Microgenetic Analysis Of Efl Readers Dialogic Interactions Education Essay

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The present study aimed at investigating foreign language learners' reading comprehension development through implementing a sociocultural technique. The focus was on teacher scaffolding as a form of regulation to investigate their possible movement to a higher level in the ZPD. 24 Iranian university students were chosen as the participants of this study. Microgenetic analysis of the learners' interaction with tutor revealed the learners' potential and appropriation to self-regulation. The teacher's graduated help was a determining factor in moving learners along the ZPD to higher levels. Starting from implicit regulations and giving appropriate level of help seemed to play important roles in learners' cognitive development. Episode by episode, the gradual assumption of responsibility and movement from other-regulation to self-regulation were noticed as learners adopted a more active role in initiating, revising and repairing in the process of reading. Movement of the learners within their ZPD to higher levels was clear not only by the actions undertaken by the learners, but also by the performance of the tutor as he gradually used less help because learners showed signs of independency and self-regulation. The findings of the present study also support the idea that different learners have different ZPDs in dealing with similar task.

Key words: Reading comprehension, Sociocultural theory, Teacher scaffolding, Dialogic interaction


Reading is a multifaceted process and its understanding requires that we investigate several different processes that are involved in it. It is probably true to say that more time is spent teaching reading than any other skill (Nunan, 2001). Though there are plenty of researches in this area, reading comprehension continues to be a problematic area for foreign language students (Dreyer and Nel, 2003) and traditional reading comprehension models do not seem to solve learners' reading comprehension problems.

For many years reading has been viewed purely from cognitive perspective and a great deal of research has focused on the cognitive aspect of reading. For those who are working in this area reading is considered as a receptive skill and the central question is what cognitive processes underlie and account for success and failure in learners' attempt to master the second/foreign language in general and second/foreign language reading in particular (King, 1987; Rueda, MacGillivray, Monzo, & Arzubiaga, 2001; Segalowitz & Lightbown, 1999). For cognitive theorists and researchers the main areas of inquiry include memory, information processing approaches, attention and noticing. Claros (2008) stated that

cognitive theorists conceived language learning as a cognitive and individual process in which knowledge is constructed as the learner 1) is exposed to comprehensible input, 2) is given opportunities to both, negotiate meaning, 3) and receive negative feedback. They tend to agree that a learner needs to be exposed to input. However, there is no agreement on the type of input needed and much less, how such input is processed in order to become acquired (p.145).

The main criticism leveled against this view to language learning in general is that the social context of learning is overlooked to a great extent. This criticism, which is drawn upon from sociocultural theory of learning, tries to put more focus on the social factors in the process of learning. It states that learning is not an individualistic process and it needs to be done in a social context with the help of some peers or expert teachers (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Yang & Wilson, 2006; Zuengler & Miller, 2006). Unlike cognitive approaches which view learning as something that is to be learned based on some predetermined stages, sociocultural theory points out that learning takes place in a sociocultural environment and views learners as active constructors of their own learning contexts (Johnson, 2006; Mitchel & Myles, 2004; Williams & Burden, 1997). Sociocultural theory, like cognitive theory, is concerned with cognitive development but unlike cognitive development it puts social factors first. In other words, sociocultural theory states that without social interaction with other more knowledgeable peers, cognitive development will not occur. Indeed, mediation and scaffolding are prerequisite for cognitive development to take place (Aljaafreh & Lantolf, 1994; Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). In this regard, reading which was viewed traditionally as a purely individualistic skill has been looked from a completely different perspective. From the viewpoint of sociocultural theory of learning (Lantolf, 2006: Remi & Lawrence, 2001), reading is a social skill which requires an active participation and interaction of the learners involved in it.


Sociocultural theory states that "human activities take place in cultural context and are mediated by language and other symbolic systems" (Huong, 2003, p. 33). The theory emphasizes the importance of social interaction and social mediation for learning to take place and is based on the interdependences and interconnection of social and individual processes in the co-construction of knowledge. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is a central concept in sociocultual theory that tackles the important role of teachers as mediators and is at the heart of the concept of scaffolding (Huong, 2003; Clark & Graves, 2004; Kozulin, 2004; Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Lantolf & Poehner, 2008). ZPD refers to "what an individual can accomplish when working in collaboration with others versus what he or she could have accomplish without collaborations with others" (Zuengler & Miller, 2006, p. 39).

