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Advising Practices: A Survey of Self-Access Learner Motivations and Preferences


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Based on queries from students who frequently visit the English Resource Center (ERC) at Saitama University, this research team set out to examine what motivational factors encourage ERC attendees to participate for an extended period of time in the Center on a regular basis. Initial indications are that social collaborative learning amongst peers at the Center is the most significant long-term motivational factor for students to become involved with learning English in the ERC. More specifically, this study explores factors that encourage these learners to become regular and perhaps more autonomous center participants in terms of advising practices such as (a) what factors led students to their initial discovery of ERC, (b) what inspired that very first visit, (c) what encouraged learners to continue to attend the Center on a regular basis, (d) what attendees value about the ERC, and finally (e) what might be done to ensure that greater support is provided for students who come to the ERC for the first time.
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ISSN 2185-3762
Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal
Advising Practices: A Survey of Self-Access
Learner Motivations and Preferences
Leander S. Hughes, Saitama University, Japan
Nathan P. Krug, Saitama University, Japan
Stacey L. Vye, Saitama University, Japan
Corresponding author:
Publication date: June, 2012.
To Cite this article
Hughes, L.S., Krug, N.P., & Vye, S.L. (2012). Advising practices: A survey of self-access
learner motivations and preferences.
Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal
(2), 163-
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SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
Advising Practices: A Survey of Self-Access Learner Motivations and
Leander S. Hughes, Saitama University, Japan
Nathan P. Krug, Saitama University, Japan
Stacey L. Vye, Saitama University, Japan
Based on queries from students who frequently visit the English Resource Center (ERC) at
Saitama University, this research team set out to examine what motivational factors encourage
ERC attendees to participate for an extended period of time in the Center on a regular basis.
Initial indications are that social collaborative learning amongst peers at the Center is the most
significant long-term motivational factor for students to become involved with learning English
in the ERC. More specifically, this study explores factors that encourage these learners to
become regular and perhaps more autonomous center participants in terms of advising practices
such as (a) what factors led students to their initial discovery of ERC, (b) what inspired that very
first visit, (c) what encouraged learners to continue to attend the Center on a regular basis, (d)
what attendees value about the ERC, and finally (e) what might be done to ensure that greater
support is provided for students who come to the ERC for the first time.
Keywords: advising, autonomy, language learning, motivation, networking, preferences, self-
access center, socialization
Background of the Study
The English Resource Center (ERC) is an English self-access center for the university-
wide community located at the Center for English Education and Development (CEED) at
Saitama University, open during weekdays between the hours of 15:00 - 17:00. The energy-
smart design of the ERC with greenery, visible from the hallway, has a sizable collection of
DVDs, graded readers, language resources and books for attendees to borrow, and it provides a
more informal English learning environment where countless authentic social interactions occur
between the center attendees. The space comfortably accommodates 25-30 learners at a time and
although attendees ask about individual learning concerns to the advisors or simply come to
borrow resources, nevertheless, peer socialization seems to be a prominent feature of the center
that encourages a wider variety of patterns of L2 interaction that the attendees would otherwise
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
not have access to. Consequently, in this study, the four advisors elicited responses from regular
ERC attendees to find out more about what factors motivate these students to become regular
center participants, how they first discovered the ERC, what happened during their very first visit,
what they value about the center, and what improvements can be made. It is our belief that by
knowing more precise information about the attendees’ perceptions, ERC student peers and the
advisors together can more readily facilitate support for current and future attendees in our
rapidly expanding center
Connections Between Autonomy and Socially Situated Learning Environments
The goal of the ERC advisors is to facilitate language learning and support the needs of
our student population, which may not always be related to English, and to provide support for
their educational and personal development as the learners themselves see fit. Furthermore, the
physical and structural design of the ERC supports a socially situated environment (see Hughes,
Vye, & Krug, 2011; Krug, Wurzinger, Hughes, & Vye, 2011). This philosophy indicates that we
facilitate learner autonomy, yet this research team does not label what kind of autonomy is
fostered. The reason is because there is some emphasis on the ERC attendees’ individual
language needs, which requires some aspects of personal or individual autonomy, yet all
participants (the students and the advisors alike) share the space while collaborating in a social
learning environment. Therefore, labeling a certain type of autonomy here does not serve a
purpose (also see Vye, Barfield, & Athanasiou, 2010), rather we simply facilitate autonomy.
Additionally, reviews of autonomous language learning often cite Holec’s (1981, p. 3) definition.
