This course aimed to motivate and enhance students’ writing skills by involving native speakers’ timely interactive feedback to motivate and enhance students within a Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) course.

  • Course: CHIN3001 Written Chinese IIA. 2nd year Chinese language course (approx. 50 students)
  • School/Faculty: School of Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Delivery: a weekly 2hr face-to-face lecture session and a weekly 2hr face-to-face tutorial session
  • Active learning approach: online Zoom meeting, interactions with native speakers of Chinese
  • Assessment tasks: (1) students draft a composition; (2) a native speaker tutor goes through the draft via Zoom meeting; (3) students produce an improved version.

Key issues and anticipated outcomes

This project aimed to address the following challenges:

  • Foreign language writing skills are difficult to develop
  • Individualised feedback is rarely possible
  • Interactive feedback with target cultural input is essential but difficult to obtain with normal face-to-face lecture or tutorial sessions
  • Being involved in students’ collaborative writing (CW) process is an ideal approach to help enhance their writing skills, but resources are limited to allow that in usual teaching practices.

Project innovation team

Active learning approach

Activities and aligned assessments

In addition to a 2hr face-to-face lecture session and a 2hr face-to-face tutorial session, the Written Chinese course CHIN3001 curriculum includes a task outside class under the task-based teaching approach:

  • Assessment weighting: 15%
  • Assessment title: Collaborative Writing (CW)
  • Aligned assessment: 
    • Step 1: link up students with native Chinese speakers who are PhD candidates in Teaching Chinese as a foreign language program from National Taiwan Normal University. They serve as native CW tutors.
    • Step 2: students draft a composition on an assigned topic.
    • Step 3: CW tutors go through students’ composition, sentence by sentence, through online Zoom meeting.
    • Step 4: Students revise their composition based on their Zoom meeting interactive feedback and upload it to Blackboard for marking.
  • Advantages of the assessment: through four cycles of collaborative writing in the semester, students benefit greatly.
    1. Students receive timely interactive feedback with target cultural input;
    2. Students receive personalised feedback on their productive language output;
    3. Successfully having been involved in students’ peer feedback writing process to help enhance their writing skills. 

Resources/technologies used

  • Weekly Blackboard online composition uploading: To motivate engagement by sharing students’ compositions, students can read each other’s work for peer interactions.
  • Zoom meeting as a virtual classroom: To provide interactive personalised feedback and encourage deep learning.
  • Blackboard written reflections: To motivate personal reflection on the ways of teaching and learning through the CW project. 
     

Evaluation

Tools and strategies used

Student perspective:

  • Quantitative and qualitative online questionnaire – gathering student feedback on the active learning approaches embedded in the CW project 
  • Student reflections on learning via the CW assessment item
  • Collective student interviews 
  • Blackboard analytics.

Lecturer perspective:

  • Reflective reports from the CW tutors during Semester.

Key findings

  1. Effective learning via:
    • Project work: Collaborative Writing (CW)
  2. Evidence of critical thinking developed via:
    • Corrections and improvements of students’ compositions
    • Students’ reflection reports giving us positive feedback on the CW task
  3. Cultural awareness gained through meeting CW tutors online
    • Talking with native speakers outside class in the target language is a great way of learning.

 

Project outcomes

Short and long-term outcomes

  • The Collaborative Writing (CW) task motivates students and deepens their learning in the short term; it is a great approach in developing students’ writing skills in a foreign language.
  • Talking with native speakers in the target language links up real-world people with students’ learning, which makes their learning meaningful and exciting.
  • Being in involved in the students’ writing process is highly engaging and facilitates their understanding of the target language and culture at a deep level. 

Other lessons

  • Linking up the learning of a foreign language with native speakers is very motivating for the students. 
  • Blackboard sites (course site), and the tools and resources embedded in Blackboard were the most effective technologies for assisting learning.
  • The mini-tutorial sessions with native speaking tutors via Zoom meetings were great when the technology works properly. They can be a headache when it doesn't.
  • Challenges to the effectiveness of active learning approaches included: limitations of technology, infrastructure, and funding shortage to cover extra workload. 

Transferability to other contexts

  • From student evaluation surveys and reflection reports, students strongly support the consistent inclusion of a Collaborative Writing task in language courses, if resources allow it. 

Further development/planning next steps

  • An academic journal manuscript (for national and international academic audiences)
  • Presentation in a teaching and learning forum for UQ academic peers (e.g. School of Languages and Cultural staff meeting, HASS ALPP Symposium for audiences beyond the School)
  • Sharing of resources and documentation as a case study for academic peers
  • The results of this case study have been used to inform the design of active learning approaches and aligned assessment in phase 2 participant course: CHIN3001 (data analysis is underway).

Active learning strategies feedback

Contact

Dr Wendy Jiang
Lecturer, School of Languages and Cultures