Proficiency Development and Smartphone Usage in Study Abroad: Microgenetic Longitudinal Case Studies of French Learners

Aurore Patricia Mroz, Tricia Thrasher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This longitudinal study explores how the language proficiency of eight (N = 8) US-affiliated university students developed relative to their smartphone usage during study abroad (SA) in Paris. Phone usage was tracked daily with Space, proficiency weekly using NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements, and language use monthly via a Language Engagement Questionnaire. Adopting a Complex Dynamic Systems Theory (CDST) framework and following a microgenetic approach to case studies, the trajectories of each participant's phone consumption and Can-Do statements were established, allowing to visualize floors, ceilings, and probes in proficiency development. Spearman's correlations served to determine whether and how phone usage related to fluctuations in proficiency, and Kendall's tau-b its link with language used. Findings revealed that these relationships varied widely across participants, types of phone usage, and phone applications, with students displaying positive, mixed, or negative relationships, thus suggesting that there is no one-size-fits-all model to proficiency/smartphone management, but idiosyncratic complex cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-493
Number of pages39
JournalForeign Language Annals
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • case study
  • mobile-assisted language learning (MALL, m-learning)
  • postsecondary/higher education
  • proficiency
  • study abroad

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this