Instead of following suit in this review, we feel Thornbury (2011), summarizes the sentiments of
Japan-based teachers who provide practical autonomous solutions with their learners in contexts
not unlike our own, precisely:
Autonomy, then, is less than a matter of the individual taking charge of his or her own
learning (in Holec’s much cited formulation), although this may well be the long-term
objective. Rather it is the capacity of the group to take charge of its own learning, the
group being, “the people in the room,” which of course, includes the teacher. (p. 264)
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
The “people in the room” in a language learning environment, much like “the people in
room of the ERC,” then are the teachers/advisors and peers/students who interact with each other
in a multitude of ways. In Ushioda’s (2007) study of learners and teachers, conditions that
facilitate autonomy occur when elements of challenge exist in the learning process and provide a
situation which is personally meaningful to the learners. Only then can they internalize their
socially constructed goals to feel the motivation for learning a language emanating within
themselves as agents of their own regulation. Some theorists argue that there is a distinction
between agency and autonomy in socially situated learning, however Benson (2011) argues that
this trend is a moot point because both terms are socially mediated and obliged. In another book
of autonomy studies, with some based in Japan (Barfield & Brown, 2007), Toohey (2007) asserts
that these researchers and their language learners are working in a multitude of ways where in
most cases the facilitation of autonomy does not stress individualism, but rather moves toward
the equalization of possibilities for social agency with the learners to engage actively in learning
with others (Goffman, 1974), which in this context involves “the people in the room of the
Concerning self-access centers (SACs) in Japan, in the past 10 years, there has been an
increase in fostering of motivation, learner autonomy, and self-directed learning in out-of-class
settings in universities. The membership of the Japan Association of Self-access Learning
(JASAL) has increased in size as more SACs have been established in universities throughout
the country. Several studies that focus on surveying the needs of the learners who use or
potentially might use SACs have emerged in the Japanese tertiary context, which are particularly
useful to the ERC in terms of focusing on the learners’ needs and requests. Gilles’s (2007; 2010)
research suggests that an institution’s SAC appeals to intrinsically motivated students who are
most often at a higher proficiency of English than the general student population, while students
who were more dependent on teachers in the classroom were more hesitant to use the SAC. His
conclusion was that plans should be made to help make the SAC more accessible and appealing
to a larger student body and calls for stronger links of support for courses taught in English with
the SAC. In another study (Johnson & Morikawa, 2011), a large-scale survey was conducted to
assess students’ need for justification to establish an SAC. They found more awareness was
needed about how SACs could support the students’ English education because just five of the
236 students stated that they had used a SAC previously. Lastly, Heigham’s (2011) study was of
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
much interest to us as our advisor faculty is spread rather thinly with a larger attendee population
than in previous years. Heigham found the need in a rapidly growing SAC for peer advisors to
take charge of the center, facilitate peer learning with center attendees and take control over the
development of their own English at the same time. This represented a win-win solution in terms
of learner development and the enhancement of support for the center.
The Context of the Study
The following section details the data-gathering procedure of the study, the structure of
the questionnaire given to regular attendees of the ERC (the participants of the study). These
methods were utilized in order to establish what motivates attendees to come to the ERC, how
they might participate during their stay—the most common factor conceivably being social in
nature—and what suggestions the participants have to make this ever-growing center better serve
their needs.
The data-gathering procedure
In order to look more closely at students’ reasons for becoming (regularly) involved with
the ERC—and the networks or bonds created between attendees—a short ten-point questionnaire
was designed and administered to attendees. To conserve space, the questionnaire is shown in a
condensed, summarized form in this paper (see Appendix A). As can be seen, the questionnaire
was largely opened-ended in nature in order to allow attendees to provide freer, more detailed
perceptions, ideas, and beliefs—allowing for unpredicted information to emerge from the data,
rather than using a closed (and, hence, more restricted) questioning format (Burns, 1999).
Requiring approximately fifteen minutes to complete, the questionnaire was made
available to respondents between October 12, 2010 and November 29, 2011—which is the
period during which electronic records of ERC attendance were kept and continuing through to
completion of the data-gathering process of this investigation. For reasons of convenience and
practicality, SurveyMonkey (2011) <> was chosen as the primary
means of distributing the questionnaire. It was made available to students on two computers
within the ERC (during ordinary operational hours), and it was also distributed to attendees via
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
For this study, it was particularly important that responses were sought from experienced
ERC attendees. The research team, therefore, decided to focus on those most familiar with all
aspects of the Center. Compared to newer attendees, experienced ERC-goers should be more
knowledgeable about what happens in the ERC space, they ought to know more clearly about
what they want from this space, and they should be able to provide more complete responses to
the questionnaire (especially those questionnaire items seeking information concerned with the
formation of interpersonal networks). On the other hand, the research team felt that newer
attendees (i.e., those less familiar with the daily operation of the ERC space and the activities
that take place there) might provide skewed or biased responses unintentionally through feeling
pressure to give overly positive responses—thus avoiding potentially helpful criticism or
feedback for the present study. As a result, it must be noted here that respondents were
approached by the research team and asked if they would be willing to complete a questionnaire.
The questionnaire was, thus, distributed in a non-random manner.
Structure of the questionnaire
The questionnaire was constructed in such a fashion that clusters of questions target
specific information. Item 1 calls for respondents to identify themselves through the provision of
student identification numbers. Although somewhat of a contentious issue, the research team
decided that the gathering of attendee identification data throughout the questionnaire was
essential for this study—in other words, identification data would provide the research team with
a reliable means of mapping attendee networks network (by, for example, permitting the authors
to match ID numbers with names that respondents list in Items 6 and 7 a little further on in the
questionnaire). Items 2-4 elicit information concerning attendees’ first visit to the ERC. Items 5-
7 go on to examine reasons or motives for sustained visitations and the networks established
among attendees during this time. Specifically with reference to Items 6 and 7, data collected
through these questionnaire items could add support for or against the hypothesis that
socialization is the main long-term motivation for students to attend the ERC. Items 8 and 9 seek
to explore those advising practices that students engage in and find beneficial. The final item,
Item 10, calls for suggestions for improvement of the ERC space from the participants’
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The participants
A total of 30 ERC attendees participated in this study. The 30 participants comprise but a
fraction of the population of 409 students who have visited the ERC in the 154 days between
October 12, 2010 and November 29, 2011.
