Aptitude

Measuring individual differences with the LLAMA aptitude tests

Vivienne Rogers (Swansea University, United Kingdom)

There has been an increasing interest in the area of language learning aptitude and individual differences in recent years. This led to the creation of new online computerised tests like the LLAMA test suite (Meara 2005). Since 2005 the LLAMA tests have been increasingly used in published research but they have not been validated. Initial validation work examined features of the tests to establish if they were influenced by outside factors, e.g. L1, gender, age, education level (Granena 2013, Rogers 2014, 2015, 2016) and found that these variables accounted for only small amount of the variation in LLAMA scores. This study provides a small-scale investigation into the predictive powers of the LLAMA tests, i.e. do the LLAMA tests measure aptitude? We also examine whether aptitude, motivation, working memory or anxiety scores are the most accurate at predicting language test scores. Fifteen beginner adult learners of Latin took the LLAMA aptitude tests, the Language Learning Orientation Scale questionnaire (Noels et al 2004), an online measure of working memory storage and the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (Horowitz et al 1986) as well as a background questionnaire. The learners were followed throughout their first year of learning Latin. For their class, they took a Latin test every 3-4 weeks resulting in 4 tests between Oct-Dec (term 1) and the same is scheduled for Feb-May (term 2). Spearman’s correlations from term 1 were calculated for each of the LLAMA components and the working memory task. The results show that LLAMA D (implict learning measure) significantly correlated with the Latin test results at time 1 (r=.595, p<.010) but the vocabulary learning task (LLAMA B) significantly correlated with the time 4 (r=.644, p<0.05). Further factor analysis will establish if aptitude or the other measures can predict test scores.


Second language aptitude: stable or dynamic?

James Chalmers (Griffith University, Australia)

Research and theory has traditionally assumed that second language (L2) aptitude is stable. However, evidence that experience in language learning leads to higher L2 aptitude test scores and the reconceptualisation of L2 aptitude in terms of aptitude-treatment interactions (ATIs) challenge this assumption. This study further investigates this assumption by looking for changes in L2 aptitude in a longitudinal study. Participants were 85 university students taking a beginner-level Spanish course. A pretest of language aptitude was taken at the beginning of the course and a posttest eight weeks later. The LLAMA language aptitude test (Meara, 2005) was used for its validity, reliability, and digital format. Participants also completed a questionnaire regarding first language background and previous L2 learning experience. Instruments were administered via the university learning management system. Data collected included LLAMA pre- and post-test scores for each sub-test: LLAMA B (vocabulary learning), LLAMA D (sound recognition), LLAMA E (sound-symbol association), and LLAMA F (grammatical inferencing). Linear regression was used to investigate any relationship between prior L2 learning experience and pre-test scores. Paired-Sample t-tests were used to investigate any changes in L2 aptitude test scores. Preliminary results suggest that L2 aptitude is sensitive to experience. Participants who had extensive prior L2 learning experience scored significantly higher in the LLAMA F (grammatical inferencing) sub-test. Significant gains were made between pre- and post-tests for all LLAMA sub-tests except for LLAMA E (sound-symbol association). Effect sizes were greater for those sub-tests measuring abilities more implicated at the beginning stages of L2 learning (i.e. vocabulary learning and sound recognition), supporting the ATI conceptualisation of L2 aptitude. These results add to the evidence challenging the assumption of stability in L2 aptitude.

References:

Meara, P. (2005). LLAMA language aptitude tests. Swansea, UK: Lognostics.


Metalinguistic awareness as a key to learning, and how to research it

Aasne Vikøy (Bergen University College, Norway)

What learning outcomes could grammar teaching have in multilingual Norwegian L1-classrooms? Today the traditionally monolinguistic classroom, consists of a more heterogeneous group of students where L1-users and L2-users of Norwegian should have the same learning possibilities. In the Norwegian subject curriculum (L1) there are general statements promoting the value of language diversity and multiple language use. In particular there is one objective after first class of Upper Secondary School which states that the students ”should be able to explain grammatical characteristics of Norwegian in comparison with other languages”. This is clearly an objective which requires a multilingual pedagogy. On the other hand literacy has the main focus in the curriculum, and due to this, grammar teaching is often reduced to a purely text linguistic level. Nevertheless, it has been claimed that “the legitimization of the grammar discipline in the L1 curriculum has moved from language skills to language awareness” (Hertzberg 2008). This ability to think abstractly about language (Bialystok 2001) can support students in analyzing linguistic knowledge and in controlling language processing. Such cognitive benefits can be a valuable skill to perform well in school. In this presentation I will focus on how metalinguistic awareness as a possible result of grammar teaching, can be a key to language learning and maybe learning in general. There is a potential of meta-knowledge lying at the ground of the mentioned objective of contrastive grammar teaching. It requires a dialectic form of teaching focusing on the insight in others. Metalinguistic awareness is often researched quantitatively, but as I will argue, a qualitative procedure with a following discourse analysis can give an alternative interesting insight to the student ́s metalinguistic knowledge. The way they express themselves reveal the level of reflection in a continuum of what Gee (2000/2001, 2011) calls primary Discourses and secondary Discourses.


