Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Ko, J, Schallert, D. L., & Walters, K. (2003). Rethinking Scaffolding: Examining Negotiation of Meaning in an ESL Storytelling Task. TESOL Quarterly, 37(2), 303-324.

            Concerning the field of education, scaffolding is an essential process of learning. This Vygotskian term is defined in Jungmin Ko, Diane L. Schallert, and Keith Walter’s article (2003), “Rethinking Scaffolding: Examining Negotiation of Meaning in an ESL Storytelling Task,” as the process of how learning occurs. Ko et al cite the explanation by the “results of the interpsychological support [stemming] from the more knowledgeable [individual] that leads learners to internalize what is being learned” (304). In other educational words, teachers are helping students learn a specific subject or task. In the article, the authors reexamine Vygotsky’s description of scaffolding, and apply this reexamination to the internal learning process of English Language Learners and their negotiation of meaning.

What is negotiation of meaning (NOM)?
            When conversing with an ELLs, one might experience a negotiation of meaning. In Ko et al’s (2003) article, the authors describe negotiation of meaning “when native and nonnative speakers do not understand one another, they modify their conversational structures through the use of repetition, confirmation and comprehension checks, and clarifications requests” (pg. 306). Ko et al advocates that creating a student-centered discourse and engaging in NOM with students, ELLs are able to experience comprehensible input and produce comprehensible output, which rarely happens in teacher-centered discourse (Ko et al, 2003).

How to engage in NOM?
            In Ko et al’s study, the authors decided to examine the internal learning process and negotiation of meaning in ELLs through storytelling. Ko et al (2003), citing Kang (1997), note “storytelling activities offer the possibility of meaningful social interaction among students and between storyteller and teacher” (pg. 307).

The Results of Using storytelling tasks with ELLs
            In the study, students were required to compose a short story about a sad, embarrassing, or happy experience in their life. After the first telling, students would have a small workshop with two peers and the teacher. During the workshop, the teacher used four interactional moves to help students lessen their negotiation of meaning:
            1. Elicit additional information not provided by storyteller
            2. Indentify places where cultural caps might cause confusion with audience
            3. Encouraging audience members to ask questions while keep them on task
            4. Providing help with vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and pronunciation errors that had made the storyteller’s meaning unclear.
                                                                                                (Ko et al, 2003, pg 313).

After the workshops, the storytellers would retell their story in front of a larger audience.
            The study yielded varying results. Out of twenty-two students, eleven students increase their original scores from their first telling. The remaining students saw a decrease in their scores or no change at all. Ko et al contributed the decrease in scores on the second telling to a number of factors:
            1. The type a story the students decided to share may have been emotional hard for them to share.
            2. Some students may have had a greater fear of trying something new than doing a mediocre job by repeating the first story
            3. The two-way exchange, which is scaffolding, was not exercise by the less knowledgeable individual.
                                                                                                (Ko et al, 2003).
  In Ko et al’s research, the examination of scaffolding and negotiation of meaning sheds light on the effectiveness and difficulties a teacher may have when minimizing an ELL negotiation of meaning; however, mentioned previously, scaffolding is a two-way street. If one party does not fulfill their part, then learning does not take place. As teachers, one thing we can strive for is the consistent use of best practices. Mentioned previously in this summation, the authors mention four practices that would be “current conceptions of effective ESL teaching” (pg 320). Let me reiterate them:
            1. Able to recognize weak places in the stories. In addition, they were also able to lead the storyteller in the right direction to fix those weak elements in their story.
            2. Able to be sensitive to interpretations and presuppositions that came from the storyteller’s cultural knowledge.
            3. Able to encourage members of the audience to ask questions. In addition, they were able to direct and redirect questions focusing on the storyteller’s topic and story.
            4. Able to supply “words, phrases, and idiomatic expressions when storytellers needed them and helped with the pronunciation difficulties that interfered with the storyteller’s meaning” (320).
                                                                                                (Ko et al, 2003).            

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