Learning in the videoconferencing context
: Examining L2 learner engagement in speaking tasks during private English-law lessons

  • Gerald de la Salle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education


Little is known about what exactly happens during private language lessons, especially those taught via Skype (or other similar videoconferencing tools) that feature content instruction in a new language. More specifically, this dissertation investigates the CBLT (Content-based language teaching) and TBLT (Task-based language teaching) speaking component of private Skype-based law lessons (in English) delivered to three pairs of English language learners. The first pair were two Korean middle school students located in South Korea, the second pair were two Korean lawyers in South Korea and the third consisted of one Japanese adult and one Filipino adult, both located in their respective countries. All six learners had a minimum of intermediate level English speaking proficiency.

In addition to receiving legal content as part of content area instruction, the learners in the private law lessons participated in a variety of communicative and task-based language learning activities with an emphasis on speaking skills. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to identify the type of learner engagement that occurred during eight different speaking tasks. These methods were also used to determine the type of thinking that occurred and to capture the learners’ views about the law lessons and learning on Skype more generally. The analysis involved using 522 minutes of audio-recorded transcripts from the speaking tasks, the tutor’s journal entries, semi-structured questionnaires and one-to-one interviews with all of the participants.

The findings revealed that even though the learners (and the private tutor) communicated via Skype from three separate locations and the focus was on legal content, the learners demonstrated continuous engagement throughout each of the tasks. In seven tasks, the LTT:TTT (Learner Talking Time to Tutor Talking Time) speaking ratio was greater than 12:1. The learners demonstrated numerous other types of engagement, including plenty of turn-taking, deep thinking, concentration, and laughter. Additionally, the tasks that featured the most speaking were the only four tasks in which the learners used thinking skills from Level 4 or above on the BRT. For the most part, these were also the same tasks that the learners perceived as being the most enjoyable and the most helpful. One implication from the study is that SCMC videoconferencing platforms such as Skype should not be viewed as a barrier to developing L2 speaking proficiency, especially when interactions only involve two learners. Another is that combining both CBLT and TBLT can be potentially advantageous since many of the tasks in this study simultaneously featured both speaking and higher-level thinking.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorCaroline Linse (Supervisor) & Mel Engman (Supervisor)

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