The First Entrance Exam And English Learning Motivation

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Recently, higher and higher standard requirements of English language academic ability have been generally requested to advance colleges for all senior high school 3rd grade students in Taiwan, even in different academic specializations. An increasing number, even among 1st and 2nd grade students, are required to retain higher English scores above average during their three-year school years in order to enter better colleges in the future. In addition, Taiwanese society surrounds rich exam oriented atmosphere that affects students' learning motivation greatly. It makes the English language has become a major medium used in international communication. English also becomes the world's most widely used foreign language (Kachru and Nelson, 1996). Therefore, Taiwanese students' language (L2) learning motivation seems to be lead by the trend of English proficiency.

In spite of this trend, it has been noticed that the level of English presented by Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students is decreasing, while at the same time, their language learning motivation have been strongly guided by the College Entrance Examination. The aim of this study is to investigate the motivation changes to English language learning among Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students in order to figure out the main causes which affect students' English learning motivation the most and try to find solutions to break this negative effect. In addition, the need of students' language learning has become more and more important due to the urgency of the improvement on English proficiency in senior high schools and colleges.

In general, there seems to be a general lack of learning motivation to improve English language proficiency among Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students. In order to make the educational system to meet students' needs and demands both by exploring their specific difficulties of different groups of students. More, by adjusting teaching focuses before and after the College Entrance Exam to conquer individual language learning difficulties and evoke the best of students' language learning motivation. Motivational factors that affect English language learning will be examined according to the differences of academic tracks, genders and English academic achievement.

Background of the Study

Language learning motivation plays an essential role in both research and teaching; however, it used to be regards as a dynamic emotional or mental trait. In more recent research, learning motivation has been taken as fluctuating variable during the learning process. Although there is some research has been done in Asia, there is still the lack of achievement in EFL study in Taiwan. In other words, the argument has not been well demonstrated in Taiwanese senior high school students. Therefore, this study aims to discuss how and whether the language learning motivation has changed Taiwanese senior high school 3rd students on the process of preparing the high-stake First College Entrance Examination.

English learning has been practiced as a school subject to be one of the most important requirements to advance colleges in Taiwan for many years. Recently, Taiwanese College Entrance Exam has been divided into two sections since 1994 (Taiwanese College Entrance Examination Center website, 2010) which depend on students' personal options whether they want to take the Second College Entrance Exam or not. However, the duration of the two College Entrance Exams is about five months, therefore, during this long period of time, the English learning motivation of most of Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students may have dramatically changes. The English learning motivation of some students has possibility to decline greatly or some of the students may still continue their learning without suspension all because of the different types of motivation they hold.

Research Framework

The dissertation is organized in the following way.

First, the background to the study is introduced and the Taiwanese senior high school educational system briefly presented. This is followed by a description of the framework of the First College Entrance Examination in Taiwan which has an influential effect on Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students in second language learning.

There follows an overview of some of the literature review in this field. This introduces some of the theories of second language acquisition. Especially sociolinguistic factors are considered and motivation theories are examined.

The study is then presented and followed by a chapter which analyzes and describes the findings of the investigation as well as with the limitations. This is followed by a chapter that discusses the implications of these findings for the teaching and adjustment of future research. Implications for classroom teaching are also looked into which depend on different two academic tracks, Track 1 (specialized in Art) and Track 2 (specialized in Science), gender difference and academic achievement. Finally, future research stemming from the study is suggested.

1.4 Feature of the College Entrance Examination

The First College Entrance Examination which will be discussed in this study has been released since 1994, which include five main subjects, such as Chinese, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science, the range of examination content depends on what students learn from senior high school 1st grade to 2nd grade (Taiwanese College Entrance Examination Center website, 2010). All of the students who intend to continue their studies in colleges must take this examination. The exam time of each subject is 100 minutes, exclude Chinese subject. English subject is divided into two sections, multiple-choices and non-multiple choices the later contains Chinese to English translation and short-paragraph composition (see Appendix A). The full mark of each subject is 15, and the average score of English subject this year is 8. Generally, the first College Entrance Exam takes place in the end of January and releases the exam results in the end of February. Students can take the second college entrance exam in July all depend on their own options.

1.5 Research Questions

The following three questions aim to address in this study:

Compare the relationship between academic achievement (English scores of the first College Entrance Exam) with learning motivation.

Whether different academic tracks and gender affect student's language learning motivation before this entrance exam.

Are they any significant differences on motivation changes of the students who chose not to take the second exam and those who are going to take the second exam?

