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Computers & Education 57 (2011) 2548–2558

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Computers & Education
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/compedu

A study on the use of computerized concept mapping to assist ESL learners’ writing Pei-Lin Liu
Department of Foreign Languages, National Chiayi University, 85 Wenlong, Mingsuin, Chiayi 621, Taiwan, ROC

a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history: Received 12 November 2010 Received in revised form 18 March 2011 Accepted 27 March 2011 Keywords: Concept mapping English as second language Writing proficiency Writing performance

a b s t r a c t
This study aims to examine the effect of using computerized concept maps during the pre-writing phase on learners’ writing performance. The research questions were: (1) What are the impacts of different computerized concept mapping treatments (no-mapping, individual-mapping, and cooperativemapping) on writing performance for learners of different writing proficiencies (high-level, middlelevel, and low-level)? (2) Does the quality of the concept maps constructed cooperatively exceed the quality of the concept maps constructed individually? (3) Does the map quality correlate to the learner’s writing performance? Ninety-four freshmen enrolled in an English course were divided into high-level, middle-level, and lowlevel learners according to their baseline writing scores. The experimental part of the study took place over two-hour class periods for nine weeks. All participants went through all three treatments for accomplishing three writing assignments. It was found that both computerized mapping treatments had equally positive effects on low-level and middle-level learners compared with the no-mapping treatment. However, high-level learners performed significantly better with the individual-mapping treatment than with the other two treatments. The quality of the concept maps constructed cooperatively exceeded the quality of those constructed individually. The quality of the maps was also correlated to the learners’ writing performance. Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction English is the language of globalization and international communication, and written English is recognized as the predominant medium of communication. Second language writing skills are playing an increasingly important role today in the lives of professionals in almost every field and discipline (Kroll, 2003). However, English as second language (ESL) learners face more writing processing difficulties than native speakers, and this creates a challenge to those responsible for teaching ESL writing. Two factors are regarded as the essence of the writing learning and instructing process: writers’ writing proficiency and the writing strategy used in their planning process. First, the writers have their preferred learning-to-write and composing styles, while their writing proficiency could create obstacles during the writing process. Second, planning the process before writing has been taken as a baseline for setting goals, brainstorming, and organizing ideas (Flower & Hayes, 1981). According to Oxford (1990), a specific strategy can make learning easier, faster, and more enjoyable. A good writing strategy is expected to satisfy each writer’s individual needs. Concept maps can be utilized as a writing strategy for the satisfaction of the above two requirements. A concept map is a graphical map visualizing the relationship among concepts. The concepts are enclosed in circles or boxes of some type, and the relationships between concepts are indicated by a connecting link and arrow (Novak & Canas, 2008). A good concept map can function as a graphic organizer visualizing not only a writer’s ideas for a specific writing topic, but also the connected relationships among the ideas (Sturm & RankinErickson, 2002). In other words, the map indicates individual writer’s concept processing. With the assistance of maps, writers can examine what ideas are...
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