Oriented to English: Motivations and Attitudes of Advanced Students in the University Classroom

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David P. Shea, Keio University

The orientation to English among university students in Japan is a complex and shifting amalgam of attitudes and experiences that shape engagement in the classroom. Although research on learner motivation has highlighted the instrumental value of EFL in terms of imagined identity and investment, motivation is also affected by social factors such as Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) policy and teaching practice encountered prior to university entrance. In this paper, I report on a qualitative analysis of orientations among high proficiency advanced students in a 1st-year EFL class at a large university in Tokyo. Findings suggest that paths of study and admission routes varied widely, that a strong commitment to English was coupled with low levels of confidence, and that orientation seemed to shift noticeably after entering university, as students sensed the possibility of attrition and a reduced scope of English study. At the same time, students welcomed the chance to engage with content and build ideas in English as the role of the EFL classroom took on increased importance.