It is important to note that the study participants attended the ERC much more frequently
than the majority of the ERC population. Whereas the typical attendee visited the ERC an
average of 5.85 times over the 154-day period (SD=11.42, Min=1, Max=95), those participating
in this study attended an average of 22 times (SD=18.69, Min=3, Max=68).
Therefore, in the ensuing discussion, it is important for the reader to bear in mind that the
findings of this study are reflective of this purposefully chosen sample, which consisted of the
most motivated ERC users (in terms of their frequency of ERC usage). To a degree, the
implications and conclusions drawn from the sample population can be extended to the greater
ERC population. However, to provide more depth and to help create a more detailed picture of
the factors that encourage learners to become regular, autonomous center participants, additional
studies involving wider, randomly selected samples are called for in the future.
Results and Discussion
In the following section, we explore the results of the survey, investigating their
implications with regard the reasons why students attend the ERC, the advising practices they
value, and the practices they desire more of.
How respondents first found out about the ERC
A simple tallying of responses and counting of referrers named for Item 2 revealed that
11 (37%) of the respondents found out about the ERC on their own, whereas 19 (63%) were
referred by someone else. Of those who were referred, eight were referred by teachers, while 11
were referred by peers.
Reasons for first visit versus reasons for continuing to visit
In this section, we contrast the types of reasons students gave for why they first visited
(Item 3) and why they continue to visit (Item 5) employing two complementary approaches.
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
For our first approach, we subjectively determined how the responses could be
meaningfully, yet concisely categorized, discovering that we could divide them into four
different categories or orientations of motivation: (language) learning, social, resource and
teacher-orientations. The following lists responses exemplifying each.
Learning: “Because I want to study abroad next year, so I had to study English very
Social: “The members are so kind.”
Resource: “Because I want to read English books.”
Teacher: “Because an English teacher was telling the students about ERC and I thought it
would be interesting.”
Often a single response indicated more than one of these orientations, as demonstrated below:
“At first I simply wanted to practice speaking English, but later, I also wanted to have fun
in the ERC.” (Learning and Social)
“because it is fun to talk with someone, also i can borrow some books and DVDs.”
(Social and Resource)
However, no single response ever indicated all four orientations.
After, determining which categories of orientation applied to each response, we summed
the number of times each orientation applied and calculated percentages for each response set.
Figure 1 displays the results:
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Figure 1. Reasons for first visit and for continuing to visit the ERC
A quick glance reveals a decrease in learning orientation (from 51 to 36 percent) and
teacher orientation (from 14 to 5 percent) accompanied by an increase in social orientation from
30 to 54 percent. Thus, while motivation to learn the language served as main factor in bringing
students to the ERC, the social aspect of the ERC appears to be the main motivation to continue
For our second, arguably less subjective, method of analysis, we subtracted the
frequencies of words occurring in Item 5 responses from the frequencies of the same words in
Item 3 responses (combining words in the same family). We then extracted content words whose
difference in frequency between the two sets was more than one standard deviation above or
below the mean difference as demonstrative of the difference between the responses. Figure 2
displays the results:
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
Figure 2. Item 5 response word frequencies minus item 3 response word frequencies
As shown, the words which increased in frequency (with, people, students, friends,
exchange, them, talk, others, fun, feel, atmosphere) are of a social nature, whereas most of the
words that decreased (skills, abroad, study, improve, English) suggest a learning orientation.
Meanwhile the leftover decreased word, “told,” hints at a teacher orientation. In fact, except for a
single case, “told” was always used in conjunction with “teacher” or a teacher’s name as in, “I
was told to come here by [teacher A] and [teacher B].” Thus, the word frequency contrast
reflects the same changes in motivation to visit the ERC that are indicated by the more subjective,
initial analysis. Students began mostly with an intention to “learn,” but continued visiting mainly
to socialize with their peers.
Valued advising and peer-advising practices
This section analyzes the responses to Items 8 and 9 using the two contrast methods
previously employed for Items 3 and 5. However, upon examining the responses, we found that
all Item 9 responses referred to teachers and resource orientation, and in the composite of the two
sets of responses, there was only one response that referred to resources. Thus, in place of
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teacher and resource orientation, we realized a new category of orientation was necessary: (non-
linguistic) content/knowledge orientation. The following lists examples of each of the categories
Learning: “teaching me correct English”
Social: “facilitating conversations between students”
Content/Knowledge: “giving me a lot of information about various topics I do not know
so much.”
As with before, no single response indicated all of categories together. Figure 3 displays a
contrast between the resulting percentages of times each orientation applied to Item 8 responses
versus Item 9 responses.
Figure 3. Orientations of valued advising versus peer-advising practices
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As shown, socialization once again takes a lead role, with socially oriented behaviors
comprising 47 percent of advising practices and 52 percent of peer-advising practices. Next,
whereas 42 percent of advising practices were learning oriented, only 29 percent of peer advising
were oriented toward learning. Finally, and interestingly, 19 percent of peer advising practices
were oriented toward content/knowledge, while only 12 percent of advising practices took this
orientation. Thus, not only do socially oriented practices account for the majority of advising
practices that were valued enough to be recalled by respondents, peers also seem to do more to
keep each other interested than advisors do. The word frequency contrast displayed in Figure 4
corroborates these findings. Item 8 responses showed a higher frequency of words suggesting
that peers were known for engaging in more socially oriented advising practices (friends, fun,
listening, others, together, with, talking) and content/knowledge oriented practices (different,
experience, ideas, new, know), while engaging less in learning-oriented advising practices as
shown by the relative absence of correcting, teaching, checking, and pronunciation compared to
advisors’ practices.
