BEYOND BELIEFS: EXPLORING LANGUAGE LEARNER COGNITION IN ACTION

Author:

Diego Navarro & John Macalister

Publication Date:

2019

The appreciation of learners as active, decision-making agents in the process of L2-development has challenged and expanded the contexts in which research in this area is conducted. An example of this is the body of work exploring language learners’ perceptions. Beliefs, or cognition studies in Applied Linguistics argue that researching participants’ understanding of their L2-related activity in context can help make better sense of the disparity between what is observed and what is experienced. Language learner cognition, defined in this paper as the intersection of L2-related beliefs, assumptions, knowledge (BAK) and emotions, is an important construct in helping interpret individuals’ thought processes, behaviour, and development as it relates to additional language learning. A socially constructed phenomenon, rooted in prior experience and guiding day-to-day interaction, learner cognition, however, remains largely unobservable. Thus, capturing this cognition in action poses significant challenges to the study of L2-learning. A layer of complexity is added when research steps beyond the language learning classroom (Nunan & Richards, 2015; Benson & Reinders, 2011). This paper, recognising the multifaceted and unpredictable nature of L2-development, investigates how an adult language learner in an ESL context navigates L2 use in naturalistic interactions. The findings suggest a model, rooted in complexity theory, which can help researchers better understand the ways in which L2-related cognition and behaviour mutually impact language learning development.