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Investigating Dialogic Learning and Teaching in MOOCs: An Applied Linguistics Approach

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Shi Min Chua

Dialogic learning and teaching has been promoted in recent years as an effective instruction method in both classrooms and online discussion (Mercer, 2013; Coffin, 2013). However, most research on MOOC discussions (Wise et al., 2016; Kellogg et al., 2014) has used content analysis or topic modelling to analyze discussion postings, and focused mainly on learners’ network. This research has provided a categorical view on individual discussion postings, despite the fact that dialogues (or discussions) transverse multiple postings.
To investigate the dialogic nature within a conversation, assuming that a conversation is initiated by a post and comprises all the replies received, learners’ comments in each step of a FutureLearn course were classified into five types based on conversational structures. This classification revealed whether an initiator or a replying learner repeatedly come back to a conversation or whether a conversation consisted of replies all contributed by unique learners.
This preliminary analysis led to research questions on how learners’ and educators’ language may invite more replies or shut off continuing dialogues, how learners rebut and engage in repeated turn-takings within a single conversation, and how learners address their target reply amid a long list of replies(polylogues). Addressing these questions will provide concrete and more nuanced suggestions for both learners and educators on how best to write their comments in discussion. To achieve this goal, an applied linguistic approach that incorporates systemic functional linguistic, conversation analysis and corpus analysis will be utilized to reveal useful linguistic devices and lexical bundles in asynchronous discussion. Elements of argumentation genre and sociocultural theory may also be used to zone in on dialogic learning. Similar approach may also be applied to learning objects and discussion prompts to understand the best practice of learning designs. This research will have implication in dialogic learning literature, which has been mainly on classroom learning so far.


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