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Figure 4. Item 8 response word frequencies minus item 9 response word frequencies
Sought-after advising practices
Through examining the responses to Items 10 and 4 this section investigates the kinds of
advising and peer-advising practices students might benefit from having more of. The first step
in this investigation involved two of the researchers classifying each suggestion given by
respondents. Unlike the previous analyses, classification this time was relatively straightforward
with each suggestion clearly fitting one classification more than any other. Table 1 displays
information for classes of responses for which the number of responses was greater than three.
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Table 1. Most frequent suggestions by study participants
Example Response
“longer open hours”
“bigger room”
“more friendly atmosphere even if people don't have enough
English speaking skills”
“Advertising about the ERC. I suggest teachers should advertise
about the Halloween party, for example.”
Suggestions on open hours, space, and advertising were all expected, given the small size
of the ERC, limited open hours, and current lack of publicity. However, the six suggestions for
improving the atmosphere came as a surprise, after reading and analyzing responses to Item 5
such as:
“Good atmosphere is one of the reasons why I continue to come to the ERC. I can have
very good time. I can make friends with a lot of people and talking with them is very
Also, of the four types of suggestions listed above, the atmosphere suggestions are the only ones
that deal directly with advising practices per se (see Appendix B for the full list of suggestions).
These suggestions indicated that respondents would like more advising practices oriented toward
welcoming and encouraging attendees, especially newcomers who may not be confident in their
language skills.
As “newcomers” are explicitly mentioned in the suggestions, we examined respondents’
accounts of their own first visit to illuminate the reasons for the desire for a friendlier atmosphere.
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We thus classified responses to Item 4 into those which indicated an uncomfortable first
experience, a comfortable one, one which began as uncomfortable but became comfortable, and
those which could not be classified (see Figure 5).
Figure 5. Comfort level during first visit to the ERC
As shown, the largest portion of respondents (40 percent) had an uncomfortable first visit.
Meanwhile, a slightly smaller portion of respondents was comfortable (37 percent) and 13
percent of respondents did not mention how they felt during their first visit. Finally, 10 percent
began their visit feeling uncomfortable, but over the course of their visit became comfortable.
Although two of these students gave only general reasons for this transformation (the
friendliness of other people in the ERC), one describes what happened specifically:
“I saw a lot of people in there. I couldn't talk with them at first, but one of them spoke to
me. So, I could speak.”
Further examination revealed two common elements that seemed to have contributed to
respondents’ discomfort: 1) the large number of people in the ERC at the time and 2) their
feeling of being less proficient than other attendees. Of these two elements, the former was more
common (eight responses versus two). We then investigated for a correlation between responses
that mentioned the number of people and those which indicated an uncomfortable experience. A
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weak but significant correlation of r(28)=.33, p=.036 emerged, indicating that newcomers may
be more prone to having an uncomfortable first visit when the room is crowded, and therefore
that advisors and peers should make greater efforts to help newcomers feel welcome when the
ERC is busy.
This study set out to better ascertain what factors motivated attendees of the English
Resource Center (ERC) at Saitama University, Japan, to become regular participants within the
center. In doing so, this paper examined what led participants to their initial discovery of the
ERC, what occurred during that initial visit, what the attendees value about the ERC, and, finally,
what additional support could, or perhaps should, be provided to future first-time visitors.
Initially, the attendees took a self-oriented view of the role of the ERC (e.g., the reason
students first came to the ERC was to improve individual language skills). However, the students
continued to attend due to other- or peer-oriented factors such as socializing and networking. The
most mentioned valued advising practices were also social in nature. Of the suggestions
mentioned, providing more support for students who come to the ERC for the first time appeared
as an outstanding element in need of improvement, especially during times when the center is
Our findings offer some practical implications for policy development both at our center
as well as other centers with philosophies similar to ours, particularly those where attendance is
voluntary. First, participants in our study were initially attracted to our SAC mainly because they
believed it was a good place to learn English. Thus, centers looking to increase the number of
their attendees may do well to publicize whatever evidence they possess indicating that they
indeed offer an opportunity to effectively learn the language. Second, the majority of our
participants were referred to our center by friends who were already attending, so SACs might
find that the quickest and most efficient way to attract new attendees is to actively encourage
current attendees to bring their friends. Most importantly though, our findings suggest that, more
than publicity, materials, or language pedagogy per se, the key to fostering long-term motivation
to attend seems to lie in nurturing the establishment of social bonds between attendees. The
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
question of how this may be more effectively accomplished is one we look forward to
investigating in future studies.
We would like to thank our colleague and fellow ERC advisor Associate Professor
Adriana Edwards Wurzinger for her expert advice and assistance throughout the different stages
of this research project. We would also like to thank the participants for volunteering their time
and valuable insights into the ERC.
About the contributors
Leander Hughes is an Assistant Professor at the Saitama University Center for English
Education and Development. He is interested in quantitative language research methods and in
applying findings in current social psychology to the language learning context. His other
interests include computer assisted language learning, learner autonomy, and communicative
task effectiveness.
