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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 154-156 ! Contents: Volume 4, Number 3, September 2013 Edited by Jo Mynard •

Editorial by Jo Mynard (154-156)

Articles •

“Beautifying the Beast”: Customising Online Instruction in a Writing Course for Jamaican Tertiary-level Students by Michelle Stewart-McKoy (157-174)

Enhancing Student Self-Study Attitude and Activity with Motivational Techniques by Kent Rhoads and Jonathan deHaan (175-195)!

Development and Use of Moodle for Online Student Support! by Moira Hobbs and Yvonne Hynson (196-207)

Regular Column •

Needs Analysis: Investigating Students’ Self-directed Learning Needs Using Multiple Data Sources by Keiko Takahashi, Jo Mynard, Junko Noguchi, Akiyuki Sakai, Atsumi Yamaguchi and Katherine Thornton (208-218)

Reviews •

Book review: The Applied Linguistic Individual: Sociocultural Approaches to Identity, Agency and Autonomy Edited by Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker by Cem Balçıkanlı (219-222)

Book review: Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practices Edited by Andy Barfield and Nathanael Delgado Alvarado by Adelia Peña Clavel (223-226)

Announcements •

Upcoming Special Issue: Call for papers Special Issue on Accessing and Accessorizing for Self-Access Language Learning (SALL). December, 2013 (Volume 4, Issue 4) edited by Carol J. Everhard. DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: October 15th, 2013.

Event announcement: Directions in Self-access learning Symposium One day symposium to be held at Kanda University of International Studies, Japan on October 19th, 2013. Registration free. Open to administrators, educators and students. Please see the website for details:


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 154-156 !

Editorial Jo Mynard, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

Welcome to a general issue of SiSAL Journal that features contributions from colleagues based in Turkey, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan. In this issue, we touch on a range of themes such as online support for self-access and writing, conducting a self-directed learning needs analysis, and uncovering the effects of intentional encouragement for self-access by instructors. We are also fortunate enough to feature reviews of two recent books that have implications for the field of self-access learning. The first article is by Michelle Stewart-McKoy who is based at the University of Technology in Jamaica. The author discusses an ongoing project where a team designed and developed a customised website for teaching academic writing at the tertiary level in Jamaica. The project draws upon a design-based research approach to and the content is designed to promote online access, and to enhance students’ engagement with self-directed writing. In the next article, by Kent Rhoads and Jonathan deHaan at the University of Shizuoka in Japan, the authors investigate ways in which an instructor motivated and encouraged learners to engage in self-access activities, and the positive impact these actions had in terms of student participation and attitude. The third article is by Moira Hobbs and Yvonne Hynson from Unitec Institute of Technology in New Zealand. The authors examine the use of social media for learning by both students and teachers. An e-learning platform was created at the authors’ institution using Moodle which was designed to provide online support for language. The authors track the development of the platform and show how it supports autonomous self-directed learning at their institution. Our regular column (edited by Katherine Thornton) continues to document the curriculum development project at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. In this installment, the focus is on conducting a needs analysis. Keiko Takahashi, Jo Mynard, Junko Noguchi, Akiyuki Sakai, Atsumi Yamaguchi and Katherine Thornton investigate learners’ self directed learning needs from the perspective of four major stakeholders: students, teachers, learning advisors and senior management.


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 154-156 ! We are also fortunate to have two book reviews. The first is of The Applied Linguistic Individual: Sociocultural Approaches to Identity, Agency and Autonomy, edited by Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker and published by Equinox. The review was written by "#$!Balcikanli from Gazi Universitesi, Ankara, Turkey. I wondered about the implications for our field as “self-access learning” and “autonomous learning” are sometimes (erroneously) assumed to have a focus on learners working alone. The book explores the paradox of the focus on the “self” within social theories of language learning. Phil Benson’s chapter (Chapter 6) discusses the question of how a learner can both follow an individualised plan, yet engage in the social processes deemed necessary for learning to occur. The second book review was provided by Adelia Peña Clavel who works at the Foreign Language Teaching Center at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The reviewer gives a brief account of a new ebook Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practices which was edited by Andy Barfield and Nathanael Delgado Alvarado and published by IATEFL. The book features an entire section on self-access which includes three chapters or “stories” followed by dialogic-style comments on the stories by several responders. Acknowledgements I would like to thank the authors for choosing SiSAL Journal as a venue for their work. I would also like to express my gratitude to the reviewers and the members of the editorial team for their help support with producing this issue. I would like to thank our outgoing copy editor, Nathan Johnson, for all his help over the past few years. I also extend a warm welcome to our two new editorial team members: Phoebe Lyon and Neil Curry. About the Editor Jo Mynard has been the managing editor of SiSAL Journal since it was established in 2010. She is the Director of the Self-Access Learning Centre and Assistant Director of the English Language Institute at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan. She has an M.Phil. in Applied Linguistics from Trinity College, Dublin and an Ed.D. In TEFL from the University of Exeter, UK. Cover photo: Sojo University, Kumamoto, Japan


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“Beautifying the Beast”: Customising Online Instruction in a Writing Course for Jamaican Tertiary-level Students Michelle Stewart-McKoy, University of Technology, Jamaica Abstract This paper describes an on-going project which uses a design-based research approach in the design and development of customised online instruction for Jamaican tertiary-level students pursuing academic writing courses. The customisation of the academic writing content for online consumption is meant to spark student interest, prolong their online engagement and facilitate self-directed learning. This manuscript provides an overview of the four phases and describes in detail the processes and procedures involved in the completion of phases one and two of the research and the plans for implementation and evaluation of phases three and four. Keywords: e-learning, online writing course, Jamaican tertiary learner, academic writing Background The institution in which this research was conducted is a Jamaican, government-owned higher education institution which offers technical and professional level education and training for candidates in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. The students who are accepted are speakers of English (largely from the Caribbean) and are matriculated to the university with a minimum of four passes (English and Mathematics are compulsory matriculation subjects) in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations or its equivalent. The unit in which the research was conducted provides academic writing modules and facilitators for the all members of the institution’s student population. Academic writing courses The academic writing courses offered by the research unit are compulsory, general education courses which focus on exposition, comprehension, critical thinking, argumentation and critical reviewing. These academic writing courses are traditionally offered as face-to-face courses with some lecturers using online complements to facilitate their students.


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 In recent years, there have been changes to the demography of students entering tertiarylevel institutions (Stewart-McKoy, in press) as well as the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) boom and the potential of online, distance learning and e-learning opportunities. Given these rapid changes and the potential for improving students’ learning with ICT, the unit which services the institution with these modules was recently mandated to provide, in addition to the face-to-face courses, online versions of academic writing courses beginning with the 2013/14 academic year. Students’ writing challenges Research in the field of academic writing has revealed that for decades, tertiary-level students have struggled with writing courses and their poor writing performance and skills have plagued lecturers and professors internationally (Baden, 1974; Ramsay, 2011; Souriyavongsa, Rany, Abidin, & Mei, 2013). In Jamaica, lecturers at tertiary-level institutions are confronted with similar challenges as their international counterparts. Virtue (2013) highlights the abysmal communication and abominable language skills of Jamaican tertiary students with many of them repeatedly registering for, pursuing and failing these communication modules during their university lifespan. Similarly, Hamilton (2010) highlights that forty per cent (40%) of tertiary level students fail English-based communication courses, with the majority of the remaining sixty per cent (60%) struggling to achieve passing grades. At the research site, the distribution of students’ academic writing grades for the last four semesters (academic year 2011/12 – semesters 1 and 2 and academic year 2012/13 – semesters 1 and 2) corroborate the reports of Virtue and Hamilton (Figure 1). Please note that the research site has a pass mark of 50% with a letter equivalent of C. For the purposes of this paper, the student performance has been divided into three categories: outstanding (ranging from B to A), average (C- to B-) and poor (F to C-).


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Figure 1. Distribution of Students’ Academic Writing Grades ! Students’ online learning challenges In addition to the writing challenges that Jamaican tertiary-level students face, they are less than au fait in the online classroom. Stewart-McKoy (in press), in her research which aimed to generate Jamaican tertiary students’ digital profiles in order to design and develop relevant virtual learning environments, found that more than sixty per cent (60%) of the research participants were not very comfortable creating online content nor engaging in academic searches which took them beyond Wikipedia and Google. A combined sum of sixty percent (60%) of the respondents preferred face-to-face course delivery to online instruction (Figure 2) and more than seventy per cent (70%) of respondents showed a high affinity for teacher directed instruction (lectures: 73% and teacher-led tutorials: 71%).

Figure 2. Participants’ Course Delivery Preference !

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Hunte’s (2010) research parallels Stewart-McKoy’s in which she surmised that the online Caribbean learners of her study were really traditional, time-bound and place-bound students who lack the requisite digital skills to function effectively in the online learning environment, the facility to engage in autonomous learning activities and to be responsible for their own learning. The tertiary-level students of this research are then faced with three predicaments – that of having to pursue the module based on its obligatory characteristics in order to fulfil graduation requirements; that of pursuing the notorious academic writing courses; and that of doing the module completely online. How then does one “beautify the beast”? Considering that the academic writing modules are already feared by students and that these modules are now perched for online delivery, how does one customise said modules to spark students’ interest and ensure their continued engagement? Purpose of the Research The specific purpose of the research was to customise an online academic writing module to address Jamaican tertiary-level students’ writing challenges and their difficulties in online learning environments. The customised learning environment aimed to spark students’ interest in the online writing module, ensuring their on-going participation in the online course and encouraging learner autonomy and self-direction. The design, development and implementation of a customised online course at this research setting is a modified extension of the researcher’s doctoral study at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, which focuses on the design, development and implementation of elearning enhanced environments based on students’ e-learning profiles. Method Research design This research was conducted in the 2012/13 academic year during the period when the research intuition’s faculties and departments were mandated to provide online models of traditional face-to-face modules. The investigation sought to design and develop a custom-built


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 online academic writing module for Jamaican tertiary-level students using a design research methodology. Design-based research (DBR) which emphasises technological interventions, is predominantly rooted in pragmatism and is naturalistic, participatory, contextual, integrative and involves iterative processes in which there are continuous cycles of planning, action and reflection. DBR seeks to improve educational practices through technological innovations and with researchers and practitioners collaborating in real world contexts (Brown, 1992; The Design-Based Research Collective, 2003; Reeves, 2006). Figure 3 provides a graphical representation of the phases of design-based research.

Figure 3. Phases of Design-Based Research It is the prominence of designing and developing customised online writing instruction for Jamaican tertiary-level students based on their profiles and learning needs that led to the selection and application of the design-based research methodology in this research project. Phase 1: Analysis of practical problems by researchers and practitioners in collaboration Research question. In order to determine the best online learning "fit� for Jamaican academic writing students, it was critical to examine students’ teaching mode preferences as well as their learning styles and preferences. The overarching question of the research was: How can an academic writing online module be customised to spark students’ interest, ensure their active participation and encourage self-directed learning? The research question further examined the following sub-questions: 1. What are the learning characteristics and needs of students pursuing academic writing courses?


