Scholarly article on topic 'ZPD, Scaffolding and Basic Speech Development in EFL Context'

ZPD, Scaffolding and Basic Speech Development in EFL Context Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Salam Khaliliaqdam

Abstract According to Vygotsky (1978), a learner has the potential to progress from their actual developmental level to their potential developmental level via scaffolding that occurs during interaction with superior others. This case study was conducted based on Vygotsky's (1978) theory of scaffolding within the Zone of ProximalDevelopment (ZPD). In line with this theory, this case study attempted to examine the role of scaffolding via communicative activities in terms of development of basic speech on foreign language adult learners. At first the six students were given the main words of the sentences and the students were required to create sentences. Each time the number of main words of the sentence in an activity has been reduced; therefore, the students had to create the sentences with the help of the teachers. Then a series of pictures were given to the learners and they had to tell a story based on the pictures. The teacher provided few guided words with them if necessary. At the end of the course, the learners’ speech level had been improved surprisingly. Learning is significantly enhanced when the class atmosphere is in a cooperative and supportive mood. The results suggest that scaffolding within ZPD has its share in learner's basic speech development.

Academic research paper on topic "ZPD, Scaffolding and Basic Speech Development in EFL Context"

ELSEVIER Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 98 (2014) 891 - 897

Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

ScienceDirect

Procedía

Social and Behavioral Sciences

International Conference on Current Trends in ELT

ZPD, Scaffolding and Basic Speech Development in EFL Context

Salam Khaliliaqdam*

Department of English Language, Boukan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Boukan, Iran

Abstract

According to Vygotsky (1978), a learner has the potential to progress from their actual developmental level to their potential developmental level via scaffolding that occurs during interaction with superior others. This case study was conducted based on V ygotsky's (1978) theory of scaffolding within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). In line with this theory, this case study attempted to examine the role of scaffolding via communicative activities in terms of development of basic speech on foreign language adult learners. At first the six students were given the main words of the sentences and the students were required to create sentences. Each time the number of main words of the sentence in an activity has been reduced; therefore, the students had to create the sentences with the help of the teachers. Then a series of pictures were given to the learners and they had to tell a story based on the pictures. The teacher provided few guided words with them if necessary. At the end of the course, the learners' speech level had been improved surprisingly. Learning is significantly enhanced when the class atmosphere is in a cooperative and supportive mood. The results suggest that scaffolding within ZPD has its share in learner's basic speech development.

© 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

Keywords: ZPD; Scaffolding; Basic speech development

1. Introduction

The development of different learning theories has exerted some influence on language teaching and consequently motivated EFL or ESL teachers to welcome some changes in language classes. One of the influential theories in learning, Socio-Cultural theory of Mind (SCT) developed by Vygotsky (1987), has greatly affected language teaching. From a socio-cultural theory perspective, learning and development are seen to be interactive and such interaction acts as mediation for language acquisition. As Vygotsky contends, a child's performance in completing a task with the as sistance of others would surpass what he or she could do without assistance. Vygotsky labels this potential performance through the theory of scaffolding within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). ZPD generally takes place during an interactive activity where a novice and an expert person cooperate with each other to complete the intended task (Newman & Holtzman, 1993). In so doing, the knowledge is transferred from the expert to the novice. The expert elicits the novice's current state of knowledge with respect to the task and provides new knowledge to the novice so that he/she can move from his or her actual developmental level to his or her potential developmental level.

From a constructivist point of view, it is generally under guidance or in collaboration with more knowledgeable person, that movement of learners from lower level to a higher level is possible. This guidance or assistance is known as scaffolding in Vygotskian terminology. The assistant might be an expert, such as a teacher, or a fellow learner at the same level as the intended learner or slightly at higher levels of competence. These assistants act as mediators between the student and the knowledge he/she is trying to understand and eventually assist the learner in reaching goals not likely to be accomplished by the learner alone. This provision of knowledge can appear in the form of different tools such as "contextual support for meaning through the use of simplified language teacher modeling, visuals, and graphics, cooperative learning and hands-on learning" (Ovando, Collier & Combs, 2003, p. 345).

