The impact of a social networking environment with fully-autonomous and semi-autonomous learning on the English writing abilities of Thai university students
Keywords:social networking environment, rhizomatic planning, writing skills, EFL students, self-regulated learning
Mixed-mode learning is one of the most recent educational trends, reshaping the delivery of learning facilities in higher education. Through self-regulated learning and technological advances, higher education institutions may be able to offer new learning possibilities incorporating social networking environments. Adopting social networking environments in university learning is a challenging area of research under an investigation in relation to its effectiveness. In this study, we draw attention to a pedagogy for self-regulated learning based on rhizomatic planning skills in the context of an online social networking environment designed to develop writing skills in English as a Foreign Language (EFL). We report interesting and promising results where EFL students working without the support of a teacher outperformed their peers who studied in the same context but with extensive support from an experienced and committed teacher. The results indicated that teacher intervention was not always beneficial in the learning process and that students were in fact capable of generating self-organizing learning environments. This unexpected outcome was analyzed and possible explanations were suggested. On the basis of these findings, it may be necessary to revise some of our preconceptions about what constitutes optimal conditions for learning to write in a foreign language. The article concludes with recommendations for the construction of writing programs based on social learning platforms.
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