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 2. What components are deemed relevant to spark students’ interest, ensure active participation and encourage self-direction in an online academic writing module? Review of relevant literature. Phase 1 of the project included extensive examination of e-learning software, journal articles, academic theses and books which highlight e-learning, pedagogy and usability principles in online learning platforms. Research participants. Purposive sampling was used to select the two content writing experts, one multimedia specialist, six (6) academic writing lecturers and fifty-four (54) academic writing students of the 2012/13 academic year who collaborated in providing essential data (via questionnaires and interviews) regarding students’ characteristics and learning needs. This data collection process was intended to facilitate the construction of custom-made online instruction in order to address students’ writing challenges and their difficulties engaging in online environments. Research instruments. The data was collected from the research participants using an online student questionnaire, which was administered once, and individual teacher interviews. The student questionnaire was administered online via Survey Monkey and comprised two main sections with sixteen items which examined students’ learning styles and preferences, their teaching delivery preference, their academic writing needs and their expectations. Students were informed via email of the research purpose and were asked to assist in the process of customizing online writing instruction by completing the questionnaire. The email also included the link to the research survey. The teacher interviews had five open-ended questions which sought to get a deeper understanding of students’ engagement with the writing modules, students’ characteristics and learning needs from the teacher’s perspective. Ethical issues. In research that involves researcher/participant engagements and which includes divulging personal information in order to gather data, the well-being of the research participants must take precedence. Silverman and Marvasti (2008), Babbie (2007), Creswell (2012) and Denscombe (2007), among others, remind researchers that while carrying out their


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 investigations, the research ethics (permissions obtained, research purpose communicated, consent sought, confidentiality maintained and identities preserved) must be observed. Permission to conduct the survey among students was sought from and granted by the head of the unit responsible for the academic writing modules. The students pursuing the academic writing courses were informed electronically about the research and its purpose. They were also informed that by completing the online questionnaire, they were agreeing to participate in the research and were assenting to the publication of the findings. Additionally, they were advised that their participation was voluntary, that anonymity would be guaranteed and that they could withdraw from the process at any time. Similar information (research purpose, voluntary participation, assurance of anonymity) was communicated to the six lecturers who participated in the interview sessions. Phase 2: Development of solutions informed by existing principles and technological innovations Phase two of the project involved the generation of academic writing students’ characteristics and their academic writing learning needs in order to create customised online instruction which would stimulate students’ interest in the writing course, ensure their prolonged engagement with the content and facilitate their self-directed learning skills. The data gathered from the students’ questionnaire and the teachers’ interviews were coded and placed in categories/themes. The categories from both groups were examined and the implications were considered in order to customised instruction for students. Figure 4 highlights the main findings of the students’ questionnaire and Table 1 documents students’ characteristics and their implications for online content.


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Figure 4. Main Findings of Students’ Learning Traits

Table 1. Students’ Characteristics, Learning Needs and Implications for Online Module Students’ characteristics Visually oriented Not inclined to extensive reading Teacher dependent

Not very comfortable with certain technology tools Do not practice concepts taught Short attention span/easily bored

Students’ Needs • More explanations


Clearer explanations

Implications for customization of online content Use of representational, organizational, relational and interpretive graphics. Use of animation and interactive exercises. Information should be presented several times and in several formats to ensure that main concepts are grasped and retained. Include the use of virtual coaches to act in pedagogic roles, include opportunities for students to collaborate and provide each other with constructive feedback. Provide participants with guidelines and clear instruction on how to proceed through the modules. Include tools for students to reflect on their learning process. Provide tips and strategies regarding online learning, ergonomics and being successful learners. Provide links and activities for development of basic computer skills. Provide a suite of a wide range of activities for each session. Ensure that learning sessions are broken down into manageable sections. Utilise wide variety of interactive activities. Apply design principles judiciously. •

Each session should outline the overview, provide the content and recap the main concepts.

There should be a multimedia blend of images with textual information to

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 provide clear explanations. •

Frequent feedback, examples and samples

The online content should include a range of activities with immediate feedback as well as the use of peer activities and guided peer feedback

More help

Open Forum/community to offer support, advice etc

Friendly teachers

The use of virtual pedagogical coaches may be incorporated

After students’ characteristics and learning needs were mapped to the implications of online instruction and guided by the literature of design, e-learning and pedagogic principles, the key components relevant to spark students’ interest, ensure active participation and encourage self-direction in an online academic writing were documented for design and development purposes. A course development plan was then constructed and shared with the online project team. The development plan comprised a content writing guide and writing template. In the absence of a formal institutional document which speaks to the details of writing of module content for online delivery, a guide which provided content writing guidelines was created for use among the team.

The writing guide addressed learning outcomes, content, activities, resources, assessment, content organization, language use and general reminders. Figure 5 is a screenshot of a section of the guide.

Figure 5. Screenshot of a Section of the Writing Guide


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The accompanying writing template was created to ensure consistency in content creation and to facilitate content writers in organising the module contents (See Figure 6).

Figure 6. Snapshot of the Writing Template The course development plan also displayed a mockup layout of the virtual learning environment with placeholders for data, course content template breakdown for each unit and possible sources and software for multimedia enrichment. Figure 7 shows snapshots of the course layout and template details.

Figure 7. Snapshot of the Course Layout and Template Details


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 The customised academic writing module was then developed to include following key components based on data gathered. The elements are discussed in the paragraphs which follow. A team of online assistants assuming the role of virtual onscreen coaches (also known as pedagogical agents) were built into the module in order to deliver the interactive tutorials and provide online support with the writing content. The virtual coaches use conversational tones in their engagements with the students (Clarke & Mayer, 2008). The pedagogical agents were also included in the customised module to reduce students’ dependence on the teacher as sole information provider. Figure 8 provides screenshots of the online pedagogical agents used in the course.

Figure 8. Online Pedagogical Agents Interactive learning tutorials and activities which reflect the e-learning principles of Clarke and Mayer (2008) and Gagné’s nine events of instruction (Gagné, Briggs & Wager, 1992) were included in the customised environment to address students’ boredom and short attention span. Additionally, in order to avoid information overload and to prolong students’ time on tasks, the module units were broken down into manageable sessions (See Figure 9 for screenshots of interactive activities.


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Figure 9. Examples of Interactive Activities Used in the Module An online learning contract, presentations on participants’ responsibilities (overall and for each unit) and the inclusion of guided reflective journaling practices at the end of each unit were included to initiate and encourage self-directed learning and metacognition. Figure 10 shows the reflective task for one of the units and Figure 11 displays screens shots from the participants’ responsibilities presentation.

Figure 10. Screenshot of Reflective Journaling Activity


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Figure 11. Screenshot of Participants’ Responsibilities A Writer’s Toolkit was included to provide students with additional resources and assistance. The resources in the Writer’s Toolkit were two-tiered with both content specific resources and general language and communication information. The Writers’ Voices forum was also implemented to provide an online community space in which students could collaborate, seek advice and provide collegial support. Figure 12 provides a snapshot of the Writer’s Toolkit.

Figure 12. Screenshot of a Section of the Writer’s Toolkit In order to address students’ concerns regarding computer-based proficiency, links and interactive computer-based tasks and activities were included in the online learning environment. The activities and tutorials also provided clear instructions on how to proceed throughout the online tasks. Figure 13 provides a snapshot of how students are facilitated.


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Figure 13. Screenshot of Participants’ Responsibilities A suite of activities (quizzes, games, forum, questionnaires etc.) found within the units and within the Writer’s Toolkit were included in order to address the concern of students’ not practising enough. Figure 14 is a section of an activity (game) within a tutorial session.

Figure 14. Snapshot of Interactive Activity within a Lesson Session


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 Other considerations A maximum of three font types were used in activities and learning content. Georgia, Arial and Hobo fonts were used consistently throughout the online content. Font size 14pt was used to facilitate reading the learning content online. Critical information was easily recognisable by the use of bold formatting. Although a site map was provided as well as guidelines regarding sequential use of the content, students could control their learning pace by selecting sessions and activities based on their needs. The interactive lessons file size was reduced in order to facilitate smooth downloading for those who wished to engage with the interactive content away from the online environment. Navigational text was used instead of icons in order to facilitate those with minimum computer skill sets. Information icons (exclamation and question marks) were also used within the sessions. Additionally, the use of graphics, animations and interactive exercises were included to spark interest and to satisfy visually oriented students. The tailor-made prototype was uploaded to the sandbox of the research site’s virtual learning environment. It will undergo a series of examinations before being migrated to the live virtual learning environment at the start of the 2013/14 academic year for students’ consumption. Phase 3: Iterative cycles of testing and refinement of solutions in practice The academic writing online courses are expected to be offered in the 2013/14 academic year and will constitute the pilot phase of the online project. This will be phase three of the project in which the online module will be implemented, students will be monitored and their experiences, challenges and successes documented in order to effect modifications to the module. Phase three is expected to include two iterative cycles with the first cycle taking place the first semester of the 2013/14 academic year and the second iteration following in the second semester of the academic year. In order to record the information of the iterative cycles, data will be collected using the virtual learning environments reporting system, teacher logs, students’ journals, samples of students’ work and information gleaned from the use of online questionnaires.


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 The analysed data from the first iteration will inform the modifications to be made before the second iteration commences. The findings of both iterations will inform the final stage of the project. Phase 4: Documentation and reflection to produce design principles Phase four of the project is expected to take place at the end of the second semester of the 2013/14 academic year. The data collected from the second iteration will guide the analysis and documentation of a set of guidelines which may be used by other faculty members interested in creating online customised instructional content for their students. Figure 15 provides a graphical representation of the four phases of the design-based research project in which online writing instruction was customised.

Figure 15. Phases of the Academic Writing Online Research Project Conclusion This paper described the design and development of a customized online writing instruction using design-based research. Two of the phases were completed in the 2012/13 academic year with the other two to be implemented in semesters one and two of the 2013/14 !

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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 academic year. The process and principles of all four stages of the research project have been documented in this manuscript and it is hoped that the analysis of the data collected in phases three and four will aid in the construction of a set of guidelines or a toolkit beneficial to other faculty members interested in designing, developing, implementing and evaluating customized instruction for their students. Notes on the contributor Michelle Stewart-McKoy is a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica. She is also a doctoral candidate at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus where her dissertation focuses on the development of e-learning enhanced environments based on learner profiles. Her research interests include student-centred e-learning, virtual learning environments and game-based learning.