To obtain answers to these research questions, a questionnaire was administered to two groups of Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students. The questionnaire was used to gather students' opinions toward the first College Entrance Exam on L2 learning motivation to provide quantitative data in this study.


The Chapter outlines the current study on investigating the learning motivation changes before and after the First College Entrance Exam for Taiwanese senior high school students. This chapter also provides the background and rationale of the methods used to gather data, also with discussing their aims and objectives. First, all of the target participants were selected randomly from two classes in one Taiwanese senior high school. For confidentiality, all their names have been altered but the statistics remain unchanged. Data collection in this study will also be critically scrutinized as the evaluation of their motivation variation. The actual findings are presented in next chapter.

The study surveyed the relationship between the first College Entrance Exam and English learning motivation of Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students on second language learning, to exam whether their motivations have been affected by the College Entrance Exam or not. To narrow the field of study, the research focuses on two class of students from Academic Track 1 and 2. It was interesting to compare and contrast between two classes because the target participants stood for Academic Track diversities, gender differences and different levels of academic achievement.

I would like to thank for all the kind assistance and support of the teachers and students who I have requested for help. Without them, this study would not have been feasible. They not only arranged the two classes for me to carry out the questionnaires, but also supervised the samples during completing the questionnaires by all participants. The teachers were my senior high school teachers, a good support from them that I could fully focus on my task as a researcher.

3.1 Participants

Two classes of a Taiwanese high school were selected to carry out this questionnaire which designed by me after taking the first College Entrance Exam released in the end of January. The total number of the participants was 62, but only 60 copies of questionnaires were useful. It was a great pity that not a big sample of students could be studied. In order to inform my intention, I tried to explain with the teachers about my research topic and the aims of this questionnaire. The explanation was included two groups of participants from two different academic tracks in the same school. Hence, one English teacher decided to hand the questionnaire to her two classes' students and completed them. Richardson (1995) claims, a 'large enough' sample will provide empirical evidence that presents reliability and validity of this study. The target participants were from two classes which belong to two academic tracks, 1 (Art) and 2 (Science) and they were given no guidance as to the type of class activity to be conducted and were not aware of the nature of my research topic, in order to avoid influencing the neutrality of data collection. It is a common phenomenon to recognize that more female students in Academic Track 1 classes, in contrast, more male students in Academic Track 2 classes. Most of the students choose Track 1 because they may be much better in the specialization of Art (Chinese, English and Social Science) rather than Science (Math and Science). The students were informed to not to give specific details about their own selections in the questionnaire, to reducing the external affections.

3.2 Instruments

Connolly (2007) states that quantitative methods simply represent one set of tools that can do certain tasks really efficiently, and them ensure the job properly when accessing to the full range of research tools. Qualitative research often is used to present detailed descriptions that cannot be measured in a quantifiable way. Conversely, quantitative measurements can be used to conclusively answer specific hypotheses or research questions using descriptive techniques. Beyond answering specific hypotheses or research questions, there may be sufficient data which have research value to be mined and explored between individual measurements. Hence, in this study, the quantitative methods are more appropriate to be employed in L2 motivation research than qualitative methods. Moreover, Hammersley (1992) also illustrates that one of the most sustained arguments is that quantitative data are more objective whereas qualitative data are subjective. Compared with qualitative methods, quantitative data is able to meaningfully evaluate the work which needs to be generated, but the data should be carefully collected then to reflect upon the validity and reliability of the findings, as well as quantitative methods present open and clear charts and diagrams for persuasive arguments but not the type of detailed critical reflection that qualitative methods always assess which must match what their respondents said or did. The advantages of quantitative methods are that quantitative data are much more socially constructive than qualitative data; therefore, there is still a tendency for using quantitative methods to reflect the values and assumptions of the researcher. Aliaga and Gunderson describes quantitative methods in education very well 'Quantitative research is 'Explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods (in practical statistics) (2002: 100).'Although many data can hardly appear in quantitative form which can be collected in a quantitative way, by developing questionnaire that ask respondents to rate a number of statement is also an acceptable method to collect data. Therefore, the questionnaire was employed in this study.

3.3 Data Collection Procedures

As explained in the preceding sections, data collection was analyzed in this study, for the purpose of measuring the relationship between the first College Entrance Exam and students' language learning motivation. Flowerdew et al (1998) suggests that it is vital to concede that within this kind data collection will reflect possible attitudes and feelings towards the language being studied and also reported behavior regarding language use. This is because the participants 'may have a vested interest in expressing their opinions as they did' (p. 226). Thus, the data collection should be seen as an guidance of reality, but not only the contexts be studied in books.

