A Complex Systems Perspective on Multiple Language Learning: An Examination of Self-Regulation, Flow, Mindset, Grit, Expertise and Expert Performance
Date: 16 December 2019
University of Exeter
Doctor of Education in TESOL
Achievements in second language learning vary in magnitude from that of near monoglots, who might know a handful of words in other languages, to overachieving hyperpolyglots, who are fluent in at least six languages. Explanations for success in learning languages typically consider factors in isolation, and the result is too much faith ...
Achievements in second language learning vary in magnitude from that of near monoglots, who might know a handful of words in other languages, to overachieving hyperpolyglots, who are fluent in at least six languages. Explanations for success in learning languages typically consider factors in isolation, and the result is too much faith being put into single causes. With the intention of considering a bigger picture, this mixed-methods research attempted to study and conceptualize factors as interacting nodes and hubs in a complex systems framework—the interactions of self-regulated learning (SRL), mindset, grit, flow, and expertise and expert behavior were studied as they related to levels of success in learning multiple languages. Respondents completed an on-line questionnaire which consisted of demographic information as well as descriptions of language abilities. This was followed by psychometric tests including the Short Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SSRQ), the Flow State Scale-2 (FSS-2), the Theories of Intelligence Scale (TIS), and the Short Grit Scale (Grit-S). Once quantitative data was collected six respondents were asked to take part in the interview portion of the research. The subjects were chosen to represent a wide range of learners spanning the ‘monoglot plus a little’ level to the hyperpolyglot level. The semi-structured interviews were intended to elicit data to give more depth to the quantitative findings as well as to examine the expertise and expert performance framework. Statistical analysis of 196 subjects show that the strength of the effects of SRL, mindset, grit, and flow were not as strong as hypothesized. However, the qualitative portion of the study involved interviews with six language learners and there are indications that the interaction of these fields might have more viability than the psychometric results would suggest. Additionally, the expertise and expert performance framework seemed valid as applied to the interviewees in that both quantity and quality of practice, as envisioned through the deliberate practice lens, seemed to mesh with their responses and achievements. The interaction between the different systems proved difficult to measure based on the quantitative data, but the interviews gave insight into how these systems could interact. As stand-alone systems, SRL showed the clearest influence on language learning, and the grit factor of consistency of effort proved to have a much stronger relationship than the grit factor of consistency of interest. Additional systems which could also be hubs are considered for future inquiry. The contributions of this research go into several areas. First, the complex systems framework appears to be useful for considering achievement in second-language learning; next, the mixed-methods approach used in this study could be considered a starting point for future research; finally, there is an indication that language learners might possibly benefit from knowledge of the different factors covered in this study.
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