Participant Positioning Strategies in Telecollaborative Tandem Exchanges


Brianna Janssen Sánchez, University of Iowa

Click the video frame above to view the presentation. To ask the presenters a question about their presentation, please add a comment at the bottom of this page between October 3 and October 8. Presenters will check for and reply to questions each symposium day.


The purpose of this mixed methods study was to explore the diverse strategies that participants used to position themselves in telecollaborative tandem exchanges. Students studying English in Mexico and students studying Spanish in the U.S. formed pairs to participate in a semester long telecollaborative tandem exchange project where they video chatted four times, communicating 20 minutes in Spanish and 20 minutes in English. The researcher adopted the lens of positioning, moving away from strict and reciprocal NS-as-expert versus NNS-as-learner roles and assumptions of interaction, to explore how tandem participants positioned themselves and their partner at different moments throughout the exchange. The analyses triangulated all three data sources of the study—a participant survey, the chat 2 discourse transcripts, and participant interviews. The positioning strategies adopted by the participants in two case study pairs did not reflect the canonical view of NS and NNS roles in telecollaborative tandem exchanges (Appel & Mullen, 2000; Brammerts, 1996; Little & Brammerts, 1996).

In most cases, the alternation of roles of NS as expert and NNS as learner were not evident. Instead participant-positioning strategies seemed to stem from the situation and the topic of conversation, rather than from the language in which they were communicating. Participants had a strong desire to communicate and build a relationship as peers or as equals and at times expressed a strong resistance to accepting a NS-as-expert and NNS-as-learner roles. The findings indicate that because pair interaction in telecollaborative tandem exchanges is complex, it is recommended that focus be taken away from assigning participants roles assumed of the tandem context. Rather, the instructions for participants should invite students to engage in exploration of self and other through co-construction of pair discourse.

Brianna Janssen Sánchez

University of Iowa

5 thoughts on “Participant Positioning Strategies in Telecollaborative Tandem Exchanges”

  1. Hi Brianna, I was hoping you’d be on at 11:30 Arizona time as scheduled, but since there’s plenty of time for you to respond asynchronously, that’s fine, too! My question is regarding your findings–were the students told to act as language experts? And what reasons are there to expect that entering a telecollaboration partnership as peer equals, not experts, leads to more affordances for learning? I can imagine it would lead to more socio-pragmatic affordances for interaction, but what if improved accuracy is a goal? How can we encourage attention to form, or should we not? Thanks!

    1. Hi there, I apologize for not being able to answer your question in live time. I had the time figured out backwards and was on earlier instead of later! The students were each instructed by their respective teachers/coordinators to complete the task (i.e. speak 20 min in Spanish and 20 minutes in English about consumerism and likes and dislikes). They were not asked to act specifically as language expert or novice. However, those roles seem to be assumed by the tandem context in the literature and the role switching scenario was not obvious in these interactions. In some studies (e.g. Priego, 2011) students are specifically asked to take the role of native speaker.

      Instructors/programs participate in telecollaborative tandem learning for a variety of reasons. In my opinion and in practice, I would not participate in these types of exchanges with the explicit goal being accuracy and form focused instruction. While incidental learning around these areas can occur, I believe there is more possibility for learning when those aspects of language and culture learning are taken out of the equation. I believe that in this contexts, I would always focus more on goals of intercultural communication, communication strategies, and socio-pragmatic affordances like you mention. I think there are so many opportunities for learning in this context that go beyond classroom learning so we should capitalize on them!

  2. Hello Brianna,
    Could you elaborate on how you analysed your data, please?
    I am interested in understanding how you triangulated data from the participant survey, the chat transcripts, and participant interviews.
    Did you use any software?

    1. Hello, I transcribed and imported all of my data in excel. I coded the qualitative data based on themes, for this case, positioning strategies (i.e. self-positioning, positioning of the other, and the strategy) for the entirety of chat 2. Then I categorized those into groups and drew connections between different areas of the chat when positioning strategies were re-used. After that, I went back to the survey and interviews to make connections between what the participants said and what they did in the chat. Thanks for asking!

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