ZPD is such an important concept in sociocultural theory because it refutes a static view of learning. Rather than evaluating students' actual stage of development, or level of L2 proficiency, Vygotsky (1986) argues that what should be evaluated is their potential to perform with the assistance and guidance of a more knowledgeable peer. It is precisely through this engagement that the novice becomes able to perform independently and to develop an expert mediational system. The notion of ZPD is used in conjunction with the concept of scaffolding (Guerrero & Villamil, 2000), as scaffolding is a tool to move the learner in the zone. The concept of scaffolding was first used by Vygotsky and Luria (Cited in Guerrero & Villamil, 2000) to refer to how adults introduce cultural means to children. It was then used by Bruner (1987) as a metaphor for mother's verbal efforts to maintain conversation with a child. In the same line Ferreira (2008) pointed out that "Scaffolding is a type of interaction that occurs in the ZPD or that can construct it" (p. 11). The scaffolding concept has been delineated by different people in the literature (Bruner, 1987 Donato, 1994). Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) pointed to three mechanisms of effective help or scaffolding that should occur in the learners' ZPD. They stated that the intervention or help should be

Graduated: starting with help which is more implicit and gradually becomes more specific until the appropriate level is reached

Contingent: help should be offered only when it is needed and withdrawn as soon as the novice shows signs of self-control and ability to function independently.

Dialogic: discovering the learner's ZPD is a dialogic activity which is undertaken by both interacting participants.

In attempting to make connection between classroom interaction and second language development, researchers have tried to use the mechanisms of scaffolding in the ZPD within L2 scenarios. Considering research studies in the sociocultural field, it is worth mentioning that most of the researches have been carried out using different types of scaffoldings and meditational tools to assess learners' language development in their ZPD and studies on scaffolding have traditionally examined tutor-learner or expert-novice situations (Adair-Hauck & Donato,1994; Aljaafreh and Lantolf, 1994; Diaz, 2009; Hong, Wei, Guanghua & Wanxia, 2011; Jadallah, Anderson, Nguyen-Jahiel, Miller, Kim, Kuo, Dong & Wu, 2011; Kim, 2010; McMahon, 2000).

In an early study investigating the effectiveness of expert-novice interaction, Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) scrutinized the effects of negative feedback (error correction) or other regulation on the microgenetic development of second language learners. In an eight week tutorial writing sessions focusing on error correction of articles, tense markings, prepositions and modal verbs, they found out that both implicit and explicit feedback were effective on the learner's ZPD. Their findings suggest that there are different ZPDs for different learners and different features and that both implicit and explicit feedback may be needed depending on the learners' ZPD. In this regard, they pointed out that the kind of feedback provided for the learners is related to how the learners notice the error and how they are able to eradicate them. In addition to the above findings, they claimed that too much feedback may inhibit development or self-regulation.

Using the data from their earlier study, Lantolf and Aljaafreh (1995) investigated regression, or what some L2 researchers refer to as backsliding, in writing development of two L2 learners: One Japanese and another Portuguese. They found that microgenetic development is not a smooth linear process, but entails forward movement and regression. Nassaji and Swain (2000) made use of Aljaafreh and Lantolf's regulatory scale to examine a tutor's oral feedback on the written composition of two adult Korean learners of English. The focus of analysis in this study was on the corrective feedback on appropriate article use in English. One of the students was provided with assistance which was within her ZPD and the other student was assisted in a random manner. Through a qualitative analysis of the data they found that the ZPD student performed better than the non-ZPD student, and that while the ZPD student used articles less accurately in her first composition than the non-ZPD student, she did better than the non-ZPD student in her final writing task. The analysis also suggested that the ZPD student developed both microgentically and macrogenetically, whereas the random assistances were not effective for non-ZPD student. In addition, it was found that non-ZPD student produced better result with more explicit help than less explicit help.

