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Learner buoyancy: Exploring resilience in everyday L2 learning in instructed settings



Because current thinking in our field acknowledges the situated nature of language learning, integrating various situative processes with individual constructs offers an innovative way to empirically examine L2 learning and development in particular contexts as a function of individuals’ participation in social practices. The purpose of this study is to integrate three related theoretical frameworks—classroom social climate, self-determination theory (SDT), and L2 willingness to communicate (WTC)—and investigate aspects of classroom environments that promote students’ motivation, engagement, and L2 achievement in a sample of learners (N = 381) in a formal secondary-school setting in Korea. Structural equation modeling revealed some interesting insights: 1) Positive classroom social climate leads to stronger self-determined motivation—through the satisfaction of basic psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness)—and that self-determined motivation subsequently influences L2 WTC and achievement positively. We highlight how, in the realm of instructed L2 learning, learner characteristics and development can be influenced by competing temporal and situational factors. 2) Only perceived competence and identified regulation were significant predictors of L2 achievement, and neither WTC nor intrinsic motivation exerted any effect on it. We therefore problematize both the overemphasis on intrinsic motivation over self-determined forms of extrinsic motivation, as well as claims that WTC should be the aim of L2 pedagogy in formal instructional settings. 3) Adding prior L2 achievement to the model led to no variable remaining a significant predictor of final achievement. We use this insight to argue that many of the significant results reported in the literature might be an artifact of failing to control for baseline achievement level. We hope this paper will stimulate further debate and research into the situated and interrelated nature of motivation, WTC, and achievement that will both consolidate and refine current theoretical conceptualizations and empirical practices.
Learner Buoyancy: Exploring Resilience in Everyday L2 Learning in Instructed Settings
Phil Hiver
Ali H. Al-Hoorie
Paper presented at the American Association for Applied Linguistics
(March 18–21, 2017, Portland, Oregon)
Recent research in the psychology of language learning has highlighted powerful contributions
from positive psychology for L2 pedagogy. This study is among the first to investigate the
construct of buoyancy (Martin & Marsh, 2008, 2009)—the capacity to overcome the setbacks,
challenges, and pressures that are part of the ordinary course of school life—in an instructed L2
setting. We first provide a conceptual overview of the buoyancy construct and propose that,
although motivation is critical to L2 learning success, challenges and setbacks are also an
everyday reality of language learning in instructed settings (e.g., poor grades, competing
deadlines, exam pressure, performance failures). The learning gains that students make may
therefore be lost without resilience to overcome the pressures that are part of the ordinary
course of language learning. We then report on our study of college-level L2 learners (N = 879)
in South Korea which, taking cues from existing research on buoyancy, assessed their
academic buoyancy along with a set of six other constructs (L2 self-efficacy, L2 self-regulation,
ideal L2 self, L2 learning persistence, L2 learning anxiety, and teacher–student relationship). In
the initial exploratory stage, two-step cluster analysis of the data established prominent L2
learner archetypes. Then, using structural equation modeling, we found that buoyancy predicted
both L2 achievement and GPA, and did so more strongly than the ideal L2 self or self-efficacy
could. Therefore, in this paper, we not only introduce the measurement scale of this novel
construct to the field and validate it, but we further consider the potential contribution of
buoyancy for instructed L2 learning, and discuss these results as a springboard for future
research on language learner psychology.
Summary: This paper examines the field-specific contribution of the construct of buoyancy—the
capacity to overcome setbacks that are an ordinary part of formal instructional settings—to
language learner psychology. Results indicate that buoyancy accounts for L2 achievement
above that predicted by a number of L2 motivation constructs including self-efficacy.
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