Departmental Bulletin Paper A working paper exploring the effects of recursive conversations on participants’ fluency development in a first-year EFL oral communication course

Kindt, Duane  ,  Bowyer, David Scott

Recursive conversations (RCs) are described as a “return to a similar experience—but with a wider knowledge” (Kindt, 2004, p. 15). Focusing on RCs and their effects on learner beliefs and performance, including fluency, disfluency, and complexity, this paper describes the results of an Action Research study conducted over six weeks with 18 first-year English majors in a freshman oral communication program. Following a mixed methods approach, the researchers collected and analyzed both quantitized and qualitative data (Dörnyei, 2007). Data included pre- and post-questionnaires, learner feedback forms, and conversation transcriptions. Analysis of the transcription data indicated up to a 20% increase in fluency markers attributable to the effect of RCs. Transcription analysis also showed a significant increase in sentence complexity, as indicated by increases in average sentence length of between 10% and 95%. Questionnaire and feedback data indicated that learners considered the RCs to be more interesting and less challenging than non-recursive classroom conversations. Some students, however, considered the recursive conversations to be less useful than non-recursive ones, indicating a contradiction between learners’ experiences of the RCs and their perceptions of their usefulness in promoting L2 oral competence. The results of this research indicate that RCs can have a positive shortterm impact on learners’ oral competency, but that educators should take steps to engage with learners regarding the impact of pedagogical tools in order for learners to become aware of potential benefits. Issues surrounding the long-term impact of RCs and appropriate methods for helping learners to see the benefits of such procedures are a promising area for future research.

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