Attitudes

Attitudes to learning English versus other foreign languages in four European countries

Vera Busse (University of Oldenburg, Germany)

The global status of the English language is often regarded as a threat to other foreign languages in the world (Crystal, 2003). There is no conclusive evidence, however, that the perceived global status of English necessarily results in less favourable attitudes to other languages. This paper compares adolescent students’ attitudes towards learning English as a foreign language to learning other foreign languages. The study is based on qualitative responses to a larger survey exploring self perceptions among 4312 learners in Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. The data reveal that although the global status of English is related to students’ attitudes to learning English versus other languages, individual and contextual factors often play a highly important role in shaping students’ attitudes to language learning. Results from previous research (Taylor & Busse, 2015) show that students engage in complex social interactions with their classmates, friends and teachers and that these multiple relational contexts are related to students’ engagement in class and their ultimate achievement. The qualitative data shed light on the significance of the relationship between teacher and students in this respect. Differences between countries further suggest that the larger educational context and the local language teaching policies also influence students’ attitudes. In general, the findings highlight the need for contextualised inductive interpretation that foregrounds students’ individual perspectives and their learning histories, while taking the larger educational context into account. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed.

References:

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Taylor, F. and Busse, V. (2015) When the learner becomes the context: Strategic identity display in learning English as a foreign language in Europe (pp. 66-83). In J. King (Ed.) The dynamic interplay between context and the language learner.


Students’ attitudes to English at a Swiss university: a study of selves, identities and persons in contexts

Virag Csillagh (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

The paper reports on the results and implications of a PhD study investigating university students’ attitudes toward English in multilingual Geneva, both as a global language and as part of the local curriculum. Although based on quantitative results obtained through an online questionnaire, the analysis presented identifies and challenges the limitations of traditional quantitative methodologies in L2 motivation research by placing special emphasis on the role of the multitude of contexts in which students participate in forming their language attitudes and motivation to learn English. The paper argues that this dynamic, person-in-context view of language learning as an aspect of identity creation, inspired by the latest developments in L2 motivation theory and research (c.f. Dörnyei, Henry, & MacIntyre, 2015), allows for a more thorough and meaningful interpretation of the results. Indeed, the findings indicate that elements of the social and economic spheres, both local and global, with which participants interact are reflected in their language attitudes and their self-concept. This is underlined by significant differences between Swiss and foreign students and among participants enrolled at different faculties. These conclusions highlight the importance of examining language learning in its various, dynamically interacting, contexts and language learners as individuals who actively navigate and shape their environment. Therefore, I argue that they are also suggestive of the potential of complex dynamic systems perspectives in SLA research (Verspoor, de Bot, & Lowie, 2011) and point at further dimensions of language learning motivation to be explored through emerging methodologies (Dörnyei et al., 2015).

References:

Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P., & Henry, A. (Eds.). (2015). Motivational dynamics in language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Verspoor, M.H., de Bot, K., & Lowie, W. (Eds.). (2011). A Dynamic Approach to Second Language Development: Methods and Techniques. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.


Sources and relationships between self-constructs in foreign language learning in Poland

Janina Iwaniec (University of Bath, United Kingdom)

Recently, many studies have examined an important role of the ideal L2 self in language learning motivation (see Csizér & Magid, 2014; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009). Yet, less is known about the relationships between the ideal L2 self with current self-constructs, even though Ushioda and Dörnyei (2009) assert that it is the gap between the ideal L2 self and the current selves that is the source of motivational power of the ideal L2 self. Moreover, there have been few attempts to examine antecedents of self-related beliefs (for exceptions, see Mercer, 2011). The aim of the current study is to examine the relationship between ideal L2 self, self-efficacy beliefs and the English self-concept and identify the sources of self-related beliefs. 236 Polish learners of English aged 15-16 completed a motivational questionnaire, and 20 participated in semi-structured interviews. The quantitative data was analysed in SPSS, whereas the interviews were transcribed and coded. The results of regression analysis revealed that the ideal L2 self is more closely related to learners’ self-efficacy beliefs than to their English self-concept, although the latter was also found to significantly contribute to the ideal L2 self. The interviewees reported six antecedents of self-related beliefs. These were: mastery experiences, grades, peer comparison, teachers, comparison across different domains, and other sources. The results suggests that the English self-concept and self-efficacy beliefs are socially co-constructed. The two constructs are also a basis on which students draw when creating positive visions of oneself as successful language learners. This finding is in line with Dörnyei’s (2009, p.11) assertion that the ideal L2 self is a possible self that one day can become reality.


