The Finnish Association for Applied Linguistics (AFinLA) has granted the annual award for a timely and topical Master’s thesis completed in Higher Education in Finland within the field of applied linguistics during the past academic year (August 2017 – July 2018).
This year the Afinlandia award was awarded to Sini Souru, University of Tampere, Faculty of Communication Sciences, Degree Programme in Scandinavian Languages, for her Master’s thesis entitled “Att lära sig svenska eller att bli undervisad i språket? Sjätteklassares och lärares uppfattningar om aktörskap i svenskinlärningen” (To learn or to be taught Swedish? Finnish sixth-graders’ and teachers’ experiences and understanding of learner agency in L2-Swedish).
The awarded thesis investigates a current topic, is socially relevant, innovative and explores new fields of research. It connects to the reform implemented from autumn 2016 of introducing the second national language (B1 level) in grade six to formerly grade seven.
In her thesis, Souru examines Finnish sixth-graders’ experiences of learner agency in Swedish learning and, correspondingly, the experiences and understanding of the same phenomenon that their Swedish teachers have and how the teachers support the development of learner agency. Learner agency is referred to as the learner’s ability and willingness to control his/her own learning by actively taking advantage of different kinds of learning opportunities the learning environment offers. Souru’s results show that over half of the sixth-grader informants describe their learner agency as strong and state that they show much agency during lessons. Souru finds that the more positive an experience a student has of his/her learner agency, the more types of exercises he/she finds useful for learning. According to the students’ experiences, their agency is boosted by factors related to both inner and outer motivation, while the factors that limit their agency are most often related to a lack of motivation, a low level of energy, or social factors in the classroom. When examining the teachers’ experiences, Souru states, it becomes apparent that they connect learner agency with an active role of the student in the learning, but also finds some differences in their experiences of the phenomenon. The study shows that the students and teachers experiences and understanding of the nature learner agency resemble each other rather closely.
The study is based on the sociocultural perspective on learning and the ecological view on language learning. The study has implications for further development of the teaching culture of the second national language.
The many theses nominated for the award represented various fields of applied linguistics and multiple Finnish universities. This year’s recipient of the award was announced on November 9, at the AFinLA Autumn Symposium, organized this year at the University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu.
The thesis abstract and call for nominations can be found at: http://www.afinla.fi/en/afinlandia-awards.
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