Uncovering the role of learning ecology in explaining students’ engagement in informal L2 learning activities in digital online environments
Artem Zadorozhnyy, Baohua Yu (2022)
In: Proceedings of the XXIst International CALL Research Conference (Chapter 2)
Given the expanding scale of Internet access and ample language learning opportunities associated with the emergence of new digital resources and out-of-class digital environments, SLA researchers started to pay more attention to the language learning experiences of students beyond the classroom level (Lai et al., 2018; Soyoof et al., 2021; Toffoli, 2020). Particular interest is aligned to the perception that while formal education may not satisfy all individual expectations, informal language learning practices might grant students opportunities to engage in cross-cultural communication (Lee & Lee, 2021) and construct their own self-directed authentic learning situations (Lai & Zheng, 2018). Expanding this line of thinking, learning patterns are known to be greatly determined by the members of students’ social milieu who can exhibit a favorable or detrimental impact (Niemiec & Ryan, 2009). Ryan and Deci (2016), for instance, numerously stressed out that the nature of relationships between language teachers and students could have an impact on satisfaction of students’ fundamental psychological needs and as a consequence influence students’ motivation, affecting students’ engagement in learning activities. However, researchers underline that EFL students’ exposure to authentic language patterns and direct interaction with other people in their online vicinity should be scrutinized more closely nowadays (Noels et al., 2019). Owing to the complex mechanisms behind these processes and interactions, we aim to apply the sub-theory of Basic Psychological Needs (BPN) to consider the impact of significant others (i.e., language instructors, peers, and target language community members) and the perspective of learning ecology (Barron, 2006) to focus on the apparent differences in contextual factors pertaining to formal and informal language learning environments. Based on these frameworks, the data obtained via the mixed-methods research approach is set to provide valuable conclusions that could shed some light on the determinants of EFL students’ informal language learning activities among prospective EFL teachers of one Central Asian country, Kazakhstan.