About motivation Essay

the term is commonly used to refer to the force that drives test takers to manifest their L2 knowledge and abilities in the best possible way. There is a substantial and growing body of research evidence showing that the higher the learner’s level of motivation, the truer the reflection of language ability indicated by test performance (Davies, 1999). This in turn results in a lower amount of error. Obviously, scores received on tests administered to individuals not motivated enough to invest substantial time and efforts into improving their performance are likely to be less reliable, as compared to testing situations instigating more intensive motivation.

It has been pointed out that a measurement instrument could in itself have a motivating influence on L2 learners pushing them to study hard. This effect is accounted for and represented by the construct of washback discussed in the first chapter. Increased motivation could be triggered by the consequences for the individual of the test, especially when it is for selection purposes.

The leading role, however, is preserved for the teacher, who is conceived of as a facilitator, mediator: “In der neueren Literatur zur Motivation wird dem Lehrer eher die Rolle eines Mediators zugebilligt, der den Lernprozess nicht direkt steuert, sondern ihn unterstützt und durch geeignete Maßnahmen anregt” [In recent literature on motivation, the teacher is more likely to be assigned the role of a mediator who does not manage the learning process, but supports it and encourages it by means of through appropriate action.”] (Kleppin 2002: 29). Essential functions are attributed to the teacher in the versatile process of scaffolding learning within which the individual student is constructed not as an object, but in terms of an autonomous subject: “Lehrer sollen Lerner dabei unterstützen, Selbstwirksamkeit zu empfinden, indem sie Aufgaben geben, über die Lerner eine eigene Kontrolle ausüben können und die ihnen die Gelegenheit zur Selbstevaluation bieten. Sie sollen kooperatives Lernen fördern, informatives Feedback geben oder auch für ein angenehmes Gruppenklima sorgen” [“Teachers should support learners to be self-efficacious by giving them tasks that learners can use to exercise their own control and give them the opportunity to self-evaluate. They should promote cooperative learning, provide informative feedback or even foster a pleasant group climate.”] (Kleppin 2002: 29).

Following these lines, we could refer to the way Emma Ushioda synthesizes the relationship between the agentive, autonomous individual and the motivated learner: „Autonomous learners are by definition motivated learners” (1996: 2). This point is discussed in depth on a theorethical ground by Leslie Dickinson (1995:165-174). She conceives of the autonomous learners as “those who have the capacity for being active and independent in the learning process; they can identify goals, formulate their own goals, and can change goals to suit their own learning needs and interests; they are able to use learning strategies, and to monitor their own learning” (1995: 167). It forms the narrative thread of Malcolm Knowles’ book Self-directed Learning: a Guide for Learners and Teachers: “there is convincing evidence that people who take the initiative in learning (proactive learners) learn more things and learn better than do people who sit at the feet of teachers, passively waiting to be taught (reactive learners). They enter into learning more purposefully and with greater motivation” (1975: 14).

The early research history of the concept of motivation was dominated by conceptualization and exploration of its manifold facets and meanings within a behavioral framework with the major goal being to understand ‘what moved a resting organism into a state of activity’. Considerable attention was paid to concepts such as instincts, drives, needs, energisation, and homeostasis (Weiner, 1990). It was considered to be too complex and obscure, and not liable to a direct observation and exploration. The results of a great deal of experimental research conducted on animals were extrapolated to people. The essential component within this approach was the reward systems for motivating persons to manifest the target behavior (Williams and Bruden, 1997). Apparently, this framework of conceptualizing L2 motivation is not applicable to an educational context as it does not pay due regard to the fact that individuals’ action is always embedded in a range of interactional and sociocultural contexts of varying breadth and abstraction. That is to say, limiting the research attention only to the intra-personal dimension and emphasizing behavior reinforcement do not suffice to capture the intricacies of the interrelations between all those factors that influence L2 acquisition and performance.

