Working with language learner histories from three perspectives: Teachers, learners and researchers

Main Article Content

Sarah Mercer

Abstract

Recent developments in SLA, such as learner-centredness, social constructivism, the postmethod era, and complexity perspectives, have highlighted the need for more localized, situated understandings of teaching and learning and greater recognition of learner individuality and diversity. In this article, I suggest an effective way of meeting these needs is to employ learner histories. This powerful form of writing allows learners to use their L2 to engage in authentic, personally meaningful communication with others about their identities, experiences, perceptions and emotions related to their language learning histories. As a text type, they are able to facilitate a more holistic perspective of the learner’s life and reveal the unique interconnections that an individual makes across various domains. They also enable the situated, contextualised and dynamic nature of their learning experiences to become apparent and provide learners with a genuine, motivating purpose for writing. Exploring data generated in Austria with tertiary-level EFL learners, I seek to illustrate some of the rich potential of these text types from three perspectives, namely, those of the teacher, learner and researcher.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

Section
Articles
Author Biography

Sarah Mercer, University of Graz

sarah.mercer@uni-graz.at

Sarah Mercer teaches English at the University of Graz, Austria, where she has been working for over ten years. Her PhD completed at the University of Lancaster, UK, investigated the self-concept of tertiary-level EFL learners. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience. She is particularly interested in learner beliefs, self-concept, motivation, attributions and mindsets.

