Portland State University. Department of Applied Linguistics
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
English language -- Study and teaching (Higher) -- Foreign speakers, Foreign Students -- Attitudes, College teachers -- Attitudes
1 online resource (106 p.)
All international students have specific motivations and expectations when learning English as a Second Language (ESL) in the United States, and recognizing the diversity of those motivations and expectations is the first step toward providing successful second language instruction. This study was designed to elicit the attitudes, expectations and motivations of two unique groups of students studying in the same classes in an ESL summer session at Portland State University (PSU), the preconception of the instructors, and the impressions and evaluations of the program upon its completion by the students, instructors, coordinators and administrators.
A successful curriculum can only be adapted to fit the needs and expectations of those students who share the same needs and hold the same expectations. When the learners fall into disparate groups, with distinct, and perhaps contrary needs, a given curriculum can be only a compromise at best, and a failure for some at the worst. During the summer session at PSU, the Department of Applied Linguistics offers a full range of intensive ESL courses for visiting international students. In the year of this study there were two distinct groups of students enrolled in the Reading/Writing ESL classes. One group was the traditional eclectic mix of international students who for the most part were on an academic track toward eventual enrollment in regular programs at PSU. The other was a group of Japanese students studying at PSU from Otemae College. These two groups of students entered the program with different motivations for studying English and different expectations from the summer program at PSU.
Because the general academic focus of the program was established in advance of the enrollment of most of these students, it was designed to fit the more traditional students' expectations and motivations. The specific expectations and motivations of the Otemae students were not explicitly considered, leaving the real potential for a negative experience. This is a serious consideration for those designing the curriculum for the summer sessions, for the instructors who are given the task of teaching these distinct groups of students, and for the coordinators of the short term programs who must convince their clients of their effectiveness so they will choose PSU again in the future.
Using a semantic-differential survey to assess the students' attitudes, motivations, and expectations, and comparing the results with general demographic data, it was found that the students did indeed separate into two distinct groups with clear differences in motivations and expectations. The Otemae students also formed a large demographic block within the classes which could not be discounted in the lesson plans. Even though the Otemae students had been integrated into the reading and writing classes, these skills were less important to them in the needs analysis portion of the attitude survey than were conversational and pronunciation skills. Reading and writing skills were also rated lower overall by the Otemae students than they were by the traditional students.
These and other factors lend support to the contention that the two groups of students had needs and expectations that were not wholly compatible, which put a strain on the teacher/student relationships as well as on the individual instructors' intended goals. This strain was further verified in instructor interviews, student interviews and in a departmental evaluation at the end of the summer term.
If expectations are not met, or attitudes are not compatible between students and instructors, or motivations are at odds between groups of students, learning can be obstructed, and the experience can be less positive for all concerned. Although the summer session, with Otemae students integrated into the regular classes, went well in the estimation of some, there is convincing evidence that there is need for improvement.
Recommendations for improvement include integrating the Otemae students into speaking and listening classes instead of reading and writing classes, having a curriculum designed with both groups in mind that instructors would have available before the summer term begins, conducting a term by term needs analysis, providing introductory sessions on American classroom style, and attempting to reduce the percentage of Otemae students in any given class by actively recruiting more international ESL students to PSU.
Ragsdale, Ronald Andrew, "Attitudes, Motivations and Expectations of Students and Instructors in an Intensive University ESL Summer Session" (1993). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3567.