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The Kindergarten Effect: Exploring the Influence of Communities of Practice on Adult L2 Willingness to Communicate

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The Kindergarten Effect: Exploring the Influence of Communities of Practice on Adult L2 Willingness to Communicate

Taylor, Kym (2016) The Kindergarten Effect: Exploring the Influence of Communities of Practice on Adult L2 Willingness to Communicate. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

Though previous research suggests that adult second language (L2) learners can face a number of struggles (e.g., Gallagher, 2013; Mady & Arnott, 2010), one of the biggest challenges for these learners is finding the confidence to communicate with their interlocutors, often native speakers of the L2. At the center of this challenge is the construct of willingness to communicate (WTC), which is typically operationalized as a measure of a learner’s comfort level in initiating communication with native speakers (MacIntyre, Babin, & Clément, 1999). One example of a rich, welcoming, nonthreatening, and nonjudgmental learning environment that might encourage
WTC is a kindergarten classroom, where young children acquire group communicative, social, and academic skills. The goal of this longitudinal case study was to examine the impact of adult L2 learners’ experience in a kindergarten classroom as a means of enhancing their WTC. The
target participants included four female international university students from China of similar age, L2 proficiency, and English instruction background. Two students attended a local kindergarten classroom three times per week for five weeks, in addition to their regular
university ESL courses; the other two attended regular ESL instruction at the university, but did not visit the kindergarten classroom. All students were pre- and posttested using a willingness to communicate scale (McCroskey & Richmond, 1990) and evaluated through weekly language use logs (Ranta & Meckelborg, 2013). The experimental participants were observed through weekly kindergarten observations (Spada & Frohlich, 1995). Journals were completed by the students
after each visit, and exit interviews were conducted with the participants’ university professors. Results revealed a positive impact of the kindergarten environment on the students’ WTC (shown in both self-reports and observations) that has extended to the students’ L2 use outside the kindergarten context. These results support the use of communicatively rich, nonthreatening communities of practice as vehicles for increasing WTC. I discuss implications for WTC as a construct and for the use of volunteer opportunities to supplement regular L2 instruction.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Education
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Taylor, Kym
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Applied Linguistics
Date:September 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Trofimovich, Pavel
Keywords:Willingness to communicate, communities of practice, interaction
ID Code:981841
Deposited By: KIMBERLY TAYLOR
Deposited On:04 Nov 2016 19:28
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:53

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