Peer interaction and learning opportunities in cohesive and less cohesive L2 classrooms

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The present study investigates peer to peer oral interaction in two task based language teaching classrooms, one of which was a self-declared cohesive group, and the other a self- declared less cohesive group, both at B1 level. It studies how learners talk cohesion into being and considers how this talk leads to learning opportunities in these groups.
The study was classroom-based and was carried out over the period of an academic year. Research was conducted in the classrooms and the tasks were part of regular class work. The research was framed within a sociocognitive perspective of second language learning and data came from a number of sources, namely questionnaires, interviews and audio recorded talk of dyads, triads and groups of four students completing a total of eight oral tasks. These audio recordings were transcribed and analysed qualitatively for interactions which encouraged a positive social dimension and behaviours which led to learning opportunities, using conversation analysis. In addition, recordings were analysed quantitatively for learning opportunities and quantity and quality of language produced.
Results show that learners in both classes exhibited multiple behaviours in interaction which could promote a positive social dimension, although behaviours which could discourage positive affect amongst group members were also found. Analysis of interactions also revealed the many ways in which learners in both the cohesive and less cohesive class created learning opportunities. Further qualitative analysis of these interactions showed that a number of factors including how learners approach a task, the decisions they make at zones of interactional transition and the affective relationship between participants influence the amount of learning opportunities created, as well as the quality and quantity of language produced. The main conclusion of the study is that it is not the cohesive nature of the group as a whole but the nature of the relationship between the individual members of the small group completing the task which influences the effectiveness of oral interaction for learning.

This study contributes to our understanding of the way in which learners individualise the learning space and highlights the situated nature of language learning. It shows how individuals interact with each other and the task, and how talk in interaction changes moment-by-moment as learners react to the ‘here and now’ of the classroom environment.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
  • Ceia, Carlos, Supervisor
Award date2 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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