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Volume 7 Number 3, Autumn 2010, Pages 1-187   

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Motivation and Beliefs in Distance Language Learning: The Case of English Learners at SRTVU, an Open University in China

    Junhong Xiao and Stella Hurd

To date, research into the role of affective variables in language learning has been conducted almost exclusively with learners in the classroom. However, the steady increase in the numbers of distance language learners worldwide calls for the research agenda to be extended to include this group of learners, given the specific characteristics and demands that learning at a distance places on its participants. This article reports on motivation and beliefs in the distance learning and teaching of English as a foreign language (EFL) at Shantou Radio and TV University (SRTVU) in China, a strand of a wider study investigating affect which replicated Hurd's (2006, 2007a, 2007b) study conducted with distance French learners at the Open University (OUUK). As indicated in the findings, interest in English was top of the list of motivating factors, while workload and assessment content/ difficulty were identified as the most demotivating factors. Of all the reported ways to stay motivated, positive self-talk was the most popular. The study also reveals that the beliefs held by Chinese students about their 'ought self' do not reflect perceptions of their 'actual self' as distance language learners. The article concludes that matters such as course workload, assessment content/difficulty, and course design need to be re-evaluated in the light of the study's findings, and that it is crucial to provide learner support in order to help reduce the gap between the 'ought self' and the 'actual self'.

Keywords: motivation, learner beliefs, EFL, distance language learning, pedagogical implications

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