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Motivation and Transfer in Language Learning.

By: Ngeow, Karen Yeok-Hwa

Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.

Transfer and motivation play important roles in learning. Transfer, the application of prior
knowledge to new learning situations (McKeough, 1995), is often seen as a learning goal, and
thus the extent to which transfer occurs is a measure of learning success (Pea, 1987; Perkins,
1991). Motivation, defined as the impetus to create and sustain intentions and goal-seeking acts
(Ames & Ames, 1989), is important because it determines the extent of the learner's active
involvement and attitude toward learning.


Research suggests that transfer and motivation are mutually supportive in creating an optimal
learning environment. If the learner perceives what he is learning to be relevant and transferable
to other situations, he will find learning meaningful, and his motivation to acquire the skill or
knowledge will increase. Similarly, for transfer to take place, the learner must be motivated to do
two things. First, he must be able to recognize opportunities for transfer (Prawat, 1989); second,
he needs to possess the motivation to take advantage of these opportunities (Pea, 1988).

The challenge of teaching is thus to simultaneously enhance transfer and motivation so that they
both support learning. To do this, teachers need to first understand the nature of transfer and
the nature of motivation.


Teachers often ask themselves "What is in the learning situation that needs to be transferred?"
The answer may be one or more of the following: content or conceptual knowledge, strategic or
procedural knowledge, and appropriate dispositions for learning (Thorndike, 1992; Perkins et al.,

Proponents for the teaching of content knowledge over strategic knowledge argue that learners
who have mastered the content knowledge of a particular domain are fully capable of displaying
sophisticated use of effective strategies in new situations, including those strategies never
explicitly taught (Chi, 1988). They claim that without requisite domain-specific knowledge,
general strategies have a weak effect on enhancing performance in most tasks. At the same
time, a common argument for emphasizing the teaching of strategic knowledge is that if one can
identify and teach the general skills (e.g., metacognitive and problem-solving skills) that are
applicable to a broad range of tasks, it is easier then to facilitate transfer of learning (Pressley et
al., 1987). Although proponents from the two camps disagree on the question of what exactly is
transferred, they concur that positive dispositions toward learning are vital to learner success.
These dispositions include traits like high motivation, risk-taking attitudes, mindfulness or
attentiveness, and a sense of responsibility for learning (Salomon & Perkins, 1988; Pea, 1988).


Gardner and Lambert (1972) introduced the notions of instrumental and integrative motivation.
In the context of language learning, instrumental motivation refers to the learner's desire to
learn a language for utilitarian purposes (such as employment or travel), whereas integrative
motivation refers to the desire to learn a language to integrate successfully into the target
language community. In later research studies, Crookes and Schmidt (1991), and Gardner and
Tremblay (1994) explored four other motivational orientations: (a) reason for learning, (b)

desire to attain the learning goal, (c) positive attitude toward the learning situation, and (d)
effortful behavior.

Many theorists and researchers have found that it is important to recognize the construct of
motivation not as a single entity but as a multi-factorial one. Oxford and Shearin (1994)
analyzed a total of 12 motivational theories or models, including those from socio-psychology,
cognitive development, and socio-cultural psychology, and identified six factors that impact
motivation in language learning:

• attitudes (i.e., sentiments toward the learning community and the target language)
• beliefs about self (i.e., expectancies about one's attitudes to succeed, self-efficacy, and
• goals (perceived clarity and relevance of learning goals as reasons for learning)
• involvement (i.e., extent to which the learner actively and consciously participates in the
language learning process)
• environmental support (i.e., extent of teacher and peer support, and the integration of
cultural and outside-of-class support into learning experience)
• personal attributes (i.e., aptitude, age, sex, and previous language learning experience).



Research studies have shown that language acquisition is the result of an interplay between
cognitive mechanism and environmental conditions (Spolsky, 1985; Sivert & Egbert, 1995).
Understanding and creating optimal language learning environments thus becomes a primary
concern of the language teacher. Teachers can observe circumstances under which learners
acquire language and can make adjustments toward creating optimal learning conditions. In
designing learning activities, the language teacher should remember that because language
learning focuses on both the accuracy and appropriateness of application in various contexts of
use, learners must be given opportunities to participate as language users in multiple contexts.
These opportunities will result in learners' heightened motivation and awareness of the
intricacies of language use.

