Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students' Motivation and Learning Approach: A Comparison with Local Students

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

International Students' Motivation and Learning Approach: A Comparison with Local Students

Article excerpt

In the past few decades, the number of students studying abroad has increased significantly from 0.8 million in 1975 to an estimated figure of 4.5 million in 2012 (OECD, 2015). These international students are prone to face adjustment issues that are unfamiliar to local students, primarily in the area of language proficiency and culture adaptation (Andrade, 2006) and this may impact their motivation and learning in the classroom (Robertson, Line, Jones, & Thomas, 2000; Tompson & Tompson, 1996). As such, lecturers in classes comprised of both groups of students will need to take into account differences in prior educational and cultural experiences when designing strategies to improve motivation and learning. For example, to address their lack of language proficiency, Chinese students use silence as a means to avoid making mistakes (Liu, 2001). However, this strategy could easily be mistaken by lecturers for a lack of interest or engagement in the subject (Liu, 2001). Previous research that dealt with this topic has focused mainly on differences in learning styles (Ramburuth & McCormick, 2001) and the implementation of appropriate teaching strategies (Robertson et al., 2000; Tompson & Tompson, 1996; Wong, 2004) or policies, services and programs (Ren & Hagedorn, 2012; Stoynoff, 1997; Wicks, 1996). Relatively few studies have been conducted on psychological factors that contribute to motivation and learning for international students. Indeed, Robertson et al., (2000) noted that many academic staff neglected the impact of emotional and psychological dilemmas faced by international students (Robertson et al., 2000).

What are some psychological factors that might affect motivation and student's approach to learning? Self-determinant theory postulates that supports for autonomy, competence and relatedness contribute to the overall psychological growth of an individual (Deci & Ryan, 2002). It is reasonable to conjecture that the same psychological supports would impact the motivation and learning of international students. Moreover, if international students have to face challenges which are unfamiliar to the local students, these psychological supports might have a greater impact on them than on local students. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationships of these psychological needs support on motivation and learning approaches for international students. Furthermore, this study also examines how such relationships amongst international students differ from their local counterparts.

LITERATURE REVIEW

In exploring this particular area, the psychological constructs from self-determinant theory (SDT) will be applied. Self-determinant theory is a broad motivational framework that is centered on the beliefs that all humans have basic innate psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness and competency and that social environments play an important role in the actualization of these needs (Deci & Ryan, 2002; Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991). According to SDT, motivation can be categorized into distinct types along a self-determinant continuum. Amotivation lies on one extreme end of the continuum and represents a complete lack of motivation. People who are amotivated either do not act or act passively. At the other extreme end lies intrinsic motivation which represents the pinnacle of self-determined behaviors. Individuals who are intrinsically motivated perform activities for their inherent fulfilment rather than some external stimuli. In the middle band lies extrinsic motivation which can be further differentiated into three types according to their level of self-determination: External regulation, Introjection, Identification. External regulation is caused wholly by externally imposed rewards or punishment. Introjection occurs when individuals impose their own internal rewards or constraints (e.g. guilt, shame or obligation). Identification takes place when individuals can identify with the reason for behavior. …

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