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INVESTIGATING INDIVIDUAL LEARNER DIFFERENCES Rationale In order to develop effective pedagogical techniques and methods, language teachers, indeed

teachers of any subject, need an awareness and understanding of the individual differences that characterise their learners. Considerable research has been conducted into the area of individual differences in language learning and in fact differences such as foreign language aptitude and motivation have been found to be the most consistent predictors of second language learning success. Thus language teachers would benefit from an understanding of learner differences both from the point of view of offering equal access to education by understanding effective strategies that can address problems of low levels of academic achievement, and as a means of enabling language learners to achieve their full potential. Overview This course is appropriate for practising teachers and new teachers who are interested in language learning and teaching issues. The course examines a range of psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic differences found among learners considering them in the context of the second language classroom and the implication of these differences implications for language teaching pedagogy. In particular this course enables students to explore what theory and research tell us about the relationship between language learning and language aptitude, language attitudes and motivation, age, gender and language learning strategies and considers how these individual variables interact with the language learning process. The course links closely to Language and the Learner offering an opportunity to consider the relationship and implication of central theories and concepts in Language Learning to the individual learner. The course offers the opportunity to consider learners as individuals and to discuss and develop pedagogical approaches that take into account learner commonalities and differences and to situate the individual differences in the wider context of general language teaching and learning theories. After an overview of the field, each session considers a different aspect of individual learner differences examining the theory and research and drawing out the practical implications for teaching practice. Learning outcomes By the end of this course students will be able to: Demonstrate critical understanding of the theories underpinning the outlined individual learner differences Apply broad theories of language learning to the specific field of individual learner differences Explore the relationship between individual differences and language learning outcomes

Understand how individual differences can help or hinder learning outcomes Analyse research studies that pertain to each of the key areas outlined above Evaluate research methodology used for the investigation of individual differences and develop their own research proposals for investigating this area Critically analyse their own teaching context and draw implications from research in individual differences to this specific context Develop language teaching strategies and techniques to practically address individual learner differences

Course content 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. An overview of individual differences theory and research Age Gender Aptitude Attitudes and motivation Anxiety Language learning strategies Investigating individual differences as a practitioner in the classroom

Assessment 4,000 words Provide a brief overview of research into one particular aspect of individual learner differences examined on the course. Then select two relevant studies to critically consider in more detail. What are the implications of the studies you have chosen for teaching practice? How do they specifically relate to your own professional context? In light of your discussion so far design a 1 hour lesson plan that demonstrates your application of the research in this particular learner difference area to your teaching practice. OR Provide an overview of research into one particular aspect of individual learner differences examined on the course. Identifying a gap in the research, design a research study you could carry out in your language teaching classroom to investigate a specific aspect of your chosen individual difference. Explain how the study might inform and impact on your professional practice. Level: Postgraduate (level 11) Number of credits: 20 Mode of delivery: 8 x 1hr lecture; 8 x 2hr workshop

Reading list

Core text Drnyei, Z. (2005) The Psychology of the Language Learner London: Routledge

Supplementary reading: 1. Drnyei, Z. & Ushioda, E. (2011) Motivation to learn another language: current socio-dynamic perspectives In Teaching and Researching Motivation London: Longman pp. 74-88 2. Gardner, R.C. & Lambert, W.E. (1959) Motivational variables in second language acquisition Canadian Journal of Psychology 13, pp.266-272 3. Gardner, R.C., Tremblay, P.F. & Masgoret, A. (1997) Towards a full model of second language learning: an empirical investigation The Modern Language Journal 81, pp.344-362 4. Graham, S. and Macaro, E. (2007) Designing Year 12 strategy training in listening and writing: from theory to practice. Language Learning Journal, 35 (2). pp. 153-173 5. Grenfell, M. & Macaro, E. (2007) Claims and Critiques In A. Cohen & E. Macaro Language Learner Strategies: 30 years of Research and Practice Oxford: Oxford University Press 6. Macaro, E. (2000) Learner Strategies in foreign language learning: cross national factors Tuttitalia 22, 9-18 7. Muoz, C. (2008) Age-related differences in foreign language learning. Revisiting the empirical evidence International Review of Applied Linguistics 46 (3), pp.197-220 8. Ortega, L. (2009) Age In Understanding Second Language Acquisition London: Hodder Education pp. 12-29 9. Skehan, P. (2002) Theorising and updating aptitude In P. Robinson (Ed.) Individual Differences and Instructed Second Language Learning Amsterdam: Benjamins 10. Callaghan, M. (1998) An investigation into the causes of boys underachievement in French Language Learning Journal 17, p. 2-7 11. Clark, A. & Trafford, J. (1996) Return to gender: boys and girls attitudes and achievements Language Learning Journal 14, pp.40-49