The L2 motivational self systems of Japanese university short-term study abroad students: quality, social networks and changes in the L2 self across time
This research investigates the influence of study abroad (SA) on eight Japanese English as a foreign language students studying at the tertiary level. This study was developed in response to students returning to Japan with noticeable changes to their motivations, learning behaviours and goals as a result of their one-month abroad. Understanding the short-term and long-term influence of SA on L2 learners resulted in a need to examine what happens during a student’s time abroad, and this has been the focus of this research. This thesis explores the memorable learning experiences and the L2 interactions and the influence of these on the participants’ second language (L2) motivation through the lens of Dörnyei’s (2005) L2 motivational self system. The identification of the key factors that contributed to changes in motivation, study goals and learning behaviours is explored. Data is drawn from three phases via methods that attempted to improve on qualitative data-gathering by helping the participants better understand key concepts as well as using data-collection methods that the participants could more easily understand and respond to. The data-collection tools for each round were formulated with several key themes in mind that included L2 goals and learning behaviours, the L2 self image, and L2 learning experiences. The key themes to emerge from the data through thematic analysis are presented in four discrete papers in the following chapters. The focus of the first paper was to investigate the contextual elements that contribute to memorable learning experiences and explore the changes in the L2 selves. A key finding was that increased self-confidence as a result of successful L2 interactions and increased linguistic confidence was identified as a contributing factor to changes in the L2 self, motivation, goals, and current and future study behaviours. The second paper explored the influence of changing L2 self images as a result of the L2 learning experiences and the affects of this on motivation, study goals and learning behaviours. The study concluded that the L2 experiences contributed significantly to the malleability of the L2 self images, resulting in promotion focused or negative avoidance type motivation. The third paper investigated the types of social connections these participants experienced in order to explore the interactions that they afforded to try and determine the quality of these networks. The key conclusions include the participants experiencing a gap between pre-SA imagined networks and actual social networks and language communities. Another key conclusion related to the quality of the learning experiences within these networks through the opportunities these afforded and the linguistic and psychological benefits of these for the participants’ ongoing studies, goals and motivations. The fourth paper seeks to understand the experiences of the participants from their engagement with the research activities to promote improved qualitative analysis and to determine the relevance of a possible self as a way of predicting motivation. The qualitative L2 motivation model of research is proposed for researchers looking to explore L2 motivation by contributing to participants being prepared through an increased understanding of data-collection in addition to opportunities for greater engagement, self-reflection and expression.