Psychology

Research CMU. Carnegie Mellon University. Jaclyn Bernard Carnegie Mellon University

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Carnegie Mellon University Research CMU Dietrich College Honors Theses Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences Motivation in Foreign Language Learning: The Relationship between
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Carnegie Mellon University Research CMU Dietrich College Honors Theses Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences Motivation in Foreign Language Learning: The Relationship between Classroom Activities, Motivation, and Outcomes in a University Language-Learning Environment Jaclyn Bernard Carnegie Mellon University Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Modern Languages Commons This Thesis is brought to you for free and open access by the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Research CMU. It has been accepted for inclusion in Dietrich College Honors Theses by an authorized administrator of Research CMU. For more information, please contact Motivation in Foreign Language Learning: The Relationship between Classroom Activities, Motivation, and Outcomes in a University Language-Learning Environment Jaclyn Bernard Carnegie Mellon University Dept. of Social and Decision Sciences April 14, Abstract In the study of academic motivation in a language-learning setting, motivation has traditionally been considered an independent variable. The present study treats it as both a dependent function of classroom activities and an independent predictor of study time, expected grade, and whether a student will continue to study the language. Six distinct motivational types are discussed: motivation about the language, motivation about the class, confidence, external motivation, whether the class feels required, and self-reported motivation. Motivation about the language is found to be of particular importance in predicting outcomes, along with fun activities and activities that promote language use about students own lives and interests. Introduction Although national attention tends to focus on improving math and reading scores for American children, achievement in foreign language learning receives relatively little consideration. Factors contributing to language learning are complex, and the role motivation plays in achievement is a particularly interesting question that deserves to be studied. Research suggests that motivation can influence language learning outcomes independently from language aptitude (Gardner, 1972; Wigfield & Wentzel, 2007). Therefore, an examination not only of motivation s contribution to learning outcomes, but also of ways to foster such positive motivation among students, is certainly relevant in improving language education for all students. The study of academic motivation is generally explained by researchers as pertaining to some other psychological domain: as a subset of identity development (McCaslin, 2009; Roeser 2 & Peck, 2009), Self-Determination Theory (La Guardia, 2009), goal-directed behavior (Boekaerts, de Koning & Vedder, 2006; Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006), or interest development (Renninger, 2009), to name a few. Dörnyei (2005) provides a nice overview of the various phases of the study of motivation as it pertains to second-language learning specifically. The social-psychological period (roughly ), as the name suggests, was concerned with the social-psychological aspects of language motivation. Work from this period suggests that, unlike other content fields such as science and math, language learning is not a socio-culturally neutral field of study because it is influenced by language attitudes, cultural stereotypes, and geopolitical considerations towards the second-language (henceforth, L2) group. Following this research phase came the cognitive-situated period, which is characterized by the application of cognitive theories to educational psychology (late 1990s), and most recently the process-oriented period, which is characterized by an interest in motivational change and evolution. Several of these theoretical constructs and periods are discussed in further detail in the following sections. Types of Motivation Several theories and categorizations contribute to an understanding of academic motivation generally and second-language motivation specifically. These include the theory of integrative motivation introduced during the social-psychological period, as well as Self Determination Theory, its extensions, and the general categorizations of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation developed during the cognitive-situated period. As mentioned above, the social-psychological period posited that L2-learning motivation is profoundly impacted by attitudes towards the L2 group. Although positive attitudes towards the people who natively speak a language can positively influence a learner s motivation to learn 3 that language, negative attitudes towards the group can likewise negatively influence motivation. The work of James Gardner and associates characterizes this conceptualization of motivation. As defined by Gardner (2001), integrativeness is one of two major factors that influence overall motivation. It is a complex construct that reflects an interest in learning a foreign language in order to become closer to the L2 community. Thus, the term denotes not only attitudes towards learning foreign languages and towards the L2 group generally, but also the learner s willingness to interact with members of that L2 community (Dörnyei, 2005). Attitudes towards the learning situation constitute the second component of Gardner s two-pronged theory of motivation. Gardner (2001) explains that, in a classroom context, this term subsumes attitudes towards the teacher, classmates, coursework, activities associated with the course, and all other facets of the situation in which the language is learned. Integrativeness and attitudes towards the learning situation together contribute to overall motivation to learn the language. In this conceptualization of the term, a motivated individual makes an effort to learn the language (i.e. does their homework, participates in class, etc.), wants to learn the language, and will enjoy learning the language (Gardner, 2001). The theories of motivation developed during the cognitive-situated period, although certainly distinct from those described above, nevertheless do not negate that socialpsychological work. Rather, those foundations are still accepted, and the newer perspectives about how motivation functions in the real world (e.g. in classrooms) can be studied in conjunction with the earlier models (Dörnyei, 2005). Self Determination Theory (SDT) is not specific to the study of motivation as it