Adult Esl Student Motivation for Participation in Advanced Language Learning

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Adult ESL Student Motivation for Participation in Advanced Language Learning

A. LANE IGOUDIN, M.A., PH.D.

Published in 2008 by The CATESOL Journal, 20 (1), 27-48.

ADULT ESL STUDENT MOTIVATION FOR PARTICIPATION IN ADVANCED LANGUAGE LEARNING

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Abstract In recent years, TESOL has called for the study of the social and cognitive factors that affect adult English learners’ participation in formal language learning. This research project investigated the motivational processes of 10 adult immigrant English learners which led them to take an advanced ESL reading course. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative strategies, the study found that the surveyed group of ESL students chose to engage in advanced language learning in order to, first and foremost, join the dominant language culture and community. Instrumental reasons, though quite important to these students, appeared to be outweighed by the integrative ones. The student’s social identity proved to be a major factor in this process as student motivation often originated in the disjuncture between the learner’s current and desired identities. Furthermore, students viewed language education as a necessary transitional path towards integration and attainment of a desired identity.

Author Lane Igoudin has taught various levels of ESL at Cypress, Coastline, Long Beach City, and Los Angeles City colleges. He is a Board Member of the Orange County Chapter of CATESOL. He has presented his research on motivation and identity issues of ESL learners at CATESOL, TESOL, AERA, and AILA conferences.

ADULT ESL STUDENT MOTIVATION FOR PARTICIPATION IN ADVANCED LANGUAGE LEARNING

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Introduction TESOL scholarship, originating in the field of applied linguistics, has, at times, overlooked non-language factors and contexts that may affect language learning. Much of the knowledge, however, gained through education and psychology studies can be applicable to the populations and topics under study in TESOL. After all, in California, non-native English speakers constitute the majority of the target adult learners (63 percent) and almost a third in the country overall (Lasater and Elliott, 2004). The research presented in this paper appropriates some of the advances gained by contemporary adult education and educational psychology scholarship that could further the research of second language attainment by adults. The literature review below begins with an overview of relevant works in education and psychology scholarship to provide a general background on the student motivation phenomenon. In its second part, the review focuses on motivation research in linguistics, specifically the studies related to second language attainment.

Review of the Literature Adult Learning from s Social Cognitive Perspective The foundation of adult learning theory was established in Lindeman (1926) who identified important distinctions between adult and child learning. These ideas were later developed by Knowles (1990) into a theory of andragogy, a model of practice and study of how adults learn, different from pedagogy which belongs to child and youth education.1 Knowles and his followers assumed that due to important physical and

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While the term ‘andragogy’ did not take root in English-speaking countries (Krajnc, 1989), Knowles’s ideas have been extremely influential in the field throughout the world.

ADULT ESL STUDENT MOTIVATION FOR PARTICIPATION IN ADVANCED LANGUAGE LEARNING

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psychological developments in adult life, humans bring to the learning situation status, responsibilities, and functions different from those of children, including a larger body of experience, different motives, and learning needs. More specifically, adult learning, according to Knowles (1990), is based on the following six factors: 1. Justification for learning, that is possession of reasons for learning, prior to engaging in it. 2. The transformation of the adult concept of the self into...
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