References Baden, R. C. (1974). College freshmen cant(?) write. College Composition and Communication, 25(5), 430-433. doi:10.2307/356970 Babbie, E. (2007). The practice of social research. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141178. doi:10.1207/s15327809jls0202_2 Clarke, R., & Mayer, R. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer Creswell, J. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston, MA: Pearson. Denscombe, M. (2007). The good research guide for small-scale social research projects. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. Design-Based Research Collective (2003). Design-based research: An emerging paradigm for educational enquiry. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 5-8. doi:10.3102/0013189X032001005 GagnĂŠ, R., Briggs, L., & Wager, W. (1992). Principles of instructional design. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers. Hamilton, P. (2010, December 6). English test trips up university students. The Gleaner. Retrieved from


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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 157-174 Hunte, S. (2010). Profile of the UWI distance learners: The implications for online curriculum development, teaching and learning at the university. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 11, 3 (4). Retrieved from ,--./00-12345676318954395-:0-1234*&06:-;<84=06:-;<84>+5,-?! Ramsay, P. (2011). Much writing begets good writing: Some considerations for teaching writing in an Anglophone creole context. Caribbean Curriculum, 18, 27â&#x20AC;&#x201C;42. Reeves, T. (2006). Design research from a technology perspective. In J. van den Akker, K. Gravemeijer, S. McKenney & N. Nieveen (Eds.), Educational design research (pp. 5266). London, UK: Routledge. Silverman, D., & Marvasti, A. (2008). Doing qualitative research: A comprehensive guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Stewart-McKoy, M. (in press). Digitize me: Generating e-learning profiles for media and communication students in a Jamaican tertiary-level institution. Journal of Educators Online. Souriyavongsa, T., Rany, S., Abidin, M., & Mei, L. (2013). Factors causes students low English language learning: A case study in the National University of Laos.!International Journal of English Language Education, 1(1), 179-192. doi:10.5296/ijele.v1i1.3100 Virtue, E. (2013, January). Bloody English! UWI, UTech students struggle with language. The Gleaner. Retrieved from ,--./0026?6;<6@ A84674:5<1?0A84674:0)("*(")$0846308463$"5,-?8


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Enhancing Student Self-Study Attitude and Activity with Motivational Techniques Kent Rhoads, University of Shizuoka, Japan Jonathan deHaan, University of Shizuoka, Japan

Abstract Research has shown that students will exhibit a positive attitude towards self-study, but that they will often fail to complete self-study activities. The purpose of this paper is to investigate positive instructor interactions and motivation of students to complete selfstudy activities and students’ attitudes towards self-study. Six English instructors at the University of Shizuoka created a one-semester self-access study log for use in the university self-access language laboratory in order to find out how many students would complete the log. One of the six instructors applied motivational techniques in the classroom in an effort to engender greater student self-study. Later a questionnaire was administered to 465 student participants to determine their self-study attitudes and activities. The data collected from the questionnaire and the high participation in the selfstudy activities suggest the positive impact the motivational actions employed by the instructor had on his students' attitudes towards self-study activities. . Keywords: Japanese university, self-access learning, motivation, attitude, self-study It is known that students are attracted to self-study learning activities, but to what degree? Lai and Gardner (2007) describe a “gap between theoretical support and motivation to complete activities” (p. 199). Further, Kimura (2007) states there are “significant differences in motivation among students towards autonomous learning” (p. 77). Can positive teacher interaction provide enough influence to bridge the gap between theoretical and actual support and resolve the differences among students towards self learning? Gillies (2007) reports that “motivation precedes autonomy” (p. 130), while Ikeda and Takeuchi (2007) state “creating amicable instructor-facilitated sessions can be key for enhancing learners motivation for independent learning” (p. 112). Further, Lee and Yamaguchi Johnson (2007) argue “teachers have an important role in supporting students in their learning process” (p. 223). If teachers can motivate students for greater acceptance and use of self-study, then by how much, and what techniques are effective? Lai (2007) points out that “a majority of research in the English language learning field has !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 been focusing largely on teaching or course effectiveness, but little has been done to look at what makes learners become self-determined enough to take control of their own learning, and the factors that differentiate successful and less successful self-access usersâ&#x20AC;? (p. 7). The

purpose of this study was to further the findings in this field by attempting to examine the effect that teacher motivational techniques have on studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attitudes towards their selfaccess study. Scope of the Project A formal research study was not initially planned, but instead the idea for a project developed as the primary researcher (one of the authors) tested different motivational techniques in his classroom in order to encourage self-study and questions from the students. Questions were later developed to help guide the analysis presented in this paper. As a result the project became an examination of which motivational techniques were found to be effective in the researcher's classroom. The researcher was operating broadly within an action research paradigm and could draw upon the findings to further improve his practice. The University of Shizuoka Self Access Language Laboratory The University of Shizuoka opened its Self Access Language Laboratory (SALL) in April 2007. The one-room facility features thirty-six personal computers for individual student use, over 500 movie titles in DVD format and an area consisting of three sofas and one table for reading and conversation activities. Other printed media consist of The Japan Times, TOEIC preparation textbooks published by ETS, grammar textbooks, novels, manga (Japanese comic books) and National Geographic readers. From the beginning student usage of the SALL was low and disappointing to the university administration. Thus, it was decided that the teaching staff should determine ways to increase the number of student users. In September 2009 the six Language Communication Resource Center (LCRC) instructors plus the Assistant Director of the LCRC (co-author of the paper) held a meeting that included a brainstorming session with the purpose of engendering more student use of the SALL. It was decided that a Self Access Study Log or SASL !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 (Appendix A) should be created and distributed to the students in all oral communication classes during the second semester (beginning October 2009). The group decided that completion of the log would consist of doing ten online self-study exercises, as well as watching one movie and writing an information sheet about it. For this they would receive 10% extra credit toward their English grade. Each online self-study exercise should have a duration of not less than twenty minutes in order to receive credit. The students' activity would be monitored by the SALL staff, such that when an exercise was completed the staff would place one stamp on the sheet. It would be decided by each individual instructor how to apply the extra credit to the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; final grade. To make it easy for the students to find appropriate online self-study exercises, a comprehensive list of links to e-learning websites was compiled by the six instructors and posted on the university web site. This list was set to automatically display on all SALL computers whenever an Internet browser was opened. (Please view the page at The students would be allowed to choose their own study exercises from the list provided. The deadline for completion was up to the individual instructor, but the final date would be before final exams in February 2010. Following the deadline, the study logs were collected and counted by the instructors. Students were then asked to complete a follow up questionnaire to find out why they did or did not complete the SASL. Included were questions about their self-study activities and attitudes. Description of the Project and Report on the Results This paper investigates the following questions: 1

What uptake rates of SASL by students were observed?


What effect (if any) did the introduction of motivational techniques have

on studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attitudes to self-study? 3.

What effect (if any) did the introduction of motivational techniques have

on the types of activities that students engaged in?

The description will be presented in two parts:



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 Part One is a discussion of the motivational techniques applied in the researcherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s classes to encourage his students to complete their SASL. Also included is an inventory of the number of completed SASL sheets returned by the students to each instructor. Part Two is a discussion of a questionnaire created to determine student attitudes about using the SALL and a report of the results. The students completed the questionnaire at the end of the school term in February 2010. It included two parts. The first part was meant to find out why the students who completed the SASL did so. The second part asked the students about their self-study activities. The main focus of the paper is the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attitudes and whether they were influenced by teacher motivational techniques. Part One: Self Access Study Log Sheets Results Motivational techniques adopted by the instructor The authors are unable to confirm what the other instructors did in terms of motivating and encouraging their students to use the SASL, but this is an account of the actions of Instructor Number Six (principal author of the paper). Instructor Number Six handed out the SASL and independently decided to use six motivational techniques in his classroom. The main reason he took these steps was because he recognized that the university administration had been disappointed in student usage of the SALL and felt it was an integral part of his employment to provide motivational techniques and incentives beyond simply handing the SASL to his students and ordering them to complete it. From his previous ten years of experience teaching similar students at the University of Shizuoka, the instructor determined that motivation in the classroom would be necessary for a greater number of students to complete their self-study. Thus, he gave considerable thought to which motivational techniques would be most effective. Previous piloting of motivational techniques led the instructor to choose six motivational tools. They are as follows: 1) Prior to receiving the SASL, all oral communication students would be taken to the SALL in order to introduce them to the facility and encourage them to make use of it.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 Barrs (2010) states this about orientating students to the SALL (his terminology is SASC), “in order for students to make appropriate use of SAC facilities, it is crucial that they know and understand what is available and how to use it. In my opinion, there should be a comprehensive orientation programme in place whereby students are introduced to what is on offer and guided in the use of the resources and equipment” (p. 13). McMurray, Tanner and Anderson (2009, Conclusions, Implications and Suggestions Section) found much the same in reporting that, “students who were well oriented were more frequent visitors to the SASC as well. We now know that the orientation has a strong effect on how the students use the SASC.” 2) Upon receiving the SASL at the beginning of the second semester, students would once again be taken to the SALL and shown how to complete an exercise, do a log entry, and have their sheet stamped by the SALL staff. 3) A “Self Study Instruction Sheet” would be distributed as a reference for students on how to complete their SASL. This document (Appendix B) also includes motivational messages. 4) Throughout the semester, both in the classroom and in the SALL, students would be encouraged to complete the log. Those who finished early would be praised in front of other students. Lai reports the following about student self-study activities over a period of time and how instructor encouragement over time can be positive. “They reported that their passion for SALL diminished as the semester progressed. The lack of perseverance was an inhibiting factor for learners who were initially motivated ” (p. 69). This suggests that the initial excitement and motivation that students feel about using the SALL wears off as they become more involved in other university studies and activities and that instructor encouragement over a period of one semester or longer can produce positive effects. 5) Students would be regularly reminded of the deadline to complete the log. 6) Students would be incentivized to complete the log with 10% extra credit. It would also be made clear that completion of the SASL was voluntary and that final grades would not be lowered should students decide not to do so. Further Lai informs that students expect to be actively and positively directed by their teacher to remain motivated to continue to study in the SALL, “instead of working in



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 partnership with teachers, the learners expected teachers to play more directive roles in

language learning and the absence of such roles would result in a lack of motivation” (p. 74). Number of completed Self Access Study Logs returned to the instructors Instructor Number Six distributed 226 logs of which 215 (95%) were completed. This was substantially higher than the completion rate of students in other classes. For example, Instructors Number One and Two collected no completed log sheets; Instructor Number Three collected 18 completed logs. (A completion percentage cannot be reported because it is not known how many log sheets Instructor Number Three originally distributed.) Instructor Number Four handed out 142 logs of which 97 (68%) were completed. Data for Instructor Number Five was incomplete. The high completion rate of logs by students taught by Instructor Number Six is likely to be due to the motivational techniques employed. Part Two: Follow-Up Questionnaire Results-Attitude and Activity This section is a discussion of the three-part questionnaire administered to students and a report of its results. The principal researcher and the Assistant Director of the LCRC created a follow-up questionnaire to determine student activity and attitude about using the SALL at the end of the second academic semester in February 2010. The first page of the online questionnaire (using prompted the students to select whether they did or did not complete the SASL. Making this choice directed the students to one of two different questionnaires. The third part of the questionnaire asked the students about their self-study activities. All students, regardless of whether they completed the SASL or not, completed the third part. Instructors Two, Three, Four and Five administered the electronic survey to their students. Instructor Number Six made paper copies of the online questionnaire and had his students complete it anonymously outside of class during the second and third weeks of February 2010. Respondents taught by Instructors Two, Three, Four and Five will be referred to as “Low Interaction Group” (LIG) as these students are assumed to have interacted least with the SASL. Respondents taught by Instructor Number Six will be referred to as the !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 â&#x20AC;&#x153;High Interaction Groupâ&#x20AC;? (HIG) as these students had high interaction with the SASL. It is useful to separate the respondents into two groups (LIG and HIG) in order to make observations about the effect, if any, of the motivational interventions employed by Instructor Number Six on SASL completion rates and self-study attitudes. Questionnaire Completion Rate Results As previously stated, the following results focus on those portions of the questionnaire regarding student attitude and activity about completing the SASL and how they were impacted by instructor motivational techniques. A total of 239 LIG students filled out the online questionnaire. 128 of the 239 LIG students completed the SASL, a SASL completion rate of 54%. The total number of students who stated they completed the SASL (128) compared to the total number of SASL sheets actually returned to instructors (115) is a difference of 13. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown. A total of 226 HIG students filled out the questionnaire. 215 of the HIG students completed the SASL, a SASL completion rate of 95 percent (Table 1). Table 1. Summary of SASL Completion Rates

Questionnaire Results and Discussion The first part of the questionnaire results will deal with the attitude of the students who completed the SASL. The questionnaire was composed of eight questions. Each question was to be marked by choosing one of the following: 1 = Very unimportant/untrue



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 2 = Somewhat unimportant/ untrue 3 = Somewhat important/true 4 = Very important/true These were the directions for the respondents to follow in order to complete the questionnaire: Choose 1, 2, 3, or 4 for each question below. Why did you complete the Self Access Study Log? Which reasons or factors were important or true for you? The following results are represented as percentages. Question Number One Table 2. Question Number One: “The 10% extra credit I received for completion was worth my time and effort.”

