Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture and Education 2017

Great Expectations: Investigating Learner Preconceptions of Roles and Goals in Native Speaker Taught EFL Classes

Paul Hullah

Meiji Gakuin University, Japan


Concerned by lack of specific proper study of this area since Horowitz (1988) and Shimizu (1995), the author decided to investigate the following research questions: How do L2 learners conceive of their ‘role’ in a native-speaker-taught tertiary EFL study program? What expectations do they have of tertiary EFL programs? What goals do learners bring to tertiary EFL? Are these goals reasonable and achievable given what tertiary EFL classes currently offer? Do high school English syllabi appropriately and adequately prepare college and university freshmen for tertiary EFL study? This paper reports and discusses results of a questionnaire developed in order to address these questions. Combining closed and open-ended items, the instrument was distributed to over 300 Japanese university freshmen at 3 different tertiary institutions immediately prior to their first university EFL class meeting. Results quantitatively and qualitatively demonstrate an alarming degree of confusion among students as to what is expected of them as L2 learners, and paint a pessimistic picture of learner perceptions of what they hope to do and achieve in a tertiary EFL classroom. Most worrying for educators, it appears that many learners are demotivated and perplexed regarding their ‘role’ and ‘goals’ before they enter tertiary EFL classes. University and college entrants demonstrably hold shared preconceived ideas regarding native speaker EFL teachers and classes. But how are these ‘schemata’ constructed? The author will argue that high-school learners are exposed to certain versions of native-speaking ‘teachers’ and ‘teaching’ of which we, as responsible educators and cultural-linguistic-educational models, need to be aware and refrain from perpetuating or adding to in our professional conduct. This paper’s findings have significant implications for anyone working in EFL - be it in Japan, Asia, or elsewhere - particularly those teaching at high school, college, and university level.


Student role, preconceptions, learner goals, EFL