Nassaji and Cumming (2000) focusing on learning grammatical forms in expert-novice interaction linked the ZPD concept to the pragmatic use of language. They found that in journal-based communicative interactions, the learners managed to appropriate the target language features as the result of expert scaffolding. That is, the learners were able to attend to forms which were introduced under the peers' assistance. In an investigation of the classroom interaction in one lesson in a partial immersion program in a school in China, Pie (2005) found out that the teacher who had managed to estimate the learners' current actual level of developments was able to scaffold properly according to their ZPDs. The teacher had taken care of her students, individual differences and their needs and managed to guide them differently at different times while regarding each learner's developing pace.

As can be seen from the above mentioned literature, almost all studies were case studies which implemented microgenetic approach to learners' development in the ZPD. In addition, investigation of learners' microgenetic development in these studies has been carried out with regard to learners' knowledge of language form, writing skill and their revision ability. The present study aims at investigating foreign language learners' reading comprehension development through implementing a microgenetic approach. The focus is on teacher scaffolding as a form of regulation in learners' reading comprehension task to investigate their possible movement to a higher level in the ZPD. Microgenetic analysis of the episodes from the learners' interaction with tutor reveals the learners' potential and appropriation to self-regulation.


Non-English majoring students in general English classes in Mazandaran University, Iran were chosen as the participants of this study. Reading comprehension was the only skill covered in these classes and it seemed appropriate to choose these students as the participants of the study. They consisted of 43 learners at the beginning of the course but some of them were excluded from the study for the following reasons: some of the students did not participate in the class sessions appropriately and some others changed their classes or dropped the course. In addition, some of the students were exclude because the data collected from their groups were of low quality for the researchers to transcribe. The final pool of participants of this study was 24 students (12 male and 13 female) and their age range was 18-30. This study used intact groups; i.e. actual university classes. They formed eight subgroups in which each consisted of three students: one high, one low and another middle level of proficiency.

In order to determine the level of proficiency of the learners for locating them in different subgroups, a version of Nelson Test of Language Proficiency (400 B) was administered to all learners. It consists of four parts: close passage, grammatical structures, vocabulary and pronunciation. All parts were in the form of multiple choice questions. There were in all 50 items and the time allotted was 50 minutes. The test was pilot-tested on a similar group of ten students and the reliability of the test scores according to the KR.21 formula turned out to be 75.78 which was suitable for this study.

3.1 Procedure

All the students were expected to do the reading tasks from the required textbook and each session they were asked to do 2 to 4 tasks as part of the course syllabus for a total of about 10 sessions. The textbook used for this study was 'Reading academically: a task-oriented approach' (Yaqubi & Rayati Damavandi, 2009). The book was designed to develop basic reading skills of the university students. Each session lasted about 80 minutes and the classes were held once a week. The learners were informed that they would receive teacher scaffolding during their collaboration as they were divided into 8 groups of three learners to do the tasks collaboratively with the help of the tutor.

Rea-Dickins (2006) states that teacher scaffolding is a general term which is used to encompass all forms of assistance that teachers may provide to promote their learners' language awareness, development and achievement. In the teacher scaffolding group, at first the tutor asked the learners in each group to read the task carefully and do it collaboratively. They were asked to read the tasks together and do their best to accomplish the required task with the help of each other and tutor. While learners were busy doing the task in their groups, the tutor observed and participated in the process where necessary. Whenever the learners asked a question or whenever an error occurred, and if the reading process failed, the tutor began the scaffolding techniques. The scaffolding techniques used in this study followed the three mechanisms of effective help in the ZPD proposed by Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994). Based on Vygotsky's theory, Aljaafreh and Lantolf stated that for intervention to be effective within the learners' ZPD, it should be graduated, contingent and dialogic. The help provided by the tutor for the learners of this study was in the learners' appropriate level to encourage them to work at their potential level of ability. In other words, the tutor tried to give them the minimal level of assistance needed to work out the required tasks and if not useful, more help would be given. The tutor tried to give learners graduated help, from implicit to explicit, until they reached the appropriate level.

