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Learning and living in English

Tsedendamba, Naranchimeg (2013) Learning and living in English. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study was borne out of reflection on my own journey of English language learning. My knowledge of English has been built through my ‘lived-experiences’ of academic and social discourses that I encountered as a postgraduate student learning and living, in English, in Australia. I decided I wanted to be able to use my experiences almost as a touchstone for an investigation of the experiences of others like me. In order to do this, this study has been constructed, and is presented, so that the experiences of the researcher - me - run parallel to those of others who are like me.

The study investigates how the knowledge and experiences of English language learning, that Asian students bring with them to Australia, impact academic engagement and second language socialisation. It also examines how the use of explicit instruction in language learning skills and strategies (LLS) influences continued language development, academic engagement and fuller socialisation within the Australian community.

This research is a qualitative case study. The methodology of the study is informed by a number of theoretical perspectives including phenomenology and ethnomethodology as well as by the principles of designed based research. The study also draws on the work of Michael Agar (1994; 2006) to provide a framework for how Asian students adapt to their new environment. Data were collected through in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted before and after a language learning strategy training program. Data were also gathered through the application and analysis of a strategy checklist and through the use of an online survey.

There were eight principal participants in the study. Their accounts of their experiences provide rich and detailed information about their language learning, about academic discourse socialisation and about socialisation more generally. Survey data suggest that the experiences of the principal participants resonate more broadly within the Asian student population of the university where this study was conducted.

The findings of the study identify areas of difficulty for the participants and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy program in supporting students to overcome these difficulties. The study reveals that strategy training can be assistive but that other factors, such as language proficiency and educational experiences both in home country contexts and in Australia, can impact strategy training effectiveness. These other factors are widely reported in the Australian literature (e.g. Betty Leask; Erlenawati Sawir; Helen Benzie; Simone Volet). What is different about this study is that, through the utilisation of a range of theoretical perspectives to inform and enact strategy training and use, a new theoretically cohesive model has been developed that can be assistive in addressing issues associated with both academic discourse socialisation and second language (L2) socialisation more generally. The study also provides recommendations for institutions and advice for students to better support Asian students, like me, who choose to study in Australia.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Supervisor: Norris, Lindy and Volet, Simone
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