A greater number of HIG respondents answered this question more favorably, especially the “Somewhat important/true” response. This shows that the students responded favorably to extra credit being given by their instructor in their oral communication course for completion of self-access study when motivated by the instructor interaction. Lai (2007) reported similar findings, “Positive reinforcement can take the form of bonus marks in the case of SALL being a component of a course” (p. 88). Question Number Two Table 3. Question Number Two: “It was a positive experience to study on my own.”



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 A large percentage of respondents from both groups answered this question positively, but the HIG slightly more so. Once again positive reinforcement from the instructor appeared to affect the students’ attitudes towards self-study. The findings from this question replicate those of Lai (2007) which report, “The pleasurable feelings associated with performing tasks that the learners found interesting was one of the major sources of motivation for them to carry on with their SALL plan” (p. 57). These findings

suggest that once students are properly orientated to the SALL and given encouragement and incentive to use it, a large portion of them will view using it in a positive and pleasurable way. Question Number Three Table 4. Question Number Three: “I discovered a new way to learn.”

A larger percentage of those students (the HIG) who completed the SASL responded “Very important/true” to this question. Their introduction to the SALL and specific instructions on how to complete the SASL by Instructor Number Six could have been a strong influence for the more positive response by the HIG. Being introduced to the SALL in a positive manner reinforced their attitude about discovering a new way to study in a pleasurable way. Lai (2007) reports that “Being stimulated by the pleasurable feelings derived from the discovery of new knowledge in English, those learners would be more motivated to sharpen their English skills in order to explore the subject matter further ” (p. 59). An attitude of discovering a new way to learn and greater motivation to do so are linked.

Question Number Four



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 Table 5. Question Number Four: “I felt pressure to keep up with the other students in the class by completing the log.”

Feeling pressure was less of a factor for the students to complete the SASL than the other motivational tools employed by the researcher. However, the HIG responded more positively to the feeling, and importantly did not respond negatively to the feeling. The students felt little negative pressure, but were exposed to the positive motivational links of using the SALL and their classroom learning. As pointed out by Cotterall and Reinders (2001), “forcing students to use self-learning facilities may de-motivate them to learn independently, but it is important to establish links between what happens in the class and what is available outside (and how to use it) in order for the students to begin taking independence in their learning” (p. 6). Similarly, Lai (2007) found that the SALL users did not view the activity of other students in the classroom as a form of pressure, “despite the seemingly important role that peers play in course-based SALL as suggested by the data from the focus groups and written evaluations, most learners in this study did not see peers as the most important ‘significant others’ ” (p. 72).

Question Number Five Table 6. Question Number Five: “I feel self-study in the SALL is an important part of learning.”

Cotterall and Reinders' (2001) data suggests a relationship between learners'

positive attitudes about self-study usage and actual visits to centers. All the respondents in this study exhibited a very highly favorable attitude about using the SALL, but more so for the HIG. As a result the HIG students, who had more highly favorable attitude, used the SALL far more often than the LIG students, which confirms the previous findings by Cotterall and Reinders.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 The second part of the questionnaire asked the students about their self-study activities. The questionnaire offered the students a list of 18 different self-study activities and asked the question: How did you study English on your own this semester? Circle all the activities you did. Listening: Watched movies Listening: Watched You-Tube Listening: Watched television Listening: Listened to music Listening: Listened to podcasts Reading: Read print news Reading: Read online news Reading; Read books Reading: Read comics Reading: Read magazines Speaking: Talked with Japanese friends in English Speaking: Talked with native English speakers Speaking: Talked with the university native English speaking instructors Writing: Kept a dairy Writing: Wrote on the Internet sites (e.g., Facebook, Mixi) in English Studied for a test (e.g., TOEIC, Eiken) Studied grammar Studied vocabulary Did you do any other activities not listed above? Please write them below. The researchers found that the type of outside-class self-study activities that students engaged in did not vary between the LIG and the HIG. Discussion It appeared that the motivational techniques applied by Instructor Number Six had a positive impact on the students desire to complete and return the SASL by the fact that 95 percent of his students did so. A positive atmosphere created by the instructor towards motivating students to complete and return self-access study sheets can help achieve a successful completion rate. As Benson (2001) explains, â&#x20AC;&#x153;any practice that encourages and enables learners to take greater control of any aspect of their learning can be considered a



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 means of promoting autonomy” (p. 109). Kimura (2007) states “teachers play a crucial role in the development of autonomous language learning behaviour” (p. 7). In addition, the questionnaire responses indicated that the students – particularly those in the HIG group – had a positive experience with the self-study activities, suggesting that the motivational actions were effective. One final point is that student self-study activities did not seem to vary greatly no matter how well they were motivated to study outside the classroom. Conclusion In 2007 Lai produced the first in depth study of how teacher interaction with and motivation of students can affect their self-study habits. To a large degree the findings of this project are in agreement with those of Lai, with the following results in common: 1) Students will react positively when given extra credit for self-study outside the classroom. 2) Students feel positive about self-study outside the classroom when their teacher provides motivational tools. 3) Students have a positive feeling about discovering a new way of learning when their teacher interacts with them regarding self-study outside the classroom. 4) Students do not feel pressure from other students in a negative way to participate in self-study activities outside the classroom. Although based on limited data, the results of this project suggest that the six motivational practices employed by the instructor contributed to an enhancement of attitudes toward self-study and resulted in greater rates of SASL completion. The results also indicate that while teacher interaction and motivation play positive roles in students’ attitudes toward self-access learning, they make little difference in the type of self-study activities students pursue. The results also suggest that students typically begin with a positive attitude towards self-study in the SALL, but this positive attitude becomes even stronger when their instructor motivates them to study outside the classroom on their own.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 Recommendations The authors recommend that, in contexts where self-access resources exist, instructors involved in second language acquisition should actively use the following six positive motivational techniques on their students to encourage greater engagement with self-study: 1) On the first day of class introduce new students to self-access study facilities and encourage them make use of them. 2) Demonstrate to the students how to complete an online self-study activity and what steps to take to receive proper teacher credit for it. 3) Create and hand out to the students an instructional sheet of step number two so they can use it as a reference. Also include motivational messages on the sheet. 4) Encourage the students in class to do more self-access study and praise those who finish activities early or do extra activities. 5) Continuously remind students of the deadline to complete an activity sheet. 6) Make it clear in a positive way to the students the benefits of self-access study, such as learning more English or achieving a better class grade. Clearly this project has several limitations from the standpoint of a research project. For example, it was not clear what was occurring in the other classrooms and making comparisons between LIG and HIG is problematic. In addition, the principle researcher gathered data from participants in his own classroom. Lai (2007) encountered the same limitation and made this recommendation, â&#x20AC;&#x153;to replicate this study with another group of learners, one limitation of the research design of the current study needs to be overcome. The limitation derives from the fact that the researcher is also the teacher of the classes being studiedâ&#x20AC;? (p. 92). The researcher is in agreement with Lai and recommends that for future studies in this field, the researcher should not also be the research participantsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; classroom teacher. This would mitigate any bias that may be involved with this interaction.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 Epilogue In March 2010 the researcher wrote a summary of the research project results and distributed it internally. The other five LCRC instructors then became more proactive in utilizing the six motivational tools recommended by the researcher during the academic year beginning April 2010. Completion of the SASL was also adopted by the six instructors as a 10 percent component of the students' final grade for most oral communication classes. Usage of the SALL showed a dramatic increase beginning in October 2009 (one month after the project began) and remained high through the end of academic year 2010-2011. This is depicted in Appendix C (Table 1 and Figure 1). In Table 1 please note the sharp increase of student usage of the SALL beginning October 2009. The data presented in Appendix C largely validates the research results and the positive impact of using the researcher's six motivational tools.

Notes on the contributors Kent Rhoads (MBA Whittier College) has taught at the University of Shizuoka since April 1999. He is currently conducting research about student online vocabulary selfstudy with and Jonathan deHaan (Ph.D. New York University) is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Shizuoka, Japan. His main teaching and research interests are in the areas of educational games and simulations. Website:



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195

References Barrs, K. (2010). What factors encourage high levels of student participation in a selfaccess centre? Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 1(1), 10-16. Retrieved from Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education Limited. Cotterall, S., & Reinders, H. (2001). Fortress or bridge? Learnersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; perceptions and practice in self-access language learning. TESOLANZ, 8, 23-38. Retrieved Gillies, H. E. (2007). SAL for Everyone?: Motivation & Demotivation in Self-Access Learning. Published abstracts from the 3rd Independent Learning Association 2007 Japan Conference: Exploring theory, enhancing practice: Autonomy across the disciplines, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan (p. 130). Chiba, Japan: Kanda University of International Studies. Ikeda, M., & Takeuchi, Osamu. (2007). What can promote learners' motivation for continuing CALL independently? Published abstracts from the 3rd Independent Learning Association 2007 Japan Conference: Exploring theory, enhancing practice: Autonomy across the disciplines, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan (p. 112). Chiba, Japan: Kanda University of International Studies. Kimura, M. (2007). Development of autonomy in the language class in Japan. Published abstracts from the 3rd Independent Learning Association 2007 Japan Conference: Exploring theory, enhancing practice: Autonomy across the disciplines, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan (p. 77). Chiba, Japan: Kanda University of International Studies. Lai, M. W. C. (2007). The influence of learner motivation on developing autonomous learning in an English-for-Specific-Purposes course. Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s thesis, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Asian EFL Journal. Retrieved from: Lai, M. W. C., & Gardner, D. (2007). The influence of learner motivation on developing autonomous learning. Published abstracts from the 3rd Independent Learning Association 2007 Japan Conference: Exploring theory, enhancing practice: Autonomy across the disciplines, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan (p. 199). Chiba, Japan: Kanda University of International Studies. Lee, A. N., & Yamaguchi Johnson, T. (2007). The teacher's role in developing students' capacity for self-directed learning. Published abstracts from the 3rd Independent Learning Association 2007 Japan Conference: Exploring theory, enhancing



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 175-195 practice: Autonomy across the disciplines, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan (p. 223). Chiba, Japan: Kanda University of International Studies. McMurry, B.L, Tanner, M.W., & Anderson, N.J. (2009). Self-access centers: Maximizing learnersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; access to center resources. TESL-EJ, 12(4). Retrieved from



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SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207

Development and Use of Moodle for Online Student Support Moira Hobbs, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand Yvonne Hynson, Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand Abstract In the current educational climate in the world today, there is an increasing use of technology and social media for learning, by both students and language teachers. With this in mind, and to meet the perceived associated need for students to have increasing abilities and skills to study autonomously and independently, a new elearning platform (Moodle) was introduced to Unitec, a tertiary institution in Auckland, New Zealand. This paper describes how the Moodle site has been developed since inception and how it is used within the Department of Language Studies to facilitate both English as an Additional Language (EAL) for online support and for the development of autonomy. Keywords: Moodle, online support, autonomy

