Academic Goal Orientations and Foreign Language Learning

Goals have always been a central feature of L2 motivation research (Dornyei, 2003). Tremblay and Gardner (1995) introduced the concept of “goal salience” as a central component of motivation construct, conceptualized as a composite of the specificity of the learner’s goals and the frequency of goal-setting strategies used. However, there have been hardly any attempts in L2 studies to adopt the well-known goal-orientation theory in educational psychology (Dornyei, 2003). Pintrich and Schunk (2002, p.242) argue that “currently, academic goal orientation is probably the most active area of research on student motivation in classrooms and it has direct implications for students and teachers.” Therefore, goal orientation is an important motivational component worthy of study in L2 learning.

Even though researchers have called for integrating cognitive aspects of motivation into L2 research, very few studies have since been undertaken within the framework of goal theory. Qin and Wen (2002) explored the internal structure of motivation of non-English major college students in China. Goal orientation was considered as one of the important motivational components in the motivational construct and was found to directly influence motivational behavior. Zhang and Yuan (2004) explored the effects of achievement goals of Chinese non-English major college students on their English learning and found that: non-English majors emphasized performance goals more than mastery goals; mastery-goal orientation got the students involve more in learning than performance- goal orientation; mastery-goal orientation had a positive effect on enhancing self-efficacy, improving strategy use, lowering anxiety, and adopting more positive causal attributions. Wang’s (2005), study, which explored the relationship between goal orientations and use of English learning strategies of non-English majors in Chinese colleges, found that mastery- goal orientation could predict the use of memory, cognitive and compensation strategies, while performance-goal orientation could predict the use of surface and compensation strategies. Test-goal orientation could predict none of the above strategies although it was significantly and negatively correlated with cognitive strategies.

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