Peer Interaction in the L2 Classroom: A Study among Malaysian ESL Learners

  • Siak Bie Soh
  • Shu Sim Tam
  • Larisa Nikitina University of Malaya
Keywords: task complexity, task condition, Cognition Hypothesis, negotiation of meaning, language-related episodes, uptake of recast


Adopting a cognitive-interactionist perspective, this study focused on peer interaction in the L2 classroom. It explored types of peer interaction in terms of Negotiation of Meaning (NoM), Language-related Episodes (LRE) and Uptake of Recast that tend to prevail during task discussions in the L2 classroom. This study also assessed whether task complexity and task condition influenced L2 peer interaction. Thirty-six (N=36) Malaysian university students learning English as a second language participated in this study. The tasks were designed at two levels of cognitive complexity, namely, simple tasks with two causal reasoning demands and complex tasks with six causal reasoning demands. Each participant was involved in peer discussion sessions of simple and complex tasks in dyadic and triadic groupings. The findings revealed that clarification requests during the NoM were the most prominent feature of the peer interaction. A paired sample t-test showed that statistically significant difference was detected between the dyadic and triadic settings for the comprehension check feature (NoM), the incorrectly resolved episodes (LRE) and the unmodified uptake of recast. The article concludes with a discussion of theoretical and pedagogical implications from these findings.


Baralt, M., Gilabert, R., & Robinson, P. (2014). Task sequencing and instructed second language learning. Bloomsbury.

Dobao, A. F. (2014a). Attention to form in collaborative writing tasks: Comparing pair and small group interaction. Canadian Modern Language Review, 70(2), 158-187.

Dobao, A. F. (2014b). Vocabulary learning in collaborative tasks: A comparison of pair and small group work. Language Teaching Research, 18(4), 497-520.

Dobao, A. F., & Blum, A. (2013). Collaborative writing in pairs and small groups: Learners' attitudes and perceptions. System, 41(2), 365-378.

Ellis, R. (2012). Language teaching research and language pedagogy. John Wiley & Sons.

Ellis, R., & Barkhuizen, G. P. (2005). Analysing learner language. Oxford University Press.

Gass, S. M., & Mackey, A. (2007). Input, interaction, and output in second language acquisition. In B. VanPatten & J. Williams (Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 175-199). Routledge.

Gilabert, R., Barón, J., & Llanes, A. (2009). Manipulating cognitive complexity across task types and its impact on learners' interaction during oral performance, IRAL-International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 47, 367-395.

Kim, Y. (2012). Task complexity, learning opportunities, and Korean EFL learners' question development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34(4), 627-658.

Kim, Y., Payant, C., & Pearson, P. (2015). The intersection of task-based interaction, task complexity, and working memory: L2 question development through recasts in a laboratory setting. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 37(3), 549-581.

Kim, Y., & Taguchi, N. (2016). Learner-learner interaction during collaborative pragmatic tasks: The role of cognitive and pragmatic task demands. Foreign Language Annals, 49(1), 42-57.

Leeser, M. J. (2004). Learner proficiency and focus on form during collaborative dialogue. Language Teaching Research, 8(1), 55-81.

Lightbown, P. M. (1998). The importance of timing in focus on form. In C. Doughty & J. Williams (Eds.), Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition (pp. 177-196). Cambridge University Press.

Loewen, S., & Plonsky, L. (2015). An A-Z of applied linguistics research methods. Palgrave.

Long, M. H. (1981). Input, interaction, and second‐language acquisition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 379(1), 259-278.

Long, M. H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second language acquisition. In W. C. Ritchie & T. K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 413-468). Academic Press.

Martin-Beltran, M., Guzman, N.L. & Chen, P.- J. J. (2017). "Let's think about it together":

How teachers differentiate discourse to mediate collaboration among linguistically diverse student. Language Awareness, 26(1), 41-58.

Michel, M. C. (2011). Effects of task complexity and interaction on L2 performance. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Second language task complexity: Researching the cognition hypothesis of language learning and performance (pp. 141-173). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

How to Cite
Soh, S. B., Tam, S. S., & Nikitina, L. (2021). Peer Interaction in the L2 Classroom: A Study among Malaysian ESL Learners. Issues in Language Studies, 10(1), 131-150.