Another characteristic of teacher scaffolding mechanisms provided by the tutor was providing help only when it was needed. When the learner had problem and/or error in performing the needed task, the appropriate level of help would be given, and when there was no need for assistance, no help would be provided, consequently. In this regard, when the learners were in the other-regulation phase (dependency on others) the help was provided, and as the learners showed signs of independency and self-regulation the guidance was no longer given. In addition to the graduation and contingency of the scaffolding techniques, the dialogic nature of the help provided for learners was also of crucial importance in the sociocultural theory of learning. Indeed, the scaffolding given to the learners were in the form of dialogic interaction and negotiation which happened between tutor and learners. It is through this dialogic activity which the ZPD and development of the learners are identified. In addition, the students reading comprehension was scaffolded in all the three phases of reading: pre, while and post reading. The dialogic interactions of the learners and tutor in the subgroups were audio recorded and transcribed for further analysis.


In the analysis of the results of this study, we made use of the transcripts of the interactions between the tutor and tutees. As Ellis and Barkhuizen (2005) pointed out, the first step in doing a qualitative microgenetic analysis is selecting relevant episodes for analysis. A relevant episode was defined as an episode containing an effort or committing an error in doing reading comprehension tasks and the tutor's scaffolded help. To analyze the qualitative data of the study, the researchers looked for evidence of mediated microgentic development within the learners' ZPD. The aim was to determine whether the learners showed evidence of shifting from other-regulation to self-regulation. By other-regulation we meant reliance on the tutor or other peers in order to perform and self-regulation it entailed complete self-generated and automatized performance. In doing so, Aljaafreh and Lantolf's (1994) implicit to explicit regulatory scale was adapted and used to consider the frequency and quality of help the learners received from the tutor (Appendix 1).

It should also be noted that majority of the participants' interactions were in Persian, with English used partially for referring to or reading different parts of the text. To facilitate the understanding by the readers, English version of the episodes is presented here. The notation system used in the transcripts is as follows:

[ ] Extra explanations that need to be mentioned

( ) are used when participants translate a word or phrase

" " are used when participants are reading from the text.

Bold is used when words were said in English (text which is not in boldface was said in Persian)

Episodes A and B are taken from the dialogic interactions between the tutor and learners on using dash ( _ ) in a reading comprehension task. They show an intra-session microgenetic development. It seems that in both episodes learners cannot complete the task without the tutor's help but the level of help given in the two episodes are of varying degree. The scaffolded help given to the learners started from the most indirect way of assisting learners in achieving the correct answer, which was reading the related parts of the text and asking questions, and as needed, providing more help in a gradual and progressive manner. Upon receiving level 5 help on Aljaafreh and Lantolf's regulatory scale (turn 4) provided by the tutor in episode A, student A is able to get to the right answer while student C is not. Student C needed more helps to discover how to handle the task appropriately. In fact, student C was not able to understand the point until he received help at level 9 on regulatory scale (turn 11). However, in the second encounter of the task (episode B), the learners needed much less help to carry out the task appropriately. Indeed, they were able to carry out the task upon receiving the third prompt on the regulatory scale (turn 5) and through a confirmation check question from the tutor (turn 6). In episode B the learners' responsive actions are quite different and show a shift toward self-regulation. A remarkable reduction in the amount of help needed by the learner to carry out the task and take over the problem is noticed. The tutor does not have to provide any help for the learners, who are able to self-initiate (turn 1) and complete the task simply on the basis of tutor's indirect question (Aljaafreh & Lantolf, 1994). The difference in the amount of help needed in the first and the second encounter of similar task can be taken as a sign of an improvement in the part of the participants. It indicates that the interaction between the tutor and the tutees on the first encounter of the task helped the tutees to move along in their ZPD such that they were able to carry out the same task with fewer levels of help when encountered the second time.

Episodes A, Session 1

S1 (student 1): "different societies at different times have allowed slavery"

T (Tutor): why did the writer use dash in the above example?

S2 (student 2): to define

T: what to define?

S2: a word, Slavery.

T: Slavery?

S2: "a practice in which"

S1: nothing is defined

T: dash is not used here?

