This research project seeks to be integrative, bringing together a number of research strands within the field of foreign language learning and teaching that have been, independently, productive but where bridges need to be built. The project will investigate relationships between two major clusters of independent variables (motivation and personality) and three major dependent variables (preferences for specific learning strategies, preferences for certain types of classes and activities, and language learning success). The goal of the project is to answer the following research questions: (1) Why do university students study foreign languages (besides fulfilling a university requirement), and which of the many current theoretical models of motivation best fit foreign language learning at the post-secondary level in the US?; (2) What links exist between student motivational profiles, personality, perceived language learning aptitude, and past language learning experiences?; (3) What links exist between motivation and personality, on the one hand, and preferences for specific learning strategies, on the other?; (4) What links exist between motivation and personality and preferences for different kinds of classroom structures (e.g., teacher fronted vs. learner centered) and classroom activities (e.g., dialogues, group and pair work, cooperative learning tasks)?; (5) To what degree do motivation, aptitude, choice of learning strategies and preferences for different types of classes and activity types predict success in foreign language classes?; (6) What differences exist with respect to motivation, learning style and strategies, and preferences for classroom structures and activities based on level of language study or the language being studied (e.g., Japanese compared to Spanish, or heritage languages compared to classic “foreign” languages)?
This project will investigate these questions in foreign language classes at the University over a period of two years, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methodology. Questionnaires will be developed and administered to a large pool of learners in both commonly and less commonly taught languages, in order to develop a large database for statistical analysis. A qualitative interpretative approach based on ethnographic research principles will be implemented with a much smaller group of students in a few languages to provide a deeper and more integrative picture of how factors that are significant predictors of group behavior may play themselves out in complex individual learners.
- Develop, pilot with at least two language populations, and establish the reliability of instruments for measuring motivation, personality type, learning strategies, and preferences for classroom types and language activities and techniques.
- Administer questionnaires concerning motivation, language background, self-assessed motivation, learning style preferences, and preferences for classroom activities to students in at least two languages, preferably one commonly taught European language (French or Spanish) and one less commonly taught “heritage” language (Tagalog, Ilokano, or Japanese).
- Analyze results from motivated strategies project and produce a research note. Continue project with qualitative (ethnographic) study of a small population of learners in one language.
- Analyze all data.
- Prepare a final Technical Report for the motivated strategies project.
- Prepare and send to press Technical Report for motivated strategies.