Date of Graduation

7-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Freddie Bowles

Committee Member

Jason Endacott

Second Committee Member

Vicki Collet

Third Committee Member

Wen-Juo Lo

Keywords

educational psychology, eudaimonia, language pedagogy, positive psychology, self-determination theory, world languages

Abstract

In the last 25 years, world language education (i.e., “foreign” or “second” language education) in the United States has seen a meaningful turn toward pedagogical approaches emphasizing communication, contextualization, and culture. This has coincided with the blossoming of recent theoretical perspectives and empirical research centered on language learners’ emotions, beliefs, and well-being. Two frameworks, self-determination theory (SDT) and positive psychology, are leading this exploration. Although these two perspectives have enhanced the discussion around language learning, each has its gaps; positive psychology research and its recommendations for practice do not often agree on what constitutes well-being and flourishing, while SDT, which contributes a cross-cultural empirical framework, often lacks pedagogical recommendations for how to actualize theory into practice. For this reason, this study sought to further the discussion around well-being in language education by employing the robust and established concept of flourishing offered by the Eudaimonic Activity Model (Sheldon & Martela, 2019), which posits that flourishing is not just about feeling well but also engaging in certain ways of living. In other words, flourishing entails well-doing and well-being.

A mixed methods research design was adopted to explore the characteristics of university world language education which help learners to flourish. This involved testing a quantitative hypothesis using structural equation modeling based on online survey responses from a large sample of university language learners (N = 466), as well as follow-up interviews with thirteen (N = 13) survey respondents to determine specific environmental conditions conducive to flourishing. A synthesis of the quantitative and qualitative findings indicated that communicative language learning environments, within both formal academic settings and outside of class, were more conducive to flourishing than noncommunicative environments. Four pedagogical themes in support of flourishing arose, which included prioritizing effective, authentic language comprehension and communication, encouraging discussion around relevant and critical themes, integrating service to others into the curriculum, and investing in students’ language journeys. Results from the study support recommendations from the field of world language education that the language acquisition experience is particularly suitable for supporting learners’ human development and well-being.

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