Background As more institutions move towards using mobile devices and other elearning technology in classroom-based courses and/or in full time on-line courses, the range of support needs to become simpler, more intuitive and easier to access. This paper will describe and discuss the impact of the introduction of a new e-learning platform as part of a range of ongoing initiatives within one educational institute, to improve course content and outcomes for learners. It will also consider student autonomy on-line, the needs of the students in the Language Studies Department of that institute, how these needs for support were addressed, the development of their student identities, and the results of the new platform so far. It is hoped that this paper will inform, not only our own institution as it continues to develop courses appropriate for the student body of today, but also other institutions who are grappling with maintaining a high quality of service for their students within an increasingly technological world, and lastly tech-savvy students who may only have limited access to â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;one to oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; guidance from learning advisers. Unitec Institute of Technology is a tertiary institution in Auckland, New Zealand. The Department of Language Studies in the Faculty of Social and Health Sciences is spread over 3 campuses, and includes just over 1100 language !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 students studying in four main programmes: Certificate of English (CE), Certificate of Intensive English (CIE), Diploma in English, and an Advanced degree level programme that is split into a variety of courses, ranging from a focus on pure academic studies to practical employment in the workplace. Since 2009, Unitec has embraced a new institutional strategy called ‘The Living Curriculum’ which has key outcome areas of: being an excellent business, innovating in teaching and learning, enhancing the student experience, and meeting the needs of communities. As part of the second key result area, innovation in teaching and learning, it was expected that by the end of 2012 all programs would have a Living Curriculum. This Curriculum has the aim of contributing to new and exciting ways of delivering content to our target market who not only need flexible learning opportunities but also need courses more tailor-made for the future needs of their respective workplaces and key stakeholders. As students and employers needs and requisite education and training evolves, so too does the training and provision of the education and classroom/workplace teaching profession need to evolve and develop. It has also been stated that as part of this strategy, Unitec’s provision will be delivered through flexible study pathways and will include excellent academic and pastoral support. Indeed, one of the main commitments of the institute is to being student-centred in all its services and activities. Underlying this, the Dean, Academic Development developed a strategic plan for the future of Unitec which required that all lecturers re-visit their curricula to focus on the accomplishment of several important outcomes, namely: 1. Demonstrate a commitment to open inquiry 2. Adopt a multiplicity of learning 3. Be based on ‘practice-focused’ educational experiences that are: contextualised and situated in practice, interdisciplinary, founded on and advancing current practice, theoretically grounded as well as guided, and both creative and critical 4. Promote collaborative learning 5. Value equitable, socially just and ethical practice 6. Have integrated approaches to academic literacies as a foundation for learning, innovative assessment, and e-learning content and support. !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 (Unitec, 2009). A week-long course of workshops for e-learning coordinators within all departments across the whole campus was run by Te Puna Ako (Department of Teaching and Learning) to help lecturers develop professionally and create Communities of Practice (CoPs). In addition, they also ran a series of regular workshops in which vertical and horizontal guidelines were established to accomplish these aims. Working parties from within the Language Department expanded on these, extending and translating the ideas into practical applications. These were further developed and progresssed during team meetings on Teacher and Professional Development days. Underpinning all this development work were the overall teaching aims of the Polytechnic Institute that all lecturers have to work within; that graduates will acquire a balance between specific, current content and lifelong learning capabilities; achieve career-enhancing educational outcomes which are critically conceptualised and practised; have the knowledge, skills and attributes to face the challenges of the future and to live in a multicultural world; and have the capacity to contribute positively to society, manage their own careers and function competently in changing environments. As is self-evident, many of the aims assume an understanding about, and the presence of, a strong sense of personal autonomy for social, educational and professional purposes. The precepts of this living curriculum allow space for students and other stakeholders to determine what they study, and ensure that the studies are directly applicable to the student and external community. These ideas are supported by Barnett and Coate (2005) who state: “The student has to be given ‘curriculum space’ instead of being ‘boxed in’” (p. 125) and later, “[a] curriculum has to become like so many ultra-modern buildings, full of light and open spaces, different textures, shapes and relationships and arrangements for serendipitous encounters” (p. 129). In terms of teaching at grass roots level in the Department of Language Studies, the main underlying principles are that the curriculum: • involves complex conversations • is curiosity or inquiry-led and stimulating • is practice-focused • is socially constructed !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 • blends face-to-face and web based learning • is research informed • has a discipline base • develops literacies for life-long learning • includes embedded assessment Digital literacy is an important component in this new living curriculum for most courses at Unitec, so all departments were required to transfer from Blackboard (an online repository for course materials accessible by teachers and students) to Moodle 1.8 within two years, as a decision had been made that the institute as a whole would move to this platform as a base for its interactive tools. It was considered that Moodle allowed much more interactivity with Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis, Hot Potato activities, and interactive quizzes based on YouTube materials. Blackboard only had asynchronous reading and listening materials for download, with occasional synchronous feedback in forums, thus Moodle allowed considerably more flexibility and creativity. Self-regulation and Student Identity Independent learning is one of the academic skills that students are assumed to have at a tertiary institution (Wilson, 2012). At Unitec, as with most other tertiary institutions, autonomy is considered as an valuable attribute that is fostered and considered important for graduates to master, and computer assisted language learning (CALL) can play an important role in this acquisition. Figura & Jarvis (2007) reported in their study that “All the students reported using computers in the SAC. In any one day 62% spent 1–2 hours on the computer” (p. 456). This is encouraging, and it is necessary to remember that, as Alm (2006) explains, in order for students to become autonomous they also: need to be encouraged to be self-initiating, to solve problems independently and receive feedback that supports autonomy. If learners see no value in an activity, they will pursue it only reluctantly, or not at all.…if the activity is of interest….reflects personal interests and it allows them to make choices, they are likely to engage in the activity (p.33)



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 Previously Warschauer (2000) claimed that when students understand the purpose and socio-cultural relevance of activities, they become more valued, which in turn, can lead to stronger motivation. He also stresses that technology should support the purpose of the activity. Noels (2001) also gives a clear outline of what is necessary to enhance a sense of autonomy: Individuals in the learner’s social world must provide autonomy-supportive feedback. These significant others must encourage learners to be self-initiating, provide them with choices about learning, allow them to solve problems independently, and avoid asserting authority and control over them. The use of threats, deadlines, directives, imposed goals, or even imposed rewards, is likely to lower motivation. (pp. 54-55) While encompassing these ideas above, the development of the Department of Language Studies e-learning and self-access Student Zones, and the scaffolding it affords students as they need it, also helps learners by giving them the support structure they need in an additional way, as Alm’s (2006) states: “It is the careful balance between structure and choice that allows learners to become autonomous” (p. 34). The benefits of online learning being able to assist autonomy acquisition was also found by Apple and Kikuchi (2007). “PGPs use multimedia sources, are content-based, encourage social interaction and therefore socio-cognitive restructuring of knowledge, allow learner autonomy or agency, and provide authentic discourse to link classroom practice with real-world activities” (Apple & Kikuchi, 2007, p. 112). The quote above also describes the interactive and autonomous properties of PowerPoint group projects (PGPs), which are perfect examples of ‘integrative CALL’ (Warschauer, 2004). This success in fostering autonomy within the students should be applicable and transferable to other types of technological learning, such as those being employed at Unitec. It is hoped that it will also accomplish what Apple and Kikuchi (2007) found: Several students told us that they enjoyed this approach because acquiring skills making use of PowerPoint would help them for their future jobs. Students who were not accustomed to using !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 computers appreciated the fact that they improved both English language skills and computer skills and found the group project collaboration highly motivating. (p.112) Enabling students to succeed, especially in their first semester, is critical to their success. At Unitec, a few dedicated teachers developed Moodle Student Zones, which are a series of webpages for off- or on- campus student self-access, with a range of resources, materials, and activities that they can choose from and use for extra learning in their own time and place. An additional aim of these was to help develop capability, purpose, resourcefulness, connectedness, and to help the students create their identity (Lizzio, 2006), all of which should also increase their autonomous capabilities. These interactive resources on the web-based Moodle platform also complied with the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Living Curriculumâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; dictates as outlined above. More importantly, it was simple and intuitive with appeal to visual, aural and kinesthetic learners. From a Survey Monkey IT Needs Analysis of all students in 2011, the first step to learning was found to be the need to easily access available support, not only of language, but also of basic IT instruction. Practical Considerations On Moodle, all students are enrolled in the Department of Language Studies Student Zone (DoLS SZ). Since mid-2011, students from the CE and CIE programmes have also had their own slightly easier to navigate Student Zone (CE&CIE SZ), which has graphics linking them to various text-based resources. These graphics are designed to aid access to the materials for all students. This second, shared zone has been set up at the request of CE teachers because the studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; literacy skills are not as advanced, and the demographics are slightly different. Both zones contain IT and language support (specifically an on-line language learning centre) in an index at the top of each page, but the zones differ in other ways, such as the number of links in the index. The DoLS SZ has a total of 12 links in the index, six of which are departmental information (About us, Staff, Events, Partner Institutions, Short Courses, Summer School) while the four others are: Links, Feedback, Success Stories and a Facebook page. Students click on the part they need- see Figure 1 below:



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Figure 1. DLS Student Zone Most of the support is in the form of webpages (page icons) with screen casts such as short videos that walk the students through the session, usually involving a screen capture of the teacher actively using the website, while adding a voice-over with instruction. Other support is in the form of direct links to web pages (blue emboldened) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; see Figure 2. Screen casts have already been identified as very successful instructional support for interactive writing feedback (Hynson, 2012). Students can close the webpage without leaving Moodle. This is very important, as the log-in process is time consuming and frustrating for new learners of technology.



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Figure 2. Webpage Support The CE and CIE SZ has a total of 7 links in the index including Language Learning Sites and IT Skills and Support for instance Programme Events, Student Stories, and Local Events and Help, plus extra links to a news forum, and some other websites for language learningâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; see Figure 3. This zone was created in July 2011, as teachers demanded simplified student support more aligned with their studentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; needs, for example language support (on-line language learning centre) according to level, rather than skill or grammar.

Figure 3. Shared CI and CIE Student Zones



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Selected Findings Using the report function of Moodle 2.0, individual, course and total participation can be tracked, and statistics about which links are being used are also provided. The graphs and tables below in Figure 4 illustrate two aspects of Moodle 2.0 report function. From anecdotal evidence (from staff meetings) and a show of hands by teachers after direct questioning of the group, it appeared that only a few teachers were taking their students to the various zones and illustrating their support and use. Students were engaging only when those few teachers had actually modeled and illustrated the zones, shown as peaks in Figure 4. The Posts function (green) was not used by most teachers until approximately a year of use and subsequent familiarity by the teachers and students.

Figure 4. Student Engagement in the Zones From Figure 5 it can be seen that the first two webpages, which include instructions using embedded screen casts, were accessed more than any other activity for IT support. All Elementary students in one class could use Word and write emails, but were previously unable to use them at all successfully before using the site. Grades for writing and vocabulary tests improved after 15 weeks of access, and anecdotal feedback in class further confirmed screen castsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; success. The vocabulary results had also improved when compared with previous years, so



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 this can also be seen as a result of autonomous access to vocab screencasts, as was the writing mentioned above.