Nathan Krug is an Assistant Professor in the Center for English Education and Development at
Saitama University. He has research interests spanning the fields of conversation analysis,
discourse analysis and CALL. Nathan is interested in language learning and second-language
conversation within the computer-mediated environment.
Stacey Vye is an Assistant Professor at the Saitama University Center for English Education and
Development (CEED) in Japan. Her research interests and publications include reflection,
learner and teacher autonomy in language education including the connections between both
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Appendix A
Summary of the Questionnaire
1. Please enter your Student ID Number: ____________________
2. Who first told you about the ERC?
(a) No one. I discovered it by myself.
(b) I found out from a person named: ____________________
3. Why did you decide to try visiting the ERC the first time? Please explain in detail, giving
names if applicable.
(One large text box was provided with ample space for a response.)
4. Please describe what you saw and felt when you first entered the ERC.
(One large text box was provided with ample space for a response.)
5. What made you decide to continue coming to the ERC (please give names if applicable)?
(One large text box was provided with ample space for a response.)
6. Presently, who do you know who attends the ERC (please list their full names)?
(Ten numbered text boxes were provided for the individual listing of names, plus an additional
text box was provided for the purpose of grouping together other as-yet-unlisted names.)
7. Of the people listed above, who do you spend time with outside of the ERC (including on
internet sites such as Facebook)?
(Ten numbered check boxes were provided, corresponding to the numbered text boxes in Item 6.
An additional text box was provided for the purpose of indicating other as-yet-unmatched
personal connections.)
8. How do other students in the ERC help you? Please list as many ways as you can think of.
(Ten text boxes were provided for the listing of individual advising practices, plus an additional
text box was provided for the purpose of including other as-yet-unmentioned advising practices.)
9. How do teachers in the ERC help you? Please list as many ways as you can think of.
(Ten text boxes were provided for the listing of individual advising practices, plus an additional
text box was provided for the purpose of including other as-yet-unmentioned advising practices.)
10. How can the ERC be improved? You can include suggestions about the room, teacher
practices, equipment, materials, open hours…anything you want! Please list as many ideas
as you can.
SiSAL Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, June 2012, 163-181
(Ten text boxes were provided for the listing of individual suggested improvements, plus an
additional text box was provided for the purpose of including other as-yet-unmentioned
suggested improvements.)
Appendix B
The Six Suggestions for Improving the ERC Atmosphere
“Make some board to indicate we are welcome.”
“more friendly atmosphere even if people don't have enough English speaking skills”
“put a special care about newcomers”
“removing exclusiveness”
“The room is little bit difficult to enter, and everyone hesitate to enter this room first time.”
“to speak to student more positively”
... In the first year of university, language identities are forged, and these identities strongly shape SALC use, as Hamish Gillies's subsequent research confirmed (2010). Realizing that it would be particularly important to provide support to students who come to the World Plaza for the first time (Hughes, Krug, and Vye, 2012), we decided to carefully scaffold these learners' first experiences in the World Plaza through 'push activities' -interactive language projects and tasks that classroom teachers could give their students that 'pushed' them to go there. Each teacher set their own push activities in class, and learners first practiced them there before doing them later in the World Plaza. ...
... Initially, learners went because they felt that it would help them to learn English; however, the most common reason for continuing to visit was primarily social; that is, they felt that they had become members of a learning community there. Also, the teacher pushing learners to go to the SALC became a less important reason over time, and the presence of resources there was not particularly significant at any point (Hughes, Krug and Vye, 2012). The authors concluded that the key to fostering long-term motivation to attend a SALC lies in nurturing the establishment of social bonds between learners. ...
As the number of self-access language centres (SALCs) in Japanese universities continues to grow, so too does the challenge of successfully introducing them to first-year university students, whose initial experiences of self-access language learning may otherwise be confusing and even unsettling. One approach is to carefully scaffold students’ first SALC encounters by connecting them with their classroom learning experiences. This paper discusses one such approach developed at a private university in central Japan, which was based upon a two-stage ‘push-pull’ ‘materials-light, people-focused’ strategy. Teachers initially ‘pushed’ their students to visit the SALC by giving them speaking ‘homework’ to be done there. The SALC then also offered interesting interactive events designed to ‘pull’ learners to continue to come. These push-pull activities could be done with few or no materials, and emphasized interaction with people rather than materials. This two-stage, push-pull strategy served as a bridge between the language classroom and a SALC, helping learners make the first steps in their transition from being a ‘classroom English learner’ to becoming a ‘SALC English user’.
... Interdependent learning may often be more effective than independent learning for encouraging sustained SALC usage. A study conducted by Hughes, Krug, and Vye (2012) reveals that the majority of students first sought out their SALC for learning purposes, but continued visiting for social reasons. This finding is consistent with my own independent research, which included interviews with our most frequent SALC visitors. ...
... This would also provide new challenges for students to overcome, thereby boosting engagement. Plus, peer support includes the social and collaborative aspects that previously mentioned SALC research (Hughes et al., 2012) has shown to be desirable. Therefore, a peer-support program should theoretically increase SALC retention rates for prolonged usage. ...
This paper briefly examines if and how peer support can be implemented as an appropriate means to improve self-access learning. The potential for further alignment with the higher aims common among self-access learning centers will be examined. Opportunities for increasing interdependence, purpose, and level of challenge to foster student engagement will also be explored. Finally, future directions in self-access learning will be discussed.