In the present study, visuals such as pictures as well as instructors' assistance serve as mediation to incr ease the effectiveness of ZPD. According to some scholars (e.g., Berk, 2001; McDevitt & Ormrod, 2002), ZPD is closely associated with scaffolding

Corresponding author: Email: skhaliliaqdam@yahoo.com

1877-0428 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Urmia University, Iran.

doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.03.497

since scaffolding operates within ZPD; in other words, sharing or "scaffolding" of knowledge from classmates can assist lear ners to reach the ZPD while rote copying of language knowledge is not so much affective (Appel, 2006).

Research Question and Hypothesis

Moreover the assumption of the study is to examine whether the scaffolding utilized by teachers and other students in the classroom lead to learners' speech development or not.

To this end, the following research question is asked:

Is there any relationship between scaffolding and adults' basic speech development in EFL context? And the following hypotheses, accordingly, were formulated:

There is no relationship between scaffolding and adults' basic speech development in EFL context.

2. Review of Literature

According to Ovando, Collier, and Combs (2003, p. 345), the provision of "contextual support for meaning through the use of simplified language, teacher modeling, visuals, and graphics, cooperative learning and hands-on learning," can all be considered as the different tools of scaffolding. Therefore, ZPD involves scaffolding embedded in interactions between a novice and an expert. In using the ZPD as an activity to enhance language acquisition and learning, mediation would increase the effectiveness of ZPD. For instance, the use of visuals such as pictures, books, opportunities for interaction in the target language, directs and explicit instruction, as well as expert's assistance (e.g., Daniels, 2001; Donato & McCormick, 1994; Hammond, 2002) may serve as mediations. ZPD is closely connected to scaffolding because scaffolding operates within ZPD (e.g., Berk, 2001; Wells, 1999; McDevitt & Ormrod, 2002).

Proponents of SCT stress the roles played by other people in learners' lives, those who cast as mediators to help learners move to subsequent zones (Williams & Burden, 1997). The concept of ZPD emphasizes that individuals are interdependent and social processes have crucial roles in developing all forms of knowledge, including language (Xu, Gelfer, & Perkins, 2005). As a major principle, the self-regulation in SCT, prioritizes the learner's ability to perform cognitive tasks independently based on a prior social process.

The Zone of Proximal Development

The ZPD was initially proposed by Vygotsky (1978) to describe how cognitive growth occurred in children. Vygotsky (1978) defines the ZPD as "the distance between the actual development level as determined b y independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers" (p. 86). Vygotsky (1978) argues that if we are to discover the actual relations of the development process to learning capacity, at least two developmental levels must be determined: the actual developmental level and the level of potential development. The former "defines functions that have already matured, that is, the end product of development" (p. 86). In other words, it is the child's ability to solve a problem without any assistance. The later "defines those functions that have not yet matured but are in the process of maturation, functions that will mature tomorrow but are currently in an embryonic state" (p. 86). Put it differently, those are functions that the child can perform when assisted.

There have been various interpretations of Vygotsky's notion of ZPD in the literature. Some researchers hold that interaction in the ZPD necessarily involves an expert and a novice (Lantolf, 2000; Nassaji & Cumming, 2000).Some include equal peer collaboration such as pair or group work (Anton & Dicamilla, 1999; Carmichael-Wong& Vine, 2004; De Guerrero & Villamil, 2000; Ohta, 2000; Tudge, 1990). Despite the different interpretations, all of the authors have agreed upon the basic components of the ZPD. That is, there is a task or a problem and a person who, with mediated assistance in the ZPD, can perform better than when unassisted.

