Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Why Some ESL Students Experience a Language Learning Plateau while Others Do Not
by Murphy, Lukas John, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2017, 181; 10284773
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study was designed to explore the perceptions that adult Spanish-speaking English as a Second Language learners have on their language learning. Half of the participants have experienced getting stuck on a learning plateau, while the others continued to make progress.

The rationale arises from the researcher’s desire to help students who struggle learning English. It was the researcher’s assumption that adding critical reflection to one’s learning would help language learners make progress again. The participants were purposefully selected and consisted of 18 Spanish speakers who were studying in an intermediate-level English as a Second Language course in a noncredit program at a community college.

Data collection methods included in-depth interviews with 18 participants as the primary method, focus groups, and document analysis. All participants had been enrolled in an intermediate-level ESL course at the time of the data collection. The research questions guided the coding and organization of the data. Two analytic categories formed the basis of the analysis and interpretation: (a) Progress is dependent upon extent to which acculturation facilitates language acquisition, and (b) Progress is dependent upon the extent to which participants engage in Self-Directed Learning.

The research revealed that English language learners perceive the language to be the largest barrier in their acculturation to the United States. The research also showed that the majority of participants seek out others to help them when they have difficulty and that they reported taking classes as helping them the most to learn the language.

Recommendations offered to learners are to begin the learning of English sooner rather than later to lessen the shock with which the language confronts them. This aids in faster acculturation. Another recommendation is for learners to engage in self-directed learning with a purpose. Engaging with a purpose allows learners to reflect on their learning and develop ways to that they can interact more with others who speak the language.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Volpe, Marie
Commitee: Embree, Catherine, Han, ZhaoHong, Yorks, Lyle
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Organization and Leadership
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: English as a Second Language, Adult education
Keywords: Acculturation, ESL, Language learning, Plateau, Self-directed learning, Spanish speakers
Publication Number: 10284773
ISBN: 978-1-369-80522-2
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