Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Gertrude Tinker-Sachs, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Peggy Albers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sue Barry, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Deron Boyles, Ph.D.






Svetoslava Dimova

In the context of emphasis on English language, mathematics and science within the American educational system (No Child Left Behind, 2001), foreign language education appears to be increasingly dissociated from educational priorities. Ways to create relevant goals and optimize the effects of foreign language teaching emerge through the use of communication technologies and connections to academic content.

This qualitative study explores the relationship between high school students’ skills in French as a foreign language (L2), their cognitive strategies during reading in L2 for academic content, and their motivation to read authentic French texts. The following questions guided the study: 1) How do students internalize the task of self-selected online reading in L2 for content understanding pertaining to their History of the Americas course? 2) What processes and skills do students evidence and draw upon to locate and read for information in L2?, and 3) What are the implications for building a theory of student motivations for extensive reading in L2 beyond the classroom context?

The study was realized in the setting of an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, where 4 key informants were selected, and analysis was presented in the form of 4 case studies. Informants’ French language proficiency ranged from intermediate-mid to advanced levels (ACTFL Guidelines, 1999). Data collection occurred during 8 weeks and included three rounds of formal, phenomenological interviews, classroom observations, and students’ learning journals. Data were analyzed through the lens of Activity theory (Engeström, 1999) and motivation theory (Keller, 2008) in order to determine emerging themes.

While both L2 skills and interest in historical content influenced the task completion, and informants used multiple strategies to search and read, internalization and motivation aspects related to acquiring content superseded those related to increasing language skills. Informants’ differences in attitudes toward the curriculum integrative task were additionally caused by their ideas of content appropriateness in a L2 course. Development of cultural awareness and critical thinking was also primarily shaped by interest in content. Findings from the analysis suggested further directions for L2 classroom instruction that could lead to developing students’ lifelong learning dispositions.