Scaffolding

The scaffolding metaphor coined by Wood, Bruner and Ross (1976) is an important sociocultural concept. Wood et al. use it to describe the support provided by an expert or adult to a child or novice in one-on-one tutorial interactions in playful contexts. The adult let the child play with a task which was above the child's current ability but within his/her capacity for a while and only intervened when he/she got into difficulty and needed assistance. The adult's aim was to let the child "pace the tas k for himself as far as possible" (Wood et al., 1976, p. 92). According to Wood et al., scaffolding provided by an expert or adult "enables a child or novice to solve a problem, to carry out a task or to achieve a goal which would be beyond his unassisted

efforts" (p. 90). They suggest six features of successful scaffolding: (a) recruiting the tutee's interest in the task; (b) reducing the degree of freedom in the task to make it manageable to the tutee; (c) maintaining goal direction; (d) marking critical features; (e) controlling frustration; and (f) modelling solutions to the task. They argue further that scaffolding may eventually result in "development of task competence by the learner at a pace that would outstrip his unassisted efforts" (p. 90).

In the field of language learning, Van Lier (2004) notes six features of scaffolding:

1) Continuity: repeated occurrences over time, with variations connected to one another;

2) Contextual support: a safe but challenging environment, errors are expected and accepted as part of the learning process;

3) Intersubjectivity: mutual engagement and support, two minds thinking as one;

4) Contingency: the scaffolding support depends on learners' reactions, elements can be added, hanged, deleted, repeated, etc.;

5) Handover/Takeover: there is an increasing role for the learner when skills and confidence increase;

6) Flow: communication between participants is not forced, but flows in a natural way.

Since its birth, the term scaffolding has been variedly interpreted and operationalized in various contexts such as formal classrooms, parent-child interaction, adult education, mainstream education as well as L2 education. The significance of scaffolding has been broadened to the extent that who provides scaffolding is no longer a question, as "expertise" rather than "experts" is becoming the focus (Carmichael-Wong & Vine, 2004). Its use is no longer restricted to face-to-face interaction between an adult/expert and a child/novice. For example, many researchers have now considered peer collaboration (e.g. Barnard, 2002; De Guerrero & Villamil, 2000; Riazi & Rezaii, 2011; Shehadeh, 2011; Storch, 2007; Van Lier, 2004; Walqui, 2006) and interaction between a teacher and a classroom full of students as scaffolding (e.g. Davis & Miyake, 2004; Many, Dewberry, Taylor, & Coady, 2009).

In other L2 areas, Le's (2006) study on the use of group work in vocabulary learning in Vietnam finds that in both "unassisted" group work (5 students from the same class working together) and "assisted" group work (4students from the same class working with 1 student from a higher class), students learnt new words, used collective memory and received help from other group members in learning and using the new words. However, the group assisted by a more capable peer used more target language in the discussion than the unassisted group. Similarly, Le's study (2007) shows that expert-novice group work created more learning opportunities than unassisted group work. Other researchers (e.g. Barnard, 2002; Gibbons, 2002; McDonough, 2004) also report that L2 students working in pairs or groups can produce results that extend beyond their individual competence.

Oxford (1997) argues that learners' cognitive development is influenced by the social and cultural activities they experience. Therefore, SCT foregrounds the importance of learning processes, what happens in the classes, rather than the educational outcomes, what is obtained as language ability, although the two are interrelated. The interpretation of learning processes in the immediate classroom social situation and the sociocultural context is also helpful for the learners since they make learning activities more meaningful and less mechanical. It means that sociocultural theorists deal with the development of language knowledge at a macro level, rather than breaking language into its components. Following these views, in L2 learning, learners first produce linguistic forms and functions while interacting with others, either peers, native speakers or teachers, and subsequently internalize them so that they can use forms and functions independently. Accordingly, in SLA each individual learns language while mediated by others in the context of language learning as a prerequisite for internalizing language.

