Doctor of Philosophy
The current study was conducted to address the problem of declining enrollments in French classes. The purpose was to identify those factors that are responsible for student persistence in the study of French beyond the level required to obtain a general degree from the University. Research questions included the following topics: 1) students’ perception of their motivation for language learning, 2) the relationship of certain activities, the classroom climate, the role of the teacher, and the use of technology, to their motivation for language learning, 3) reasons students give for not continuing with their foreign language studies, and 4) factors language majors and minors attribute to the decision making process that led them to continue with the advanced courses.
Using an emergent case study design, the researcher surveyed and interviewed French 102 students and French majors and minors. Classroom observations and a focus group meeting were conducted as a way of triangulating the data.
Participants attributed their motivation primarily to two factors — the value of knowing a second language and the beliefs they had developed regarding language study. Beliefs included notions such as the extensive time and study commitment needed to effectively learn a foreign language and the age at which students best acquire language skills. In terms of the French classroom environment, students indicated that any materials other than the textbook were the most motivating and beneﬁcial, including the use of games, songs, and varied media forms. They also stressed the importance of the professor in motivating students. The most non-motivating activity was anything that was required; students insisted on the need for choice in their assignments and content. Students were somewhat indifferent about the use of technology in the French classroom, perhaps because their use of technology was extremely limited.
Further research is recommended in the areas of foreign language teacher education and the use of technology in the foreign language classroom, as it becomes more widespread. In addition, research is suggested at the secondary and middle school level, where students may acquire some of the beliefs alluded to during this study.
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