Figure 5. Use of Web Pages Other Moodle Report Functions Similar tables are also available for each student or course, showing the date and time of most recent access and the frequency of viewing of webpages or sites. Blackboard does not show anywhere near as much detail of individual engagement and is highly time-consuming for teachers to learn to use, so previously, only anecdotal evidence was used to monitor the access of Blackboard materials. The preference for Moodle over Blackboard is also supported by Machado and Tao (2007) who conclude that “the Moodle learning management system is the more efficacious and effective learning management system than the Blackboard learning management system” (p. 6). Since this time of course there have been a lot of other developments in the field such as the new and emerging learning management system alternatives, facilitated by further technological advances, for example The Language Cloud, social network substitutes such as Edmodo, Ning, Twitter and Facebook, or web-based approaches using Edublogs or Google sites. Other autonomous vocabulary sites, including and, have replaced some of the paper-based testing or quizzes on Moodle as well. Conclusions Using the index format on Moodle, a “virtual” Language Learning Center (LLC) is incorporated into the zones with a valuable categorised repository of language sites. In addition, autonomous learning at any time is encouraged by providing students with access to support outside of our current Computer Lab sessions or physical LLC times. It is hoped that these indices and models will help



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 other institutions in the transition from Blackboard to Moodle (or one of the many alternative platforms currently available and being constantly developed). Future Intentions To date, current findings continue to support the zonesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; success. Running alongside this for one semester, a designated teacher has a time allowance to illustrate the zones to every class, in the form of a one-off 15-minute mini-lesson with selected sites tailored for each course. It is hoped that this will further engage all students.

Notes on the Contributors Moira Hobbs has worked as an ESOL teacher, and is now Manager of the Unitec Language Learning Centre. She is also Academic Development Lecturer for students from a range of vocational disciplines. Both roles exhibit a continuing interest and commitment to helping students achieve their short and long term learning goals. Yvonne Hynson is a full time ESOL teacher working with international students at all levels. She continually introduces e-learning activities and teaches colleagues about their use. She is on a team responsible for the maintenance, standardisation and uptake of e-learning in the department as it transitions to NZQA qualifications in 2014. References Alm, A. (2006). CALL for autonomy, competence and relatedness: Motivating language learning environments in Web 2.0. JALT CALL Journal 2(3), 2938. Retrieved from Apple, M., & Kikuchi, K. (2007). Practical PowerPoint group projects for the EFL classroom. JALT CALL Journal 3(1-2), 104-116. Retrieved from Barnett, R., & Coate, K. (2005) Engaging the curriculum in higher education. Buckingham, UK: SRHE and Open University Press. Figura. J., & Jarvis, H. (2007). Computer-based materials: A study of learner autonomy and strategies. System 35(4), 448-468. doi:10.1016/j.system.2007.07.001 !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 196-207 Hynson, Y. (2012). An innovative alternative to providing writing feedback on students’ essays. Teaching English with Technology, 12(1), 53-57. Lizzio, A. (2006) Designing an orientation and transition strategy for commencing students: A conceptual summary of research and practice. Griffith University: First year experience project. Retrieved from,-2006.pdf Machado, M., & Tao, E. (2007, October). Blackboard vs Moodle: Comparing user experience of learning management systems. Paper presented at the 37th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference Milwaukee, WI. Retrieved from Noels, K. A. (2001). New orientations in language learning motivation: Towards a model of intrinsic, extrinsic and integrative orientations. In Z. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and second language acquisition (pp. 4368). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center. Unitec (2009, September). Living Curricula. Paper presented to at the Teaching and Learning meeting of Unitec, Auckland, New Zealand. Warschauer, M. (2000). On-line learning in second language classrooms: An ethnographic study. In M. Warschauer & R. Kern (Eds.), Network-based language teaching: Concepts and practice (pp. 1-19). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Warschauer, M. (2004). Technological change and the future of CALL. In S. Fotos & C. Brown (Eds.), New perspectives on CALL for second and foreign language classrooms (pp. 15-25). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Wilson, K. (2012, February). Managing the assessment lifecycle: Principles and practices in the Early Experience & first year. Paper presented at the Kickstart Conference of Unitec, Mt Albert campus, Auckland, New Zealand.



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Needs Analysis: Investigating Students’ Self-directed Learning Needs Using Multiple Data Sources Keiko Takahashi, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Jo Mynard, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Junko Noguchi, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Akiyuki Sakai, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan Katherine Thornton, Otemon Gakuin University, Japan Atsumi Yamaguchi, Kanda University of International Studies, Japan

As explained in the first installment of this report (Thornton, 2013), the learning advisor (LA) team at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS) has engaged in redesigning a curriculum for the Self-Access Learning Centre (SALC) by following a framework adapted from the Nation and Macalister (2010) model. This framework, which is based on an investigation of student needs, aims to establish criteria in the shape of clear principles and goals. Following the Environment Analysis stage, detailed in the previous installment of this column (Thornton, 2013), this paper describes the needs analysis stage which was undertaken in 2012. Long (2005) emphasizes the importance of triangulating needs analysis data, and discusses a number of sources that may be consulted to establish a comprehensive picture of needs. In the KUIS context, the LA team identified four major stakeholders in the SALC curriculum as sources of information for needs analysis: LAs, students, teachers and the university senior management team. In order to conduct a thorough needs analysis to guide curriculum evaluation and design, the LA team decided to investigate each stakeholder group’s perceptions of students’ self-directed learning (SDL) needs. This second installment showcases each research project, and demonstrates how the data from the four projects were collated in order to discover freshman student SDL needs, resulting in a document of Learning Outcomes for the future curriculum% Learning Advisors’ Perceptions of Student SDL Needs As LAs are the stakeholders most familiar with both the field of learner autonomy and SDL, as well as KUIS students’ experiences of SDL, it seemed logical to approach the needs analysis by first examining LAs’ own perceptions of their students’ needs.



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In order to establish a coherent understanding of student needs among the LA team, each LA brainstormed what they considered to be student needs, supporting their points with reference to the literature or specific personal experiences gained while working as a LA, to avoid unsubstantiated intuitions. The individual responses of each LA were then collated by two members of the LA team and categorised under three headings: socio-affective needs, cognitive needs, and metacognitive needs. On further discussion with the full LA team, an additional category, self-management needs, was added to reflect organisational and practical needs that did not relate directly to language learning (such as being able to meet deadlines, and being familiar with the different learning environments available) but were nevertheless considered important for successful SDL. LAs were then asked to indicate where they felt the SALC curriculum’s priorities should lie by completing a survey in which they labelled each need as high, mid or low priority, or something that should not be covered in the freshman curriculum. The LA Survey responses were then shared with all LAs and a consensus was reached over the level of priority given to each need. This resulted in a detailed preliminary taxonomy of LA perceptions of student SDL needs (hereafter LA Taxonomy). Students’ Perceptions of Their Own SDL Needs/Wants This section highlights one of the needs analysis sub-projects to find out about freshman students’ subjective needs. By asking students to give their subjective views about their SDL needs, the working group assigned to this portion of the research realised that these subjective needs could be considered more accurately as "wants", so this term is used throughout this section. In the hope of learning about freshman students’ experiences, it was decided that sophomore students who had completed one year at the university would be targeted with a student survey. The following research question was used to guide the design and analysis process: What support do current sophomore students perceive they needed (from the SALC) to succeed in their freshman year?



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An open-ended written prompt in Japanese with follow-up interviews was used to generate data from which the item pool for the Student Survey could be constructed (Dörnyei, 2010). The data from the prompt and the interviews were collated and categorised into six groups, using a grounded research approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Each group has several subcategories with a total of 23 items in all. The six categories which emerged are: •

Time management (e.g. scheduling, prioritizing)

Managing learning resources - human & physical (e.g. knowing how to access support from advisors/teachers, making contact with speakers of English, knowing how to access SALC facilities effectively)

Learning activities (knowing a variety of strategies, incorporating English into daily life)

Learning environment (choosing the right environment for the right task)

Attitude (e.g. motivation, endurance, effort)

Goal Setting (e.g. prioritizing needs, breaking goals into achievable tasks) Following the process of generating the item pool, the 23 items were used to create a

closed-ended Student Survey. The text below was the instruction given in the survey (translated here from Japanese): Think back on your freshman year. Think about whether you would have liked the opportunity to learn about the following things in your first year, and choose the most suitable response. The following four response options were used in the survey (Figure 1). While these response options did yield some relevant data, one limitation of this format is that students whose opinions may not have exactly matched these options did not have an opportunity to express their views. Yes, I couldn’t do

Yes, I was able to do this

No, I was able to do

No, I could

this, so I would have

to a certain extent, but I

this to a certain

already do this, so

liked the opportunity

would have liked the

extent, so I don’t

I don’t think it’s

to learn about it.

opportunity to learn

think it’s necessary

necessary to learn

more about it.

to learn about it.

about it.

Figure 1. Four Questionnaire Response Options !


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In addition to the aforementioned closed-ended questions, an open-ended question was also added at the end to elicit any “wants” not included in the 23 items. In order to elicit responses from students covering as many variables as possible, such as students’ majors and English ability levels, the Student Survey was administered to 11 sophomore classes in all departments including both English and non-English language majors. In total 234 students responded, of which 207 gave their consent for data to be used. Seventy responses to the open-ended option were also collected, in both English and Japanese. Analysis of the data indicates that all 23 items were “wanted” by more than half of the students. The data suggest that students have more wants in utilising human resources such as advisors, teachers and international students, and also in using the physical resources and services available. Categories such as goal-setting and time management (which the SALC curriculum currently focused on more strongly) appeared to be less desired. This may indicate that students need more awareness-raising of the importance of these aspects of SDL. Teachers’ Perceptions of Students’ SDL Needs This part of the needs analysis aimed to elicit the voices of teachers who have taught freshman English classes. Because teachers may have a role in developing students’ SDL skills, the working group assigned to this portion of the research needed to clarify what teachers wanted from the SALC, in addition to teachers’ perceptions of students’ needs. Researchers used an exploratory design research method (Ivankova & Creswell, 2009) to investigate the following two questions: 1) What do teachers believe freshman students need in order to be effective independent learners? 2) In what areas of independent learning should the SALC support the students? First, an open-ended prompt and follow-up interviews were administered to ten participants. The qualitative data collected was then coded into 20 student traits and 18 student actions which teachers considered important for their students to possess. These traits and actions were then used to generate closed-response survey items. This Teacher Survey was sent to the 35 teachers who taught freshman English classes and 19 responded. Related to the first research question, the teachers strongly perceived the following traits and actions to be the qualities of



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effective independent learners. The number in brackets shows the average rating of each item, with 6.00 being the highest rating possible. Only items with a rating of 4.70 and above are listed: Traits •

Proactive (4.93)

Curious (4.88)

Determined (4.81)

Hard-working (4.81)

Confident (4.75)

Actions •

Make the most of university facilities and learning materials (5.13)

Not afraid of being perceived to be silly or making mistakes (4.80)

Organize their time (4.76) With regard to the second research question, the teachers selected the following traits and

actions as the SALC’s responsibility to help students with. The numbers in brackets show the percentage of teachers who selected the item. Only items with a 60% and above response-rate are listed: Traits •

Reflective (81.25%)

Self-led to use English (81.25%)

Independent in making choices (68.75%)

Actions •

Make the most of university facilities and learning materials (100%)

Organize their time (71.43%) The results suggest that while the teachers perceive that the traits and actions listed above

are the main qualities that may lead to students being self-directed, they do not expect the SALC to be responsible for helping students with all those traits and actions. This may suggest there are SDL elements that can be covered in the classroom by teachers. It could also indicate that there are SDL elements that only students can be held responsible for. Future research could further investigate which stakeholder(s) could best address the SDL needs identified above.