In comparison to traditional textual narration, it has been seen that the process of completing stories partially defined as comic books or graphical novels provides an appropriate and structured context for eliciting affective and reflective thought (Pennington, R., Ault, M. & Schuster, J. 2011). Comic books have been used as an engaging and motivational learning activity for both adults and children(Norton, 2003). They are appropriate for the classroom, encouraging the development of critical thinking skills (Birisci & Metin, 2010.).

Hence, the present study attempted to unravel the role of scaffolding in L2 syntax development for a young learner within the Malaysian setting. The findings of this study may have implications for young L2 learners, not only in the in Iran, but also in other non-English speaking countries or non-rich L2 environments.

3. Methodology

3.1. Participants

Six male adults without brain damage with a mean age of 25 served as the participants in this study. They were studying English five times a week in Iran language Institute in Boukan.

3.2. Instrument

A repeated measure design was adopted in this study. The pictures employed to elicit the spontaneous narrative speech were adopted from Hip Hip Hooray!(2004).This book comprising a variety of picture series in the form of multi-colored drawings was used as the instrument for this study. It was used because it comprises a large number of illustrations. The use of numerous

pictures allows a wide variety of tenses to be provided to the participants and thus, the adults' reproduction could be inferred as intake instead of products of memorization

3.3. Design

Since the number of participants is less than thirty people, Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test which is one of the models of Non-Parametric Test has been used .

3.4. Procedures

All of the participants were asked to use complete sentences as many as possible to describe the pictures. No more hints or demonstrations were given during the description procedures in order to collect the spontaneous narrative performance of the speakers and in order to measure the mean length of utterance and mean length of sentence before providing the participants with assistance. The verbal performance was recorded and then transcribed into a written format. The transcripts served as the speech sample for further analysis. The pictures were administered with the same sequence for all the participants. At first the six students were given the main words of the sentences and the students were required to create sentences. Each time the number of main words of the sentence in an activity has been reduced; therefore, the students had to create the sentences with the help of the teachers. Then a series of pictures were given to the learners and they had to tell a story based on the pictures. The teacher provided few guided words with them if necessary.

The study involved a three-phase sequence. The first phase occurred before the treatment commenced. During this initial stage of the experiment, the adult was shown a picture book. The pre-description task was conducted in three sessions on three consecutive days. Each time, the experimenter sat with the adults in a quiet room and started showing the pictures one by one in sequence as they were presented in the book. The experimenter elicited the pre-description of approximately six pictures in each pre-describing session by asking the same instructive questions ("Tell me about this picture?"). These data provided the experimenter with the adults' actual developmental level data concerning his ability in describing the pictures on his own without any assistance from the expert (Vygotsky, 1978).

On the fourth day immediately after the pre-description data collection, the second phase of the study commenced in which the experimenter began to talk about the pictures with the adult. The experimenter's input was controlled to conform to the model description. The scaffolding sessions were spread out in four weeks and were conducted on consecutive days, however, with the same procedure and exact pre-determined model of language in describing the illustrations. Each session lasted about 60 minutes. During each scaffolding session, the adult negotiated meaning by asking questions, to confirm or clarify around the model's description of the pictures or illustrations. At the end of the fifth week, the experimenter stopped the treatment sessions and the post-description data were acquired. The third phase of the study was the post-test stage. At the end of the fifth week, the experimenter once again sat with the adult in the same quiet room and posted the same instructive questions to the child as in the pre-description session ("Tell me about this picture?"). The adult described the same picture book in three post-describing sessions. However, during these sessions, the experimenter provided some facilitation when the adult halted for a long time in describing some of the illustrations. This was to enable the adult to continue the description process. The facilitating questions,

phrases and words were such as, "What are they doing?"; "After that...."; "Then....." and by showing them the vocabularies

needed to describe the pictures. The pre- and post-describing sessions were tape recorded throughout. The adult seemed to be oblivious to the tape recording for both sessions. He was so engrossed in the pictures and seemed to be in an enthusiastic mode while describing the pictures throughout the pre- and post-description sessions.

