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Making our way through multilingualism – reflexivity and decision-making of language students

Ratz, Sibylle



This thesis investigates reflexivity and decision-making of language students by examining the interplay between what students care about (their multilingual ‘concerns’), and how they understand and act on their structural environments (through multilingual ‘projects’). The research is based on a longitudinal study with ten undergraduate participants during the four years of their language-related programmes at a Scottish university. Data collection tools included semi-structured interviews and visual methods. Recent contextual changes linked to Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic were considered.
The investigation was motivated by the desire to improve student support and draws on a pragmatic approach. This allowed the author to combine data analysis methods from the narrative and realist schools of thought. Crafting narratives of each student provided the means for a holistic understanding of the multilingual experiences of the students. The narratives were further analysed through commentaries; and these were based on a framework building on critical realism and Margaret Archer’s theory of reflexivity. The framework enabled the author to separate out themes and address research questions linked to ‘concerns’, ‘projects’, and structural forces.
More precisely, the author focussed on the students’ developing understanding of their communicative competency (as an example of an individual ‘concern’), on how students actively managed their linguistic repertoire (as an example of a multilingual ‘project’), and on the way students reflected on and made highly heterogeneous decisions where conflicts between ‘concerns’ emerged and necessitated a change of ‘projects’ (for instance during study abroad or due to the structural changes of Brexit and the Coronavirus).
The analysis contributes to the structure and agency debate, as it pays attention to causality and enables the reader to retroductively understand the decisions students made around multilingual matters.
Responding to the initial motivation for this study the author outlines innovative areas of student support which align with the findings from the study.
This study sits at the crossroads of disciplines and is informed by theories relating to education, language learning, and multilingualism. The concluding suggestions will be relevant to scholars and practitioners from the higher education sector and others interested in the decision-making process of young people.


Ratz, S. (2022). Making our way through multilingualism – reflexivity and decision-making of language students. (Thesis). London Metropolitan University.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 14, 2022
Keywords Multilingualism, Higher Education, Reflexivity, Decision-Making
Public URL
Award Date Aug 31, 2022