University of Tasmania
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Living with Lady Macbeth : a sociocultural approach to second language learning through theatre

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posted on 2023-05-26, 01:21 authored by Raquel, MR
A sociocultural perspective of second language (L2) learning implies that L2 learning will differ across contexts because sociocultural factors influence teaching and learning experiences. This theory suggests that in the use of theatre productions for L2 learning, different contexts will produce different outcomes. Although theatre productions have been claimed to be successful L2 learning environments, the effectiveness of this type of learning environment in the Hong Kong context has yet to be explored. In addition, some have criticised the theatrical performance of scripted text as ineffective for L2 learning because memorisation of scripted text limits opportunities to develop fluency, which prevents learners from progressing to higher levels of L2 proficiency. The presence of an audience could also have a negative impact on learners' willingness to speak in the target language. In China in particular, communicative approaches to L2 learning are prevalent but classroom activities are focused on the instrumentality of language rather than its personal significance to the learner. Drama is used infrequently in L2 classrooms and scripted performance even less frequently because it is seen as doing little to improve language accuracy. This thesis aimed to address these issues by investigating an L2 English full-scale theatrical production from a sociocultural perspective of L2 learning. Through a case study of a theatre production of Living with Lady Macbeth performed by Hong Kong Chinese tertiary students, I identified the elements within the environment that influenced L2 learning processes. I also investigated the L2 learning processes and learning outcomes of this learning environment. More specifically, the experiences of four students of varying levels of drama experience and L2 proficiency were observed as they worked collaboratively to prepare for the live performance of this play. Consistent with studies that investigated L2 development from this theoretical orientation, I used a microgenetic method to investigate activity within the learning environment. From an SCT perspective, development is triggered by any interaction or activity that functions to promote development of a learner's current ability, or zone of proximal development (ZPD). Using observations, video recordings of rehearsals, journals, and interviews throughout the production process, I used elements of Poehner's (2008b) dynamic assessment (DA) model to systematically identify and investigate other-regulated or self-regulated ZPD activities within this learning environment. Then, I analysed these ZPD activities for DA activities (instruction-assessment interactions) to trace L2 development of the four case study participants throughout the production process. The results revealed that initially, characteristics of socioculturally influenced elements of a theatrical production such as scripts, rehearsals, stage performance, directors, and student-actors provided affordances for L2 learning. L2 learning was also achieved through ZPD activities that naturally occurred in the process of producing the play. Furthermore, inter-mental ZPD activities functioned as DA activities, which allowed me to trace learners' developmental process and determine learning outcomes of the learning environment. The results also showed that participation in the production of LWLM developed learners' oral skills (i.e., pronunciation, intonation, stress, fluency), vocabulary, listening and reading skills, inter-cultural competence, and communicative ability. However, this success was attributed to the development L2 ability and dramatic ability as a unified construct. The study showed that the experience of preparing and performing LWLM brought the emotion, body, and language together which enabled learners to create or attach new meanings, sense and perezhivanie to the L2 they already know. This thesis provides empirical evidence that L2 English full-scale theatrical productions are successful L2 learning environments. L2 learning was successful because theatrical activities functioned as ZPD activities that not only developed L2 dramatic ability, but also made the L2 learning process an experienced and emotional one. My thesis, thus, concludes with a discussion of the benefits of using DA in L2 full-scale theatrical productions in Hong Kong and in other contexts.


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Copyright 2013 the author

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