Beliefs about Individual Differences and Instructional Settings in Secondary Education Learners
Gámez Patiño, Eva
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During the last few decades, social-psychological theories have gained popularity in Second Language Acquisition (SLA), as they consider individual differences, which are often disregarded by linguistic approaches, relevant factors that shape SLA. Consequently, experts have conducted a vast amount of research on learner individual characteristics, examining how individual differences such as age, motivation, intelligence or aptitude influence second language (L2) acquisition. Additionally, over recent decades, most European countries (including Spain) have introduced English, the current lingua franca, into school curricula at an early age and have promoted language immersion through English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL), Content-and-languageintegrated-learning (CLIL) and Study-Abroad (SA) programmes as opposed to traditional English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) lessons. Therefore, a good bulk of research has examined the benefits and shortcomings of the aforementioned instructional settings. Since the 1980s, studies analysing the nature of learner beliefs have proliferated. These studies have examined students’ perceptions (without making gender distinctions) only on five areas of language learning, based on Horwitz’s (1985) Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory (BALLI) questionnaire. These areas are difficulties of language learning; foreign language aptitude; the nature of language learning; learning and communication strategies; and motivations and expectations. However, learners’ perceptions outside this fixed questionnaire, its variations and the effect of gender on these perceptions are still under researched topics. Thus, this paper will aim at contributing to this under researched area by examining male and female learner beliefs about current issues in the SLA literature: individual differences (i.e. covering variables such as aptitude and motivation already examined by Horwitz’s BALLI but also personality, intelligence, gender and age, which are not included in Horwitz’s inventory) and instructional settings. More specifically, I will present an experimental study conducted with secondary school students in the Basque Autonomous Community, in which the answers to a questionnaire on beliefs adapted from BALLI are examined. The purpose of the study is to assess (i) the beliefs Basque-Spanish learners hold about individual differences and instructional settings as well whether those beliefs match the relevant findings from the literature and (ii) the extent to which their beliefs differ according to gender. The analysis of the results obtained reveals that learners hold strong fixed assumptions about variables such as age, iii gender or motivation. Furthermore, the study has also shown learners’ disconformity with CLIL instruction.