UNDERSTANDING THE IDENTITY FORMATION PROCESS OF CSL LEARNERS: A SOCIOCULTURAL INTEGRATIVE APPROACH

Open Access
Author:
Lee, Yue Christine
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
October 05, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Matthew E. Poehner, Dissertation Advisor
  • Mari Haneda, Committee Chair
  • Jamie M. Myers, Committee Member
  • Ning Yu, Committee Member
  • Ning Yu, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Second language acquisition
  • language learner identities
  • Sociocultural theory
  • language socialization
  • language ideology
  • critical discourse analysis
Abstract:
With China’s rapid growth and economic power, its language has gained popularity among non-Chinese speakers, and the demand for Chinese language education has increased. However, the increased interest in Chinese language education is not reflected in the amount of research conducted in the area of Chinese as a second language (CSL) and Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) (Kecskes, 2013). Furthermore, Duff et al. (2013) noted that most of the studies conducted in the area of CSL and CFL drew from a cognitive orientation and called for studies from a social perspective. In an attempt to fill this gap, the present study adopted an ethnographically-oriented approach that aimed to study the relationship between language learning and identity construction. This 10-week ethnographic study that focused on three CSL learners at an Intensive Mandarin Learning program located in Northern Taiwan. The theoretical framework for this study was a sociocultural integrative approach that combined Vygotskian (1978) sociocultural theory and Schieffelin and Ochs’ (1986a, 1986b) language socialization theory, which sees one’s identity as developed through both co-construction in social interactions and active internalization. The research questions for the study are as follows: (1) What are the culturally produced artifacts (dialogue, concepts, belief systems, ideologies, etc.…) available in the environment that serve as either constraints or affordances to learners’ identity construction? (2) How identity is simultaneously formed through the learner’s active internalization of the cultural resources available in the environment and co-constructed with others in social interactions in the second language (L2) community? To provide insight into the research inquires, the study utilized Fairclough’s three-tier critical discourse analysis (CDA), and adopted narrative-based analysis and thematic analysis from Josselson (2014) and Gibson and Brown (2011). Through the analysis of multiple sources of data including classroom observations, audio-recordings of classroom interactions, audio-recorded semi-structured interviews, and observational field notes, the study identified several cultural artifacts that had the potential to serve as symbolic means that form learners’ identity. However, not every cultural resource acted as a mediated tool. The study discovered three main available cultural resources that act as symbolic means and mediated language learners’ identities: the language ideologies developed in the teacher’s classroom instructions and interactions, the social interaction and dialogue with native speakers in various contexts, and learners’ personal history and life experience. In response to the second research question, one of the key findings in this study was that language learners can form their desired identities in one context, while in another context their identities may be contradictory to the desired identities. Another important finding was that native speakers beyond the classroom context often given the participants’ identities as language learners, and the second language learner identity could be simultaneously present with a contrasting identity. The other key finding was that language learner’s investment in the classroom activity could be maintained by their active renegotiation of the connection between the classroom activity and her desired identity. The study concluded by providing implications on L2 pedagogy that suggests teachers should recognize L2 learners’ language needs and desired identities. Teachers should also develop classroom activities that address L2 learners’ communicative needs, which would serve to develop their communicative competence in specific areas. Further, teachers should be aware of the language ideologies constructed in the classroom and allow room for negotiation of other possible linguistic ideologies that are present in the larger social world.