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A study on digital-based argumentative writing in English of South Korean university students

Kang, Howon; (2022) A study on digital-based argumentative writing in English of South Korean university students. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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In higher education in South Korea, English proficiency has been specifically emphasised by the government (Kang, 2015; Kang, 2018; Kim, 2017; Shim & Park, 2008; Williams, 2015). However, writing skills have had little attention in education settings, including higher education institutions (Kim, 2018; Shin, 2018; Park, 2020; Shin & Hyun, 2020; Yu, 2019), despite a series of educational reforms. Students in South Korean higher education are now facing practical and specific needs for argumentative writing in English (Shim, 2016; Shin, 2018). However, the overall context of English education does not fully reflect their real needs (Kim, 2018; Kwon, 2012; Kwak, 2017; Shim, 2016). South Korean universities require their students to reach a specific level at one of the English proficiency tests (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018; Shim, 2016), most of which include at least one argumentative writing task. Additionally, the certificate of English proficiency test is widely used as the basic skills reference for their career (Kim, 2018). In the meantime, writing proficiency has increasingly gained its own weight in English language tests (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018; Shin, 2018), adding to the burden on students to develop their writing proficiency (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018). Despite students’ need for improvement in English writing proficiency, including English argumentative writing, writing courses given by South Korean higher education institutions are still rare (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018; Shin, 2018; Yu, 2019) and often allow little room for reviewing tasks (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018; Shim, 2018), even though they commonly use a process-based approach. Furthermore, in immediate response to their needs, higher education institutions in both the public and private sectors have maintained narrow academic attention, focusing on test specific writing skills (Kim, 2018; Shin, 2018). All these situations have resulted in a lack of educational opportunities for students to receive theoretically and systematically well designed instruction in developing their argumentation skills (Shin, 2018). For South Korean students learning English as a foreign language (EFL), argumentative writing in English includes acquiring an understanding of and the skills for both critical thinking and English-specific conventions for the target genre of writing (Ahn & Park, 2019; Choi, 2008; Shim, 2016). To promote a fast and concrete understanding of argumentation in English, representative organisational structures are often used in instructional practices. While many of the courses for English argumentative writing in South Korea are limited to the delivery of instructions, or creating a rough claim-evidence link in a paragraph, this simple formula-based approach may have a limited influence on the level of argumentation that university students in South Korea are able to develop (Choi, 2008). To enhance students’ in-depth knowledge of and skills for making arguments in English, a systematic and effective instructional model is necessary, targeting argumentation development and investigated by rigorous research. However, with a traditionally narrow focus on writing in English education, studies on English writing itself, including argumentative writing, have been limited, despite the importance of this area. As a way of introducing systematically presented models into instruction in English argumentative writing, the Toulmin model can be an effective option. It suggests a detailed, sequenced, intensively explained process for the logical framework for writing in English. In this sense, it is necessary to explore how to modify and apply Toulmin’s components into the courses for English argumentative writing in South Korean higher education. In addition to the practical applicability of the Toulmin model, it is necessary to consider the common context in which writing courses in South Korean higher education institutions provide some phases for drafting and revision/editing, which are broadly anchored in the process-based writing approach. Considering the practical challenge caused by a lack of time for drafting in writing courses (Kim, 2018; Ma, 2018; Shim, 2018), online based classes can be a better option, enabling more flexibility in time and space. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, diverse synchronous and asynchronous digital writing environments have been utilised in the field of higher education in South Korea to enhance students’ writing performance and also increase the connectivity between learners and teachers. However, the digital environments for English writing in South Korea are still based on a lack of rigour in terms of research evidence, which signals the need for more research into how best to develop digital writing platforms and incorporate necessary support for users. With the two main areas of English argumentative writing and digital learning environments for writing combined, this study explores the effectiveness of a digital-based argumentative writing course in South Korea, as well as the pedagogical implications. To investigate the effects of digital course development for instruction in English argumentative writing for university students in South Korea and derive insights in digital course design for English argumentative writing for university students in South Korea, this study used a sequential mixed-methods design: quantitative phase followed by qualitative phase for collection and analysis of data sets. The English argumentative writing course in this study applies the Toulmin model (1958; 2003) as a specific teaching strategy, with a cycle of drafting and exchanging feedback using the process-based writing approach. To provide the online group with a digital-based collaborative writing1 environment for feedback exchanges, the writing platform, Scholar, was used. In this study, 43 undergraduate students in South Korea participated in a writing course for one semester, 22 participants in a control group (offline course) and 21 participants in an intervention group (online course). They participated in pre- and post-writing tests, two sessions of interviews, and narrative writing for reflection. Also, ten university teaching staff and e-developers took part in one individual interview session each, to provide professional views on the online instructional design that is implemented in the English argumentative writing of this study. In terms of the effectiveness of the online writing course for developing argumentation skills in English, the findings from the quantitative analysis show both online and offline courses had a positive impact on improvement and retention. Although the statistical results present no indication that the online class had higher learning gains than the offline group by any significant difference, this result is supported by the findings from the qualitative analysis, which indicates that the online group performed better in terms of the quality and the quantity of peer feedback. In addition, the findings from the qualitative analysis suggest that the writing course in this study helped students to develop their knowledge and sensitivity in argumentation in English, and the online course facilitated enhanced engagement in feedback tasks. Moreover, despite recognising the value of face-to-face interaction for English argumentative writing, the qualitative findings suggest that the anonymity and convenience of the online writing course in this study encouraged participation in feedback. Finally, the findings from teaching staff and e-developer interviews reveal generally positive perceptions of and evaluations of the usefulness and applicability of the Toulmin model for English argumentation development, and the collaborative writing environment of Scholar. ( 1. In this study, the term, ‘collaborative writing,’ means individual student’s essay writing supported by external feedback, including peer and teacher feedback, not co-authorship in writing one shared essay together. )

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: A study on digital-based argumentative writing in English of South Korean university students
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author [year]. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10154753
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