Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

John I. Liontas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sara Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanghoon Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Phil Smith, Ph.D.


collaborative learning, computer/mobile assisted language learning, idiomatic competence, multimedia learning, sociocultural theory, task-based approach


Many second language (L2) scholars acknowledge that L2 idioms play a critical role in reading development as well as in communicative competence for L2 learners (Arnaud & Savignon, 1997; Barfield & Gyllstad, 2009; Conklin & Schmitt, 2008; Howarth, 1998; Liontas, 2017; Littlemore, Chen, Koester, & Barnden, 2011). Echoing the current trends of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), much research has been done to underscore how L2 idiom learning can be infused with instructional technologies to promote L2 learners’ idiomatic competence (see Luk & Ng, 1998; Nakata, 2011; Yang & Xie, 2013). However, what remains underexplored is the ways that L2 teachers and practitioners can advance L2 learners’ idiomatic competence via multifarious mobile applications, especially the ones allowing L2 learners to access copious multimedia texts and visuals, exchange ideas and feedback, and maintain high motivation toward L2 idiom-oriented activities in an authentic and collaborative virtual learning environment. In addition, previous research focusing on L2 idiomaticity and CALL eludes L2 researchers regarding the question of what range of variation parameters of L2 idioms can be detected by the radar of mobile applications.

Based on Liontas’ (1999) construct, Vivid Phrasal (VP) idiom, this study focuses on how social media applications can promote second language idiomatic competence among Chinese college students. It pursues three goals: (1) investigation of the effectiveness of a social media application, WeChat, (2) examination of the affordances of multimedia features on WeChat, and (3) exploration of college students’ perceptions regarding the contributions of WeChat. Specifically, the primary aim of this study is to investigate the effectiveness of adopting a social media application, WeChat, to promote idiomatic competence among the college students at a liberal arts college in China. The second aim is to examine the affordances of multimedia features on WeChat that affect idiomaticity training via the lens of Vygotskian sociocultural theory and Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning. In particular, the training is anchored in a task-based methodology of idiomaticity teaching that takes into account the communicative competence prioritized in the curriculum of Communicative English for Chinese Learners, Integrated Course One and learners’ interests as well as their active involvement. The third aim is to explore college students’ perceptions regarding the contributions of WeChat to their English idiom learning and achievement. Such focus is particularly useful for ESL/EFL researchers and practitioners in that it provides significant insights into social media use for promoting L2 idiom learning as well as time-tested practices for future theorizing and research. The findings indicate that (1) WeChat afforded L2 learners opportunities to work collectively toward idiom-oriented tasks and activities with high motivation and (2) the multimedia features on WeChat empowered L2 learners to decode and comprehend L2 VP idioms more effectively, as well as achieve better memory retention of L2 VP idioms. It is hoped that the research findings presented herein will inform ESL/EFL researchers and practitioners about the conditions of optimal idiom learning supported by Computer-Assisted Language Learning technologies and Mobile-Assisted Language Learning (MALL) technologies in an explicit and systematic way, thereby helping English learners comprehend and produce VP idioms effectively and appropriately in both social and online environments.