Observing the motors of change in interactive tertiary EAL reading to write classroom systems

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Li, Minglin

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Walkinshaw, Ian

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This study investigated the general shape of development underlying reading to innovate in writing (R2IW) performance in university-based English language learning contexts. To achieve the aim of this study, three sub questions were applied from a dynamic systems theory perspective within a fixed non-experimental descriptive research design. These sub questions measured how innovation emergence in English as a Second Language (ESL) writing from sources varied over different time periods, how stable it was in time, and how R2IW varied at a higher level of magnification in nested minute timescales. To platform and reveal the nature of variation patterns in temporal performance data specifically for the qualitative and multidimensional characteristics of ESL R2IW in complex dynamic systems, a dynamic description strategy was applied. This strategy guided time-series data collection over a two-month time window. It guided as well the visual mapping and analysis of the temporal course of the ESL learner’s R2IW development in different regions and at two magnifications: a weekly and a minute timescale. A four-phase data analysis process involving both linear and non-linear statistical techniques found meaningful variability patterns in different regions of the real time weekly performance data. The four-phase analysis also found that over different time periods at the macro timescale, innovation emergence appeared dynamically stable, and repeated patterns of R2IW emergence were evident across different levels of development. Thirdly, at the magnified minute timescale, self-organisation and co-adaptivity patterns were observed in the interactions of R2IW sub-system components. Finally, the findings showed that overall, the degree of innovation variability at the magnified minute timescale was greater compared with the variability observed at the macro weekly timescale, providing evidence of the scaling and self-similarity properties of pink noise in ESL R2IW performance. Consequently, ESL R2IW in this EAL learner’s university-based context has a non-linear developmental shape or mechanism. These findings have significance for ESL R2IW theory, methodology, and pedagogy. As the rate and volume of interactions between people and information continues to accelerate, research, teaching, and learning activities in higher education are increasingly embedded within more open and information laden global environments. These environments are characterized by heightened context sensitivity and accelerated change, increased rates of unexpected variability, and unique problems. Therefore, for EAL international students, the capacity to be adaptive and actively create new knowledge when writing from sources in complex and dynamic ESL university environments is pertinent, more than ever before. Yet, in the teaching of ESL field, research investigating why and how innovative ideas emerge and how innovation capacities can be deliberately facilitated in university-based reading to write tasks is rare. This is despite the importance placed on idea transformation in university writing and the increasing role reading to write tasks have in ESL assessment and syllabus. Furthermore, research that examines R2IW tasks from theoretical perspectives that specifically foreground variability in complex dynamic contexts is lacking in the field. This is in spite of empirical observations of systemic interactions and fractal patterns in performance data in a diverse range of disciplines and the insights these fractal properties can provide for understanding anomalies and change in complex and dynamic ESL R2IW learning environments. For complex dynamic systems theories and transdisciplinary insights to inform ESL research and pedagogical intervention in R2IW tasks in these ways, an understanding of the nature of the underlying dynamics of ESL R2IW is essential at the outset. Verspoor and Van Dijk (as cited in Dornyei, 2014, p. 83) assert that “analysing interactions only makes sense in cases where there is a clear theoretical or empirical motivation to do so”. The purpose of this study to investigate the nature of the underlying dynamics of ESL R2IW thus meets the needs of SLA academic audiences. Finding pink noise properties in this study indicates that ESL R2IW development is interaction dominant and provides falsifying evidence for the static based developmental assumptions made by researchers in the ESL R2IW literature, which extends reading to write literature in the ESL field. Consequently, findings of the present research contribute to the development of an ESL R2IW construct and a change management research methodology and pedagogy, which extends research avenues in this area of the ESL field to effectively orchestrate EAL reading to write learner fitness in complex dynamic university contexts.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Master of Arts Research (MARes)


School of Hum, Lang & Soc Sc

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Reading to write

Pink noise

Complex dynamic systems,


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