Some teaching strategies that can be used to foster motivation and provide better transfer
opportunities of language skills include the following:

* Encourage learners to take ownership in learning.

Have learners take ownership of the learning assignment by letting them identify and decide for
themselves relevant learning goals. This will motivate them to apply what they have learned to
attain these learning goals.

* Promote intentional cognition or mindfulness to learning in various contexts.

Learners must be able to practice language in multiple contexts in order to bridge domains and
foster active abstraction of concepts learned (Bransford, et al. 1990). This will help learners
recognize the relevance and transferability of different learning skills or knowledge.

* Increase authenticity of learning tasks and goals.

Learners should recognize a real need to accomplish learning goals that are relevant and holistic
(rather than task-specific). This prepares them for the complexities of real-world tasks that
require them to use language skills and knowledge that have to be continually transferred.

Learner anxiety (Horwitz, 1986) and other negative feelings can be stumbling blocks to learners
becoming cognizant of learning and transfer opportunities. Thus, providing our learners with the
motivation to learn is one of the best steps we can take to facilitate learning success. This is best
conveyed by Bruner (1960, p.31): "The best way to create interest in a subject is to render it
worth knowing, which means to make the knowledge gained usable in one's thinking beyond the
situation in which learning has occurred."

Motivation and Motivating in EFL

Dimitrios Thanasoulas


In grappling with the subject of motivation in the foreign language classroom, we will eschew a
discussion of its various types, as they have been researched and talked about to death. In this
paper, we will briefly examine a variety of techniques, strategies and macrostrategies which
teachers can employ in order to motivate their students. As Dornyei (2001: 116) notes, "teacher
skills in motivating learners should be seen as central to teaching effectiveness". Even though
there have been a lot of education-oriented publications providing taxonomies of classroom-
specific motives, they fall short of offering an efficient guide to practitioners. Thus, our main goal
is to familiarise any putative "practitioners" with a set of techniques and strategies
(henceforward, "motivational strategies") for motivating foreign language students.

Power in the classroom

Prior to presenting some of these motivational strategies, it would be of relevance to say a few
things about the teacher/learner relationship. Whichever way we look at it, this relationship is
riddled with power and status. For many, power plays a large part in the relationship (see
"Language and Power in Education" for further details). The rights and duties of teachers and
learners are related to power. For example, many teachers might assert that they have the right
to punish those learners who misbehave. In any social encounter involving two or more people,
there are certain power relationships "which are almost always asymmetrical" (Wright, 1987:
17). Social psychologists distinguish between three different types of power - coercive, reward-
based, and referent. The basis of coercive power is punishment. Some individuals or institutions
have the authority to punish others. The basis of the second type of power is reward. Some
individuals or institutions have the power to reward what they deem appropriate behaviour. For
example, business organisations reward employees with a salary, a bonus etc. The basis of the
third type of power is motivation. In this case, individuals or institutions appeal to the
commitment and interest of others. In view of this three-fold paradigm, it is of importance to
concern ourselves with the fostering of learner motivation, as it is considered to be the most
effective and proactive, so to speak, power relationship.

Group processes and motivation

A discussion of motivation and motivational strategies would not be complete without a

consideration of group processes, inasmuch as there is usually a group of people that we as
teachers are called on to motivate. Tuckman (1969, quoted in Argyle, 1969) established that a
group went through four stages from its formation, which has important implications for the
study of the classroom and the use of group activities during teaching.

Stage 1 Forming: At first, there is some anxiety among the members of the group, as they are
dependent on the leader (that is, the teacher) and they have to find out what behaviour is

Stage 2 Storming: There is conflict between sub-groups and rebellion against the leader.
Members of the group resist their leader and the role relations attending the function of the
group are questioned.

Stage 3 Norming: The group begins to develop a sort of cohesion. Members of the group begin
to support each other. At this stage, there is co-operation and open exchange of views and
feelings about their roles and each other.

