Author Identifiers

Thinh Hoang

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2421-2932

Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Bill Allen

Second Advisor

Geoffrey Lowe

Abstract

Learner motivation is recognised as a crucial determinant of successful second language (L2) learning. However, to date, little research has been directed into the motivational dimensions of L2 learning in Vietnam, where English has currently become the most popular foreign language with millions of learners nationwide. Further, there is a limited amount of research internationally that explores the motivational levels and development of L2 students at the transition from school level to higher education.

This study aimed to develop a profile of the motivation and learning experiences of a cohort of Vietnamese first-year English-major students over one academic year. As an attempt to integrate the L2 research field with mainstream educational psychology, the study drew theoretically from Eccles et al.’s expectancy-value theory (EVT). This framework, though recognised as one of the most influential motivation theories, has received limited attention in the L2 field. Specifically, the research explored: the EVT constructs of attainment value (personal importance), intrinsic value, utility value, cost, perceived competence, and expectancies for success; their variations across the cohort over one year; their correlations; and their impacts on motivational indicators of English-major choice, English learning effort and willingness to communicate. The study also offers explanations for those variations.

Informed by critical realist perspectives, the study adopted a longitudinal, explanatory mixed-methods design. A cohort of 149 first-year English-major students at one Vietnamese university were surveyed three times over one academic year. Drawing on the results of the first survey, a sample of 15 participants exhibiting a range of motivational profiles were recruited to take part in three rounds of individual interviews over the same year.

Results demonstrated various explanatory powers that the EVT constructs had in understanding Vietnamese English-major students’ motivated behaviours. For example, while personal importance and utility value linked to English seemed to be more potent reasons for participants enrolling in an English major, their L2 learning engagement and willingness to communicate in English were linked more strongly to intrinsic value and expectancies for success.

The study further revealed different developmental trajectories of student values and beliefs. While the students maintained relatively stable levels of personal importance and utility value, studying English became slightly less interesting to them. Regarding cost dimensions, the participants reported an increase in opportunity cost they perceived from iv studying English while becoming less anxious about speaking the language. For the two competence-related beliefs, while the students perceived an improvement in their English proficiency, they reported decreasing levels of expectancies for success and became more realistic about the potential to improve their English. The participants also reported a lower investment in learning effort and less willingness to communicate in English, which paralleled the declines in intrinsic value and expectancy beliefs. Interviews with participants revealed the impacts of different contextual and individual factors, especially those of teaching and learning activities on their L2 motivation.

Overall, the findings of this study suggested that expectancy-value model provided a fresh but effective theoretical approach to understanding the motivational patterns of Vietnamese first-year English-major students and is potentially applicable to inquiry into L2 motivation in other contexts. Moreover, this study’s findings also contribute to extending current understandings of the EVT constructs. Finally, the findings from this study provide valuable insights and suggestions to better support English language learners in Vietnamese tertiary institutions and similar contexts.

Access Note

Access to Chapters 3,4,5,6, and 7 of this thesis is not available.

Available for download on Wednesday, June 24, 2026

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