Master Debora Carrai
Title of dissertation:
Foreign languages in lower secondary school. An analysis of motivation and other relevant factors involved in subject choice and (subject) satisfaction.
The present survey is a descriptive, exploratory correlational study which aims at understanding some of the elements involved in language learning and teaching in Norwegian lower secondary education. The pupils’ motivation for subject-choice at the beginning of the 8th grade and their satisfaction with foreign languages as subjects are among the main variables. The latter is, in my interpretation, assumed to be a motivational outcome. In the present study special attention is paid to Spanish, which is the preferred choice among students and at the same time the subject with the highest frequency of those who leave thesubject at the lower secondary level.
The main research purpose of this study is to understand the meaning of some key actors involved in the pupils’ choice and satisfaction. This involves examining subjectchanges, the relation between foreign languages and in-depth studies in both English and Norwegian, the Spanish language situation, and general situation for foreign languages in lower secondary education.
This study comprises an initial round of interviews used to develop the first version of the questionnaire, followed by a pre-pilot and a pilot study which were used to test and further refine the questionnaire finally used in the main survey of this study. A small survey among 100 Spanish language teachers is also part of the study.
The main survey is a large-scale study with 1521 systematic randomly selected 9th grade pupils from 25 schools. The sample comprises large and small schools with a good geographic distribution and from a mix of urban and rural, and achieved a high reply rate. These elements contribute to its meeting the criteria for the sample being representative for the whole population of 9th graders, and for the generalizability of the results.
The questionnaire is self-developed, although inspired by other internationally acknowledged similar instruments, and has shown good psychometric properties. It comprises items about different aspects of foreign language learning and teaching, language anxiety, self-discipline and learning strategies. Questions about the Norwegian-specific educational context related dimensions are also part of the survey. The main variable in study is pupils’ satisfaction with the chosen subject, which is used as a dependent variable in the analysis.
A closer analysis confirmed the importance played by information, motivational elements and environment for subject choice, in addition to the role of teaching and Learning as the variables with the highest predictive power with regard to the pupils’ satisfaction. The status of the foreign language in lower secondary education and perceived difference in difficulty between foreign languages and the in-depth studies competitors also seem to be important for subject-turnover. The comparison of results among foreign languages, between foreign languages and in-depth studies and between genders has revealed many statistically significant and relevant differences. In addition to this, the findings emerging from the survey among Spanish teachers reveal a number of factors that impact on the situation for this language in Norwegian lower secondary education.
The present study has a number of implications, both for the field of motivational research and for the educational context in Norway. In the former it is because it underlines the role teacher, teaching variables and satisfaction play in understanding the development of pupils’ motivation. In the latter it is because it leads to critical questions about the status of foreign languages in the school system, and about dimensions of the educational contextwhich affect the foreign languages in general, and Spanish in particular. At the same time the results of this study shows the need to improve teaching quality at the lower secondary Level as well as in higher education.