S1: dash is used, but the rest is mentioned.

T: what happened after dash? Something is not explained after the dash?

S1: no, after dash "a practice

T: read the sentence again carefully

S1: aha, yes.

T: so, what is explained?

S1: slavery

Episodes B, Session 1

S1: The entire sentence is explanation?

S2: "the sport of archery"

T: where did you use dash?

S2: after archery

T: one dash is needed here?

S3: another dash should be used where the explanation is finished?

T: yes.

Episodes C, D and E are extracts from the interactions on guessing the meaning of new words from contextual clues that illustrate both inter- and intra-session development of the learners. In episode C, the learners rely on the tutor's feedback to accomplish the required task and the tutor, at first, does this without having to resort to explicit level of help trying to reject unsuccessful attempts at arriving to the correct answer (turn 4, level 4 help). At this point, the learners take the responsibility for finding the answer but are not able to complete it until they receive help at level 5 on the regulatory scale. It seems clear that the tutor feels the need to move on to an explicit level of help after the learner said "I don't know" (turn 6) and that the learners could not have reached to the correct answer without the tutor's help. Episode D, which is taken from a different tutorial session, deals with similar task of guessing the meaning of words from context. In this episode, the tutor's rejection of unsuccessful attempt at guessing the meaning (turn 6) is a sufficient help to elicit the appropriate response from the learners, who immediately proceed to produce the correct meaning of the words based on the context. Taken from the same tutorial session as that of episode D, episode E also indicates learners' trial to get the meaning of unknown words from the context. This time the learners are much closer to self-regulation as they were able to carry out the task with minimal level of help from the tutor. Through reading a related part of the text (turn 2), learners were able to expand their ability to guess the meaning of words in this context. It shows that learners are high in their ZPD and close to intramental functioning as they are able to solve their reading comprehension problems through implicit strategies. Episodes C, D and E reveal a movement of the learners towards independent performance as gradually they were given less help and they could carry out the required task with minimal level of help.

Episodes C, Session 2

[They are trying to guess the meaning of is bordered]

S4: what is the meaning of the word that is written in bold face?

S5: board means (takhte)

S6: is bordered

T: board means (takhte), how about bordered?

S5: is bordered means (gharar darad). What do you think A?

S4: I don't know. I think…

T: "is bordered on the south by the republic of the Sudan". Indeed, it says from south it is what with Sudan?

S4: neighbor?

T: something like this. When it says this country is bordered on north by this country, it means this country is?

S4: (ham marz or hamsaye)

Episodes D, Session 5

T: air consists of small pieces called molecules

S8 : basic chemical materials

S7 : no, no

T: what is the meaning of element?

S9: (madeye avalie)

T: no, no

S7: ( ajza, joze shimiaie)

S9 : (onsor)

T: yes

Episodes E, Session 5

S9: what is the meaning of respiration?

T: "through respiration, humans and other animals take in oxygen and release or send out carbon dioxide"

S9: (tanafos)

T: yes, you did not need to check your dictionary

S9: from the context we got the meaning.

Episodes F, G and H represent the students' attempt to find the details of reading comprehension and the tutor's assisted help in three different tutorial sessions (inter-session development). A detailed qualitative analysis makes it clear that the dialogic interaction of the learners and tutor has the potential to move learners along the ZPD to a higher level of self-regulation and independency. Learners' attempt in doing the task, as is shown in episode F, is started with reading and translating the text word by word without a clear outcome. Upon receiving tutor's level 9 help (turn 1), they tried to modify their way of reading the text to get the details of it. Their further attempt in this episode leads the tutor to provide another assisted help which is much more implicit than the first one (turn 3, level 5). The next episode in this part shows a similar task done by learners at the presence of tutor. As they struggled in finding the correct answer, the tutor asked a reminder question regarding how to read the text to extract some details of it without reading it completely and word by word. Upon receiving this kind of help, they were able to use the previously mentioned scaffolded help in reading to find the details. Episode H, which is also concerned with a task of skimming the text to extract some specific information, shows a development in learners' performance. Learners are actually applying the same rules in doing a similar task of getting some details from the text without tutor's help or assistance. Indeed, the tutor is present as a potential dialogic partner in reading the text and doing the required task. Learners are able to generalize on the basis of feedback given at the former sessions to a latter session. It shows a marked development in the learners' cognitive system that results from their interaction with a more capable tutor.