... to students should be considered (Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2012). In addition, Croker and Ashurova (2012) noted that using a SAC could be daunting especially for freshmen, first-year Japanese university students. ...
... In addition, Croker and Ashurova (2012) noted that using a SAC could be daunting especially for freshmen, first-year Japanese university students. Furthermore, students who are intrinsically motivated and have an advanced level of English proficiency may find an institution's SAC more appealing while learners that depend more on their teachers in the classroom may hesitate in using SACs (Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2012). Attempts have been made to help university students use SACs actively at institutions in Japan. ...
This quantitative report was conducted to explore the potential factors which promoted the increased number of students who utilized the English Consultation Room (ECR) which is one of the self-access programs at the World Language Center (WLC), Soka University, Japan. In 2013, 63.5% of students used the English language learning advising service in total whereas the number of students increased to 70.2% in 2014. While self-access centers (SACs) are widely recognized as an effective means to promoting students’ language learning, especially outside the classroom, just establishing the facilities does not guarantee frequent and active use by students. Increasing the number of users, in fact, may be an institutional challenge for program coordinators (Kodate, 2012). The results of the report may give the self-access program coordinators an insight into the students’ frequent use of the program. In addition, it may provide an example of how usage figures relating to an advising program can be effectively collected and analyzed.
... The mere physical presence of students in SACs; however, may not result in learning that could be construed as meaningful (Fukuda, Sakata & Takeuchi (2011). Therefore, students would need to have motivation to effectively utilize SACs (Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2012). Research has shown that having students communicate in a second language requires a degree of learner motivation of different kinds, including Integrativeness (Brown, Robson, & Rosenkjar, 2001;Irie, 2005;Watanabe, 2011); Internal Posture (Matsuoka, 2005;Yashima, 2002;Yashima, Zenuk-Nishide, & Shimizu, 2004) and Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation (Otoshi & Heffernan, 2011;Robson, 2016). ...
... Studies of motivation for using SACs in Japan are scarce and small scale. One such study (Hughes, Krug, & Vye 2012) used an open-ended questionnaire and frequencies counts, and discovered that 48% of respondents appeared to be extrinsically motivated, attending an on-site SAC only to complete a task. Motivation is barely analyzed beyond that. ...
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One way to promote autonomy in the second language can be through the use of Self-access Centres (SACs). These are spaces for students to engage in activities such as self-study or communication with other learners, or native-speakers of the target language. However, merely having these spaces available does not guarantee that students will use the facility effectively, or even attend at all, so a degree of learner motivation linked with visiting the SAC would be necessary. Deci and Ryan’s (1985) Self-Determination Theory (SDT) has been used as the base for numerous studies in second language learning, including those in Japan. Proponents claim SDT is both universal and can be measured on different levels, which are global, situational and state. The authors sought to validate a measure of four subscales of SDT (Intrinsic Motivation, Identified Regulation, Introjected Regulation and External Regulation) written for this study at the situational level among undergraduates using an SAC at a Japanese University (n = 83). The rationale for items at this level comes from the field of psychology (Vallerand & Ratelle, 2002) and a study of second language constructs (Robson, 2016). A factor analysis confirmed four reliable factors, as hypothesized. Further, simplex correlations between the subconstructs somewhat confirms the underlying continuum posited by SDT researchers. These results may lead to a body of work that validates SDT theory in second language learning.
... They fulfil the need for autonomy if lounge attendance is an active choice and fits with learners' inner motivations. As many researchers have found (e.g., Hughes et al., 2012;Murray, 2017;Murray & Fujishima, 2013Mynard & Shelton-Strong, 2020a, 2020b, conversing with others in the target language is a great source of autonomous motivation for using a SALC, but it can also be perceived as a challenge. ...
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The field of self-access language learning (SALL), which is an established way of supporting language learners outside the classroom through the provision of resources and spaces, spans more than five decades and is currently in a phase that Mynard (2019a) refers to as the 'basic psychological needs and wellbeing' phase. This is a turning point in SALL wherein the focus has shifted towards the need for (more explicitly) facilitating an autonomy-supportive environment outside the classroom. This focus supports language learners' needs for autonomy, relatedness and competence, and as such, aims to provide the conditions needed to foster language learning in an environment in which they can thrive and grow in psychologically healthy ways (Ryan & Deci, 2020). In this theoretical article, the authors make a case for using self-determination theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2017) as an overarching framework for future developments in the field of SALL. The article gives an overview of four key SALL support systems, showing how they can fulfil students' basic psychological needs. These four key support systems are: advising in language learning; structured awareness raising; conversation lounges; and interest-based, student-led learning communities.
... However, since autonomy can be incrementally developed by the teacher, students can be gradually given full learning responsibility in the hope that they will one day become fully autonomous. Social collaborative learning amongst peers is the most significant long-term motivational factor for students to become involved with learning English (Hughes et al., 2011). The results on the readiness for learner autonomy and students' performance in English language can help EFL teachers to be aware of readiness of learner autonomy of students and improve their educational methods or approaches in order to promote learner autonomy and help students to work together collaboratively and appreciate the value of autonomous learning with more concentration since it will lead to learning effectiveness. ...