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Senior Management Perspectives on Students’ SDL Needs This section of the needs analysis investigates the perspectives that senior management have of students’ SDL needs and views on how to address them. The research involved interviewing four participants, all of whom are senior academics at the university and hold leadership positions. This step in the research took an interpretative, qualitative approach drawing upon the principles of grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). An identical initial prompt was sent to each participant prior to the meeting so that they could think about the questions in advance, and the researcher conducted a semi-structured individual interview with each participant. The initial prompt was: What do you think our students’ SDL needs are in the freshman year? i.e. what do you think the ELI / SALC should be preparing students to be able to do in order to be effective learners? (we are not looking at language learning / proficiency for this study). The interviews were transcribed, coded manually according to emergent themes, and the initial interpretations were shared with the interviewees separately for further comments and /or elucidation. The four coded documents were then combined, which involved some re-coding (in line with grounded theory techniques). The results naturally contributed to one of two emergent focus areas. Focus Area 1 related to what participants thought were the key skills that freshman students should have an awareness of in order to be effective learners. These skills were coded within one (or sometimes more) of the following eight categories: •

Affective factors, e.g. knowing how to regulate motivation and language anxiety

Behaviour-related, e.g. knowing the importance of being an active learner and taking responsibility

Cognitive skills, e.g. developing practical strategies for language learning

Focus on future, e.g. having a long-term goal

Metacognitive skills, e.g. understanding the learning process

Resources, e.g. knowing what materials and facilities are available in the SALC and how to use them



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 208-218 ! •

Self-management, e.g. knowing how to manage study time effectively

Social factors, e.g. understanding how communicating with other people is crucial for developing language proficiency Focus Area 2 related to participants’ views on what action needed to be taken by either

the SALC or by the university in order for freshman students to be effective learners. The responses were coded into the following categories: •

Incorporate elements into the classroom, e.g. build learner training into the freshman curriculum

SALC / Classroom overlap, e.g. make links between in-class and outside-class learning

What should the university do? i.e. these were areas beyond the scope of the ELI and SALC and need to be addressed at an institutional level

Explicit competencies, e.g. establishing learning outcomes related to learner training that students can work towards

Learning advisors, e.g. something that falls within the learning advisors’ areas of responsibility and/or expertise

Peers, e.g. ways in which peers could be involved in the process Collating Different Perspectives on Students’ SDL Needs The previous steps in the needs analysis resulted in four different sets of findings from

each of the stakeholders examined. The final step of the needs analysis was to collate the findings from each of the four groups, in order to produce a final document detailing students’ SDL needs. As the LAs are the domain experts who can confidently be considered knowledgeable on the subject, with detailed knowledge of the field and their experience working directly with students, it was decided that comparing each set of findings to the LA Taxonomy would be the most effective way to make sense of the data. Each research working group compared their findings with the LA Taxonomy, stating for each “need” whether it was also present in their data set (and if possible to what extent), and also to list “needs” identified by their stakeholder group that had not featured in the LA Taxonomy. These needs were then added to the original list of needs used in the taxonomy, resulting in a



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final document of 65 items, grouped into four categories: Socio-Affective Needs, Cognitive Needs, Metacognitive Needs and Self-Management Needs. Using the data from all four sources, the final step of the process was to identify the most important SDL needs. These higher priority items were collated into a document and rephrased as a list of Learning Outcomes, which the LA team believes all freshman students need to achieve (see Appendix). The items which were not included in the Learning Outcomes are still acknowledged as being important but were considered not relevant to all students and therefore not included in the document. The process of finalising this document is still in progress. Conclusion This installment of the column has described the investigation of multiple data sources to explore different perspectives of freshman students’ SDL needs. The findings have enabled the team to understand different perspectives. The results indicate that the stakeholder groups, namely LAs, students, teachers, and senior management, have similar perceptions about what kinds of SDL skills students need in order to become successful self-directed learners. The Needs Statement created in the process described above was utilized in order to establish a working Learning Outcomes document (see Appendix). Curriculum evaluation and development is a laborious process. Nevertheless, as Brown (1995) states, the formation of learning outcomes (or program goals) is essential to a curriculum particularly because learning outcomes provide curriculum developers with a way to assess both student performance and the course itself. The findings from the analysis of the stakeholder groups’ perceptions have given the LA team the confidence to move forward in creating the new self-directed learning course.The next installment in this series will discuss the subsequent steps in this curriculum development project following the modified Nation and Macalister (2010) model described in the previous installment: •

Establishing principles

Evaluating the existing curriculum

Notes on the contributors



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Keiko Takahashi holds an MA in TESOL from Monterey Institute of International Studies, California, USA. She is interested in individualized learning, learner development and language advising discourse. Jo Mynard holds an M.Phil. in Applied Linguistics from Trinity College, Dublin (Ireland) and a Doctorate in TEFL from the University of Exeter (UK). Her research interests are in affect, advising, learner autonomy and CALL. Junko Noguchi holds an MA in TESOL from Soka University of America Graduate School, California, USA. Her research interests are self-directed learning, critical thinking and assessment of reflection. Akiyuki Sakai holds an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Queensland, Australia. Katherine Thornton (column editor) has an MA in TESOL from the University of Leeds, UK. She is the current president of the Japan Association of Self-Access Learning (JASAL). Atsumi Yamaguchi has an MA from the University of Hawaii. Her research interests include identity and learner autonomy.

Acknowledgements At various stages, the following people have been key members of the project described in this case study: Junko Noguchi, Neil Curry, Yuki Hasegawa, Elizabeth Lammons, Tanya McCarthy, Brian R. Morrison, Jo Mynard, Diego Navarro, Akiyuki Sakai, Keiko Takahashi, Katherine Thornton, Satoko Watkins, and Atsumi Yamaguchi. References Brown, J. D. (1995). The elements of language curriculum: A systematic approach to program development. New York, NY: Heinle & Heinle. Dรถrnyei, Z. (2010). Questionnaires in second language research: Construction, administration, and processing (2nd ed.). London, UK: Routledge. !


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Ivankova, N. V., & Creswell, J. W. (2009). Mixed methods. In J. Heigham & R. Croker (Eds.), Qualitative research in applied linguistics: A practical introduction (pp. 135-161). Hampshire, UK: Palgrave MacMillan. Long, M. H. (2005). Methodological issues in learner needs analysis. In M. H. Long (Ed.), Second language needs analysis (pp. 19-76). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Nation, I. S. P., & Macalister, J. (2010). Language curriculum design. London, UK: Routledge. Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Thornton, K. (2013). A framework for curriculum reform: Re-designing a curriculum for selfdirected language learning. Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 4(2), 142-153. Retrieved from:



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Appendix Learning Outcomes for All SALC Courses and Modules 1. How to use the SALC • Freshman students should know what a self-access centre is and how it can help them • Freshman students should know how to get a SALC card and how to participate in SALC events • Students should know the purpose of the advising service • Freshman students should know how to access services and facilities • Students should know how to access online resources for self-directed learning 2. Setting and reviewing goals • Freshman students should be able to identify their language strengths and weaknesses • Freshman students should know how to set a relevant and realistic goal considering their wants, interests, and needs • Students should draw upon previous knowledge and experiences in order to individualise their plan 3. Selecting, using and evaluating resources • Students should be able to locate resources that will help them to address their goals • Students should try at least two new resources and reflect on their suitability for their goals 4. Identifying, using and evaluating strategies • Students should try at least two new strategies and reflect on their effectiveness and suitability for their goals • Students should know how to get information about learning additional strategies when they need them 5. Making, implementing and evaluating a learning plan • Students should demonstrate that they understand the difference between S, U and R (Study, Use and Review) activities • Students should be able to make a basic learning plan which forms a practical guide for a period of self-directed study 6. Evaluation of linguistic gains • Students should demonstrate that they understand the meaning of “evaluation” of learning progress (embedded into outcomes above) • Students should demonstrate how they can evaluate linguistic gains • Students should be able to evaluate whether or not there have been linguistic gains !



"#"$%!&'()*+,!"#$%!&'!(#%!)'!*+,-+./+0!123)'!1345111! !

Book Review: The Applied Linguistic Individual: Sociocultural Approaches to Identity, Agency and Autonomy. Edited by Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker! Reviewed by Cem Balçıkanlı, Gazi Universitesi, Ankara, Turkey

The Applied Linguistic Individual: Sociocultural Approaches to Identity, Agency and Autonomy, edited by Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker, maps the parameters of the concepts “identity, agency and autonomy” in relation to sociocultural approaches and illustrates how a range of different areas, as well as research studies, shape the concepts. This edited book offers a representation of voices through its 13 chapters contributed by researchers in various countries. The first chapter states two main objectives to be fulfilled by the book. First, it provides an analysis of theoretical re-interpretations of previously published work in terms of its treatment of individuality. Secondly, it offers an overview of empirical research findings that are likely to affect the concepts concerned. In the first chapter, editors Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker take the term “individuality” as a starting point and present the following views: “Language learning is a social process in the double sense that it is grounded in social interaction and conditioned by social, cultural and historical contexts and language learning is a uniquely individual process” (p. 1). The editors report that there was too much emphasis on the effort of identifying “an acquisition process that is common to all learners” rather than paying attention to “individual learner factors”. It is the aim of the book, then, to explore some of the theoretical and empirical challenges of working within the concept of “individuality” in Applied Linguistics. Chapter 2, by James P. Lantolf, who himself claims that he has not followed developments in the area of learner autonomy from the time of Holec’s introduction of the concept, makes a connection between sociocultural theory and dialectics of learner autonomy/agency. The chapter addresses issues of identity mainly through the idea that individuals emerge from socialization processes, involving socialization into language use and !


"#"$%!&'()*+,!"#$%!&'!(#%!)'!*+,-+./+0!123)'!1345111! ! concludes that any educational activity should enable students to deal with the difficult circumstances by employing scientific knowledge they gain. Chapter 3 was written by Martin Lamb who takes a deeper look at Situated Learning Theory in connection with individual language learners. The chapter makes a rigorous analysis of the theory which focuses mostly on acquisition and development of new identities in communities of practice and suggests that individuals, being important participants of multiple communities of practice, and their identities be understood as dynamic and complex. Only then can learners make use of language in different communities. Chapter 4, written by Tomoko Yashima, discusses imagined communities from an Asian EFL perspective in a globalizing world. By starting with the phenomenon “the social turn in applied linguistics”, Yashima introduces two major sociocultural perspectives on research and practice: “The cultural historical/Vygotskian perspective and the poststructuralist/critical perspective” (p. 46). The author finishes the chapter with the suggestion that L2 learners trying to craft new identities can make progress as long as imagination functions to relate what they have acquired in classrooms to the communities they take part in. Vera Lúcia Menezes de Oliveira e Paiva in Chapter 5 focuses on terms “chaos and complexity” and their connections with the concepts “identity, autonomy and agency” in second language acquisition. By dwelling on the role of science in trying to understand any phenomenon to account for chaos/complexity science and second language learning, the author demonstrates that the ways in which learners take on different identities in response to the affordances proposed in various communities are expected to drastically alter the learners’ behaviors. To this end, it becomes clearer that successful learners, who are ready to take risks, experiment and explore will be many more in classroom settings. Chapter 6 was written by Phil Benson, one of the editors. After a brief introduction of the overlapping terms such as self-directed learning, self-instruction, individualized learning and learner-centered, Phil Benson explores the conception of identity in the context of Autonomy Theory and focuses on the ways in which language and social identities become more individualized as learners gain knowledge, experience and autonomy in second language learning. In Chapter 7, Jane Kehrwald touches upon the social construction of learner autonomy, beliefs and identity in second language learning. The project she describes in the chapter is based on developing learner autonomy in a specific learning environment through the exploration of the learners’ beliefs. The chapter concludes that autonomy is a complex !


