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During Threaded Discussions are Non-native English Speakers Always at a Disadvantage?

, WestEd, United States

International Journal on E-Learning Volume 13, Number 1, ISSN 1537-2456 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC USA


When participating in threaded discussions, under what conditions might non¬native speakers of English (NNSE) be at a comparative disadvantage to their classmates who are native speakers of English (NSE)? This study compares the threaded discussion perspectives of closely-matched NNSE and NSE adult students having different levels of threaded discussion experience. Overall, NNSE face ongoing cultural and linguistic difficulties during threaded discussions not experienced by their NSE classmates. Yet during the initial semester of threaded discussion participation, the NNSE who are long-term immigrants report a more positive and rapid initial adjustment than the either NSE or the NNSE who are temporarily studying in the U.S. The long-term immigrants reported a greater meta-awareness of the different cultural rules implicit to social interactions and, during their acculturation to the U.S., had developed adjustment strategies. Findings indicate that this meta-awareness can be facilitated: Novice participants adjust more positively and rapidly to threaded discussions when their instructor scaffolds student participation than those whose instructor follows the traditional instructor-led initiation, response, evaluation (I-R-E) discussion pattern. Instructor scaffolding can include adjustment of scheduling of class discussions, a requirement that students to serve as discussion facilitators, and use of rubrics which make explicit the rules for participation.


Shafer Willner, L. (2014). During Threaded Discussions are Non-native English Speakers Always at a Disadvantage?. International Journal on E-Learning, 13(1), 41-62. Waynesville, NC USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved February 24, 2020 from .


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