Date of Award

12-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Degree Program

Global Leadership - with a specialization in Educational Leadership

Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Maureen Goldstein

Second Advisor

Nathalie Lynch-Walsh

Third Advisor

Cheryl Serrano

Abstract

Only 8% of American college students study a foreign language (Christian, Johnson, Malone & Rifkin, 2003). Part of the reason stems from a decrease in foreign language requirements from four to two years at many secondary scl~oolst,h us reducing the number of students exposed to foreign language learning (Brecht & Rivers, 2000; Congressional Hearing Document, 2001). This creates a shortage of qualified human resources proficient in a second language at a time when an influx of immigration and globalization have created an increasing need to learn a foreign language (General Accounting Office, 2002). Meeting the human capital foreign language deficit requires substantial research to provide methods and techniques in teaching and producing a foreign language proficient U.S. workforce (General Accounting Office, 2002).

Language-learning strategy use and motivation have been found to correlate highly with language proficiency (Bremner, 1999; Gardner, Masgoret, & Tremblay, 1997). This study examined the relationship between language-learning strategies, motivation, and expected course grades of English-speaking college students learning a romance language. The entire accessible population of approximately 256 English-speaking college students learning a romance language was invited to participate in a non-experimental, quantitative, exploratory (correlational) and explanatory (comparative) study. The Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (SILL) developed by Oxford (1990) was used to measure frequency of student language-learning strategy use. The three subscales, Motivational Intensity, Desire to Learn the Language, and Attitudes Toward Learning the Language, developed by Gardner in 1985 measured students' Motivation. Cronbach's alphas were used to provide estimates of reliability for each of the six individual language-learning strategies and for the three motivation sub-scales. Results indicated that both the Motivation (.94) and the SILL (.93) scales were reliable for measuring the motivation and frequency of language-learning strategy use of respondents. Factor analysis were conducted to test for the emergence of six factors and to establish construct validity for the SILL and for the Motivation scales. The eigen value revealed 13 factors explaining 64.6% of the total variance for the SILL and five factors for the Motivation scale which explained 40.1% of the variance. Independent t-tests, ANOVA with LSD and Scheffe post hoc comparisons were conducted to see if the frequency of language-learning strategies used differed significantly according to the demographic characteristics, motivation, or language/learning experiences of English-speaking college students learning a romance language. Results of the I-test and ANOVA demonstrated that there were significant differences in expected course grades according to gender @ = .03), age @ = ,011, college grade level O, = .01), and number of languages spoken (p=.00). Independent t-tests, and ANOVAs were also conducted to test differences in language-learning strategies according to demographic characteristics and language-learning experience. Gender proposed to have the most effect on the difference in the frequency of use of almost all the language-learning strategies except for Affective language-learning strategies. Multiple regression analyses with the stepwise method was used to see if demographic characteristics, language-learning experiences, and motivation, were significant explanatory variables of the frequency of use of language-learning strategies used by English-speaking college students learning a romance language. Motivational Intensity (t = 6.45, p = .000, B = .44) was the strongest explanatory variable for the total SILL as well as for the breakdown of the subscales. The results of the regression analysis for hypothesis one was partially supported because Attitude Towards Learning the Language, years spent studying a language, Motivational Intensity, grade level, and Affective Strategies were explanatory variables of expected course grade, with Motivational Intensity (t = 3.89, p = ,000, B = .32) as the most important predictor. The analysis of individual language-learning strategies indicated Metacognitive (t = 4.27, p = .000, = .45) and Affective (t = -4.52, p = .000, B= -.34) strategies as being significant predictors of expected course grade. The results of for Hypothesis two was partially supported since the other strategies were not significant predictors of expected course grade. Independent t-tests were conducted for hypothesis three testing to see if women had significant higher frequencies of use of language-learning strategies than do men. The results revealed that female respondents did have higher frequencies of use of language-learning strategies than their male counterparts except for Compensation and Affective strategies. Therefore, Hypothesis three was partially supported.

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