PhD Oral Exam - Phung Van Dao, Education
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The goal of current peer interaction research is to develop an in-depth understanding of how peer task-based interaction promotes second language (L2) learning. Situated in this line of research, this dissertation investigated peer task-based interaction in light of learner engagement conceptualized as a multifaceted construct that manifests in cognitive, emotional and social dimensions. Specifically, the dissertation investigated how interlocutor proficiency and task outcome affected learner engagement in tasks during peer interaction, and whether leaner engagement in tasks was predictive of L2 question development during peer interaction.
Study 1 investigated whether learners engaged differently during peer interaction when they were paired with peers from different proficiency levels. Fifteen Vietnamese core learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) were asked to work with a peer of higher proficiency and another peer of lower proficiency. The core learners’ degree of engagement when interacting with the lower proficiency partner and a higher proficiency partner was compared. The results revealed that the core learners showed greater cognitive and social engagement as reflected in their behavior. The core learners also reported greater emotional engagement when working with higher proficiency partners, although their preferences did not show explicitly in their interaction.
Study 2 examined the impact of task outcome on learner engagement. This study compared learner engagement in the tasks that have convergent outcome as opposed to divergent outcome. A divergent task was the one that required learners to agree on an outcome whereas a divergent task did not have this requirement. The degree of learner engagement between the two tasks was compared to determine whether task outcome affected how learners engaged in tasks during peer interaction. The results showed that learners demonstrated greater cognitive and social engagement in the convergent task than the divergent task. Their emotional engagement in both tasks was not significantly different.
Different from Study 1 and Study 2, the last study in this dissertation set out to make a link between learner engagement and L2 question development. Twenty-seven learners carried out five tasks that were designed to elicit L2 questions. A logistic regression was conducted to establish whether learner engagement was predictive of L2 question development, which was operationalized as a stage increase in Pienemann and Johnston’s (1987) development sequence of question formation. The predictor variables included in this logistic regression were cognitive, emotional and social engagement operationalized as question idea units, laugh episodes, and instances of responsiveness, respectively. The results revealed that only cognitive engagement was a significant predictor of L2 question development.