Stage 4 Performing: Most problems are resolved and there is a great deal of interpersonal
activity. Everyone is devoted to completing the tasks they have been assigned.

Experience shows that almost every group goes through these four (or even more) stages until it
reaches equilibrium and, thus, taps into its potential. In reality, this process may go on forever,
since student lethargy and underachievement norms in the classroom are considered to be basic
hindrances to effective teaching and learning (Daniels, 1994). Against this background, we will
try to design a framework for motivational strategies.

A framework for motivational strategies

As we have already said, skill in motivating students to learn is of paramount importance. Until
recently, however, teachers were forced to rely on "bag-of-tricks" approaches in their attempt to
manage their classroom and motivate their learners. Good and Brophy (1994: 212) hold that
these approaches have been influenced by two contradictory views: a) that learning should be
fun and that any motivation problems that may appear should be ascribed to the teacher's
attempt to convert an enjoyable activity to drudgery; and b) that school activities are inherently
boring and unrewarding, so that we must rely on extrinsic rewards and punishment with a view
to forcing students to engage in these unpleasant tasks.

Rewards and punishments may be a mainstay of the teaching-learning process, but they are not
the only tools in teachers' arsenal. Dornyei (2001: 119) believes that "the spectrum of other
potentially more effective motivational strategies is so broad that it is hard to imagine that none
of them would work."

The central question in designing a framework of motivational strategies is to decide how to

organise them into separate themes. The following taxonomy, around which our main discussion
will revolve, is based on the process-oriented model by Dornyei and Otto (1998). The key units
in this taxonomy are as follows:

• Creating the basic motivational conditions, which involves setting the scene for the use
of motivational strategies
• Generating student motivation, which roughly corresponds to the preactional phase in
the model
• Maintaining and protecting motivation, which corresponds to the actional phase
• Encouraging positive self-evaluation, which corresponds to the postactional phase

Creating the basic motivational conditions

Motivational strategies cannot work in a vacuum, nor are they set in stone. There are certain
preconditions to be met before any attempts to generate motivation can be effective. Some of
these conditions are the following:

a. appropriate teacher behaviour and good teacher-student rapport

b. a pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere
c. a cohesive learner group characterised by appropriate group norms

Appropriate teacher behaviour and good teacher-student rapport

Whatever is done by a teacher has a motivational, formative, influence on students. In other

words, teacher behaviour is a powerful "motivational tool" (Dornyei, 2001: 120). Teacher
influences are manifold, ranging from the rapport with the students to teacher behaviours which
"prevail upon" and/or "attract" students to engage in tasks. For Alison (1993), a key element is
to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the learners, by means of talking with
them on a personal level. This mutual trust could lead to enthusiasm. At any rate, enthusiastic
teachers impart a sense of commitment to, and interest in, the subject matter, not only verbally
but also non-verbally - cues that students take from them about how to behave.

A pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere

It stands to reason that a tense classroom climate can undermine learning and demotivate
learners (see MacIntyre, 1999 and Young, 1999 for further details). On the other hand, learner
motivation will reach its peak in a safe classroom climate in which students can express their
opinions and feel that they do not run the risk of being ridiculed.

To be motivated to learn, students need both ample opportunites to learn and steady
encouragement and support of their learning efforts. Because such motivation is unlikely to
develop in a chaotic classroom, it is important that the teacher organise and manage the
classroom as an effective learning environment. Furthermore, because anxious or alienated
students are unlikely to develop motivation to learn, it is important that learning occur within a
relaxed and supportive atmosphere (Good and Brophy, 1994: 215).

A cohesive learner group characterised by appropriate group norms

As was hinted at above, fragmented groups, characterised by lack of cooperativeness, can easily
become ineffective, thus putting paid to the individual members' commitment to learn. There are
several factors that promote group cohesiveness, such as the time spent together and shared
group history, learning about each other, interaction, intergroup competition, common threat,
active presence of the leader (see Ehrman and Dornyei, 1998: 142).

