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Instructional technology, L2 writing theory, and IFL: a case-study conducted in a British university among tutors and students

By Daria Mizza


This study reviews a series of theoretical models and educational experiences, in order to examine how some of the claims made in the existing literature regarding the role of IT - mainly computer technologies - in writing instruction play out in the case of Italian as a Foreign Language (IFL). With this purpose in mind, this study examines a specific context - three IFL modules taught at the University of Warwick - and uses relevant teaching and learning experiences as a case-study and data sample. By using qualitative analysis supported by some quantitative methodologies, this study triangulates data from questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, focus-groups, field notes, classroom observation rubrics, as well as classroom artefacts, including online resources and educational software used over the course of the academic years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006.\ud The data collected is filtered through a tripartite framework - learning/instructional environment, IFL tutors, and IFL students - designed to address the need expressed in the literature for analysis of multiple dimensions in complex interactions (Abbott, 1997; Athanases and Heath, 1995; Ramanathan and Atkinson, 1999; Snyder, 1997). The salient themes which emerge from the study are the critical roles of IFL tutors' and IFL students' expectations as well as the framework of values underlying these, along with particular features of information technologies themselves, in shaping participants' experiences and practices with respect to IT and writing, sometimes in unanticipated ways.\ud Finally, the study considers the ways in which the results of the present research support, contradict, or expand existing literature, especially in relation to a number of specific factors, such as: the type of IT used in writing instruction; the physical configurations of IT-enhanced classrooms; and students' as well as tutors' approaches to learning and teaching IFL writing with and without technology. While the present work, like many other studies in the field of SLA and L2 writing, does not provide complete answer to the complex questions of language learning, it highlights\ud the importance of both the instructional environment as well as the participants' framework\ud of values. Only then, IT will be able to potentially enhance language instruction and\ud become an integral component of learning. This research raises new questions, providing\ud the basis for further research in the area of SLA theory and pedagogy

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