Autonomy

Onboarding for autonomy

Marcel Van Amelsvoort (Juntendo University, Japan)

Autonomy can be viewed as a social construct that develops through interdependence and interacting with the environment. This view requires a closer look at the context of learning and the complex interaction of learners with the available assets and with other learners. Individual learners tend to do what their immediate surroundings prompt them to do, rather than just rely on internal traits. This puts the onus on educators to better design or manipulate the contextual features of a program, while at the same time guiding and scaffolding individuals to make better choices, address habits, and become more aware of strategies. Using the design and implementation of an extensive reading program at a Japanese university as a starting point, this presentation will examine how socio-cultural features, pleasantness (cognitive and affective elements), visibility (salience of performance/proficiency) and accountability can together create a system that nurtures autonomy. Modern language programs need to more carefully consider the user experience of learners as they move through our educational systems. Recent research from various fields, including neuro-science, consumer psychology, behavioral economics, and human-computer interaction, in addition to language learning motivation, can all help in understanding that experience and improving its effectiveness. The presentation will look briefly at some ideas not generally applied in the world of language teaching, including choice architecture and habit formation, before discussing some specific activities that can be deployed in an EFL setting. These include a holistic system of formative assessment, effective use of public commitments and performances, mindset education, portfolios, and student behavior tracking and reflection sheets.


Language teachers’ and learners’ beliefs about learner autonomy in a secondary school context: A mixed method study

Krisztina Szocs (University of Pécs, Hungary)

Justifications for promoting learner autonomy are manifold, as it is agreed that learner involvement in decision making concerning the learning process increases motivation and develops students’ critical self-awareness (Benson, 2103). As teachers have a central role in developing learner autonomy by creating a supportive classroom learning environment and given the influence teachers’ beliefs have on their practices (Borg, 2006), it is essential to gain insight into their views regarding learner autonomy (Borg, & Al-Busaidi, 2012). Similarly, learners’ perceptions concerning language learning influence their openness to the ideas presented in the language classroom, especially when these ideas are not in line with learners’ previous experiences (Cotteral, 1995). The current study explored teachers’ beliefs and classroom practices concerning learner autonomy in a Hungarian secondary school, involving 9 language teachers. Mixed methods were used: classroom observations, attitude-questionnaires and semi-structured interviews revealed what teachers understood by learner autonomy and in what ways they claimed that they incorporated it in their practice. The study also looked into language learners’ beliefs and reported autonomous behaviors involving all the 9th graders from the school. Students’ questionnaire explored to what extent students felt responsible for improving their autonomy in language learning. Finally, the study intended to reveal correspondences and mismatches between teachers’ and students’ autonomous beliefs. Exploring these beliefs could lead to teachers and learners constructing a shared understanding of the language learning process, which is an essential foundation of learner autonomy.

References:

Benson, P. (2013). Teaching and researching autonomy (2nd edn.). New York: Routledge.

Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education. Research and practice. London: Continuum.

Borg, S., & Al-Busaidi, S. (2012). Learner Autonomy: English Language Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices. London: British Council.

Cotteral, S. (1995). Readiness for autonomy: investigating learner beliefs. System, 23(2), 95-105.


How is learner autonomy fostered and constrained in a social context? : Exploring learner autonomy in a life story of language user in Japan

Yoshio Nakai (Doshisha University, Japan)

Learner autonomy is defined as socially mediated agency (Toohey and Norton, 2003) and it develops through interaction with more capable peers (Little, 2000). The research on learner autonomy has been conducted focusing on learners’ ability and action in/outside the classroom. However, Aoki (2009) pointed out that ’we need more balanced holistic approaches that situate individual capacity in the social context’ (ibid., p.254). In order to do so, life story interviews is a one of the powerful tools to examine learner autonomy in a long time span (ibid., p.254). In this research, I conducted life story interviews on a Chinese foreign worker in Japan who have lived for more than 10 years. He is working for a company after finishing graduate school in Japan. I interviewed him three times for about three hours in total and transcribed the audio-recorded interview data, then extracted his life stories of learning experience to situate his learner autonomy in the social context. His life stories show that he thinks that language learning take place not at language lessons but through his autonomous practices using Japanese in his daily life such as inquiring and negotiating in Japanese, organizing an ethnic music concert, and getting business knowledge and expressions changing his jobs. These practices were sometimes supported by significant others in both Japan and China, and sometimes restrained by visa status or racial prejudice. This analysis indicates that his learning is connected with realizing ’social identity’ (Riley, 2003) and his self-realization has driven by learner autonomy as agency affected by dominant ’master narratives’ which are common within a cultural context, and ’model stories’ shared in a community he belongs to. In the presentation, I will elaborate on that the learner autonomy constructed by the social context and discuss the importance of exploring learner autonomy from learners’ perspective.