As for group norms, they should be discussed and adopted by members, in order to be
constructive and long-lasting. If a norm mandated by a teacher fails to be accepted as proper by
the majority of the class members, it will not become a group norm.

Generating student motivation

Ideally, all learners exhibit an inborn curiosity to explore the world, so they are likely to find the
learning experience per se instrinsically pleasant. In reality, however, this "curiosity" is vitiated
by such inexorable factors as compulsory school attendance, curriculum content, and grades -
most importantly, the premium placed on them.

Apparently, unless teachers, inter alia, increase their learners' "goal-orientedness", make
curriculum relevant for them, and create realistic learner beliefs, they will come up against a
classroom environment fraught with lack of cohesiveness and rebellion.

Increasing the learners' "goal-orientedness"

In an ordinary class, many, if not most, students do not understand why they are involved in an
activity. It may be the case that the goal set by outsiders (i.e., the teacher or the curriculum) is
far from being accepted by the group members. Thus, it would seem beneficial to increase the
group's goal-orientedness, that is, the extent to which the group tunes in to the pursuit of its
official goal. This could be achieved by allowing students to define their own personal criteria for
what should be a group goal.

Making the curriculum relevant for the learners

Many students do their homework and engage in all sorts of learning activities, even when a
subject is not very interesting. Obviously, these students share the belief of the curriculum
makers that what they are being taught will come in handy. In order to inspire learners to
concern themselves with most learning activities, we should find out their goals and the topics
they want to learn, and try to incorporate them into the curriculum. According to Chambers
(1999: 37), "If the teacher is to motivate pupils to learn, then relevance has to be the red
thread permeating activities".

Creating realistic learner beliefs

It is widely acknowledged that learner beliefs about how much progress to expect, and at what
pace, can, and do, lead to disappointment. Therefore, it is important to help learners get rid of
their preconceived notions that are likely to hinder their attainment. To this end, learners need
to develop an understanding of the nature of second language learning, and should be cognisant
of the fact that the mastery of L2 can be achieved in different ways, using a diversity of
strategies, and a key factor is for learners to discover for themselves the optimal methods and

Maintaining and protecting motivation

Unless motivation is sustained and protected when action has commenced, the natural tendency
to get tired or bored of the task and succumb to any attractive distractions will result in
demotivation. Therefore, there should be a motivational repertoire including several motivation
maintenance strategies. Let us have a look at two of them: a) increasing the learners' self-
confidence; and b) creating learner autonomy.

Increasing the learners' self-confidence

In an inherently face-threatening context, as the language classroom is likely to be, it is

important to find out how to maintain and increase the learners' self-confidence. There are five
approaches that purport to help to this end (Dornyei, 2001: 130):

1. Teachers can foster the belief that competence is a changeable aspect of development.
2. Favourable self-conceptions of L2 competence can be promoted by providing regular
experiences of success.
3. Everyone is more interested in a task if they feel that they make a contribution.
4. A small personal word of encouragement is sufficient.
5. Teachers can reduce classroom anxiety by making the learning context less stressful.

Creating learner autonomy

Many educationists and researchers (Benson, 2000; Little, 1991; Wenden, 1991; also see my
article, "What is Learner Autonomy and How can it be Fostered?") argue that taking charge of
one's learning, that is, becoming an autonomous learner, can prove beneficial to learning. This
assumption is premised on humanistic psychology, namely that "the only kind of learning which
significantly affects behaviour is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning" (Rogers, 1961:
276). Benson (2000, found in Dornyei, 2001: 131) distinguishes between five types of practice
fostering the development of autonomy:

1. resource-based approaches, which emphasise independent interaction with learning

2. technology-based approaches, which emphasise independent interaction with educational

3. learner-based approaches, which emphasise the direct production of behavioural and

psychological changes in the learner
4. classroom-based approaches, which emphasise changes in the relationship between
learners and teachers in the classroom
5. curriculum-based approaches, which extend the idea of learner control over the planning
and evaluation of learning to the curriculum as a whole