The sixties were marked by the cognitive revolution, which dispensed with the behavioral-mechanistic approaches to motivation. The cognitive developmental theory put forward by Piaget renders motivation as ‘a built-in unconscious striving towards more complex and differentiated development of the individual’s mental structures’ (Oxford and Shearin, 1994:23). The individual person was construed as a purposeful, goal-directed agent whose behavior cannot be adequately conceptualized within either a biologically-based drive perspective or a behavioral-mechanistic paradigm. With the advent of the cognitive approaches this interdisciplinary field became more pertinent to foreign language education contexts, and the cognitive shift resulted in an increased emphasis placed on the learner’s role in his/ her own behavior (Weiner, 1994).

Among the most important developments in motivational psychology over the past decades has been the shift in research emphasis attributing the central role to the sociocultural dimension rather than to the individual one. A key feature of the new paradigm for theorizing and research has been the growing awareness that the whole range of environmental aspects exert a considerable amount of influence on human cognition and behavior, in general, and in particular on L2 achievement. In line with this recognition, the theoretical accounts of motivation have increasingly forsaken the assumption of environmental generalizability, and various contextual facets have been integrated in the respective research frameworks as separate variables. There has been a growing body of research pursuing more situated approaches that prioritize the social context (Paris and Turner, 1994; Hickey, 1997; Urdan, 1999, Hickey and Granade, 2004, etc.).

Motivation, according to Winne and Marx (1989), is both a condition for, and a result of, effective instruction. Based on these claims, it is plausible to speculate that students' motivation plays an important role in successful L2 acquisition.

Pintrich and Maehr (1995) make the observation that although early research on the relation between motivation and achievement has been focused on sociocultural factors, scholars’ interest in the sociocultural origins of achievement has ‘waxed and waned’ in the course of time. The recent decades, however, have seen increasing attention to these aspects of motivation. Interest in social and contextual issues is evident in the work of researchers (Turner et al., 1998; Turner and Meyer, 2000; Pintrich, 2000, among others) who have provided motivational perspectives having many points of contact with a sociocultural framework.

Sociocultural perspectives on motivation (Sivan, 1986; Hickey, 1997; Paris and Turner 1994; Brophy, 1999) have considered the influence of tools and artifacts, the zone of proximal development, intersubjectivity, as well as the social and physical context of learning, on motivation in academic contexts (McInerney and Etten, 2002). Classroom-based studies (Forman and McPhail, 1993; Oldfather and Dahl, 1994) have also examined motivation within a sociocultural paradigm.

Nevertheless, any discussion of L2 motivation from the perspective of the relationship between the person and the social and cultural context should pay tribute to the theoretical and empirical roots of motivational studies. Among the most influential motivation theories in the area of FL learning has been put forward by Robert Gardner, widely acknowledged as a pioneer in the field. Together with his colleagues, he laid the foundations of the domain focused on the inter-relationships between motivation and L2 learning behavior. It is telling that motivation research in the L2 arena was characterized by a socio-psychological focus, as it was initiated in the context of the sui generis co-existence of the Anglophone and Francophone speech communities.

Gardner conceptualizes motivation as the combination of effort, willingness to achieve the goal of learning the target language, and favorable attitudes towards learning and using that language. Additional factors, such as attitude towards the learning situation and integrativeness, are in turn rendered as powerful multipliers of the effects of these attributes.

A major concern in the theory of L2 motivation proposed by Gardner is the relation between the terms ‘motivation’ and ‘orientation’. The multiple psychological approaches divert from one another to a considerable degree as regards the functions and effects of the established ‘goal’. While in goal theories, expectedly, the goal is at the center of attention, self-determination theory, for example, does not assign any important role to goals in the multi-dimensional motivation concept.