References

  1. Allwright, D. (2003). Exploratory practice: Rethinking practitioner research in language teaching. Language Teaching Research, 7(2), 113-141. doi:10.1191/1362168803lr118oa
  2. Barkhuizen, G. (2011). Narrative knowledging in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 45(3),391-414. doi:10.5054/tq.2011.261888
  3. Bell, J. S. (2002). Narrative inquiry: More than just telling stories. TESOL Quarterly,36(2), 207-213. doi:10.2307/3588331
  4. Benson, P. (2005). (Auto)biography and learner diversity. In P. Benson & D.Nunan (Eds.), Learners’ stories: Difference and diversity in language learning (pp. 4-21). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Benson, P. (2011). Language learning careers as an object of narrative research in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 45(3), 545-553. doi:10.5054/tq.2010.256793
  6. Benson, P., & Nunan, D. (Eds.). (2005). Learners’ stories: Difference and diversity in language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  7. Charmaz, K. C. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage.
  8. Chik, A., & Breidbach, S. (2011). Identity, motivation and autonomy: A tale of two cities. In G. Murray, X. Gao, & T. Lamb (Eds.), Identity, motivation and autonomy in language learning (pp. 145-159). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  9. Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, F. M. (2004). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  10. Cotterall, S. (2000). Promoting learner autonomy through the curriculum: Principles for designing language courses. ELT Journal, 54(2), 109-117. doi:10.1093/elt/54.2.109
  11. Dewaele, J. (2005). Investigating the psychological and emotional dimensions in instructed language learning: Obstacles and possibilities. The Modern Language Journal, 89(3), 367-380. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2005.00311.x
  12. Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  13. Dörnyei, Z. (2009). The psychology of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  14. Dörnyei, Z. (2011). Researching complex dynamic systems: ‘Retrodictive qualitative modelling’ in the language classroom. Language Teaching, FirstView, 1-12. doi:10.1017/S0261444811000516
  15. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
  16. Egan, K. (2010). An imaginative approach to teaching (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
  17. Ford, K. (2011). Taking a narrative turn: Possibilities, challenges and potential outcomes. OnCue Journal, 6(1), 23-36.
  18. Goodson, I. F., Biesta, G., Tedder, M., & Adair, N. (2010). Narrative learning. London: Routledge.
  19. Hanauer, D. I. (2012). Meaningful literacy: Writing poetry in the language classroom. Language Teaching, 45(1), 105-115. doi:10.1017/S0261444810000522
  20. Hsieh, P.-H. (2012). Attribution: Looking back and ahead at the ‘why’ theory. In S. Mercer, S. Ryan, & M. Williams (Eds.), Psychology for language learning: Insights from research, theory and practice (pp. 90-102). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  21. Jackson, C. (2003). Transitions into Higher Education: Gendered implications for academic self-concept. Oxford Review of Education, 29(3), 331-346. doi:10.1080/03054980307448
  22. Kalaja, P., Menezes, V., & Barcelos, A. M. F. (Eds.). (2008). Narratives of learning and teaching EFL (1st ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  23. Kohonen, V. (2000). Student reflection in portfolio assessment: Making language learning more visible. Babylonia, 1, 13-16.
  24. Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  25. Leppänen, S., & Kalaja, P. (2002). Autobiographies as constructions of EFL learner identities and experiences. In E. Kärkkäinen, J. Haines, & T. Lauttamus (Eds.), Studia Linguistica Et Litteraria Septentrionalia. Studies Presented to Heikki Nyssönen. (pp. 189-203). Oulu: University of Oulu.
  26. Löschnigg, M. (2005). Autobiography. In D. Herman, M. Jahn, & M.-L. Ryan (Eds.), The Routledge encyclopaedia of narrative theory (pp. 34-36). London: Routledge.
  27. McAdams, D. P. (1997). The stories we live by: Personal myths and the making of the self. New York: Guilford Press.
  28. Menezes, V. (2008). Multimedia language learning histories. In P. Kalaja, V.
  29. Menezes, & A. M. F. Barcelos (Eds.), Narratives of learning and teaching EFL (pp. 199-213). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  30. Menezes, V., Barcelos. A. M. F., & Kalaja, P. (2008). Narrativising learning and teaching EFL: Concluding remarks. In P. Kalaja, V. Menezes, & A. M. F. Barcelos (Eds.), Narratives of learning and teaching EFL (pp. 217-232). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  31. Mercer, S. (2011a). Language learner self-concept: Complexity, continuity and change. System, 39(3), 335-346. doi:10.1016/j.system.2011.07.006
  32. Mercer, S. (2011b). Understanding learner agency as a complex dynamic system. System, 39(4), 427-436. doi:10.1016/j.system.2011.08.001
  33. Mercer, S. (2012). The complexity of learner agency. Apples – Journal of Applied Language Studies, 6(2), 41-59.
  34. Mercer, S. (2013). Re-imagining the self as a network of relationships. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  35. Mercer, S., & Nunan, D. (2013, April). Language learning histories in teaching, learning and research. Paper presented at IATEFL Liverpool 2013.
  36. Mercer, S., & Ryan, S. (2010). A mindset for EFL: Learners’ beliefs about the role of natural talent. ELT Journal, 64(4), 436-444. doi:10.1093/elt/ccp083
  37. Mercer, S., Ryan, S., & Williams, M. (Eds.) (2012). Psychology for language learning: Insights from research, theory and practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian.
  38. Murphey, T., & Carpenter, C. (2008). The seeds of agency in language learning histories. In P. Kalaja, V. Menezes, & A. M. F. Barcelos (Eds.), Narratives of learning and teaching EFL (pp. 17-34). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  39. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change (1st ed.). Harlow: Longman.
  40. Nunan, D. (1990). Using learner data in curriculum development. English for Specific Purposes, 9(1), 17-32. doi:10.1016/0889-4906(90)90026-9
  41. Nunan, D. (2013). Learner-centred English language education: The selected works of David Nunan (pp. 204-215). New York: Routledge.
  42. Oxford, R. L. (1995). When emotion meets (meta)cognition in language learning histories. International Journal of Educational Research, 23(7), 581-594. doi:10.1016/0883-0355(96)80438-1
  43. Pavlenko, A. (2001). Language learning memoirs as a gendered genre. Applied Linguistics, 22(2), 213-240. doi:10.1093/applin/22.2.213
  44. Pavlenko, A. (2002). Narrative study: Whose story is it, anyway? TESOL Quarterly,36(2), 213-218. doi:10.2307/3588332
  45. Pavlenko, A. (2007). Autobiographic narratives as data in Applied Linguistics. Applied Linguistics, 28(2), 163-188. doi:10.1093/applin/amm008
  46. Polkinghorne, D. E. (1995). Narrative configuration in qualitative analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 8(1), 5-23. doi:10.1080/0951839950080103
  47. Randall, W. L. (2007). Narrative and chaos acknowledging the novelty of livesin-time. Interchange, 38(4), 367-389. doi:10.1007/s10780-007-9037-9
  48. Ryan, S., & Irie, K. (in press). Imagined and possible selves: The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. In S. Mercer & M. Williams (Eds.), Multiple perspectives on the self in SLA. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  49. Ryan, S., & Mercer, S. (2011). Natural talent, natural acquisition and abroad:Learner attributions of agency in language learning. In G. Murray, X. Gao,& T. Lamb (Eds.), Identity, motivation and autonomy in language learning (pp. 160-176). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  50. Silverthorn, N., Dubois, D. L., & Crombie, G. (2005). Self-perceptions of ability and achievement across the high school transition: Investigation of a state-trait model. The Journal of Experimental Education, 73(3), 191-218. doi:10.3200/JEXE.73.3.191-218
  51. Thomas, D., & Seely Brown, J. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of change. Createspace.
  52. Tse, L. (2000). Student perceptions of foreign language study: A qualitative analysis of foreign language autobiographies. The Modern Language Journal, 84(1), 69-84. doi:10.2307/330450
  53. van Lier, L. (2008). Agency in the classroom. In J. P. Lantolf & M. E. Poehner (Eds.), Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (pp.163-86). London: Equinox.
  54. Woodrow, L. (2012). Goal orientations: Three perspectives on motivation goal orientations. In S. Mercer, S. Ryan, & M. Williams (Eds.), Psychology for language learning: Insights from research, theory and practice (pp. 188-202). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.