Improving Self-Regulation for Learning in EFL Writing in Secondary Education in Blended Environments


de Salvador de Arana, Núria


Rochera Villach, Ma. José

Remesal Ortiz, Ana

Date of defense



287 p.


Universitat de Barcelona. Departament de Cognició, Desenvolupament i Psicologia de l'Educació


This study aims at improving English as a Foreign Language (EFL) writing instruction at secondary level by implementing a blended instructional design that may foster self-regulation through public online learning diaries (Diaries) and formative feedback in a wiki device in combination with face-to-face (F2F) instruction. Also, all elements are interwoven in the assessment program strongly supported by personalised feedback. In Part I, comprehending chapters 1 to 4, we provide the general theoretical framework for this research, which is based on a competence approach to compulsory education that the countries in the EU have adopted. Our aim is helping students to improve in three of the eight key competences (European Parliament, 2006): Learning Foreign Languages, ICT and Learning to Learn. First, we have reviewed and contextualised what the literature says about EFL writing and different approaches to teaching it and discussed the role of grammar, vocabulary and multimodality pathways in learning to write in a foreign language. Then, we have reviewed the literature on self-regulation for learning (SRL) and self-efficacy and the effects that a public design can have on vicarious learning. We have appraised the role of Diaries, feedback and assessment to improve SRL. Subsequently, we have discussed Diaries in EFL writing in a blended design, and how they can help us improve the students’ autonomy in learning. This literature review leads us to formulate our basic assumptions for the instructional design that we will put to the test. From this review, we conclude that a Diary which integrates cognitive, metacognitive and free writing tasks is a suitable tool for EFL writing instruction and ongoing authentic assessment activities with interactive formative feedback to observe and improve self-regulation strategies. Additionally, a public design can act as a basic form of dialogic feedback, even if what students do is lurking at what other students are doing. In Part II, comprehending chapters 5 to 7, we state the three goals of our research to evaluate an instructional design grounded on literature findings that we developed to improve English as a foreign language (EFL) writing instruction in context. We describe the three main components of the learning diary (Diary) and the writing assignments. We study an EFL class of 10thgraders, aged 15 to 16, at a working-class state school in Barcelona and their English teacher, who was a long-experienced professional, newly arrived at that school. There were 26 students in this class (15 boys and 11 girls), of which we selected six (two strong, two average and two weak ones) for close observation. The instructional design combined face-to-face (F2F) teaching following a textbook with an online platform (a wiki) where students completed the Diary and a variety of writing assignments, with the online supervision of the teacher who provided personalised on-site feedback. In the Diary, and mostly as homework, students had to show their capacity to manage learning strategies and writing competence. In the first place, students had to file F2F instruction and produce examples of use of grammar and vocabulary in the form of sentences (cognitive tasks). Secondly, they had to monitor and correct their writing productions (metacognitive assignments) after the teacher had provided personalised feedback on them. She also developed a system of engagement rewards to incentive correct procedures and participation. In part III (Chapters 7-10) we present the results to our research questions. In Chapter 7 we depict the results concerning goal 1. We observe the activity in the online PWS and the students’ and teacher’s perception of it. In the first place, we consider the temporal dimension of the Diary. Then we move on to study how well the students completed it by task, student and term. Next, we study the writing assignments completion by task and term. Fourthly, we consider the positive and negative effects of the online platform. Finally, we deal with the teacher and students’ views of the PWS. Chapter 8 is devoted to feedback. We analyse the amount and characteristics of the teacher’s feedback depending on the task, as well as its timing for both the Diary and the writing assignments. We also consider the nature of conversations in the PWS. To conclude, we focus on the students’ views on feedback Results for goal 3 are exposed in chapter 9, which analyses in which ways the students’ actions and perceptions in the PWS evolved. In the first place, we ask ourselves which improvements can be reported in the Diary. Secondly, we look at the connections between the Diary and the writing assignments. Thirdly, we observe improvements in the writing assignments, comparing the teacher’s marks to external control measures, such as the state exam and the Write & Improve tool. Finally, we consider the teacher and students’ views. A final chapter 10 gathers a panoramic interpretive reading of each of the selected students and the teacher as to draw their learning profiles. For each of the six selected students, we consider their views on the PWS and the writing and feedback impact on them. In part IV we discuss our findings. About the PWS (goal 1), online designs can set students in action, but the technical problems some students face may cause frustration. It also confirms that stronger students are better at SRL, but their agency may not always be directed towards learning. If weaker students are more SRL focused, the chance is that they will advance more. Scarce metacognitive knowledge, low self-efficacy and lack of motivation make progress slow. Students will favour cognitive tasks over metacognitive, which are not adequate in compulsory education when they were based in understanding what the teacher said instead of in what they understood. Teachers need to plan supervising controls to ensure that students do not leave everything for the last minute, and can pay attention to the teacher’s corrections at different moments. Students did not like that the Diary was compulsory, and they did not like that it was public either, but their perceptions concerning the latter improved significantly, and they used each other’s productions as guidance. The Diary was a threat to average and weak students because it was hard work which, if not done, meant failing the term. The wiki’s lack of popularity was strengthened by technical problems. For goal 2, the teacher’s strategy to provide unfocused, indirect, personalised feedback was not appropriate because it meant a lot of work and did not make some of the students respond to it. The fact that it was timely could not solve the design flaw that it was delivered at the end of the term. These students were the same that show low interest for the design (Darío(a)) or weak students with low metacognitive strategies and linguistic knowledge. So, the students who needed it more (although Mariana(a) became an exception) were the ones who used it less. The students’ perception of feedback was positive enough, but somehow unconscious of the effort it meant to the teacher. For goal 3, when we study the students’ performance in the Diary in some depth, we observe that some students used agency for purposes other than learning, and this behaviour is not related to their linguistic knowledge, but bears relation to how much they make sense of a task and the characteristics of the assessment program. Students did not make sense of the cognitive part of the Diary because the sentences they wrote were not connected with the writing assignments. Furthermore, feedback that focuses only in WCF or sentences rather than paragraphs is not appropriate to teach EFL writing, because such input only addresses one aspect of the overall writing ability. Students value the sentences they wrote in the vocabulary task significantly worse at the end than they did at the beginning of the year. However, they value significantly better that the Diary is an efficient tool to learn English. As for its metacognitive part of the Diary, results were poor when the students were not capable of noticing for themselves what they had learnt, but depended on metacognitive explanations from the teacher which they often did not understand. Students expressed that they liked writing more when they could freely choose what to write about, and this perception improved significantly at the end of the school year. But results show that when students are free to write what they please, the use of translators increases. For this reason, designing tasks that makes them use the vocabulary and grammar they have just been taught would give more meaning to instruction and avoid the dangers of technical cheating. Rich environments where students are exposed to a lot of input (such as films in English subtitled in English) promote EFL writing, especially when the students are asked to carry out a diversity of tasks that stretch for some time.


Educació secundària; Educación secundaria; Secondary education; Aprenentatge integrat de continguts i llengües estrangeres; Aprendizaje Integrado de Contenidos y Lenguas Extranjeras; Content and Language Integrated Learning; Adquisición de una segunda lengua; Adquisició d'una segona llengua; Second language acquisition; Anglès; Inglés; English language


159.9 - Psychology

Knowledge Area

Ciències de la Salut






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