pertains to language. Rather, it is a more general psychological theory which suggests that intrinsic motivation and internalization, and ultimately identity development, are molded by three basic 4 psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness (La Guardia, 2009). La Guardia s (2009) account of the theory explains that autonomy refers to actions that a learner initiates and regulates himself. Autonomous actions are willingly engaged in, whereas participating in nonautonomous behaviors make the learner feel compelled or controlled. Competence refers to a learner s feelings of content mastery or intellectual challenge, and is expressed in curiosity, exploration of new or difficult material, etc. Relatedness is the need to feel acceptance by, and importance to, others (e.g. teachers, parents, peers). SDT as a whole suggests that people are likely to devote their energies to activities that promote these three psychological needs; in other words, they are likely to be motivated by people, situations, and undertakings that support those needs. Within this SDT framework arise the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation, based in autonomy and competence, describes a situation in which material is engaged in for its inherent interest and the satisfaction and enjoyment it engenders. An example would be a person who enjoys learning a language because of the satisfaction felt when new concepts are mastered (competence) or because of the inherent interest and joy associated with learning the language. Extrinsically motivated activities, on the other hand, are engaged in in order to accomplish some goal that is separate from the activity in and of itself: for example, a person who wishes to learn a language because they believe bilingualism to be a valuable job skill, or because they believe it will make travel easier and more enjoyable. Activities can be initiated extrinsically and later be internalized to become intrinsically motivated, or they can begin out of intrinsic interest and be perpetuated in order to obtain other (extrinsic) outcomes. Thus, there is a continuum of behaviors, ranging from those that are completely extrinsically to completely intrinsically motivated. On the controlled, extrinsic end of the scale, externally 5 regulated behaviors are done in order to avoid punishment or obtain reward. Introjected behaviors are somewhat more internalized and are performed not to avoid punishment or gain reward per se, but rather to avoid the shame or guilt one would feel if the behavior were not done or to feel pride and worth in the eyes of others. More internalized, autonomous, and intrinsic, identified behaviors have been accepted and are valued as one s own (e.g. because a student understands their usefulness), and integrated behaviors are the most intrinsically motivated (La Guardia, 2009). An integrative orientation such as that described above (Gardner, 2001) is most closely correlated with intrinsic motivation (Noels, Clément & Pelletier, 2001). Noels, Pelletier, Clément and Vallerand (2000) extend this model to language learning specifically and expand upon the traditional intrinsic-extrinsic categorizations with their sevenpoint Language Learning Orientations Scale. In this characterization, amotivation is characterized by a feeling that there is no point, or that material is beyond the student s interest or capabilities. External, introjected, and identified regulation have definitions consistent with those above. Intrinsic motivation is then broken into three separate parts: intrinsic motivation for knowledge (doing the activity for the intrinsic pleasure of exploring ideas and learning new things), for accomplishment (the pleasure associated with mastering a task or achieving a goal), and for stimulation (feelings such as fun and excitement). Motivation and Student Outcomes Studies of various age groups in a variety of content areas support the idea that intrinsically motivated students perform better in the classroom. Evidence suggests that these students, as well as students who receive autonomy-support from teachers to enhance their intrinsic motivation, perceive themselves to be more competent and have more interest in and 6 enjoyment of material. Instructor autonomy-support also predicts academic performance (Black & Deci, 2000). Autonomy-support here refers to instructors who understand and empathize with students perspectives and allow students to make choices and initiate activities. Likewise, Miserandino (1996) finds that students with high perceived competence receive better grades in some subjects. Those who are more intrinsically motivated are more involved and persistent, participate more, and are curious about school activities, whereas more extrinsically motivated students report feeling more angry, anxious, and bored at school and therefore tend to avoid school activities. Again, more autonomous/intrinsically motivated students receive better grades than their extrinsically motivated peers. Motivation quality has also been linked to high school retention rates, with extrinsic motivation and a lack of autonomy-support from teachers and administrators leading to higher dropout rates (Vallerand, Fortier & Guay, 1997). Autonomous, as opposed to controlled, motivation has been linked to higher grades and achievement in school (Grolnick & Ryan, 1987), and intrinsic motivation and autonomy-support to persistence, test performance, and deeper processing of concepts (Vansteenkiste et al., 2004). Specific goal contents can be intrinsically or extrinsically oriented, just as people can be, and studies show that intrinsic goal framing leads to deeper engagement in learning activities, more persistence in learning material, and deeper understanding of concepts (Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006). Conversely, controlled behavior has been associated with negative learner outcomes (Grolnick & Ryan, 1987) and extrinsic goal framing was found to undermine conceptual learning, although it did not harm rote learning (Vansteenkiste, Lens & Deci, 2006). Although intrinsic motivation is generally considered superior in terms of interest-enhancement and learner outcomes, externally regulated behaviors too can have their place in the classroom. For example, one study indicates that perceived importance of current class work to future success 7 an internalized, but extrinsic goal orientation can contribute to motivation in the classroom (Green et al., 2004). The Importance of Instructional Techniques If intrinsic motivation is generally considered superior to extrinsic motivation, consideration of how such inherent interest develops is relevant. Renninger (2009) explains that it is possible for learners to develop and deepen interest in a topic over time, and that a person s