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Nydia Paola Rodriguez 142098

The importance of Agency in the L2 classroom

Foreign language learning and teaching have undergone a significant

paradigm shift because of the research and experiences that have expanded the scientific and
theoretical knowledge base on how students learn and acquire a foreign language. In this
paper firstly, will be talked about what agency is, secondly, what other researchers have fun
or thought about agency and thirdly, how the book says from other many authors their findings
about agency and finally, the conclusion.

Firstly, agency is understood as an individual or a collective capacity for self-

awareness, self-determination; meaning decision-making, ability to enact or resist a change,
and to take responsibility for actions that one has chosen. It is studied within the applied
linguistics and its preoccupation with the task of how second languages are learned. In 2010,
Van Lier captures the nature of us as agents in a world of others by describing how agency
refers to both; the ways, and the extends to with a person is compelled to, motivated, allowed,
coerced, and the same the person decides to, wanting, insist, agreed or to negotiate.

Between this tension of object and subject from Freire in 1996, the fundamental
assumption that our ultimate human condition is to become a responsible subject, to transform
and act upon the world is around, in 2008 Van Lier, proposes three core features of agency
for the study of classroom language learning. The first one is initiative or self-regulation by the
learner or group, the second is interdependency it is mediated and mediates by the
sociocultural context and the third one is the awareness of the responsibility for ones own
actions of the environment and including how it affects the others saying that it is the autonomy
of the learner.

Muramatsu, (2013). In her Portraits of second language learners: agency, identities,

and second language learning. In one of the chapters describes how the different ways in
which these learners exercise their agency shape different trajectories of learning and create
different experiences of socialization. The study examines the processes of L2 learning by
four advanced L2 learners of Japanese in the environment of a summer intensive full-
immersion program in the United States. Although previous L2 socialization studies have
provided various findings for the field, what these studies have not yet examined is the
complex and individualistic process by which L2 learners exercise their agency to form their
learning processes and experiences. (p.24)

Thus far, up to the present time, no study has been made of L2 learner agency its
central focus. In the current SLA literature, agency tends to be treated as an umbrella term of
identity and investment associated with Norton in 2000. Although the notion of investment well
describes the socially situated nature of L2 learners desire to learn an L2, Kingingers in 2004
Nydia Paola Rodriguez 142098

study has suggested that L2 learners drive to learn an L2 cannot be explained by the concept
of investment alone. (Muramatsu, 2013, pp.25-59).

The notion of investment may be able to capture the force for learning an L2 by certain types
of learners who are situated in certain social contexts; however, it may not be comprehensive
enough to capture the force for learning an L2 by different types of L2 learners who are situated
in different social contexts and construct diverse social identities. Henceforth, further research
needs to examine the role of agency independently from the notion of investment. L2 learners
exercise their agency to act on the social reality. (Muramatsu, 2013, pp.25-59).

L2 learners agency has been also described as a form of resistance to accept a

sociocultural practice of a target language community. When L2 learners find a conflict
between their belief and a normative practice of a target language community, they resist
emulating it. The studies have collectively shown diverse outcomes of L2 socialization
process. The studies done, suggest that the process of L2 socialization is not unidirectional
but multidirectional. (Muramatsu, 2013, p.59).

Making the L2 learners exercise their agency and shape their own L2 learning
trajectory. In the current Second Language Acquisition (SLA), individual differences have been
discussed various characteristics such as aptitude, age, working memory capacity, motivation,
learning strategy, cognitive style, and other factors that reside inside L2 learners themselves.
Muramatsu also says that Morita in 2004, Norton 2000 and Siegal in 1996 have shown that
the different ways in which learners exercised their agency also shaping their process of
learning and outcome. (p.42)

Agency has become an important theoretical concept in SLA (Duff, 2012) From this
perspective, agency can be viewed as a fundamental force of humans to act on the social
world. A sense of agency enables individuals to imagine, perform, accept, refuse, and resist:
in other words, agency enables individuals to make choices regarding how they relate
themselves with the social world, to take ownership in the pursuit of their lives, (for example,
learning an L2), and to create opportunities for self-transformation. Despite the increase
recognition of importance of agency in L2 learning, agency has not gained a central focus in
SLA research. This is mainly because in SLA, agency is associated with studies on identity
and treated as a sort of umbrella term for identity. (p.414)

From the book, Teaching by principles Lambert and Gardener gave the key for the
integrative and instrumental motivational orientations, that have been used to explain why
people learn languages. In 1985 by Gardener in his socio-educational model particularly
emphasized the importance of integrative orientation, refers to the interests of the leaners in
getting to know about the culture and people of the target language. (p.92)
Nydia Paola Rodriguez 142098

In 2011, Drnyei and Ushioda, called dynamic systems perspective on L2 learner

motivation rather than the positivist psychometric cause-effect to what the students want to
learn, when Tyler in 2008, talking about the embodiment and the agency says that the notion
of embodiment is applied to the language instruction, language is viewed as a reflection of the
perception of the human and the understanding of the spatial-physical-social world that
humans inhabit. In other words, language is a multisensory and multimodal experience
involving patterns that includes visual and auditory information. (Brown and Lee, 2015, p.95)

Agency in a sociopolitical context, understanding the learners agency within the

identity approach to SLA is useful for explaining how some seemingly intelligent and highly
motivated students would not want to speak or write, or vice versa in a classroom or a
community in practice. Since learning a new language is not simply by obtaining knowledge
and a set of skills. (Brown and Lee, 2015, p.99).

To promote perceptual learning and affordances, per the book, the classrooms should
provide language affordances as opposed to merely offering language input. This means is
not about the input but about the opportunities for meaningful action that the situations can
afford. Making scaffolding a crucial feature. When a teacher is developing materials, it is
important to capitalize on learners cultural and linguistic backgrounds, abilities and
aspirations; as on other aspects of their identity that are important for them and to notice them.
Teachers might focus on the way learners can actively perceive these affordances in their
learning environment, capitalizing on their individual knowledge, skills, and experience.
(Brown and Lee, 2015, p.103).

In conclusion, as for research there is few information regarding agency and as to

search for more including from the SLA point of view. For teachers agency is something that
needs to be included in a class and to teach specially how for the students to manage their
learning and time to continue outside the classroom. And as to motive them so their learning
experience has a more and greater impact, as meaningful for the learners. In this way, we are
helping our students to discover by themselves to find culture and be useful for any other
language they want to learn. We are a guide to make things lighter for the students and for
the teachers to see if actually they are learning and with what kind of intelligence they use
more, to change and manage more materials that they could need.
Nydia Paola Rodriguez 142098


Brown, H. and Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by principles. 4th ed. NY: Pearson Education, pp.88-

Duff, P. (2012). Identity, agency, and second language acquisition. The Routledge handbook
of second language acquisition, 14, 410-441.

Moeller, A. K., & Catalano, T. (2015). Foreign language teaching and learning.

Muramatsu, C. (2013). Portraits of second language learners: agency, identities, and second
language learning.