Episodes F, Session 4

[They are reading the text to find the three main symptom of Alzheimer]

[They are reading and translating the text word by word for a relatively long time]

T: read the first sentence of the paragraph and see if it is related to your answer or not. If it's related to your answer read the rest of the paragraph. And if it is not, jump to the next paragraph. Because the first sentence is usually the topic sentence of the paragraph.

[They are reading the first sentence of each paragraph to get to the answer]

S11: I think the answer is in the 4th paragraph. A progressive decease shows it symptom gradually.

T: aha. So read this paragraph carefully

T: do not translate

S10: symptoms are shown gradually

S11: Symptoms disappear with the patient's death. Seem forgetful

S12: when it starts.

T: did you get to the answer?

S11: yes

Episodes G, Session 5

[Reading the text to find the reasons for forgetting]

S13: people are under stress, accident or head injury

S15: I think it is the third paragraph

S14: another one is Alzheimer

T: did you follow the rule I told you, read the first line of the paragraph?

S13, S14, S15: yes yes

T: read the other paragraphs

S13: if time passes, people become forgetful

T: passage of time

S15: brain forget things that it did not need any more for a long time

T: it is the passage of time, yes?

S15: yes

T: how many reasons did you find?

S15: many

T: three main reasons are mentioned in the text, not thirty!!!! Read the first paragraph, and the first line of other paragraph to get to the answer.

S13: one reason: not practice or review

T: the second one?

S13: the place that information is stored is difficult to reach

T: it is not a reason for forgetting

S15: outside factors

T: outside factors

S15: passage of time

Episodes H, Session 9

S16: read the text and fill the blanks

S17: there is an example. What is the meaning of memory? And it is explained

T: of course yes.

S16: type of memory

T: type of memory or types of memory?

S18: types of memory. There are three types.

T: yes. It is also written in the outline: a, b, and c.

S16: factual

T: yes

S17: "one type is motor skill memory"

S16: tell people how to move and do physical activities.

S17: another is this one: emotional memory

Different ZPDs for different learners and different tasks

An important dimension of the negotiated help and microgenesis first proposed by Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) is that "different learners often have different ZPDs for the same target language form and will therefore require different levels of help" (p. 473). With regard to the present study, the researcher has tried to find out whether learners' have different ZPDs in dealing with the same reading task and whether different levels of regulation is needed for accomplishing the same tasks by different learners. Episodes I and J represent two different groups' interaction in carrying out the same reading comprehension task: 'According to the paragraph below, what problems may fat people have to face?' Viewing the final outcome, it is clear to state that both groups of learners came up with the final answer correctly, but considering the learners' potential level of development, a more informative picture emerges. When both episodes are investigated in more details, it is evident that in episode I little or almost no help is required from the tutor to carry out the task, while episode J reveals that a wide range of help is necessary before the learners even begin to realize what the task is. It seems that even without the help in turn 3 learners in episode I are able to do the task appropriately, whereas in episode J the tutor, after using some implicit levels of help, is compelled to provide more explicit regulations. In terms of regulatory scale, all levels of help are used for learners in episodes J, but for learners in episode I, only levels 1 and 2 are needed. Therefore, the same task represents different ZPDs for different learners. In the case of Episode I, the ability in doing the task is high in the ZPD and the learners are very close to independently doing the task. In the case of episode J, on the other hand, the ability in doing the same task is low in the ZPD and the learners are in need of more explicit help for doing the task. In this regard, it is not reasonable to assume that the same task represents similar problems for each learner as learners approach it from a different location in the ZPD.

Episodes I, Session 3

T: what does the task ask you?

S19: what problems may fat people have?

T: ok, number one is done as an example, "obese people may be unable to do physical activities". Read the text and do the rest.

S20: blood pressure,

S21: diabetes

T: louder please. What did you write?

S20: I'm not sure is it correct or not.

