Investigating perceptions of student engagement in class practices of Vietnamese learners of academic English
Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Over the last 25 years socially-based SLA research has increasingly focused on contextual factors that constitute the local learning environments of learners of English as a second language in attempting to better comprehend the socially embedded nature of learning outcomes. These scholars have largely postulated language learning not only as the acquisition of linguistic knowledge in the abstract but rather as fundamentally constituted by participation in social praxis as situated within local sociocultural and institutional contexts. The emergence of „the social‟ in SLA research is especially significant to academic contexts in which learners belonging to diverse cultural and literacy traditions typically struggle to identify with target literacy practices of their academic communities. Drawing on a sociocultural approach and the community of practice construct, this thesis takes a qualitative approach. Through the analysis of teacher and student focus group data, this thesis sets out to illustrate learner and teacher articulations surrounding what constitutes learner engagement in an academic English program at an international university in Vietnam. The data collected in this study suggests that the focal learners perceived higher levels of learner engagement in learning contexts in which collaborative, dialogic activity was extensively integrated in the acquisition of target academic literacy practices. While the focal teacher articulations surrounding student engagement also took into account the importance of such collaborative class activity, the teachers did not attribute the same level of importance to it that the focal students did. This study concludes that teachers should extensively use activity frameworks within class that encourage group work in the learning of target academic literacy practices, especially academic reading and writing practices. Even where target practices will ultimately be elaborated and assessed on an individual basis, this study illustrates that collaborative dialogic frameworks seemed to provide students with opportunities to pool linguistic, content, and skills-related resources, thus allowing students to overcome learning difficulties associated with academic literacy practices. Ultimately, such activity frameworks appeared to mediate higher levels of student engagement within class activities, which students linked to more effective and enjoyable learning of academic English.
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