Motivation has long been a concern in the context of second/foreign language (SL/FL) acquisition. Motivational research has shown that motivation affects a variety of aspects related to language learning. For example, it affects the use of SL/FL learning strategies – a major aspect of self-regulated learning, the effort that learners are willing to invest, their achievement in course-related assessments, the proficiency level they eventually achieve, and the likelihood of their continuing to develop competency in the target language (i.e. the SL/FL being learned) after they complete formal classroom study of the language (Ely, 1986; Gardner, et al, 1992; Noels, et al, 2000).
Theories employed in earlier motivational research in the SL/FL context prior to the 1990s have been primarily relied onGardner’s Socio-Educational Model. This model focuses on individuals’ desire to integrate with the people who speak the target language and their attitudes towards them. The theory is based solely on social psychology, thus limiting its explanatory power. Some more recent motivational research incorporated theories of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and investigated the effects of motivational factors on student achievement-related aspects in learning Chinese (Wen, 1997) and French (Keuneman & Sagona, 1992) as foreign languages.
The motivational theories employed in SL/FL research seem to be limited compared to what has been done outside the SL/FL context. Outside the SL/FL context, motivational research has extensively employed theories and concepts from general psychology, educational psychology and industrial psychology. Goal theory is an example of these theories. Goal theory claims that different goal orientations of individuals activate different cognition (e.g. thoughts, beliefs), emotions, and behavioral patterns in achievement settings (Dweck, 1986). Social cognitive theory is another popular theory employed in the motivational research. Perceived competence, or self-efficacy, is a concept derived from social cognitive theory. Perceived competence refers to individuals’ judgments of their capabilities for a particular type of task (Bandura, 1986). Research has shown that perceived competence influences achievement-related aspects such as the goals individuals set, and their perseverance in the face of difficulty and performance. Research has also indicated that goal orientations and perceived competence affect cognitive engagement, self-regulatory activities, task choice, task performance and persistence in times of difficulty (Elliot & Dweck, 1988). Goal theory predicted and laboratory research has indicated that there is also an interaction effect of the goal orientations and perceived competence. However, the findings have been inconsistent.
Self-regulated learning is a concept frequently examined in the motivational research outside the context of SL/FL learning (Zimmerman, 1990; Zimmerman & Martinez-Pons, 1986). The definition of self-regulated learning varies depending on from what theoretical perspective it is defined. For instance, from the perspective of behaviorism, it refers to forgoing existent behavior and acquiring new ones (Zimmerman, 2001). In the present study, this concept is adopted from the perspective of Social Cognitive Theory. It refers to a cyclical process that involves self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions that are systematically directed towards achieving personal goals (Zimmerman, 1989).
The above definition indicates a close relationship between goals and self-regulation. Research has …