T: it makes no problem. Don't worry. Read it.

S20: they will have bad feel because they seem bad.

T: or they look bad

S20: seem is not correct?

T: look is better here. It talks about appearance.

S19: "others may treat them unfairly". Or because they look fat, others may treat them unfairly?

T: yeah

Episodes J, Session 4

S22: according to paragraph below, did you face fat people?

T: no, how did you understand it?

S22: to face means (robero shodan)

T: Face means (robero shodan) yes, but here it did not say that you face fat people

S23: you no.

S24: most of the people are faced with obesity?

T: no. "According to the paragraph below, what problems may fat people have to face?" You are asked to write the problems of fat people. One is written as an example. Read the text and write the other problems.

S22: fat people are not able to do physical activities.

T: yes, it is the first one that is written as example. Write the other problems.

S22: obesity may cause other problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, breathing problems.

T: "others may treat them unfairly" is it a problem?


In the case of teacher scaffolding or expert-novice interaction, teacher's graduated help was a determining factor in moving learners along the ZPD to higher level. Starting from implicit regulations and giving appropriate level of help seem to play important roles in learners' cognitive development. It is clear in almost all interactions, both intersession and intra-session episodes, that learners developed in the second encounter of the task. It shows that learners were able to generalize on the basis of the feedback given on the former tutorial to a latter session. In other words, learners moved toward independent performance as they were given less help and they were able to carry out the task with minimal levels of help. It shows a remarkable development in the learners' cognitive development which is the result of dialogic interaction accompanying with contingent and graduated help.

Microgenetic approach to data analysis makes it clear that the learners moved within their ZPD. Episode by episode, the gradual assumption of responsibility and movement from other-regulation to self-regulation is noticed. Learners adopt a more active role in initiating, revising and repairing in the process of reading. Movement of the learners within their ZPD was clear not only by the actions undertaken by the learners during the reading process, but also by the performance of the tutor as a potential dialogic partner. As noted throughout the analysis, the tutor gradually used less help because learners showed signs of independency and self-regulation.

The above findings are consistent with the Vygotskian sociocultural perspective in that learning depends crucially on regulation and mediation provided by other more knowledgeable peers (Lantolf & Poehner, 2008). From this point of view, learning is not an individualistic process that a person can do alone, but is an interactive and collaborative undertaking that requires other people. The dialogic nature of the interactions that occurred among leaners and tutor has the potential to activate learners' ZPD to take the responsibility of their learning task. In this regard learners move through the hierarchy to the higher potential level.

In line with the above mentioned argument, the findings of the present study also support the idea that different learners have different ZPDs in dealing with similar task (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994). The results of the present study show that different learners approach the same reading comprehension task from varying locations of their ZPD. It heightens the need for providing different levels of help, regulation and feedback for different learners with varying levels of ZPD. The tutors' responsibility as an active participant in the interaction is to pinpoint the learners ZPD and to provide appropriate levels of help for them to deal with problematic area.

The results of the study show that teacher-driven help and feedback lead to development and self-regulation of learners in their ZPD. It can be attributed to the following reasons. Learners in the teacher scaffolding context get the most out of their interactions with a more knowledgeable peer (tutor) who provided graduated, contingent and dialogic interaction. Learners were highly motivated in doing reading comprehension tasks as they were able to carry out the task appropriately with the help of the tutor. And finally, sociocultural teaching techniques may empower learners with different reading strategies to cope with different tasks and skills in reading comprehension process.

In conclusion, the findings of this study recommend the use of more social and cooperative techniques in the context of language learning and teaching. It is more in favor of a collaborative learning environment which requires the presence of an expert-peer that provides learners with the appropriate level of help and opportunities to correct themselves and at the same time to learn the strategic processes needed for the learning of new and difficult skills. This allows EFL learners to be active constructors of their own learning environments. It is also worth mentioning that the dialogic interaction in the sociocultural context helps the learners to move from other-regulation to self-regulation; from the dependency on others to independency (Lantolf, 2006; Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). It means that this teaching technique is more facilitative and helpful for EFL learners to gain mastery and independency on their reading material.