Breaking the vicious cycle of language barriers: Growth language-mindsets improve communication experience for migrant university students

  • Author / Creator
    Man-Tou Lou
  • Language mindsets have been found to play an important role in learners’ motivation and resilience in language learning classrooms (Lou & Noels, 2016, 2017; Mercer & Ryan, 2010). This dissertation aims to understand whether and how language mindsets are also important in understanding the social and interpersonal processes in intercultural interactions outside the classroom. To this ends, I examine English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) students’ language mindsets and their responses to communication challenges. In Chapter 1, adapting Dweck’s mindset theory (1999) into the context of second language acquisition, I discuss how mindsets are linked to language learning motivation and propose that language mindsets (i.e., beliefs about whether language learning ability is fixed or malleable) shape students’ language learning and language use experiences. In the following chapters, I report on five studies that were conducted to test the role of mindsets on ESL students’ language-based rejection sensitivity, perceived rejection, contact avoidance, and willingness to interact with peers. Chapter 2 (Studies 1 and 2; n = 292) examines whether language mindsets influence language-based rejection sensitivity (i.e., the tendency to anxiously expect rejection from native speakers due to one’s lack of language proficiency). The results showed that students who held or were primed with entity beliefs (versus incremental beliefs) reported stronger language-based rejection sensitivity, which in turn predicted more intergroup anxiety towards members of the target language community, less perceived connectedness with the host country, and worse cross-cultural adaptation. Chapter 3 (Studies 3 to 5; n = 581) examines whether language mindsets influence migrant students’ communication with peers in different communication tasks. The results generally showed that growth language mindsets mitigated struggling students’ negative perceptions of rejection and improved their motivation to interact with peers. Importantly, growth mindsets have a stronger influence on reducing perceived rejection and improving motivation among low-competence students compared with high-competence students. The findings highlight that growth mindsets are an important protective factor for language minority students during their university experience, especially for those with low English competence. In Chapter 4, I proposed a research agenda for future research on language mindsets.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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