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Title: Understanding shifts in the Language Learning Strategies of newly arrived Arabic learners studying in the UK : an illustrative phenomenographic case study
Author: Hajar, Anas
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 2120
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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As of 2015, forty golden years have passed since the language learning strategy (LLS) concept was first brought to wide attention by Joan Rubin (1975). Most previous LLS research, however, has been based on the cognitivist theoretical framework and conducted quantitatively, using survey tools. Surveys have essentially failed to capture the ‘situated experiences’ of language learners and their actual and dynamic use of LLSs across time and space. With the above in mind and being motivated by my personal experiences as one of thousands of Arab students moving abroad to pursue education through the medium of English, this thesis reports on a longitudinal phenomenographic inquiry into Arab university students’ creative efforts and engagement in learning English prior to and after their coming to the UK to attend both short and long academic programmes (i.e. the pre-sessional language course and a postgraduate programme). Underpinned by a sociocultural viewpoint, the inquiry consisted of four research stages, and espoused qualitative research methods for data collection, which lasted for 17 months. A series of individual semi-structured interviews provided the main data, with other qualitative methods such as learner diaries and written narrative supplementing the validity and reliability of the study. For data analysis, Braun and Clarke’s (2006, 2013) systematic guidelines for conducting thematic analysis (TA) were adopted to identify and interpret patterns of meaning (themes) across the qualitative data in rich detail. The data revealed that participants’ strategy use was non-static and always directed towards the achievement of a specific learning goal. As LLSs did not operate alone, a conceptual framework was proposed in this study to discern the distinctive features of participants’ situated strategy use in both contexts. This framework was based on Dörnyei’s (2009) distinction between two types of possible selves (i.e. the ideal self and the ought self), Higgins’ (2000) distinction between the promotion and prevention aspects of instrumentality, Malcolm’s (2013) concept of ‘required motivation’ and my own distinction between immature, short-term and long-term learning goals and that of compulsory (i.e. largely regulated by cultural beliefs) and voluntary (i.e. basically internalised within the self) strategies. The participants’ changing language learning goals and associated strategies in their homelands and the UK were largely shaped and regulated by their situated social networks, including family members, teachers, peers and others. The changes in assessment modes and the availability of language learning resources (e.g. technologies) were also found to have mediated their strategy use. This study concludes by providing recommendations for Arab students who are considering pursuing their studies abroad in English-speaking education systems, for study abroad programme designers and teachers in the host country, and for educators in the Arab and Asian countries by suggesting specific practical steps such as ‘adopting a near peer role modelling approach’ and ‘fostering the motivational force of International Posture and National Interest among students’. Further research is needed to examine the key role of contextual realities on learners’ strategy use, and to help teachers provide appropriate support to language learners in particular learning contexts.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: LB Theory and practice of education