"#"$%!&'()*+,!"#$%!&'!(#%!)'!*+,-+./+0!123)'!1345111! ! combination of self-regulation and investment and focuses more on identity and socially triggered agency. Chapter 8, by Anne Pitkänen-Huhta and Tarja Nikula, is concerned with teenagers making sense of their foreign language practices by means of the use of individual accounts which display social discourses. The authorsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; ethnographically oriented study focuses on the ways in which Finnish teenagers use English in their daily contexts, what values and meanings they give to it, and more importantly how they position themselves as learners of English. The findings of the research the authors conduct indicate that the learners see their learning experiences not only as a cognitive process but also as an active engagement and participation in activities related to language learning. In Chapter 9, Mingyue (Michelle) Gu reports on a study which centers around the stories of two Chinese learners of English. The aim of the study is to examine the changes they experience in their L2 identities over a course of time in an EFL setting and how they construct their L2 identities in the face of both the spread of English that accompanies globalization and also the rapid changes in Chinese society. Finally, the study raises the question of how individuality is constructed as the learners constantly interact with different contexts. Ashley R. Moore, in Chapter 10, discusses the ideal sexual self in a Japanese setting. The study explores how five Japanese individuals construct their identities as self-identifying gay men across varied sociolinguistic contexts. Attempting to investigate overlapping factors that belong to individual accounts and how their experiences affect their motivational levels in learning English, the study suggests that the experiences the five learners go through in the process of language learning in Japan may show similarities to those of other gay learners across different contexts. Chapter 11 was written by Anne Whiteside who discusses data from her doctoral study of language practices of Mexican migrants to the United States. Using concepts from Complexity Theory and Language Ecology to take a deeper look at dynamic social tensions in the linguistic practices of the participants, the study focuses on face-to-face and cell phone conversations immigrants are engaged in. The complex interaction of historical and individual memory and how they structure the behavior of an idiosyncratic person have been seen as the main findings of the research. Matthew Clarke, in Chapter 12, takes up the theme of teacher identity within an autonomous perspective. The author explores an approach to sustaining professional agency and self-empowerment in the formation, development and deployment of a teacher identity. !


"#"$%!&'()*+,!"#$%!&'!(#%!)'!*+,-+./+0!123)'!1345111! ! Employing Foucault’s ethical work, the study outlines and exemplifies two vignettes of novice language teachers with a great emphasis on Sociocultural Theory and Situated Learning Theory. To close the book, the editors review all the chapters concerned and return to the theme “Applied Linguistic Individual” which they view as a paradox in social approaches to Applied Linguistic Research. Seen as a whole, the book examines the concept of applied linguistic individual for language learning from three different angles namely identity, autonomy and agency. It starts from theoretical considerations that are provided through a literature review spanning both education research and applied linguistics, and it moves to the description of empirical implementations in different settings. Rather than bringing diverse projects and perspectives together through theory, it embarks its readers on the open-ended exploration of an exciting multi-dimensional field. ! Publication Information Title: The Applied Linguistic Individual: Sociocultural Approaches to Identity, Agency and Autonomy Editors: Phil Benson and Lucy Cooker Publisher: Equinox ISBN: 9781908049391 (paperback) / 9781908049384 (hardback) Date of Publication: April, 2013 Price: $29.95 / $125 Pages: 226 Available from: Notes on the contributor Dr. Cem Balcikanli works as Associate Professor in the ELT Department of Gazi University, Turkey. He is also Vice Director of The School of Foreign Languages, Gazi University. He has published articles on learner/teacher autonomy, use of Web 2.0 technologies in language learning/teaching and teaching Turkish as a foreign language. He takes an active part in the in-service training programs of the Ministry of Education as a trainer and has contributed to a number of projects run by the Ministry for primary, secondary and tertiary levels.



SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 223-226 !

Book Review: Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practices. Edited by Andy Barfield and Natanael Delgado Alvarado! Reviewed by Adelia PeĂąa Clavel, National Autonomous University of Mexico ! Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practices edited by Andy Barfield and Natanael Delgado Alvarado is an e-book published by the IATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group (LA SIG). It is the third ebook in the Autonomy in Language Learning series and is available in ePub (for iPad, Kobo and other devices) and mobi (for Kindle) formats. An ebook format strengthens the structure of the book. First, it allows the reader to write and share comments on the text that spark reflection, admiration or empathy. Second, statements considered relevant for oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own practice can be highlighted. Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of practices is constructed from narratives of teachers/researches who have attempted to promote autonomy in different settings, sometimes in teacher-centered contexts, or when autonomy was not as recognized as a necessary ability to develop in learners as it is nowadays. When going through its pages, the reader becomes immersed in a diversity of worlds and can identify with the characters of the stories. The e-book is divided into four sections. The first part focuses on attempts to develop a certain level of autonomy in children and teenagers; the second concentrates on college contexts; the third refers to self-access environments and the last part to teacher education. In addition, the structure of the anthology reveals the variety of scenarios where autonomy can be promoted, since there are educators from Asia, Europe and Latin America either as storytellers or responders"!! !


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The stories demonstrate that autonomy can be developed in different stages of education (e.g. primary, high school, college, tertiary level and teacher education) and at different ages (e.g. children, teenagers, and of course, adults). The book ends with a conclusion that is devoted to comments regarding the different narratives in this volume. It is worth mentioning that most of the storywriters have a career in language learning and are dedicated to a pedagogy of autonomy. ! The chapters have an original way of presenting each story. Each is organized into two sections. First, the reader becomes acquainted with the storyteller who recounts his/her practice on how he/she has engaged in the path of developing autonomy and ways of implementing its pedagogy. This is followed by commentaries by two colleagues or â&#x20AC;&#x153;respondersâ&#x20AC;? from different countries from the storyteller, but who work with students of the same level or age. The comments consist of remarks about the experience as well as reflections the responder has raised through the narrative. Most of the time there are questions on issues that the reader considered were worth expanding or developing with a deeper insight by the storyteller. In the second section, the storyteller responds the questions and expands on the issues that have risen in the first part. The chapter concludes with the responders recapitulating the story they have just heard and it seems that both, storywriters and responders become more reflective about the issues raised. This exchange of ideas makes the reader feel part of the dialogue between the storyteller and his or her responders. In the first part entitled Stories of practices in primary/secondary/high school contexts, Shu Hua Vivien Kao, Irina Minakova, Mehmet Boyno and Isabel Barbosa describe how they became acquainted with the concept of autonomy, and the way it had such an influence in their conception of learning and teaching. They worked in countries where the educational model is teacher-centered, so they had to overcome certain difficulties in order to implement the pedagogy of autonomy with young students. The eight responders of these stories concentrate on the sociological, political, personal and cultural factors to be considered when fostering of autonomy. What is remarkable in these four stories is their unbreakable enthusiasm, in spite of the several complications they encountered when trying to implement autonomy in their schools. The second part, called Stories of practices in university undergraduate contexts, contains three stories that narrate the journey towards autonomy of three teachers when !


SiSAL Journal Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2013, 223-226 !

they started to search for an effective teaching and learning approach. The storytellers in this part are Leena Karlsson, Diane Malcolm, and Steve Brown. In their quest, both storytellers and responders raise issues worthy of consideration. For example, in Leena's story, the storyteller and her responders discuss the idea of sociocultural autonomy and its development through collaborative work; in Diane´s story, her experience makes her responder think about what an autonomous teacher should be like; and Steve's story makes the reader reflect on how influential the context can be in the promotion of autonomy. Finally, in this section the reader will find the testimonies from students who have adopted autonomy in their learning interesting. The third section is Stories of practices in a self-access center and contains stories from Pornapit Darasawang, Desirée Castillo Zaragoza, and Katherine Thornton. In this section, we can find experiences where there were almost no obstacles to navigate since the environment within these experiences could be the ideal one for the fostering of autonomy in learners. This section introduces three representatives from countries were SACs have been embraced: Latin-American and Asia. Pornapit from a university in Thailand surprises us with her experience of a systematic SAC whose aim is to promote autonomy through the different resources that students are provided with. Desireé tells us about her perception of SACs in México when she provides an overview of two kinds of SACs: one that focusses on learning and one that focusses on teaching. Katherine, who works in Japan, concentrates on her experience as a learning advisor and discusses how important this role has been in he promotion with autonomy. ! A constant theme in the different stories in the book is the importance of the teacher as a resource to promote autonomy. In order to do this, teachers need to be trained to foster autonomy and to be autonomous. Stories of practices in teacher education contexts is made up of four stories that deal with the latter: fostering autonomy in teacher-trainees. Experts in this area tell us how they have their teacher-learners exercise their autonomy. The storytellers are: María Sara Rodríguez, Christian Ludwig, Simla Course, and Richard Smith. They -the story tellers and the responders- acknowledge that putting autonomy into practice implies being able to reconcile one’s role as a teacher and as a learner, and to examine and rediscover the richness of past experiences for new practices. Overall, the stories focus on both practical and theoretical issues related to the pedagogy of autonomy. Novices to the topic of autonomy will find in this book a good !


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source to get acquainted with the theory around fostering a sense of responsibility in language learners. In addition, readers new to the field can become acquainted with experiences of instrumenting autonomy that they could implement in their own particular contexts, and be prepared for the possible obstacles that they may encounter. What is more, readers can find a source of inspiration and motivation in order not to feel discourage when plans do not work as expected. On the other hand, teachers and/or researchers who are already familiar with autonomy will encounter colleagues who may have gone through the same struggles and thoughts as them. They may find answers to their own questions or confirm that they are on the right path. Finally, readers can also meet other colleagues with similar interests.

Publication Information Title: Autonomy in Language Learning: Stories of Practices Editors: Andy Barfield and Natanael Delgado Alvarado Publisher: IATEFL Learner Autonomy SIG Autonomy as part of the Autonomy in Language Learning Series ISBN: 978-1-901095-43-2 Date of Publication: May, 2013 Price: $8.50 Format: ePub (for iPad/iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Sony Reader) and mobi (for Kindle) Available from: and other Amazon stores worldwide (for Kindle): and Smashwords (for other devices): Other books in the series: Notes on the contributor María de la Paz Adelia Peña Clavel is an English teacher and counselor in the Self-Access Center in the Foreign Language Teaching Center at the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM). She is the Academic Coordinator on the Counselor Diploma Course. She holds a BA in Modern Literature and a Master’s in Educational Technology from ITESM. Where she specialised in virtual learning environments. !


Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 4(3)  

Studies in Self-Access Learning Journal, 4(3). September, 2013. Edited by Jo Mynard.

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