8. Engagement with the language

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Interactive tasks that have successfully promoted attention to form and language learning in face-to-face (FTF) can be ineffective when performed online (Baralt 2013, 2014). This research is concerning, given the push for online language classes in higher education (Leow, Cerezo, & Baralt 2015). One reason that interactive language tasks do not translate to online settings may be the diminished affect and socialization present in online settings (Baralt 2014). Despite this hypothesis, researchers continue to explore learners’ attention to form from exclusively the cognitive perspective. Recently, Svalberg (2009; 2012) proposed a new model for exploring how learners achieve awareness of forms: a threefold construct including cognitive as well as social and affective engagement. The present chapter is the first to empirically operationalize Svalberg’s model for analyzing learners’ attention (or not) to forms during task-based peer interaction. Forty intermediate-level learners of Spanish performed either cognitively simple or complex interactive dyadic tasks in person or online. Learners’ interaction and post-task questionnaires were then coded for the three types of engagement. Results showed more cognitive engagement (e.g., attention to language forms, reflection), social engagement (e.g., supportive interaction) and affective engagement (e.g., positive feelings) in FTF, particularly during the more complex task. All three types of engagement were diminished or were entirely absent in the online interactions. We argue that the lack of social and affective engagement is what deterred cognitive engagement with language forms. The chapter concludes with a discussion on why researchers must consider social and affective engagement to understand how language awareness can be differentially experienced online.


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