Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Amy Thompson, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Xizhen Qin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Camilla Vásquez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wei Zhu, Ph.D.


Chinese as a second/foreign language, L2 motivation, L2 pedagogy, mixed-methods design, performed culture pedagogy, the second language motivational self system (L2MSS)


Motivation is understood as the original drive of a person to make specific choices, engage himself or herself to make efforts, and to be persistent for the pursuit of the goals. Over the decades, numerous studies have been dedicated to studying this complex and significant construct, in both the fields of Second Language Acquisition and Social Psychology. Since the beginning of the last decade, the findings and theories of motivation research of the two fields mentioned above have been merged and integrated by Dörnyei (2005, 2009) to explain the second language learners’ motivation. This vigorous Second Language Motivational Self System (L2MSS) looks at the L2 motivation as a mobile and dynamic system with the constructs of how people perceive themselves in learning the L2. The three constructs of the L2MSS are the ideal L2 self, the ought-to L2 self, and the L2 learning experience. Recently, mental imagery has been found as an important factor that is closely related (On the other hand, Chinese is one of the critical non-Western foreign languages suggested by the National Security Education Program (retrieve from Chinese is challenging to English speakers, and it is critical to understand L2 Chinese learners’ motivation to facilitate their study. Both the empirical research and pedagogical implications of the L2MSS are still limited in the field of teaching Chinese as a foreign language (CFL).

The current study uses a parallel mixed-methods design to investigate three research questions related to Chinese L2 learners’ motivation profile, the effects of mental imagery, and the pedagogical implications of the L2MSS in the CFL field. Multiple data collection instruments used in this project include online Likert-scale questionnaires, semi-structured interviews with four focal student participants and one teacher participant, students’ learning reflection journals, and classroom observation. The data collection period lasted for five months. The quantitative data sets and qualitative data sets were firstly analyzed separately and synthesized afterward to yield merged results. The findings indicate that CFL learners’ motivation profiles contain dynamic constructs. The ideal L2 self is still the strongest motivator from the L2MSS perspective. Interestingly, a newly proposed construct, the anti-ought-to L2 (Thompson & Vásquez, 2015; Liu & Thompson, 2018), has also emerged from the narrative data. Furthermore, the interaction and interchangeability between the ideal L2 self, the ought-to L2 self, and the anti-ought-to L2 self were also founded.

The second finding is that there is a significantly positive correlation between the use of mental imagery and the ideal L2 self. The same type of correlation is also found between students’ self-reported efforts in learning Chinese and their use of mental imagery. Following the correlation tests, factorial ANOVA tests revealed that one aspect of mental imagery, the readiness of using mental imagery, has statistically significant impacts on both learners’ motivation (the ideal L2 self) and their learning efforts in L2 study.

Basing on the findings, the research proposes pedagogical implications for the CFL educator by bridging the L2MSS framework and the performed culture pedagogy. The performed culture pedagogy provides many useful guidelines for designing authentic and imagined scenarios for class activities. These activities helped the students to enhance their skills of imaging the contexts of using Chinese, thus establish and nourish their ideal L2 selves (Dörnyei & Kubanyiova, 2014; Walker, 2010). These activities are also beneficial to help the Chinese L2 learners to have positive learning experiences (Dörnyei, 2019; Walker and Noda, 2010). The critical influence of role models and specific strategies of using different types of images are also discussed.