Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Yu, F. (2016). Motivation of High School Students in a STARTALK Chinese Immersion Program: A Mixed Methods Case Study. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor Aleidine J. Moeller. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2016

Copyright (c) 2016 Fei Yu


The focus of this dissertation was the development and dynamics of student learning motivation during and beyond a Chinese immersion program.

The need to conduct this study emerged as a result of the rise in popularity of Chinese language study and the increase in Chinese immersion programs in the United States. However, the number of students who continue their studies remains low. This seeming paradox was investigated by examining high school students’ Chinese learning motivation in a STARTALK Chinese immersion program. The investigation was grounded in Gardner’s socio-educational model (2006, 2010) and Dörnyei and Ottó’s process-oriented model of student motivation (1998, 2005).

By adopting a mixed-methods approach, the researcher collected both qualitative data exploring participants’ learning experiences and quantitative data focusing on statistical measurement of motivation. Data analysis revealed an increase in participants’ Chinese learning motivation related to the engaging language instructional approaches and helpful, competent instructors in addition to the positive learning environment during the program. The analysis also revealed that participants’ Chinese learning motivation slightly decreased one semester after the program due to less language exposure and lack of learning opportunities. It was concluded that the evolution of participants’ motivation was reasonably shaped by their learning experiences at different learning phases.

The insight into the dynamics and temporal nature of motivation in this study revealed potential ways to maintain and support students’ Chinese learning motivation throughout their learning process.

Advisor: Aleidine J. Moeller