Ecology of second language development : an activity theory and affordances study of an after-school ESL program in Hong Kong
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This work is an investigation of characteristics essential for children's second-language development (L2D). For this purpose, it takes an ecological approach – a scope of epistemological thinking that conceives the inquiry as an L2 learning ecology of an ecosystem. This ecosystem is an environmental system that supports L2D individually and collectively. With this orientation, emphasis is placed on "ecological details" and "ecosystem-wide characteristics". By "ecological" it is meant that even the smallest details of L2 learning components connecting students to L2 learning are important. After uncovering the ecological details, attention turned to an ecosystem-wide investigation. A major challenge is the complexity of restructuring disordered details meaningfully into an organised set of ecosystem-wide essences. To untangle this, the thesis develops an original, epistemological model (Activity- Semiotics-Affordances) based on ecological linguistics and psychology by integrating Engeström's (1987) activity theory and Gibson's (1979) theory of affordances. In this approach Peirce's (1931-1932) semiotics of signs is used to frame the common ground for uniting the two theories. The research focused on a group of four secondary-school students in Hong Kong, in an after-school home environment over 12 lessons, examining a range of teaching-learning activities. Data consisted of videotaping and field notes during and after each class based on an emic participant perspective through observations. This study makes a significant contribution to theoretical approaches to L2D. Secondly, it applies an original epistemological model to a teaching-learning context to explicate the underlying interwoven dynamics of the particular ecology under examination. The ecology was found to be open, semiotic, non-linear, informational, perceptual and collective; one where signs related to each other along a co-evolutionary process, and importantly, one where signs flowed and changed, guidance and activity aims functioned, and information developed for L2D. Drawing upon the notion of "education-friendliness" (i.e., providing students with greater access to diverse sources of information for learning), there are implications for educational practitioners to use real-world engagement that is likely to tap students' creativity and ignite motivational sparks for using L2 to understand the world more actively and strategically.
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