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A qualitative exploration of student perceptions of peer collaboration through the medium of online short story writing among Turkish public high school EFL learners in a social media environment

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis is about the perceptions of Turkish EFL high school students on peer collaboration. It is contextualized within a study about how to encourage EFL learners in a Turkish public high school to improve their writing skills in English with peers in an online short story writing exercise. Focusing on two central aspects, I first examined EFL learners' interpretations of peer collaboration in the activity and then investigated these learners' perceptions regarding the impact of their peer collaboration on their writing development.

I used an exploratory, qualitative research approach. A pilot study impacted on my main study in determining sample size, shaping the research questions and framing focus group discussions. In the main study, two groups of three students, 16-year-old EFL learners at A2 level English proficiency (CEFR), undertook an online collaborative English short story writing exercise over seven weeks using Facebook. I gathered data from focus group discussions, online one-to-one chats and online discussion threads from both groups.

It emerged that three types of peer collaboration were engaged in during their story writing activity. The first was ‘collectively contributing’, which occurred in the editing and peer feedback stages of the writing exercise. The second was ‘peer leadership’, which was evident at the beginning and in the middle of the writing exercise, where the participants were initially dependent on the elected group leaders, but they subsequently became increasingly independent. The third pertained to ‘peer affective’ factors, which were found throughout the writing exercise, being concerned with receiving / giving praise and motivational phrases, the use of informal language and humour in writing during the exercise as well as in relation to feeling comfortable with each other. The participants claimed that peer collaboration had positive impacts on their writing development and on their self-confidence in writing English. Moreover, they reported that the group leaders’ feedback was instructional and motivating. Group leaders, however, reported less benefit in terms of their own writing development, although the activity inspired them to want to teach. This study unique in its focus on Facebook groups, contributes to the knowledge about improving high school secondary EFL learners’ writing through collaborative activity and hence, the findings indicate there should be an updating of EFL teaching methods in Turkey.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
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Award date2017

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