Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Students' Perspectives on Communities-Oriented Goals

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Students' Perspectives on Communities-Oriented Goals

Article excerpt

Meaning-making and language learning take place both within and beyond the learner; these processes reside in the relationships formed between individuals and communities (Lantolf, 2006). Learning opportunities should therefore not only be about the target language (TL) community but also through it (Magnan, 2008). To that end, the goals set forth in the Communities standard of the World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning (National Standards Collaborative Board [NSCB], 2015) state that learners should "use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world" and that "learners set goals and reflect on their progress in using languages for enjoyment, enrichment, and advancement" (NSCB, 2015, Summary Document, p. 1). Magnan (2008) argued that entering into a community should in fact be the sine qua non of language learning rather than its byproduct. She stated,

We need to consider carefully the type of communities in which foreign language learners engage. In addition to the digital communities and face-to-face communities described by many scholars, we might also consider imagined communities brought forth through interactions with protagonists in the imagined spaces of novels and other writings or performance. It should be clear that the notion of community applied to language learning must far exceed the classroom. (p. 362)

However, research has suggested that Communities-oriented goals may not be met through foreign language instruction (Magnan, Murphy, Sahakyan, & Kim, 2012; Willis Allen & Dupuy, 2012) and that educators may not consider technology a potential way for learners to establish, enter into, or maintain membership in TL communities (ACTFL, 2011). Thus, it remains largely unclear how learners situate themselves and their possible roles within face-to-face, digital, and imagined TL communities. This study sought to determine the importance that beginning-level learners of German placed on the goals encompassed by the Communities and other standards, and furthermore reveal how those learners envisioned TL communities and their own potential for involvement in those communities.

Review of the Literature

Communities of Practice as a Conceptual Framework

Both within and beyond the classroom, identity is a negotiated experience: People define themselves by engaging in communities of practice (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002)-that is, by engaging with and within groups of individuals who participate in common activities and who create a shared identity through engagement in, and contribution to, that community (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Central to this framework is the notion of legitimate peripheral participation, which is the process by which newcomers interact with existing members of a target group to gradually move toward fuller participation and membership. Lave and Wenger also conceived of learning as "an evolving form of membership" (1991, p. 53) through which newcomers (e.g., beginning-level students) may eventually become more central participants. However, simple participation does not guarantee assimilation: "To become a full member of a community of practice requires access to a wide range of ongoing activity, old-timers, and other members of the community; and to information, resources and opportunities for participation" (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 100).

Norton (2001) drew on Lave and Wenger's (1991) perspectives when investigating the reasons behind learners' nonparticipation in an English as a second language (ESL) class. She determined that a learner may be demotivated because of a disjuncture between the learner's imagined community and the instructor's curricular goals. Later, Murphey, Jin, and Li-Chi (2004) analyzed students' autobiographies from ESL courses and found that students imagined communities in three different ways: Learners (1) compared their experiences to past communities of practice to which they had belonged; (2) were aware of communities that they currently were, or could become, a part of; and (3) imagined future communities to which they aspired to belong. …

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