Collaboration before Writing: Exploring How Student Talk Contributes to English L2 Written Narratives

Main Article Content

Kim McDonough
Teresa Hernández González


Previous studies of prewriting discussions have focused narrowly on classifying the type of student talk e.g., content, organization, language) that occurred during a short planning period. However, less is known about how  students’ interactions unfold across multiple prewriting discussions in an entire lesson. To gain further insight into the relationship between collaborative talk and individual writing, this case study explores how two ESL students, Lendina and Mateo, interact during three prewriting activities in one lesson. Data sources include transcripts of the students’ discussions, their narrative texts, and perceptions from the students, their teacher, and an observer. Findings revealed that their discussions were characterized by collaboration (e.g., equality, mutuality, and shared epistemic stance), with each activity contributing concepts and lexical expressions to the students’ narratives. Implications for instructors interested in integrating prewriting discussions into their classes are provided.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
McDonough, K., & Hernández González, T. (2020). Collaboration before Writing: Exploring How Student Talk Contributes to English L2 Written Narratives. REFLections, 27(1), 62-80. Retrieved from
Research articles


Ahmadi, A., & Sadeghi, E. (2016). Assessing English language learners’ oral performance: A comparison of monologue, interview, and group oral test. Language Assessment Quarterly, 13, 341-358.
Chen, W. (2017). The effect of conversation engagement on L2 learning opportunities. ELT Journal, 71, 329-340.
Chen, W. (2019). An exploratory study on the role of L2 collaborative writing on learners’ subsequent individually composed texts. Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 28, 563-573.
Crawford, W., McDonough, K., & Brun-Mercer, N. (2019). Identifying linguistic markers of collaboration in L2 peer interaction: A lexico-grammatical approach. TESOL Quarterly, 53, 180-207.
Dao, P., & McDonough, K. (2017). The effect of task role on Vietnamese EFL learners’ collaboration in mixed proficiency dyads. System, 65, 15-24.
Damon, W., & Phelps, E. (1989). Critical distinctions among three approaches to peer education. International journal of educational research, 13(1), 9-19.
De Guerrero, M. C., & Villamil, O. S. (2000). Activating the ZPD: Mutual scaffolding in L2 peer revision. The Modern Language Journal, 84(1), 51-68.
Fernandez Dobao, A. (2012). Collaborative writing tasks in the L2 classroom: Comparing group, pair, and individual work. Journal of Second Language Writing, 21, 40–58.
Fujii, A., Ziegler, N., & Mackey, A. (2016). Peer interaction and metacognitive instruction in the EFL classroom. In M. Sato & S. Ballinger (Eds.), Peer interaction and second language learning: Pedagogical potential and research agenda (pp. 63-89). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.
Galaczi, E. D. (2008). Peer-peer interaction in a speaking test: The case of the First Certificate in English examination. Language Assessment Quarterly, 5, 89–119.
Heritage, J. (2012). The epistemic engine: Sequence organization and territories of knowledge. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 45, 30-52.
Kang, S., & Lee, J.-H. (2019). Are two heads always better than one? The effects of collaborative planning on L2 writing in relation to task complexity. Journal of Second Language Writing, 45, 61-72.
Kim, Y. (2013). Effects of pretask modeling on attention to form and question development. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 8-35.
Lantolf, J., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Leeser, M. J. (2004). Learner proficiency and focus on form during collaborative dialogue. Language Teaching Research, 8, 55–81.
Liao, J. (2018). The impact of face-to-face oral discussion and online text-chat on L2 Chinese writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 41, 27-40.
McDonough, K., & De Vleeschauwer, J. (2019). Comparing the effect of collaborative and individual prewriting on EFL learners' writing development. Journal of Second Language Writing, 44, 123-130.
