What Learning Contracts Reveal about University Students’ Attitude towards English Language Learning

By Mable Chan.

Published by The Learner Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A number of affective factors have been introduced in the literature, and the influence they bear on second language learning outcome has also been examined, generating lists of traits for successful second language learners. Some of the most frequently examined factors include Brown’s (1984) personality factors (i.e. self-esteem, risk-taking, inhibition, anxiety, empathy, extroversion), learning styles (Oslund, Kolb & Rubin 2001) and learning strategies (Rubin 1975, 1981; Oxford 1990). There seems to be consensus that attitudes to learning and language learning beliefs which determine them, have “a profound influence……..on learning behaviour” (Cotterall 1995: 195) and consequently on learning outcomes.

This study investigates what L2 learners do when given the chance of learning English in a self-directed way in a learning contract. The subjects are undergraduate students in the Department of English studying in the programme of BAESP (BA (Hons) in Language Studies in the Profession) at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Findings concerning what students do in the learning contract in improving speaking, listening, reading and writing show that students are somewhat traditional in adopting ways taught by their primary or secondary school teachers. Supplementary information from students’ email messages to the teacher also reveals what students find the most important in the learning of English, focusing on vocabulary, idioms and native accent imitation.

Implications about how such kind of attitude and beliefs shape the learning outcome, and if university students are ready for autonomous learning are discussed.

Keywords: Learning Attitude, Language Learning Beliefs, Learning Contract, Autonomous Learning

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp.19-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.262MB).

Dr. Mable Chan

Lecturer, Department of English, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

I have been teaching in the Department of English as a Lecturer at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University for eight years, teaching subjects of both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, supervising both undergraduate and postgraduate students in writing dissertations, designing curriculum and developing teaching materials, conducting research and assisting in the administration of the department. I was awarded the Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in the academic year of 2005/2006. My research interests are in the areas of second language acquisition using the generative grammar framework, syntax, semantics, learning and teaching, assessment and curriculum development.

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