The total time was 20 minutes from the previous illustration before spreading the questionnaires to the collection of all of the questionnaires. According to this, 62 questionnaires were collected but only 60 questionnaires were provided the useful information about L2 motivation research in the First College Entrance Exam for Taiwanese High School 3rd students. In most of the Taiwanese high schools, after the first year in school, students will be divided into three different academic tracks according to their talents and interests which may decide their subjects in colleges. Following this, Academic Track 1 specializes on Art and Academic Track 2 focuses on develop the specialty of Science. In this study, I selected two classes of senior students in one Taiwanese Senior High School randomly. The total number of useful respondents is 60, and the gender distribution in Track 1 of class 1 is: 9 male students, 21 female students; 20 male students and 10 female students in Track 2 of class 2.

The questionnaire was designed to elicit responses to the four domains and one section for testing the students' L2 learning motivation changes who intend to take the second College Entrance Exam presented in previous chapter. It was written in both English and Chinese. In each statement, participants were asked to express whether they strongly disagree according to the 5- points Likert Scale; subjects responded on a 1 to 5 Likert scale. (Strongly disagree to strongly agree). (1), disagree (2), not sure (3), agree (4) or strongly agree (5). In order not to mislead participants' responses, the questions were mixed together without distinction of four domains, but they include:

(A) students' desire to learn: 1, 24, 46, 16, 10, 3, 7, 41.

(B) Motivational intensity: 13, 19, 14, 17, 6, 44, 21, 20, 40.

(C) Motivational persistence: 22, 2, 8, 29, 51, 31, 30, 4, 41.

(D) Self-efficacy: 35, 27, 5, 9, 43, 37, 36, 25, 49, 55.

(E) Students' Motivation changes after the first College Entrance Exam: 53, 54, 60, 61, 65, 55, 57, 62, 52, 58, 64. (This section will be separated from other four dominate as above A, B, C and D.) (see Appendix B)

Before distributing the questionnaire I piloted it by giving to eight people who are roughly representatives of my sample. They answered the questionnaire and offered their opinions for me to made further modifications on the final questionnaire.

3.4 Items for Measuring English Learning Motivation

In quantitative methods, I employ questionnaire as a tool to conduct this study, and I adopt the questionnaire examples separately from Davies, A (2006), Hawkey, R (2006), Glynn, S. M., Koballa, R, T. and Koballa, T. R. (2005) and Gardner's modle, the Attitude/Motivation Test Battery (AMTB) and modify to compose the final questionnaire as in Appendix B. The questionnaire tests students' motivational variables, such as students' desire to learn languages, motivational intensity, motivational persistence and self-efficacy to see whether their academic tracks, gender differences and the level of academic achievement will affect their L2 learning motivation or not when before and after the First College Entrance Exam for Taiwanese senior high school 3rd grade students.

In addition, Muijs (2004) provides three key ideas of designing and carrying on the task of questionnaires that any questionnaire has three specific objectives. First, it should translate the information needed into a set of questions that the respondents can and will answer (Appendix B and C). Due to the background of the target participants in this study, the questionnaire should meet the needs and convenience of answering the questionnaire, the translation of the questionnaire from English to Chinese is necessarily demanded to present to all of the respondents.

Second, a successful questionnaire must motivate respondents to be involved in answering it. All of the questions are highly related to the first College Entrance Exam and the respondents' personal language learning motivation. In order to make the participants who choose to participate in the second College Entrance Exam easier to answer the questionnaire, the questionnaire is divided into two sections, section 1 and 2. In section 1, questions in four dominates are provided,

To test students' desire to learn languages:

1.) In a class like this, I prefer course material that really challenges me so I can learn new things.

To test motivational intensity:

13.) Outside class, I look up words I do not know in a dictionary/ studied vocabulary.

To test motivational persistence:

2.) I always spend much time on studying English.

To test self-efficacy:

35.) I believe I will receive an excellent grade in this class. (see as Appendix B)

The questions in section 2 focus on testing whether students' L2 learning motivation changes if they decide to take the second College Entrance Exam, which contain four dominates in it, so the items will be displayed in this style: After the first exam, I know the key points that I should focus on; After the first exam, I will spend more time on studying English. After the first exam may provides a clear view for students to answer the questionnaire.

Finally, it is an important object to minimize response error which in the beginning of a questionnaire, it should provide guidelines and rules to help respondents avoid mistakes. The introduction and explanation have been clearly stated in the beginning of the questionnaire and ensured all of the answers will be keep confidential.