Conference Paper
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The aim of this paper is to critically review various models of framing analysis approach based on the critical analysis of various relevant kinds of literature proposed by famous scholars who concern with the framing studies. The review of framing analysis models revealed that every different model of framing analysis approaches scientifically used to dig the typology of news framing in news text. Those differences derived from different ways of scholars critically viewed and interpreted the context of the philosophical and epistemological meaning of framing. The paper shows that the different framing analysis approaches used in media framing studies such as the internal structure of the media package, episodic vs thematic, multi-dimensional, structures of news discourse, the ’categorization’ concept, four functions of framing, framing deductive approach, and list of the frame.
... The present study attempts to begin answering these questions with an investigation involving the self-reports from language students who taught what they learned in class to those they choose to teach outside of class. The WBTT-based activities could be initiated not only in the classroom but also in other types of educational programs including self-access learning programs (e.g., Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2012), tutoring programs (e.g., Mynard & Almarzouqui, 2006), and reciprocal teaching (Palincsar & Brown, 1984). That is, learners can teach what they have learned in any particular space to others in other spaces. ...
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Students’ social networks can become exapted (Johnson, 2010) for the purpose of increasing language learning, or any other kind of learning, as well as the promotion of well-being, through what Murphey (2014) calls the well becoming through teaching (WBTT) hypothesis. The WBTT paradigm holds that people not only learn better when teaching others, but approach and maintain their well-being in wider social networks outside the classroom. The present study explored the impact of WBTT-based activities conducted within students’ social networks on their language learning and well-being. The data were collected for 6 years (2010-2015) from students’ action logging and case studies. Language students taking Murphey’s English classes were asked to self-report their experiences and to write reflections after their WBTT-based activities. The qualitative data indicated that both the students in the teaching role and the people who received their lessons deepened their understanding of both the content (message) and form (target language), forming affinity spaces in different social contexts both in and out of class. Most importantly, it was recognized that both groups of people were able to experience exciting learning or teaching rushes through the engagement in the activities.
... As can be seen in the above examples many of these "pull" strategies are very social activities, which follows the growing consensus that SALCs are not simply "self" guided learning centers, but rather are a place for social interaction (Hughes, Krug, & Vye, 2012) and "group autonomy" and a place to learn together with others (Kimura, 2014). ...
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Self-Access Learning Centers (SALCs) have become common at many universities in Japan. They provide a learning space to actively interact with a foreign language. These centres are self-access and thus promote autonomous learning, so one of the challenges they have to overcome is the difficulty of attracting students to voluntarily enter and participate in such a learning environment. This article reports findings from a study, which examined associations between items on a curiosity scale and students’ exploratory behavior to seek out and participate in activities at the SALC. Implications for foreign language education and suggestions for future research are discussed.
This research project aimed to respond to a need perceived as the self-access laboratory (Sas Lab) at a Jesuit Mexican private university reached a stage of maturity in its growth process. The analysis done of the development of Self-access, particularly in Mexico, for this research project, allows us to put forward that our self-access centre is part of the vanguard in our country, having evolved to the point now where we no longer see these spaces as just resource-filled facilities, but rather “person-centred social learning environments” (Mynard, 2016). For us the aim is to support the development of autonomy in learners, language learning is the vehicle to try to reach that goal. This perceived need meant that we required facilitators who would be better prepared to support the development of learner autonomy in the students visiting the Sas Lab. There was a need to prepare teacher-tutors to no longer just transfer teaching skills from their traditional classroom experience to the self-access environment. This meant having to better define the job of facilitators as Language Learning Advisors (LLAs) who are aptly prepared to deal with the overall care and support of the learner to encourage the development of learner autonomy. The main contribution to knowledge that this project proposed was the design of an intervention that would have the teacher-participants use their own autonomy in working together as a community of practice (CoP) to train themselves as LLAs. This intervention was meant to give teachers an opportunity to experience where they stood in terms of autonomy themselves and with this provide them with an understanding of what it would take to accompany a learner to develop it. Part of this novel design would be to use the Ignatian pedagogical model that promotes experiential contextualized learning that is the basis for the work done in Jesuit institutions, like the one where this research took place, to provide a framework for the intervention. This is a first explicit use of the Ignatian paradigm in an English Language Teaching (ELT) context, and it has yielded very promising results that will hopefully shine a light on the possible future applications of it in this and other fields. The intervention itself was done in stages that allowed participants, researcher and the process to have the necessary time to move organically and grow as needed. The first stage of the intervention tracked in an ethnographic study the experience of teachers in the English language programme as they were invited to take an active role in a change management project. This provided a baseline in terms of the overall understanding of teacher autonomy. The second stage of the study saw the formation of a CoP with volunteering participants who started to work towards training themselves as LLAs via means of their own autonomy. An ethnographic study provided an account of the experience and a case study analysis provided insight into the experience of some of the participants. A third stage of the study gathered the work done by the CoP in using their experience to put forward a professional development pathway that is now being used by the department to train and certify LLAs. The experience of having teachers going through a process of self-discovery and exploration of their own autonomy, to better understand where they stood and then to raise their own awareness from first-hand experience about what it takes to develop autonomy as a learner; was a process that had not been proposed before in language learning advising schemes in 3 Mexico or at an international level. Data gathered via means of an interview model designed to allow participants control over the process was proposed, to be consistent with the search for opportunities to support and develop autonomy that characterized the overall design of the intervention. In a wider stage, our experience in this project has brought us a better understanding of the impact of a training scheme that can allow participant teachers to see what it is like to try to take charge of one’s own learning; and learn what it takes to explore and develop autonomy individually and as part of a community learning together.
