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Title: Self-directed language learning among university EFL students in mainland China and Hong Kong : a study of attitudes, strategies and motivation
Authors: Gan, Zhengdong
Degree: Ph.D.
Issue Date: 2003
Abstract: The overarching aim of this research is to find out empirically about perceptions and experiences in self-directed language learning (SDLL) among university EFL students in two different social contexts: Mainland China and Hong Kong, and to provide empirical grounding for the potential attitudinal / behavioral differences in SDLL between successful and less successful language learners. The research is composed of a quantitative survey and two qualitative case studies. The survey study aimed at discovering and comparing the overall patterns of SDLL attitudes, strategies and motivation among university EFL students in Mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as the potential interrelationships between these variables. To this end, a questionnaire was designed based a combination of theoretical input in the literature and students' initial responses in a pilot study. The case studies were designed to complement, verify and expand the findings from the survey study by focusing on examining the potential differences between successful and less successful EFL students with regard to SDLL attitudes, strategies and motivation. The survey study identified significant differences concerning the overall patterns of SDLL attitudes, strategies and motivation between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong students. With regard to SDLL attitudes, the mainland students appeared to hold a significantly stronger orientation towards learner independence in English learning, a significantly more robust sense of confidence and abilities in carrying out SDLL, and to be significantly less supportive of teacher direction in language learning. With regard to SDLL strategies, the mainland students reported a significantly greater use of metacognitive and cognitive learning strategies, whereas the Hong Kong students reported an overall significantly higher use of functional practice strategies. The two groups, however, reported generally the same low levels of social and affective strategies. With regard to SDLL motivation, the mainland students expressed a significantly higher level of self-efficacy in English learning than did the Hong Kong students. The mainland respondents also seemed to experience a greater impetus to learn in spite of a more limited access to English, whereas the Hong Kong group expressed a stronger extrinsic motivation in their English learning. These differences are interesting as the two groups supposedly share a common Confucian cultural background which is known for its emphasis on group cohesion, and obedience to teacher authority. It would seem, therefore, that these differences were more likely to be due to the situational differences. One case study was conducted in Mainland China and the other one was conducted in Hong Kong. The data for each case study consisted of translated transcripts of interviews, translated diaries and follow-up e-mails. These qualitative data were analyzed in line with the grounded method suggested by Strauss and Corbin (1998). Six themes emerged from the analysis of the data from the case study in Mainland China: 1) Conceptualizing English language learning; 2) Perceptions of the College English Course; 3) Learning and practising strategies; 4) Self-management; 5) Internal drive; and 6) English proficiency tests. Six themes also emerged from the analysis of the data for the case study in Hong Kong: 1) Conceptualizing English language learning; 2) Perceptions of university English course; 3) Learning and practising strategies; 4) Self-management; 5) Fondness for English; and 6) Situational motivation factors. Overall, the analyses of the data for the two case studies revealed that different levels of success as EFL learners might be explained by a complex and dynamic interplay of internal cognition and affect, external incentives and social contexts. Most importantly, the successful students, motivated by their enduring interest and satisfying learning history in English, consciously chose to aim above and beyond what was required by the university; whereas the less successful students, frustrated and demotivated, were struggling to meet the university English course requirement. Given such goal-oriented differences, it is not surprising that successful students apparently displayed a higher degree of self-direction than did the less successful students, and that proactive learning dominated successful students' language learning while reactive learning dominated less successful students' language learning. The findings of the present research, on which a conceptual model of self-directed language learning (SDLL) is proposed, may contribute to a better understanding of the language learning psychology and behaviour of Chinese learners. This research may also contribute to clarifying the extent to which cultural or situational contexts may influence students' language learning processes and outcomes. Although this research was conducted in an Asian environment, the findings of the research may provide additional insights to the question "how is it that some people can learn a second or foreign language so easily and do well, while others, given what seem to be the same opportunities to learn, find it almost impossible?"(Gardner & Lambert, 1972, p. 130).
Subjects: Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
English language -- Study and teaching -- China -- Hong Kong
English language -- Study and teaching -- China
Students -- China -- Hong Kong -- Attitudes
Students -- China -- Attitudes
Pages: xiii, 360 leaves ; 30 cm
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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