LING-494 Individual Differences in Second Language Learning
Rod Ellis
FRIDAY 1.15-3.45
Rod Ellis


The main aims of this course are:

1. To review research which has investigated individual differences in second language learning.

2.To familiarize students with some of the instruments used to collect data on factors contributing to individual differences.

3.To provide an opportunity for students to design and carry out a small scale empirical study of learner differences in second language learning.

Recommended Text:
Dornyei, Z. 2005. The Psychology of the Language learner: Individual Differences in Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah, NJ.: Erlbaum.

Contents and Readings

1. Introduction: Individual Differences and L2 Learning

Ellis, R. (2004). Individual differences in second language learning. In C. Elder and A. Davies (eds). Handbook of Applied Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

2. Successful and Unsuccessful L2 Learners

Gan, Z., Humphreys, G. and Hamp-Lyons, L. 2004. Understanding successful and unsuccessful EFL students in Chinese universities. The Modern Language Jounral 88, 229-244.

3. Age and L2 Learning

DeKeyser, R. (2000). The robustness of critical period effects in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 22: 499-533.

Bialystok, E. (2002). On the reliability of robustness: A reply to DeKeyser. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 24: 481-488.

4. Language Aptitude and L2 Learning

Robinson, P. (2005). Aptitude and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 25, 46-75.

5. Learning Styles and L2 Learning

Johnson, J., Prior, S., & Artuso, M. (2000). Field dependence as a factor in second language communicative production. Language Learning 50, 529-567

6. Personality and L2 Learning

Verhoeven, L. & A. Vermeer. (2002). Communicative competence and personality dimensions in first and second language learners. Applied Psycholinguistics 23, 361–74.

7. Anxiety and L2 Learning

Horwitz, E. (2001). Language anxiety and achievement. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 21, 112-126.

8. Motivation and L2 Learning

Dornyei, Z. & Csizer, K. (1998). Ten commandments for motivating language learners. Language Teaching Research 2: 203-229.

Csizer, K. and Z. Dörnyei. (2005). Language learners’ motivational profiles and their motivated learning behaviour. Language Learning 55: 613–59.

9. Willingness to learn

Cao, Y. & Philp, J. 2006. Interactional context and willingness to communicate: a comparison of behaviour in whole class, group and dyadic interaction. System 34, 480–93.

10. Learners’ Beliefs about L2 Learning

Mori, Y. (1999). Epistemological beliefs and language learning beliefs: what do language learners believe about their learning. Language Learning 49, 377–415.

11. Learning Strategies

Tseng, W., Z. Dörnyei, & N. Schmitt. 2006. A new approach to assessing strategic learning: the case for self-regulation in vocabulary acquisition. Applied Linguistics 27: 78–102.

12. Individual Differences and Language Instruction

Macaro, E. (2006). Strategies for language Learning and for language use: revising the theoretical framework. Modern Language Journal 90, 320–37.


Assignment 1

In groups plan a qualitative study of TWO language learners – one successful and one unsuccessful learner.

To help you prepare for this assignment you should read the article by Gan, Humphreys and Hamp-Lyons (2004).

To plan your case study you will need to consider the following:

* background information about the two learners (you should collect this now)
* the research questions you want to address by investigating these two learners
* the specific individual difference factors you want to investigate
* the instruments you will need to investigate these individual differences (your description of these instruments should be informed by the literature on individual differences in L2 learning)
* the procedures you will follow in collecting the data
* how you will analyze the data.

Write and submit a research proposal for investigating the two learners. Your proposal should include a review of relevant research on the individual difference factors you have chosen to investigate.

Assignment 2

Now carry out your case study of the two learners.

Write a report of the case studies. Your report should include:

1. A literature review introducing concepts relevant to your case studies.
2. Your research questions
3. The methods you used to collect and analyze the data
4. Results of your analysis
5. Discussion
6. Conclusion (here you will need to say what you have learned from carrying out the case studies and how you think this will help you as a language teacher).
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
More information
Look for this course in the schedule of classes.

The academic department web site for this program may provide other details about this course.