It is now accepted that having the predictive ability to understand and explain the academic successes and failures of students is of the utmost importance in higher education (Fenollar, 2008; Ruban and McCoach, 2005) and the renewed interest in constructivist and social cognitive approaches to meta-learning, meta-cognition and meta-awareness (e.g., learner autonomy) reflect this importance. Why do certain students achieve a higher level of academic achievement than others? What factors can be sighted as reliable causal predictors of academic success, and conversely, what factors can then be sighted as causal predictors of academic failure across various classes, subjects and programs? Are the antecedents of academic success in one class or subject also observable within another class or subject? What factors are primarily responsible for observed variations in academic success across different classes and subjects? Taking into consideration a plethora of cognitive and social antecedents, this project draws from the domain of educational psychology and provides answers to the aforementioned questions while further providing scholarly insight and data-backed understanding into the diverse learning experiences and variable outcomes of students.
Despite its theoretical shortcomings (Musha-Doerr, 2009) and dated politics of nation-state affiliation (Bonfiglio, 2010; Hutton, 1999) the term “native speaker” has featured as a steady point of reference within linguistics and foreign language education for at least the past half-century (Coulmas, 1981; Houghton and Rivers, 2013). Concerning English language education, the past three decades have given rise to increased expressions of dissatisfaction with the centralized language models which “native speakers” are seen as being innately bound. Evidence of discontent is reflected in the rise of World Englishes (Kachru, 1985, 1992) and more contemporary evolutions such as English as an International Language (Jenkins, 2000) and English as a Lingua Franca (Seidlhofer, 2005, 2011). However, these progressive forms of language use and appraisal—as reactions against centralized cores of language use and political power—problematically continue to make reference to the concept of the “native speaker” (and thus also “non-native speaker”). This referential act legitimizes a profoundly illegitimate concept and has hindered the development of more equality-bound forms of English language use (see Holliday, 2005). It is the position of the principal investigator that the widespread use of the term “native speaker” in employment advertisements, institutional discourse and curriculum initiatives, is consistent with Japanese constructions of a bounded homogenous nation-state with a fixed-language (Befu, 2001; Lie, 2001). In other words, use of the term “native speaker” within the Japanese context ignores the need for empirical evidence and/or academic integrity instead favoring to indulge popular romanticism which sees the “native speaker” as having “perfect competence and therefore right to ownership, and connects linguistic identity and political membership by the way of the nation” (Hackert, 2009: 306). Overlooking the fact that the term “native speaker” is often used in domestic contexts without formal definition (Rivers, 2013a, 2013b) serves as testament to the powerful—yet ultimately imagined—links between the individual, nation-state membership and language competency (Hackert, 2012; Rivers, 2010a, 2012d).
English is the unrivalled global lingua franca (Crystal, 1997). In English language education worldwide, the use of the “native-speaker” model has privileged “native-speakers of English”, giving rise to accusations of linguistic imperialism (Phillipson, 1992). Kachru’s (1985) World Englishes model frames the issue in terms of linguistic norms by distinguishing the “norm-providing”, “norm-developing” and “norm-dependent” tendencies of “inner circle”, “outer circle” and “expanding circle” countries, such as the UK, India and Japan respectively. The sense of threat triggered by such trends is redefining the aims of English language education itself in research related to the development of World Englishes and English as a Lingua Franca, both of which reject the native-speaker model. However, the criteria for defining “native-speakerness” are “fuzzy and controversial” (Medgyes, 2004: 436), which can create perceptions of employment discrimination on both sides. Existing work has tended to focus upon the struggle of “non-native” teachers (Braine, 1999; Llurga, 2005; Medgyes, 1994), but interest in language-based forms of prejudice affecting foreign language teachers (e.g., “native-speakerism” (Holliday, 2006) highlights the struggle of “native-speaker” language teachers too. Houghton & Rivers (2013) explore widespread exclusionary attitudes and practices rooted in native-speakerist forms of prejudice in Japan, and the impact upon ‘native-speaker’ teachers. Further, the preference for native-speaker teachers may involve racial issues (Watson Todd and Punjaporn, 2009). In Japan, there is a dependence on native-speaker teachers who conform to a narrow set of pre-defined characteristics that comprise linguistic, racial, behavioural and cultural elements (Rivers, 2013). Stereotyping, and depersonalizing, language teachers in this way (i.e., viewing them as embodiments of relevant in-group/out-group prototypes, rather than as diverse and distinct individuals) is problematic. Unrealistically idolizing “the native-speaker” “as someone who has perfect, innate knowledge of the language and culture” (Kubota, 2002: 21) is inappropriate considering the sociolinguistic, sociocultural and educational demands faced by Japanese society in the 21st century.
“identity is a relationship and not only an individual qualification, as everyday language has it. Therefore, the true identity question is not ‘Who am I?’ but ‘Who am I with regards to others, who are the others in relation to me?”
Jean–François Gossiaux in the name of ‘Revue d’ethnologie française’ (cited in Ruano–Borbalan 1998: 2)
With a focus on the social-psychological processes associated with individual and collective identity formation and fabrication, and on the premise that English language learning within the Japanese context is heavily implicated into the realm of nationhood and national attachment, this project sought to explore the relationships between four specific attitudinal facets of Japanese national identification (internationalism, patriotism, nationalism and commitment to national heritage), the perceived vitality of English speaking nations, the intercultural appeal of English speaking people, and attitudes toward learning English within a sample of 279 female freshmen students. A process of structural equation modelling (SEM) was undertaken in order to test a proposed model of the various interactions and relationships. A number of important relationships were identified and are discussed with a specific emphasis on the implications created by “native-English speaker” teacher roles and what they mean in terms of maintaining certain attitudinal facets of Japanese national identity among students.