Understanding and promoting L2 socio-pragmatic conceptual development within the framework of dynamic assessment in Chinese learners of EFL
Date: 13 September 2021
University of Exeter
PhD in Education
This thesis reports on a study that sought to support intermediate-level Chinese university learners of English in developing advanced second language (L2) socio-pragmatic capability (i.e., the capability to apply cultural-historically developed conceptual knowledge to mediate social behaviours of the individual within novel social ...
This thesis reports on a study that sought to support intermediate-level Chinese university learners of English in developing advanced second language (L2) socio-pragmatic capability (i.e., the capability to apply cultural-historically developed conceptual knowledge to mediate social behaviours of the individual within novel social situations) through concept-based dynamic assessment (DA). Although several studies have explored the teaching of pragmatics among Chinese learners of English, knowledge of the social concepts and contexts from which utterances emerge, if provided, is usually as resultant by-product rather than orienting basis; and learners’ socio-pragmatic capabilities are typically assessed through independent performances or finished L2 products. In the present study, dynamic assessment (an assessment approach which integrates instruction and assessment into one and the same process) is proposed to simultaneously understand and promote learners’ capabilities as learning unfolds from social concepts to the use of language forms. Derived from the Vygotskyan notion of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), it emphasises that assessment and instruction constitute a dialectic unity and that instruction is only helpful to individuals’ development when it is ZPD-oriented. Through a pre-test-enrichment-post-test design, the study focuses on promoting the internalisation of socio-pragmatic concepts (e.g., indexicality) in relation to requests within the framework of DA. Semi-structured interviews and mediator-learner interactions co-constructed around learning-teaching tasks were recorded and subject to micro-genetic analysis. Results show gains in socio-pragmatic conceptual knowledge and performance capabilities. Moreover, learners’ ZPDs demonstrated significant development. However, regression, or the phenomenon of resorting to old knowledge, was observed among learners when situations became difficult. Nevertheless, ZPD becomes the drive of the emergence of learners’ socio-pragmatic knowledge. It is also argued that the learners’ socio-pragmatic conceptual knowledge provided a systemic orienting basis for choosing the pragmatic forms that fit their communicative needs. In addition, it is through mediator-learner interactions within ZPD activities that learners’ capabilities are understood and that the transformation from other- to self-regulation is realised. A possible implication for L2 pedagogy likely would be that a proper understanding of L2 learners’ capabilities should be achieved through an integrated process of assessing and teaching.
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