Beliefs

Teachers and their beliefs

Mizuka Tsukamoto (Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan)

Teachers have chosen the profession based on various reasons, and they have various backgrounds. They hold various beliefs as teachers, which may have been influenced by their past. Though some researchers (i.e. Basturkmen, Loewen & Ellis, 2004; Feryok, 2008; Lee, 2009) have reported that teacher beliefs do not influence classroom practices, others (i.e. Borg, 2003, 2006; Farrell & Kum, 2008; Johnson, 1994) have reported the correlations between the two. In this presentation, I will share a research in progress that looks into how teachers’ beliefs may have been influenced or formed. The data for the research has been collected through narrative inquiry. Discussion will extend to how such teacher beliefs may influence their teaching styles and classroom practices.

References:

Basturkmen, H., Loewen, S. & Ellis, R. (2004). Teachers’ stated beliefs about incidental focus on form and their classroom practices. Applied Linguistics, 25(2), 243-272.

Borg, S. (2003). Teacher cognition in language teaching: a review of research on what language teachers think, know, believe, and do. Language Teaching, 36(2), 81-109.

Borg, S. (2006). Teacher cognition and language education; Research and practice. London: Continuum.

Farrell, T. S. C. & Kun, S.T.K. (2008). Language policy, language teachers’ beliefs, and classroom practices. Applied Linguistics 29(3), 381-403.

Lee, I. (2009). Ten mismatches between teachers’ beliefs and written feedback practice. ELT Journal 63(1), 13-22.


Language mindsets: Implications for goal orientations and responses to failure

Nigel Mantou Lou & Kimberly Noels (University of Alberta, Canada)

The term “language mindsets” refers to one’s beliefs in whether language ability is unchangeable (an entity mindset) or language ability is malleable (an incremental mindset). The purpose of this study is to (a) introduce an instrument to assess language mindsets (i.e., the Language Mindsets Inventory LMI)) and (b) test a causal model that maintains that learners’ mindsets predict the goals that they set for language learning, and these goals in turn affect how they respond to failure. First, psychometric analyses across two studies provided strong support for the reliability and validity of the LMI. The LMI was related to students’ language learning experience and expectations, effort beliefs, fear of failure, intention to continue. Second, the results of a correlational study and an experimental study supported the hypothesized ”mindsets8722;goals8722;responses” model. In the experiment, language learners were randomly assigned to two conditions, in which one or the other language mindset was primed. In the incremental condition, learners more strongly endorsed learning goals regardless of their perceived language competence, and in turn reported more mastery-oriented responses in failure situations and stronger intention to continue learning the target language. In contrast, in the entity condition, learners who perceived themselves having strong language skills endorsed performance-approach goals and in turn reported more helpless-oriented responses and fear of failure. The implications of these findings for fostering students’ motivation are discussed.

References:

Lou, N. M., & Noels, K. A. (in press). Changing language mindsets: Implications for goal orientations and responses to failure. Contemporary Educational Psychology.

Lou, N. M, & Noels, K. A. (2016). Language mindsets: Measurement and implications for goal orientations and responses to failure in second language learning. Manuscript submitted for publication.


First-year students’ profiles : implicit beliefs revealed in metaphors and visual narratives

Sakae Suzuki (Shonan Institute of Technology, Japan)

Although Japanese students study English for six years in secondary schools, they demonstrate little success with it when they enter higher education. This might be associated with beliefs students have developed before they come to university. Those learners’ beliefs can predict the future behavior of students, thus, it may be effective to investigate how beliefs limit their motivation and what are sources of negative beliefs. While many researchers still depend on a questionnaire called BALLI (Beliefs about Language Learning Inventory) to reveal explicit beliefs, alternative approaches, especially those designed to reveal implicit beliefs and emotions can be helpful for promoting learning. To this end, this study aims to investigate what first-year students reveal their thoughts or beliefs, emotions and learning experiences in metaphors and drawings. The study was conducted at a private university in Japan where most students are males majoring in technology and sciences. The participants of the study were 133 first year students. Metaphors and drawings about learning English were elicited via the questionnaire. To analyze data, Furth’s picture interpretation (2002) for drawings and content analysis by coding for metaphors were applied. Findings include characteristics of negative beliefs revealed in metaphors and drawings, learning experiences depicted in drawings and how does the macro context of Japan shapes the experiences of learners in learning and of teachers in teaching English. Finally, strengths and limitations of using metaphors and drawings to investigate learners’ belief will be discussed.

References:

Furth, G. M. (2002). The secret world of drawings. Boston: Inner City Books.