Developmental Diversity in the Academic Language-Learning Experiences of Adult English as a Second or Other Language Learners: A Constructive-Developmental Study

Academic language is a challenging yet increasingly important skill for Adult Basic Education/English as a Second or Other Language learners. Related to academic language learning is an adult’s developmental perspective. Developmental perspectives have been shown to vary in adulthood and shape qualitatively distinct ways of reasoning and learning experiences. Using Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory, which derives from Western psychology but has been implemented cross-culturally, this qualitative case study explores the academic language–learning experiences of nine Adult Basic Education/English as a Second or Other Language learners. The data include 18 semistructured qualitative interviews and class observations. Analysis includes the dual lenses of grounded theory and constructive-developmental theory. Findings suggest that developmental perspectives made a qualitative difference in how learners experienced academic language learning. Notably, “instrumental” learners described what looks like struggle, but from their developmental perspectives, represents a logical pathway toward success. Learners transitioning toward “self-authoring” brought unique learning agendas and capacities for self-monitoring.

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