EFL Learners’ Problem Solving While Writing: A Think-Aloud Protocol Study

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Atsuko Sonoda, Sophia University

Reference Data:

Sonoda, A. (2016). EFL learners’ problem solving while writing: A think-aloud protocol study. In P. Clements, A. Krause, & H. Brown (Eds.), Focus on the learner. Tokyo: JALT.

This paper highlights EFL writers’ thinking process through think-aloud protocol analysis of 22 Japanese university students. The participants were asked to generate an idea of a novelty product and write a product proposal as they engaged in think-aloud. Out of 624 language-related episodes (LREs), 72% were meaning-based and 17% were grammatical episodes. With the help of dictionaries, 80% of noticed features were successfully solved. However, the analysis of LREs also revealed that (a) grammatical problems were less successfully solved (68%) and (b) learners frequently relied on L1-L2 translation, which led them to produce inappropriate expressions. For the learners to solve problems more successfully, this study leads to suggestions that: (a) learners cross-reference L2-L1 and L1-L2 dictionaries, (b) they learn to rephrase L1, and (c) they note what they felt was problematic, so that they can get feedback from the teacher.