Crossing the Rubicon
: An idiodynamic investigation into the relationship between willingness to communicate and learner talk

  • Nathan Ducker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The ‘learning to talk, talking to learn’ paradigm is applied in language classes worldwide. In Japan, a lack of authentic practice opportunities; a focus on exams and exam-English; a fear of cultural degradation; and memory-focused, teacher-centered learning styles all hinder language acquisition efforts.To enable learners to interact and access more affordances for linguistic development, I undertook a study into willingness to communicate in the second language (WTC).
I investigated the following three research questions:Q1. What factors impact WTC in the classroom?Q2. What, if any, are the differences between immediate-WTC and classroom talk?Q3. What factors facilitate or impede realisation of WTC into classroom talk?Using a novel idiodynamic methodology, I collected and triangulated video data;stimulated recall data; and trait-, class-, and idiodynamic WTC ratings to develop coherent explanations for cognitive and affective phenomena that influenced learners’ in-class actions.I categorised learner talk and conversational behaviours into themes, such as dominance and control, proactive turn-taking, and facilitative turn-sharing actions. Then, I juxtaposed learners’ talk with WTC ratings and found that multiple motivators of talk could coincide and be in conflict. I also found a talk—feedback effect that led to unpredictable changes in WTC ratings. In response, I reconceptualised WTC as a complex, dynamic WTC—talk system. I then delineated factors that promoted a desire to communicate from factors that acted as a prerequisite for talk, and I developed a model of WTC—talk realisation. Some of the findings are culturally specific, for example: compulsion to talk in the classroom, particular listening-only behaviours, and restrictive perceptions of turn-taking rules.To this end, I used Dörnyei and Tseng’s (2009) Motivational Task Processing System to investigate Wen and Clément’s (2003) cultural framework, ‘other-directedness’. Findings indicate that other-directedness is a valid construct, which acts as a culturally situated decision making framework.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish


  • willingness to communicate
  • idiodynamic methodology
  • complex dynamic systems theory
  • affordances for language acquisition,
  • other-directedness

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