Language Learning Great and Small: Environmental Support Structures and Learning Opportunities in a Sociocognitive Approach to Second Language Acquisition/Teaching

Dwight Atkinson, Eton Churchill, Takako Nishino, Hanako Okada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sociocognitive theory views learning, including second language acquisition, as the progressive alignment of individuals vis-à-vis their ecosocial environments. In this article we first update sociocognitive theory in light of recent evolutionary/ecological research on learning/teaching: (a) Humans are evolutionarily adapted to adapt to myriad environments, placing a premium on adaptive learning, (b) human adaptation is effected substantially through niche construction—engineering environments to make them more adaptive, and then transmitting the results culturally, placing a premium on adaptive teaching, (c) both human learning and teaching are innate/instinctive, and co-evolved, and (d) there are many kinds of ‘teachers’ in the world. Second, we briefly review 3 approaches to second language acquisition/teaching (SLA/T) vis-à-vis sociocognitive theory: van Lier's ecological-semiotic approach, Schumann's interactional instinct, and conversation analysis. Third, we apply our theoretical perspective exploratorily to videotaped data of a Japanese learner/user of English as a lingua franca who is baking pastries with a Finnish friend. Our analysis includes 5 widely studied ‘units of participation’: activity types, routines, co-constructed tellings, repetition, and assessments. Analysis suggests that these constitute powerful environmental support structures yielding rich learning opportunities for SLA/T in moment-to-moment interaction. Fourth and finally, we discuss our results vis-à-vis our theoretical approach. We conclude by suggesting how our expanded view of teaching/learning might broaden SLA/T's ‘pedagogical imagination.’.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-493
Number of pages23
JournalModern Language Journal
Volume102
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Keywords

  • SLA
  • acquisition/learning/development
  • embodiment
  • interaction
  • sociocognitive approaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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