Good and Brophy (1994: 228) note that "the simplest way to ensure that people value what they
are doing is to maximise their free choice and autonomy" - a sentiment shared by Ushioda
(1997: 41), who remarks that "Self-motivation is a question of thinking effectively and
meaningfully about learning experience and learning goals. It is a question of applying positive
thought patterns and belief structures so as to optimise and sustain one's involvement in

Encouraging positive self-evaluation

Research has shown that the way learners feel about their accomplishments and the amount of
satisfaction they experience after task completion will determine how teachers approach and
tackle subsequent learning tasks. By employing appropriate strategies, the latter can help
learners to evaluate themselves in a positive light, encouraging them to take credit for their
advances. Dornyei (2001: 134) presents three areas of such strategies:

1. promoting attributions to effort rather than to ability

2. providing motivational feedback
3. increasing learner satisfaction and the question of rewards and grades We will only
briefly discuss this third one.

Increasing learner satisfaction and the question of rewards and grades

The feeling of satisfaction is a significant factor in reinforcing achievement behaviour, which

renders satisfaction a major component of motivation. Motivational strategies aimed at
increasing learner satisfaction usually focus on allowing students to display their work,
encouraging them to be proud of themselves and celebrate success, as well as using rewards.
The latter, though, do not work properly within a system where grades are "the ultimate
embodiment of school rewards, providing a single index for judging overall success and failure in
school" (ibid.). In other words, grades focus on performance outcomes, rather than on the
process of learning itself. Consequently, "many students are grade driven, not to say, 'grade
grubbing,' and this preoccupation begins surprisingly early in life" (Covington, 1999: 127). There
is also a wide assortment of macrostrategies used to foster motivation, but we will not dwell on
them (see Dornyei, 2001: 137-140 for more details).

Motivation as a Contributing Factor in Second Language Acquisition

Jacqueline Norris-Holt
jacquijapan [at] hotmail.com
Aichi Shukutoku High School (Nagoya, Japan)

This paper explores Gardner's socio-educational model and the significance of motivation as a
contributing factor in second language (L2) acquisition. Motivation is defined as the learner's
orientation with regard to the goal of learning a second language. Motivation is divided into two
basic types: integrative and instrumental. Integrative motivation is characterised by the learner's
positive attitudes towards the target language group and the desire to integrate into the target
language community. Instrumental motivation underlies the goal to gain some social or

economic reward through L2 achievement, thus referring to a more functional reason for
language learning. Both forms of motivation are examined in light of research which has been
undertaken to establish the correlation between the form of motivation and successful second
language acquisition. Motivation in the Japanese EFL context is then discussed and studies which
have been conducted in the field investigated.

Gardner's Socio-Educational Model

The work conducted by Gardner in the area of motivation was largely influenced by Mowrer
(1950, cited in Larson-Freeman and Long 1994), whose focus was on first language acquisition.
Mowrer proposed that a child's success when learning a first language could be attributed to the
desire to gain identity within the family unit and then the wider language community. Using this
as the basis for his own research Gardner went on to investigate motivation as an influencing
factor in L2 acquisition.

Before examining the effect of motivation on second language learning it is first important to
realise that it is one variable, which, combined with other factors, influences a learner's success.
Gardner (1982), in his socio-educational model, identified a number of factors which are
interrelated when learning a second language. Unlike other research carried out in the area,
Gardner's model looks specifically at second language acquisition in a structured classroom
setting rather than a natural environment. His work focuses on the foreign language classroom.
The model attempts to interrelate four features of second language acquisition. These include
the social and cultural milieu, individual learner differences, the setting or context in which
learning takes place and linguistic outcomes (Gardner 1982).

