An exploration of the motivation of Vietnamese university students to learn English using the expectancy-value model as a theoretical framework

Year: 2017

Author: Archer, Jennifer, Truong, Bang

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Vietnamese Government has recognised the importance of English-speaking citizens in its drive to raise living standards by engaging economically and culturally with the West. To this end, Vietnamese students, from primary level to tertiary level, are expected to study English.

This study examined Vietnamese university students' motivation to study English, their willingness to undertake additional English classes, and their achievement in English. The expectancy-value model of student motivation was used as a theoretical framework. To what extent do students' expectancy of success in English classes and the values they attach to doing well in English affect their performance in English and their willingness to take additional English classes? Will a model of motivation developed in Western contexts make sense in a different cultural setting? To the authors' knowledge, this study represents the first time the expectancy-value model has been used in a research study in Vietnam. Given the Vietnamese context, an additional value variable was added to the model. This variable measured students' motivation to study English as a means of pleasing their parents and bringing honour to their family.

Survey data were gathered in three universities in Ho Chi Minh City. Participants were first year university students studying non-English majors but who were required to take English classes. The survey was completed by 1207 students. The data were analysed using structural equation modelling (SEM). The results provided support for the expectancy-value model. Students' expectancy to do well in English predicted students' achievement in English. Students' values, particularly the utility value of studying English, predicted students' willingness to take additional courses in English. The new family value variable directly predicted students' interest value in English and their utility value of English and indirectly predicted students' willingness to take additional courses in English. It was notable that cost value (measured here as the effort required to do well in English), though included in the survey, did not emerge as significant variable within the SEM. Students' sex predicted expectancy to do well, interest in English, utility value of English, willingness to take additional English courses, and achievement in English. This finding was similar to findings of studies conducted in Western countries.

The SEM analysis did provide support for the expectancy-value model in a non-Western culture. The new variable of family value produced significant effects in the SEM. Future research would be useful to provide further support for this new variable.