3.5. Data Analysis

The adults' speech development was measured by comparing the adults' pre-,and post- description in terms of Mean Length of Utterance (MLU), Mean Length of Sentence (MLS). In order to find out whether or not there is speech development as a result of scaffolding within ZPD, the MLU and MLS calculation was conducted.

The MLU calculation requires that all utterances are intelligible. Even if one word in that utterance is not understood, the utterance has to be excluded from the calculation. Prior to the calculation, the morphemes in each utterance must be counted. Next, add the number of morpheme for all the utterances and divide this total with the number of utterances included in the MLU calculation. MLS is a valuable index of language development.

Based on the guidelines of morpheme counts as explained above as well as the MLU calculation using Cazden's (1965), the adult's post-description MLU were calculated in order to find out the effects of language scaffolding on the adult's sentence length.

Table 1: MLU and MLS for Pre- Description, Post-Description

Before providing Assistance (Pre-Description) After providing Assistance (Post-Description)

MLU per sentence MLS MLU per sentence MLS

S1 3.5 6 7.67 14

S2 4.47 5 7.92 16

S3 3.61 6 7.05 14

S4 2.5 4 6.21 13

S5 3.46 5 6.54 15

S6 4.89 6 8.1 17

Table 1 showed the mean length of utterance and the mean length of sentence in pre-description before applying scaffolding in comparison to the mean length of utterance and the mean length of sentence in post-description after application of scaffolding.

Table 2: Means of MLU and MLS for Before and After providing Assistance

Descriptive Statistics

N Mean Std. Deviation Minimum Maximum

Pre-MLU 6 3.7383 .84213 2.50 4.89

Post-MLU 6 7.2483 .77117 6.21 8.10

The data in Table 2 indicate that the mean of adults' Post-MLU is approximately 7.248 which is more than the mean of their Pre-MLU (3.738).

Table 3: Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test Analysis ofPre-MLU and Post-MLU

Post_MLU - Pre_MLU

Z -2.201b

Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed) .028

Table 3 indicates the comparison of Post-MLU and Pre-MLU. It shows that the p-value in (0.05) equals 0.028.

4. Discussion

The data in Table 2 indicate that the mean of adults' Post-MLU is approximately 7.248 which is more than the mean of their Pre-MLU (3.738).Increase in mean length of utterance in post-description is due to the contribution of scaffolding in ZPD to speech development. By getting assistance from the teacher or other students, the students could create more utterances and could say some more utterances about the picture by providing words needed to describe the picture.

According to Table 3, the result of Wilcoxon Signed Ranks Test Analysis shows that p-value is 0.028 (p<0.05). P-value is less than 0.05, so it is significant. It means that scaffolding and collaborative tasks have an outstanding role in zone of proximal

distance to augment the speech development in adults. The teacher provided words needed to describe the picture as the students felt needing help. Nonetheless, in line with Le's study (2007) shows that expert-novice group work created more learning opportunities than unassisted group work, this study also gives rise to the importance of purposeful interaction in making language scaffolding an effective tool for language development among adult foreign language learners. Having to fulfill a meaningful and purposeful task would provide a functional and a more naturalistic context for learning and acquisition to take place. The result of the study also supports the other researchers such as Barnard, 2002; Gibbons, 2002; and McDonough, 2004who reported that L2 students working in pairs or groups can produce results that extend beyond their individual competence.

5. Conclusion

The findings of this study suggest that language scaffolding in ZPD could be used as a potential vehicle for foreign language speech development. Vygotsky (1978) stated that significant others place demand on children that requires them to encode, process, and retrieve information. Therefore, in this study, language input from the adult provided cognitive structure and organizational model of language to the adult. Provided that there is sufficient comprehensible input and reinforcement, language scaffolding could serve as a bridging means for adult to learn foreign language more effectively and efficiently as supported by the data in this study. Hence, the role of scaffolding in ZPD for foreign language speech development should be recognized.

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