environment (teachers, peers, texts, activities, etc.) contributes to this interest development. Typically, interest development goes through four phases: triggered situational interest, maintained situational interest, emerging individual interest, and well-developed individual interest. At all levels, interest is piqued and developed through triggering. In early stages, interest might be triggered through a fun activity or personally-meaningful connection to content; in later stages it might be triggered by related knowledge or curiosity. Very few students have well-developed individual interest in any given subject, and educators can and do often mistake situational interest (triggered, for example, by fun activities) for this more self-directed interest (Renninger, Bachrach & Posey, 2008). Although by late adolescence students may be able to self-regulate behavior even in the absence of intrinsic interest, all learners can benefit from support that will help them to engage with the material (Renninger, 2009). Such supports can include curricular design, including what activities students engage in in the classroom (Freeman, McPhail & Berndt, 2002; Zahorik, 1996). Additionally, Wentzel (1998) demonstrates that perceived parent support is a positive predictor of school-related interest and perceived teacher support a predictor of both school- and class-related interest. 8 Interest can advance, stagnate, or regress at any stage, and thus appropriate triggers should be included for learners at all interest levels (Renninger, 2009). A study by Nikolov (2001) demonstrates how inappropriate instructional styles can hinder otherwise motivated students. In her study of unsuccessful Hungarian language learners, she found that unsuccessful students who generally had positive feelings about learning foreign languages (i.e. integratively motivated) attributed their lack of success to un-motivating classroom practices: particularly assessment, focus on form, and rote-learning. Situational (classroom) factors negatively overrode initial student interest. Ford s Taxonomy of Multiple Goals is one framework that gives general insight into what makes particular activities motivating. Ford (1992) explains that most behavior is simultaneously informed and guided by multiple goals. Goals can take on a variety of forms, with high-level goals (e.g. I want to be bilingual ) being supported by lower-level goals (e.g. I want to do well/have fun in this class ), which are often accompanied by action steps (e.g. I will study to get an A on this Spanish test ). Goals can relate to achievement, security, socialization, etc., and the most motivating activities are those that relate to the pursuit of multiple goals. Although it has been noted that people are more willing to engage in activities when they value either the activity itself or its outcome, when they expect to succeed, and when they find the activity interesting, the majority of this research has considered value, interest, and intrinsic motivation to be independent, rather than dependent, variables (Brophy, 2008). Few studies have attempted to explore activity characteristics that might make various academic content areas motivating. One that does treat motivation as a dependent variable finds that contextualization and personalization of material, as well as choice, facilitate significant 9 increases in motivation, engagement in learning, the amount of content learned in a given time period, perceived competence, and aspirations for future study (Cordova & Lepper, 1996). Brophy (2008) asserts that learners find curricula meaningful when the content is structured around big ideas and has genuine application to life outside of school. When material is relevant to students current lives and interests, they see a good reason to engage with the material and so autonomously do so. Learning content without learning when, where, or why it might be useful is less constructive. Clément s Theory of Linguistic Self-Confidence, which came out of the social-psychological period of motivational literature, is one of few models that discuss activities and motivation for language learning specifically. One supporting study indicates that linguistic self-confidence derives in part from contact between the learner and the L2 community (Clément, Gardner & Smythe, 1980) and that the quality and quantity of this contact can be a major factor contributing to motivation in learning the L2 and to the desire for further intercultural communication (Dörnyei, 2005). Despite these general theories about what makes a particular learning task interesting, there is currently little research that examines the specific classroom activities students might find meaningful, and therefore motivating. The current study, therefore, attempts to explore this question by examining the relationships between specific activities undertaken in university elementary and intermediate level language classrooms, student motivation, and outcomes (time spent studying, grades, and whether a student plans to continue study of the L2). 10 Methods The Sample A total of 151 Carnegie Mellon students from Elementary and Intermediate (100 and 200 level) language classes participated in the study; this is between one third and one quarter of the total number of students registered for such courses. Students ages ranged from years; the mean age was 20 with a standard deviation of 2.5 years and there were two outliers: a 31 and a 38 year old. Sixty-four percent of participating students were female, which is slightly more than the actual percentage in the population. The racial breakdown of the students was similar to that for the University as a whole, with the majority of students being either White or Asian (1.3% American Indian or Alaska Native, 40.9% Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander, 4.7% Black or African American, 5.4% Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American, 41.6% White, 3.4% Other, and 2.7% choosing not to answer the question). Among students, 60 (40.5%) were freshmen, 32 (21.6%) were sophomores, 34 (23%) were juniors, 13 (8.8%) were seniors, and 9 (6.1%) were fifth year or graduate students; freshmen were overrepresented in the sample, sophomores and seniors were underrepresented and the proportions of juniors and fifth year/graduate students were similar to that in the department as a whole. All colleges across the university were represented: 6 students were enrolled in an interdisciplinary program, 12 came from the College of Fine Arts, 41 from the engineering school, 15 from the School of Computer Science, 40 from the college of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2 from the graduate school of public policy and management, 21 from
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