Publication Date

Spring 5-25-2013

Degree Name

MA in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations

First Advisor

Karen Blanchard

Abstract

This thesis is a bounded case study of the learning preferences of adult learners of English on a rural island in the Okinawa prefecture of Japan. The main inquiry of this research study was to assess the learners’ preferences for a traditional ends-based or a participatory approach to learning English. Historically, English has been traditionally taught as a compulsory subject in Japan’s junior and senior high schools through ends-based approaches for the purposes of entrance examination preparation. A literature review of teaching methodologies and approaches used in English education suggested that cultural barriers and past experiences influenced learner preferences for exercising autonomy and participation in the classroom. Considering the context of English education in Japan, this study sought to assess learners’ preferences after being exposed to both traditional ends-based and participatory approaches to language learning.

To assess the learners’ preferences, a 3-part/75 question survey was used to assess learners’ past learning experiences, present learning experiences, and future learning preferences in learning English through a traditional ends-based or participatory approach. The findings of the study indicated that the majority of learners had learned English through ends-based approaches with little exposure to participatory approaches. In their present experience, the majority of learners identified their learning as being taught through a participatory approach. For their future preferences, the learners expressed a majority preference for learning English through a participatory approach with some expressed uncertainty in collaborating with and assessing instructor performance. Based on the findings, this study identified factors that should be considered when applying a participatory framework to language education in cultural contexts like that of Japan.

Disciplines

Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education

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