Goal setting and its influence on achievement in the Spanish language classroom: combining second language acquisition, achievement goal theory, and goal setting theory
The present study employs an interdisciplinary approach that bridges theories from second language acquisition, education, and psychology, and centers on finding new techniques to help students learn. In this study, I examined goal orientations, goal setting, and the effects on achievement in beginning level Spanish language learners. Firstly, I defined language achievement as three-fold consisting of final course grades, intercultural competence, and linguistic competence. Then, in nine sections of a beginning level Spanish course, I employed five steps of goal setting, a process that I have coined the "5 As." They are articulation, action, assessment, adherence, and achievement. Results show that in the main goal orientation categories (which consist of mastery, performance, approach, and avoidance) mastery goals and approach goals were the most common. The mastery approach goal orientation was the most common goal type when using a 2 x 2 framework (which compares mastery approach, mastery avoidance, performance approach, and performance avoidance). Analysis of participants' written goal statements showed communication/speaking, grammar, and listening comprehension as the main areas that participants wanted to master in their Spanish course. Considering the effects on achievement, results indicate that students who followed this process of the 5 As and actively set goals had statistically significant higher final course grades as compared to the control group (p = .034). Further analysis of these results revealed a significant difference between the control group and the approach goal orientations (p = .020). In terms of intercultural competence development, results suggest that students did not develop interculturally, and this was independent of whether they set a goal or not. Participants also did not believe that learning culture was a necessary part of language learning. Regarding linguistic competence development, there were statistically significant interactions, but the main effects and post hoc analyses only revealed significance between the pre- and posttest scores in the control group, who significantly decreased (p = .050), and the pre- and posttest scores in the avoidance group, who significantly increased (p = .024). This study also demonstrates the positive benefits gleaned from the goal setting process. These include increased attentiveness, awareness, engagement, language learner autonomy, motivation, self-efficacy, and self-regulation. As such, the results of this study can and should be implemented into the standards, curricula, and textbooks in order to have students become an active part of the learning process.