Language learning strategies in relation to attitudes, motivations, and learner beliefs: Investigating learner variables in the context of English as a foreign language in China
Oxford, Rebecca L.
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As China progresses toward learner-centered pedagogy, understanding how learners learn and what influences their learning has become just as important as determining what they learn. This is especially true in the context of English as a foreign language in China. In this context, knowledge of English has increasingly become a tool for participation in the international arena, and the number of English language learners is growing at an unprecedented rate. In addition, research on Chinese learners of English is receiving mounting attention. This dissertation explored the relationships among learners' use of language learning strategies, attitudes, motivations, beliefs about language learning, and English language proficiency for 1,201 university students in China. Group differences and manifestations of these variables in individual learners were also examined. Findings of this study suggested that two sources of influence were the most powerful in relation to learners' use of language learning strategies: (a) ability beliefs, and (b) motivational orientations, especially orientation toward competition and academic self-efficacy. These two factors, i.e., ability beliefs and the abovementioned motivational orientation, in conjunction with two other factors, intrinsic motivation and compensatory vocabulary learning strategy use, accounted for a significant portion of the variance in English language proficiency in the latent variable path analysis. Findings also suggested that a multitude of contextual issues, such as English curriculum, national standardized English tests, the status of English as an international language, classroom language instruction, and peer influence, interplayed to affect learners' strategy use, motivational orientations, and attitudes about language learning, resulting in distinct dimensions and patterns. Results of this study speak cogently to the need for language pedagogy in China to explicitly integrate strategy instruction and address the motivational aspect of language learning for the purpose of engaging learners and enhancing learning effectiveness. Future research should systematically examine patterns and sources of variation in these learner variables as well as identify their developmental trajectories.