McDonough, K., De Vleeschauwer, J., & Crawford, W. (2018a). Comparing the quality of collaborative writing, collaborative prewriting, and individual texts in a Thai EFL context. System, 74, 109-120.
McDonough, K., De Vleeschauwer, J., & Crawford, W. (2018b). Exploring the benefits of collaborative prewriting in a Thai EFL context. Language Teaching Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/1362168818773525
McDonough, K., & Hernández González, T. (2019). Collaborative prewriting discussions and ESL students’ vocabulary development: LREs and depth of engagement.
In M. Sato & S. Loewen (Eds.), Evidence-based second language pedagogy (pp. 105-122). New York, NY: Routledge.
McDonough, K., & Uludag, P. (in press). Individual and shared assessment of ESL students’ paired oral test performance: Examining rater judgments and lexico- grammatical features. In W. Crawford (Ed.), Multiple perspectives on learner interaction: The corpus of collaborative oral tasks. Berlin, Germany: Mouton De Gruyter.
Mozaffari, M. (2017). Comparing student-selected and teacher-assigned pairs on collaborative writing. Language Teaching Research, 21, 496-516.
Nakatani, Y. (2010). Identifying strategies that facilitate EFL learners’ oral communication: A classroom study using multiple data collection procedures. Modern Language Journal, 94, 116-136.
Neumann, H., & McDonough, K. (2014). Exploring the relationships among student preferences, prewriting tasks, and text quality in an EAP context. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 15, 14-26.
Neumann, H., & McDonough, K. (2015). Exploring student interaction during collaborative prewriting discussions and its relationship to L2 writing. Journal of Second Language Writing, 27, 84-104.
Nihalani, P. K., Wilson, H. E., Thomas, G., & Robinson, D. H. (2010). What determines high-and low-performing groups? The superstar effect. Journal of Advanced Academics, 21, 500–529.
Ohta. A. (2001). Second language acquisition processes in the ESL classroom: Learning Japanese. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Sato, M. (2017). Interaction mindsets, interactional behaviors, and L2 development: An effective-social-cognitive model. Language Learning, 67, 249-283.
Sato, M., & Loewen, S. (2018). Metacognitive instruction enhances the effectiveness of corrective feedback: Variable effects of feedback types and linguistic targets. Language Learning, 68, 507-545.
Shi, L. (1998). Effects of prewriting discussions on adult ESL students' compositions. Journal of Second Language Writing, 7(3), 319-345.
Storch, N. (2002). Patterns of interaction in ESL pair work. Language Learning, 52, 119–58.
Storch, N. (2004). Using activity theory to explain differences in patterns of dyadic interaction in an ESL class. Canadian Modern Language Review, 60, 457-480.
Storch, N. (2005). Collaborative writing: Product, process, and students’ reflections. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14, 153-173.
Storch, N. (2013). Collaborative writing in L2 classrooms. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.\
Storch, N., & Aldosari, A. (2013). Pairing learners in pair work activity. Language Teaching Research, 17, 31–48.
Storch, N. (2017). Implementing and assessing collaborative writing activities in EAP classes. In J. Bitchener, N. Storch & R. Wette (eds.), Teaching writing for academic purposes to multilingual students: Instructional approaches (pp. 130-244). New York, NY: Routledge.
Strachan, L., Dygut, M., & Haskett, R. (2016). Now I am here: Level 4. Montreal, QC: Maison de l’amitié.
Swain M. (2006). Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced second language proficiency. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced Language Learning: The Contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 5-108). New York, NY: Continuum.
Teasley, S. D., & Roschelle, J. (1993). Constructing a joint problem space: The computer as a tool for sharing knowledge. Computers as Cognitive Tools, 229-258.
Van Lier, L. (1996). Interaction in the language curriculum: Awareness, autonomy and authenticity. New York, NY: Longman.
Winke, P. (2013). The effectiveness of interactive group orals for placement testing. In K. McDonough & A. Mackey (Eds.) Second Language interaction in diverse educational contexts (pp. 246-268). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.