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Welcome to issue 7(4) of SiSAL Journal, which is a special issue on Japan. It is my hope that future issues can be guest-edited special issues from other parts of the world, too. In this introduction, I will begin by commenting on some issues likely to arise in the Japanese context in the coming years along with some practical ways for us to respond. The ideas are based on plenary talks I gave this year in Mexico (see Benson, Chávez Sánchez, McLoughlin, Mynard, & Peña Clavel (2016) for a summary) and Japan (Mynard, 2016; also see Lin (2016) for a summary). I will then give a brief summary of each contribution to this special issue.
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Through the establishment of interactionally rich environments, conversation rooms and self-access centers encourage attendees to be extremely competent and resourceful language, cultural and social learners. The following paper outlines four unique yet contrasting aspects of one such self-access center—the English Resource Center at Saitama University, Japan. In the first section, a brief history of the Center is provided, outlining its socially situated learning community. The second section details a special event occurring in the Center, which prepares students for formal academic presentations in foreign institutions. The Center’s Drama Workshop is discussed in the third section, focusing on the linguistic and cultural growth that participants experience as they each experiment with their own developing English identity. Finally, the fourth section quantitatively analyzes attendees’ English proficiency gains by comparing examination results over time. All in all, the differing interactive contexts of this self-access learning center work together in unison, strongly supporting linguistic growth and cultural development.
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This study investigates the benefits of attending the Saitama University English Resource Center (ERC), a self-access center for English language learning open to all students at the university and managed by full-time faculty who alternate as center advisors. The study builds on previous research to explore how advisors promote language learning through facilitating autonomous socialization in the L2 among center attendees. This authentic social interaction not only exposes learners to patterns of discourse and other language input unavailable to learners in most institutional settings, it has also served as the means through which visiting students have formed an out-of-class learning community that now extends well beyond the center’s walls. Findings of a significant increase in center attendees and meaningful gains in the number of frequent attendees over the past year provide evidence that supports informal observations of the growth of this extraordinary L2-based community.
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This paper reports on a follow-up study to Gillies (2007), in which a survey was conducted to investigate how tertiary-level Japanese EFL students understand and interpret their use or non-use of their institution’s self-access centre (SAC). The survey data revealed general trends regarding the factors which motivate the students’ use of the SAC as well as reasons why students choose not to use it, while also suggesting four types of students, via cluster analysis. Employing Dornyei’s (2005) L2 Motivational Self System as a theoretical framework, the current paper attempts to probe deeper into the survey data, and specifically tease out the factors influencing the use or non-use of the SAC. It reports on a set of semi-structured interviews with a purposeful sample of nine students from amongst the survey respondents. The interviewees included representatives of each of the four clusters identified in the survey data. The interview transcripts were then subjected to coding and labelling, and key themes in the data emerged: the SAC as an environment; the SAC as a community of selves; the SAC as contrasted with the classroom. Related to these themes, it was found that in the first year of university, identities are forged, distinguishing regular SAC users and rare SAC users. The SAC is an attractive environment for students with strong ideal L2 selves, while being uncomfortable for less confident students. The former type of student is more likely to see the classroom environment as restrictive, while the latter views it as sheltered and supportive. Meanwhile, the level of English proficiency is not in itself predictive of SAC use, but rather the level of L2 motivation, in particular the strength of the learner’s ideal L2 self. The paper discusses these themes and findings, and concludes with implications for the SAC, and suggestions for making the centre accessible and appealing to a wider cross-section of the overall student body.
This article describes the development of a small self-access center at a university in central Japan. The center grew out of pre-existing language lab and evolved into a student-run center facility that has very little daily teacher or staff control. The paper describes the main stages this low-budget center moved through to bring it to its current status and shares some student views on the value of the center.
Elsa Auerbach (Chapter 7) points out many of the contradictions that are involved when we say we are committed to increasing learner autonomy in our teaching. As I read the volume, I was alert to the wide diversity in the ways authors used the term autonomy. As predicted by Benson (1997), some of the authors of these chapters see learner autonomy as the development of skills that allow learners to learn ‘a language outside the framework of an educational institution and without the intervention of a teacher’, or at least to make steps toward this goal (Schmenk, 2005: 110). Although there are overlaps and no ‘pure’ exemplars of the categories Benson identifies, the chapters by Leena Karlsson and Felicity Kijsik (Chapter 3), Akara Akaranithi and Suriyan Panlay (Chapter 4), Peter Brown, Richard Smith and Ema Ushioda (Chapter 6), Teija Natri (Chapter 9), Pornapit Darasawang, Wareesiri Singhasiri and Sonthida Keyuravong (Chapter 14), Sarah Toogood and Richard Pemberton (Chapter 15), and Jean Young, Christoph Hafner and Dean Fisher (Chapter 16) seem good examples of conceptualizing learner autonomy as self-directed learning. Benson notes that others see autonomy as an individual capability, trait or accomplishment - and see it as a goal that can empower learners in other aspects of their lives. Rebecca Oxford, Yaru Meng, Zhou Yalun, Jiyeun Sung and Rashi Jain (Chapter 11) exemplify this approach.
SAL for everyone? Motivation and demotivation in self-access learning
  • H Gilles
Gilles, H. (2007). SAL for everyone? Motivation and demotivation in self-access learning. Studies in Linguistics and Language Teaching 18, 117-137.