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The growing concern for ethics in applied linguistics may be attributed to attempts to stem the rising incidence of ethical lapses in order to ensure that the core ethical principles of (1) respect for persons, (2) yielding optimal benefits while minimizing harm, and (3) justice are preserved. Following a brief historical review of this topic, and building on the growing commitment to carry out ethical applied linguistic research, we map out seven research tasks that will enhance our understanding of how to extend this expanding research agenda. By inviting applied linguists to evaluate their methodological practices and those of their peers, we also argue for the need to develop the ethical dispositions of emerging applied linguists, with a view to create a more robust field.
While earlier research on second language learning may have distinguished language acquisition from language use (Krashen, 1982), more recent conceptualizations of second language learning have come to refer to the field of second language acquisition (SLA) as second language studies (e.g., Gass, Lee, & Roots, 2007) and second language development (e.g., Larsen-Freeman, 2018). In light of this conceptual shift, the focus has also expanded beyond the individual language learner, with the research lens turning towards the language teacher and the wider social ecology in which the learner is embedded. In tandem with the broadening of the field, there has been a marked increase in the volume of qualitative research published since Lazaraton’s (1995) earlier lament over the paucity of qualitative studies published in applied linguistics journals. While the distribution of qualitative research across international journals remains uneven (Benson et al., 2009), with some journals such as Applied Linguistics, The Modern Language Journal, System, and TESOL Quarterly being more open to the publication of qualitative research than others, the field of SLA has also witnessed a proliferation of handbook chapters on qualitative research (e.g., Benson, 2012; De Costa, Valmori, & Choi, 2017; Harklau, 2011; Lew, Yang, & Harklau, 2018) and books (e.g., Holliday, 2007; Mirhosseini, 2017b; Richards, 2003) that focus exclusively on qualitative research.
The growing availability of mobile technologies has contributed to an increase in mobile-assisted language learning in which learners can autonomously study a second language (L2) anytime or anywhere (e.g. Kukulska-Hulme, Lee & Norris, 2017; Reinders & Benson, 2017). Research investigating the effectiveness of such study for L2 learning, however, has been limited, especially regarding large-scale commercial L2 learning apps, such as Duolingo. Although one commissioned research study found favorable language learning outcomes (Vesselinov & Grego, 2012), limited independent research has reported issues related to learner persistence, motivation, and program efficacy (Lord, 2015; Nielson, 2011). The current study investigates the semester-long learning experiences and results of nine participants learning Turkish on Duolingo. The participants showed improvement on L2 measures at the end of the study, and results indicate a positive, moderate correlation between the amount of time spent on Duolingo and learning gains. In terms of perceptions of their experiences, the participants generally viewed Duolingo’s flexibility and gamification aspects positively; however, variability in motivation to study and frustration with instructional materials were also expressed.
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