Interacting With Limited Resources: Investigating the Impact of Teacher Feedback on the Development of Interaction Strategies in the Classroom by Learners of English

  • Brigitte Reber

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis has investigated the impact of teacher feedback on the development of interaction strategies used by low-level learners. 8 pairs of learners with a wide range of proficiency and language backgrounds were recorded while completing an oral task at 10 different points in time (10 months in total). Additionally, 12 stimulated recall interviews were conducted. Data were collected in two Swiss state school classes during normal classroom time and in collaboration with the two regular teachers. In months 4-6, each learner in every pair received one-off individualised feedback on how he/she could improve the use of interaction strategies.

Transcripts of the task recordings and stimulated recall data were analysed qualitatively, employing a single-subject multiple-baseline design (Lodico et al., 2010), regarding which strategies learners used to overcome resource deficits. Emerging codes were later used for a quantitative analysis. The findings were compared to an analysis of the same data for fluency, syntactical and lexical complexity. Findings showed that learners preferred the same pair- or learner-specific bundle of strategies throughout the ten months. Some pairs almost exclusively used self-reliant strategies whereas others displayed a wide range of other-support strategies. Immediately after the feedback, some learners used more of the strategies the teacher suggested or they used a more sophisticated form of a strategy they had used before. Some changes persisted while other measures reverted to pre-intervention levels. The most gains in proficiency could be observed in learners’ fluency. In addition, use of support strategies correlated with frequent use of the modification of utterances in the direction of more standard English.

This study confirms the view that different factors such as willingness to communicate, personal-affective aspects and linguistic proficiency impact on the nature of task-based learner-learner interaction and that teacher feedback can only be effective when it also addresses such underlying issues.

Date of Award26 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMuna Morris-Adams (Supervisor)


  • learner-learner interaction
  • low-level learners
  • mixed-methods

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