Complexity in Classroom Foreign Language Learning Motivation: A Practitioner Perspective from Japan

Author: Richard J. Sampson

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Multilingual Matters
Number of pages:
234mm x 156mm

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This book explores how complex systems theory can contribute to the understanding of classroom language learner motivation through an extended examination of one particular, situated research project. Working from the lived experience of the participants, the study describes how action research methods were used to explore the dynamic conditions operating in a foreign language classroom in Japan. The book draws attention to the highly personalised and individual, yet equally co-formed nature of classroom foreign language learning motivation and to the importance of agency and emotions in language learning. It presents an extended illustration of the applicability of complex systems theory for research design and process in SLA and its narrative approach shines light upon the evolving nature of research and role of the researcher. The study will be a valuable resource for practitioners, researchers and postgraduate students interested in classroom language teaching and learning, especially those with a focus on motivation among learners.

This is a deeply engaging and thought-provoking book that brings together action research, complexity thinking and self-and-identity perspectives to the analysis of language learning motivation as it evolved among persons-in-context in a particular classroom group over one year. Its reflexive insights will resonate with all of us interested in motivation as language teachers, researchers or teacher-researchers.

Ema Ushioda, University of Warwick, UK

Sampson courageously opens up his classroom to explore how the students and their teacher develop from their emerging eclectic identities and how they socially influence each other. A whole-class awakening through iterations of possible-selves interventions, near-peer interactions, imaginings, self-reflections and mutual understandings, this landmark book establishes practitioner action research as a consequential inquiry in applied linguistics.

Joseph Falout, Nihon University, Japan

This is an ambitious and highly original book, exploring language learning motivation through a novel combination of complexity theory and action research. In his well-informed and insightful work, Richard Sampson has succeeded in integrating these two, seemingly incompatible fields. The outcome is an intriguing diary of a personal academic journey that covers an impressive range of ideas, from future self-images and transportable identities to classroom dynamics and directed motivational currents.

Zoltán Dörnyei, University of Nottingham, UK

The book proved to be a rich, gripping and sometimes theoretically demanding read, which I strongly recommend to teachers interested in foreign language learning motivation, regardless of the language they teach.

System, 2017

The author's use of complex systems theory as a way to help understand the motivation of his class over a yearlong course is a valuable addition to the foreign language learning motivation literature. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn more about classroom language learning motivation, especially in the Japanese context.

JALT Journal, 2018

Richard J. Sampson is a Lecturer in the University Education Center at Gunma University, Japan. His research interests concern situated exploration of the contextualised nature of the learning and teaching of foreign languages, the interrelations between language-learner self ideas, past, present and future learning experiences, and motivation.

Tables and Figures


1. Introduction

Part One: Growth – A Research Narrative

2. Groundings from Foreign Language Learning Motivation Research in Japan

3. A Move to Socio-Dynamic Motivation

4. Research Design

5. Action Research Narrative

Part Two: Re-viewing

6. Revisiting Complex Systems Theory

7. Class Group as Open System

8. Co-Adaptation between Self and Environment

9. Motivational Phase-Shifts and Self-Organisation across the Class Group

10. Novel Motivational Emergence in the Class Group

Part Three: Reciprocity

11. The Landscape of Classroom Motivation

12. Conclusion and Iteration       





Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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