Learner Motivations and Goals

What are some common motivations and goals of post-secondary world language learners?

Understanding the motivations and goals of your learners is critical when determining your assessment needs and purposes. Click on each box below to learn more about different reasons why students enroll in world language courses or programs at the post-secondary level.

Fulfilling requirements of degree program

Learners taking classes to meet requirements are motivated by external factors, and these factors will impact their overall interest in learning the language and their interaction with instruction and assessment in the classroom. Language requirements may be satisfied through the completion of a single course or a sequence of courses, and course completion is often measured through summative assessments. Learners in this group may be taking courses to meet requirements without having any plans to continue learning the language beyond what is required by their degree program. It is important to recognize that success for these learners may mean ending their language study but balancing this need with more engaged assessment may motivate continued study or improve the student’s learning experience.

Pursuing personal interests and fulfillment

Personal interest in a language can take many forms. These learners may be motivated by a desire to use the language with family or friends, to connect with the language and communities in which the language is spoken, or to strengthen their existing linguistic or cultural connections to the language. Assessment can help these learners see their progress, which may encourage them to continue their language study even if it must be balanced with other responsibilities and priority courses within their degree program. When working with these learners, it is important to use approaches to assessment that serve students’ needs for personal growth and balance these needs with external factors that may otherwise cause them to deprioritize their language learning.

Preparing for advanced study or careers

Learners in this group are likely internally and externally motivated to study world languages due to their interest in pursuing graduate studies related to the language, enrolling in an institution of higher education in a country where the language is spoken, and/or pursuing a career that requires advanced proficiency in the language and culture. As a result, these learners are often the most highly motivated of the different types of learners, but their learning and assessment needs are the most nuanced, as they care a lot about their assessment results, especially those from high-stakes assessments on external scales that may impact their plans for the future.