Machin; Ament; Pérez-Vidal (2022) Motivation and investment. Exploring the choice of English-medium instruction for mid-degree undergraduates in Catalonia .
The dominant conceptualisation of Englishisation, and the associated implementation of English-Medium Instruction (EMI), is as a top down, policy-led process (Lanvers & Hultgren, 2018). This raises the question as to the appeal for student stakeholders to choose the English-taught tertiary level programmes offered to them. To shape the learning experience and to address demands in what is a competitive market, higher education institutions may find it useful to know more about the student standpoint.
Wächter and Maiworm (2014, p. 17) reported that EMI provision in southern Europe “very much lags behind.”1 Nonetheless Spain – the setting for the present study – is considered to have positively welcomed EMI in the wake of globalisation and to improve foreign language learning (Doiz & Lasagabaster, 2018). Our particular locus of research is Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous bilingual Spanish-Catalan community of Catalonia, where the regional language, Catalan, is the language of instruction at state primary and secondary schools. We explore how the past choice of an English-mediated education is accounted for by students, and the extent to which those motivations still apply. For our data collection, we target undergraduates in the middle of their degree, thus avoiding the potential “honeymoon period” of the early stages of an EMI programme, when the challenge of instruction in a second language2 (L2) “might not yet have crystallized” (Henry & Goddard, 2015, p. 268).
Student perceptions about their past EMI selection were viewed through the lenses of two distinct but complementary theoretical constructs, which together offer “bifocality” (Darvin & Norton, 2021, p. 9): motivation (in particular, the framework of the L2 Motivational Self System (L2MSS) (Dörnyei, 2005, 2009)), and investment (Darvin & Norton, 2015). The intention behind the duality of this approach is that a sense of both the temporal and spatial nature of the motivational profiles of the students experiencing EMI might be revealed, and insights gleaned into the role played by the self and identity in the language choice for undertaking academic studies. Our pathway to understanding the past decision to enrol on an English-mediated programme, a choice made prior to crossing the educational threshold from school to university, is through the prism of meaning-making in the present. In this regard, we also refer to the additional notion of “narrative identity” (McAdams & McLean, 2013). It is these theoretical constructs to which we now turn.