Tracking the dynamic nature of learner individual differences: Initial results from a longitudinal study

Daniel Jung, Megan DiBartolomeo, Fernando Melero-Garcia, Lindsay Giacomino, Laura Gurzynski-Weiss, Carly Henderson, Maria Ángeles Hidalgo.
Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching

Individual differences (IDs) have long been considered one of the most important factors explaining variable rates and outcomes in second language acquisition (Dewaele, 2013). While traditional operationalizations of IDs have, explicitly or implicitly, assumed that IDs are static traits that are stable through time, more recent research inspired by complex dynamic systems theory (Larsen-Freeman, 1997, 2020) demonstrates that many IDs are dynamic and variable through time and across contexts, a theme echoed throughout the current issue. This study reports the initial semester of a diachronic project investigating the dynamicity of four learner IDs: motivation, personality, learning and cognitive styles, and working memory. In the initial semester, data from 323 participants in their first year of university-level Spanish were collected and analyzed to determine what type of variability may be present across learners with respect to the four IDs studied at one time point and to discern possible learner profiles in the data or patterns via which the data may be otherwise meaningfully described. The results revealed four types of learner profiles present in the dataset.