golonka, University of Maryland
Karen Vatz, University of Maryland
Carrie L. Bonilla, University of Maryland
Carolyn Crooks, University of Maryland
Rachel Strong, University of Maryland

This study examines the importance of interaction for second language (L2) acquisition by analyzing outcomes from two types of out-of-class activities. The study compared: (a) interactive homework, completed via text chat, and (b) individual homework, completed via independent writing. In a between-subjects design, participants in two intermediate-level Russian classes were assigned to the two conditions and completed study tasks three times a week for six weeks. In the interactive condition, student pairs engaged in synchronous text-chat sessions, completing tasks designed to encourage interaction through information-, reasoning-, or opinion-gaps. In the individual condition, students completed comparable writing activities on their own. Both conditions provided the same language input and required production, over an equivalent amount of time. Language gains were assessed through vocabulary, writing, and speaking pre- and post-tests. Students in the interactive condition showed greater gains in vocabulary knowledge and oral production than students in the individual condition; no differences were found in students’ writing accuracy or complexity. Students in the interactive condition also produced more Russian types and tokens in their homework assignments than students in the individual condition, both at the beginning and later in the study. These results support the benefits of interactive homework for L2 learning and production.

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