International students' experiences of English language learning in their home countries and Australia
This study explores the language learning experiences of international students in Australia by examining and comparing their experiences both in Australia and their home countries. The aim of the study is to look at the language learning ecology in which international students learn as they complete their degree programs in Australia to understand why students experience success or challenges. Language learning ecology is used as the theoretical framework, and three key elements are analysed in depth which are settings, affordances and interactions. These elements are examined by comparing past and current experiences as well as how participants adjust to the new environment.
The study involved five international student participants and three different data sources (i.e., interviews, diaries and assessment feedback) gathered over a four-week period so as to examine how participants adjusted to the learning environment. A qualitative methodology was employed using a ‘case study’ design to illustrate how participants experienced English language learning through using the settings, affordances and interactions in their environment.
The findings indicated there were two significant themes in relation to the differences between the past and current learning environments. These were prior language learning experiences of students and pedagogical practices used in their home countries. In addition, there were three main themes affecting their adaptation to the Australian learning environment which were motivation, affordances and learning strategies. Students that engaged in more social interactions demonstrated a high degree of intrinsic motivation and employed more affordances as well as learning strategies that focused on cooperation and interacting with native speakers. In addition, pedagogical practices such as employing tasks that included social interaction were a marked difference to student’s past experience and assisted with their language development. The study provides insights on how students and teachers can maximize relevant affordances and interactions in their environment.