Gardner’s theory could be assumed to be closer to the latter approach in conceptualizing the interrelations between motivation and orientation. Yet, paradoxically, the concepts that have constituted a landmark in his work, and in the whole field of L2 motivation, in general, are integrative and instrumental orientation. Gardner and Lambert consider a second language in the light of a mediating factor that is a means of communication among various ethno-linguistic groups in dynamic multi-lingual and multi-cultural settings. In view of this, the scholars posit that motivation to acquire the language spoken by other communities is the main impetus behind effective intercultural communication and exchange.

Integrative orientation is associated with a positive affective disposition toward the L2 community and willingness to interact and affiliate with members of that group. Instrumental orientation is related with perceived practical gains that could potentially be brought about by L2 knowledge and skills. The two concepts instigate a vast body of research, and space limitations allow only for a few highlights to be reviewed in this theoretical discussion. A number of investigations have provided evidence that L2 achievement depends to a significant degree on these two kinds of motivation (Lightbrown and Spada, 2001). It makes intuitive sense that the two major types of motivation should be considered as complementary to each other, rather than as distinct or dichotomous, since learners can be both instrumentally and integratively motivated at the same time (Ellis, 1997).

A considerable amount of research effort has been, and is still being, invested in finding answers to the question of whether integrative motivation exists among different language learner groups, and whether it can be linked to achievement behaviour and ultimate success with the L2. According to Gardner himself, this research has generally endorsed the significance of the concept, and he proposes only minor changes to his original model (ibid). This has been a point of contention. Even in Canada itself, where Gardner and Lambert’s ideas originated, there are those who contest the precise definition of integrative motivation in particular learning contexts (Clement and Kruidenier, 1983, Clement et al., 1994, Belmechri and Hummel, 1998).

Others have suggested that integrative motivation is more important in ESL settings like Canada than in many EFL contexts around the world, where learners have limited contact with L2 speakers or their culture, rarely reach beyond an intermediate level and where an instrumental orientation may be more helpful in promoting successful learning (Dörnyei, 1990, Oxford and Shearin, 1994, Warden and Lin, 2000). Questions have also been raised about the relevance of the concept with younger language learners (Nikolov, 1999).

Four distinct areas could be distinguished in Gardner’s motivation theory – the construct of the integrative motive defined as a ‘motivation to learn a second language because of positive feelings toward the community that speaks that language’, the socioeducational model, which is an overall learning framework integrating motivation as a major cornerstone, the standardized instrument Attitude Motivation Test Battery, and a revised L2 motivation construct that has been developed together with Paul Tremblay (Tremblay and Gardner, 1995). Their extended model could be conceived of as a clear move towards adopting an expectancy-value framework, which is represented by the ‘valence’ component.

The dialectical tension between the social and the personal domain is palpable when considering in parallel various lines of research stemming from different theoretical frameworks. In what follows I will briefly outline the two main traditions in psychology informed by the research interest in the driving forces underlying human behavior – motivational psychology and social psychology. The former anchors action around motives originating from within the individual, while the latter considers behavior in a wider interpersonal context, thus reaching beyond human mental processes and emphasizing the social dimension of motivation.

Motivational psychology has traditionally been grounded in an individualistic perspective. Efforts put into accounting for and examining human behavior have been focused on the individual, while the influence of the surrounding social world on a person’s behavior and cognition seems to have remained out of sight.

The tension between the individualistic and the societal perspective has constituted one of the main dilemmas in social psychology. Motivational researchers have adopted either individualistic or societal perspective in investigating the construct conditioned by the relationships between the individual person who initiates action and the physical, social, cultural, and symbolic setting in which the action is inscribed. The individual-social dilemma has drawn a clear dividing line between the empirical efforts of scholars who render the role of the contextual factors in contrasting ways.

In the individual-centered perspective, the constellation of inter-personal, social, and cultural factors is not important in and of itself, but is considered in the light of a mere projection on one’s internal cognitive and mental processes. The emphasis in the societal perspective is on wider social processes and macro-contextual factors, such as sociocultural norms, inter-group relations, acculturation/assimilation processes, and inter-ethnic conflicts

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