Intragroup Conflicts during Collaborative Writing in an ESL/EFL Preparatory Programme

Santini Pathinathan, Yong Mei Fung


This paper seeks to investigate the types of conflicts that occur during collaborative writing among a group of ESL/EFL upper intermediate students in a preparatory programme. It also examines how these conflicts are resolved among the group members. A group consisting of four students was chosen for this study. Audio and video-recordings of collaborative sessions, semi-structured interviews and students’ journal were used in the data collection process. The results of this qualitative study showed that there were two prominent types of conflicts that occurred during the collaboration, namely, substantive conflict and affective conflict. Substantive conflict was found to be useful as the group was able to voice disagreements and consider alternative ideas. However, there was more evidence of affective conflict where the group had misunderstandings and differences due to personal views about group members. The study shows that the success of collaborative writing depends very much on how conflict is handled and resolved among the members.



collaborative writing, substantive conflict, affective conflict, argumentative essay, ESL/EFL learners

Full Text:



Aljaafreh, A., & Lantolf, J. P. (1994). Negative feedback as regulation and second language learning in the zone of proximal development. Modern Language Journal, 78, 465-483.

Amason, A.C. (1996). Distinguishing the effect of functional and dysfunctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a paradox for top management teams. Academy of Management Journal, 39(1), 123-148.

Barron, B. (2003).When smart groups fail. Journal of Learning Science, 12(3), 307-359.

Bruffee, K. A. (1973). Collaborative learning: Some practical models. College English, 34, 634-643. 10.2307/375331

Bruner, J. S. (1975). The ontogenesis of speech acts. Journal of Child Language, 2, 1-19.

Burnett, R.E. (1993). Conflict in collaborative decision-making. In N.R. Blyler & C. Thralls (Eds.), Professional communication: The social perspective (pp. 144-163). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Carson, J., & Nelson, G. (1996). Chinese students' perceptions of ESL peer response group interaction. Journal of Second Language Writing, 5(1), 1-19.

Dale, H. (1994). Collaborative writing interactions in one ninth-grade classroom. Journal of Educational Research, 87 (6), 334-344.

Derry, S. J. (1992). Beyond symbolic processing: expanding horizons for educational psychology. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 413–418.

Ede, L., & Lunsford, A. (1985). Let them write- together. English Quarterly, 18(4), 119-127.

Eisenhardt, K. M., Kahwajy, J. L., & Bourgeois, L. J. (1997). How teams have a good fight. Harvard Business Review, 75(4), 77–86.

Gimenez, J., & Thondhlana, J. (2012). Collaborative writing in engineering: Perspectives from research and implications for undergraduate education. European Journal of Engineering Education, 1-17.

Hilgers, T. (1987). Young writers facing a new collaborative writing task. Journal of Research in Childhood Education. 2 (2), 108-116. doi: 10.1080/02568548709594927

Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's Consequences: International differences in work related values. (2nd ed.). Beverly Hill, CA: Sage.

Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 256-282.

Krause, S. D. (2007). The process of research writing chapter four, “How to collaborate and write with others”. Retrieved May 2, 2011 from the Process of Research Writing Web site:

Lee, M. (2011). Decision making in a collaborative writing task. Proceedings of the 3rd CELC Symposium, National University of Singapore, 159-168.

Liao, M. Y. (2007). Losing face in Chinese and American culture: Precursors and consequences. Papers from the Second International Conference on Multicultural Discourses, Hangzhou, China.

Luca, J., & Tarricone, P. (2001). Does emotional intelligence affect successful teamwork? Proceedings of the 18th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Melbourne: University of Melbourne, 367- 376.

Putnam, L. (1986). Conflict in group decision making. In Hirokawa, R.Y. and Poole, M.S. (Eds.), Communication and group decision making (pp. 175-96). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Seo, H. S., & Kim, T. Y. (2011). Collaborative dialogues and L2 learning: Korean junior high school students' pair-work in English composition. Korean Journal of Applied Linguistics, 27(1), 345-380.

Shantz, C. U. (1987). Conflicts between children. Child Development, 58, 283-305.

Stewart, D. (1988). Collaborative learning and composition: boon or bane? Rhetoric Review, 7(1), 58-83.

Storch, N. (2002). Patterns of interaction in ESL pair work. Language Learning, 52, 119-158.

Storch, N. (2005). Collaborative writing: Product, process and students’ reflections. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14(3), 153-173.

Storch, N. (2011). Collaborative writing in L2 contexts: processes, outcomes, and future directions. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31(1), 275-288. doi: 10.1017/S0267190511000079

Strauss, P. (2001). “I’d rather vomit up a live hedgehog”- L2 students and group assessment in mainstream university programs. Prospect, 16, 55–66.

Tocalli-Beller, A. (2003). Cognitive conflict, disagreement and repetition in collaborative groups: Affective andsocial dimensions from an insider’s perspective. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 60(2), 143–71.

Trimbur, J. (1989). Consensus and difference in collaborative learning. College English, 51(6), 602-616.

Yong M. F. (2010). Collaborative writing features. RELC Journal, 41(1), 18-30.

Yong, M. F. (2011). Improving ESL learners’ academic text construction through a collaborative task. Pertanika Journal of Social Science & Humanities, 19(2), 475-485.

Villamil, O.S., & de Guerrero, M.C.M. (1996). Peer revision in the L2 classroom: Social-cognitive activities, mediating strategies, and aspects of social behavior. Journal of Second Language Writing, 5(1), 51-75.

Villamil, O. S., & de Guerrero, M. C. M. (1998). Assessing the impact of peer revision in L2 writing. Applied Linguistics, 19(4), 491–514.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2019 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.