Title page for ETD etd-04132009-200501

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Newbill, Paula Brown
URN etd-04132009-200501
Title Motivations for Studying French: Language Orientations and Expectancy-Value Theory
Degree PhD
Department Education Curriculum and Instruction
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Shrum, Judith L. Committee Chair
Jones, Brett D. Committee Member
Shryock, Richard L. Committee Member
Tilley-Lubbs, Gresilda A. Committee Member
  • orientations
  • French
  • enrollment
  • expectancy-value
  • motivation
Date of Defense 2009-03-30
Availability restricted
French enrollment is not increasing at the rate of other modern languages in higher education in the United States. This study attempted to bring to light the reasons for studying the language and focused on the orientations, expectancies, and values students have for studying French at a large, public university. The mixed methods research investigated students’ reasons for enrolling in an intermediate French course with a self-report survey including short answer questions.

The aim of this principally quantitative study was to understand why students choose to study French by comparing the subscales within the orientations and expectancy-value scales. The foreign language orientation subscales used were: travel, knowledge, relationships, instrumentality, and the sociocultural orientation. For the expectancy-value scale, the subscales included: expectancy, intrinsic value, attainment value, and utility value. The mean values of the survey items were compared in an ANOVA framework. Relationships within the two scales were analyzed using a Pearson’s correlation calculation. Finally, a linear regression was used to analyze the subscales as predictors of continuation of French study. Short answer responses supported the quantitative data through resulting themes and sub-themes. The data were merged in a validating quantitative data model of mixed methods.

Results for foreign language choice pointed to travel reasons, such as the desire to spend time abroad, and intrinsic interest in the language. Students were likely to continue studying French due to sociocultural reasons, such as understanding French films and music, and due to instrumental reasons involving career and grades. The attainment or importance subscale of the expectancy-value scale was the best predictor of continuation.

The short answer qualitative data were transformed to show the significant subscale orientations with corresponding sub-themes. The triangulation offered insight into FL choice and communication with people in francophone countries. The findings also suggested that students continue studying French due to particular career choices.

Teaching implications and further study suggestions offer ideas for the significant subscales. The subscales that obtained low mean values in FL choice are also included in the implications section. This is due to the fact that the low scoring subscales are areas that have not been explored to encourage French study.

Further study is needed to provide more details about students’ experiences through interviews and to implement educational suggestions with enrollment tracking. The mixed methods design offers a base for similar FL motivation studies in the future.

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