Chin-Chi Chao
National Chengchi University, Taiwan


The purpose of this monograph is to explore how Vygotsky's socio-cultural-historical theory (SCT) could serve as a useful framework and provide inspiration for research in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). Of particular interest is how learners work with Automated Writing Evaluation systems (AWE) in developing writing skills. There are seven chapters to this work. The first chapter introduces the purpose and rationales. Chapter Two explains what Vygotskian socio-cultural-historical theory is and why it is a useful framework to address EFL issues. Chapter Three provides an overview of AWE programs, particularly their functions and feedback systems. Chapter Four is a report of a study with 235 undergraduates who tried to develop their writing skills autonomously through the help of AWE only. The result showed a declining interest and use of the system over time, and, most important, learners longed for interacting with peers. With the result in mind, a set of instructional solutions was developed based on SCT perspectives, which are presented in Chapter Six. The solutions were implemented in a writing class for adult EFL learners. A case study on two learners from the class was conducted and reported in Chapter Seven. The learners’experiences were documented and analyzed, using SCT as the theoretical framework to discover salient issues related to the process of learning mediated by AWE and the overall language learning environment. It was found that having a concrete goal is useful in the learning process and that significant changes in writing-related concepts do not happen in the learner’s interaction with AWE. Rather, it is mostly initiated during person-to-person interactions. This assertion is in keeping with Vygotsky’s view that learning happens on two social planes: first inter-psychological and then intra-psychological. Chapter Seven concludes with a discussion on theoretical as well as pedagogical implications for computer-mediated EFL instruction.

Key Words: Vygotsky, automated writing evaluation (AWE), computer-assisted language learning (CALL)

Chin-chi Chao, Ph.D. in Language Education (Indiana University, 2001), is an assistant professor at National Chengchi University (Taipei, Taiwan). Her research interests include CALL teacher professional development, technological impacts on EFL education, and autonomous language learning, examined particularly in light of Vygotskian and neo-Vygotskian perspectives.