The social or cultural milieu refers to the environment in which an individual is situated, thus
determining their beliefs about other cultures and language. It is these beliefs which have a
significant impact on second language acquisition. An example of this can be seen in the
monocultural setting of Britain, where many believe it is not necessary to learn another language
and that minority groups should assimilate and become proficient in the dominant language of
the country. The same can be said of many other predominantly monocultural communities
throughout the world. However, in other countries such as Canada, bilingualism and
biculturalism, are often encouraged within society (Ellis 1997). Gardner (1979, cited in Skehan
1993) suggests that expectations regarding bilingualism, combined with attitudes towards the
target language and its culture, form the basis of an individual's attitude towards language

The second phase of Gardner's model introduces the four individual differences which are
believed to be the most influential in second language acquisition. These include the variables of
intelligence, language aptitude, motivation and situational anxiety (Giles and Coupland 1991).
Closely interrelated with these variables is the next phase of the model, referred to as the
setting or context in which learning takes place. Two contexts are identified, namely formal
instruction within the classroom and unstructured language acquisition in a natural setting.
Depending upon the context, the impact of the individual difference variables alters. For
example, in a formal setting intelligence and aptitude play a dominant role in learning, while
exerting a weaker influence in an informal setting. The variables of situational anxiety and
motivation are thought to influence both settings equally.

The final phase of the model identifies linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes of the learning
experience. Linguistic outcomes refers to actual language knowledge and language skills. It
includes test indices such as course grades or general proficiency tests. Non-linguistic outcomes
reflect an individual's attitudes concerning cultural values and beliefs, usually towards the target
language community. Ellis (1997) reasons that individuals who are motivated to integrate both
linguistic and non-linguistic outcomes of the learning experience will attain a higher degree of L2
proficiency and more desirable attitudes.

Within the model, motivation is perceived to be composed of three elements. These include
effort, desire and affect. Effort refers to the time spent studying the language and the drive of
the learner. Desire indicates how much the learner wants to become proficient in the language,
and affect illustrates the learner's emotional reactions with regard to language study (Gardner

Integrative Motivation

Motivation has been identified as the learner's orientation with regard to the goal of learning a
second language (Crookes and Schmidt 1991). It is thought that students who are most
successful when learning a target language are those who like the people that speak the
language, admire the culture and have a desire to become familiar with or even integrate into
the society in which the language is used (Falk 1978). This form of motivation is known as
integrative motivation. When someone becomes a resident in a new community that uses the
target language in its social interactions, integrative motivation is a key component in assisting
the learner to develop some level of proficiency in the language. It becomes a necessity, in order
to operate socially in the community and become one of its members. It is also theorised that
"integrative motivation typically underlies successful acquisition of a wide range of registers and
a nativelike pronunciation" (Finegan 1999:568).

In an EFL setting such as Japan it is important to consider the actual meaning of the term
"integrative." As Benson (1991) suggests, a more appropriate approach to the concept of
integrative motivation in the EFL context would be the idea that it represents the desire of the
individual to become bilingual, while at the same time becoming bicultural. This occurs through
the addition of another language and culture to the learner's own cultural identity. As Japan is
predominantly a monocultural society, opportunities to use the target (L2) language in daily
verbal exchanges are relatively restricted. There is also limited potential for integrating into the
target language community.

Instrumental Motivation

In contrast to integrative motivation is the form of motivation referred to as instrumental

motivation. This is generally characterised by the desire to obtain something practical or
concrete from the study of a second language (Hudson 2000). With instrumental motivation the
purpose of language acquisition is more utilitarian, such as meeting the requirements for school
or university graduation, applying for a job, requesting higher pay based on language ability,
reading technical material, translation work or achieving higher social status. Instrumental
motivation is often characteristic of second language acquisition, where little or no social
integration of the learner into a community using the target language takes place, or in some
instances is even desired.

Integrative vs Instrumental Motivation

While both integrative and instrumental motivation are essential elements of success, it is
integrative motivation which has been found to sustain long-term success when learning a
second language (Taylor, Meynard and Rheault 1977; Ellis 1997; Crookes et al 1991). In some of
the early research conducted by Gardner and Lambert integrative motivation was viewed as
being of more importance in a formal learning environment than instrumental motivation (Ellis
1997). In later studies, integrative motivation has continued to be emphasised, although now
the importance of instrumental motivation is also stressed. However, it is important to note that
instrumental motivation has only been acknowledged as a significant factor in some research,
whereas integrative motivation is continually linked to successful second language acquisition. It
has been found that generally students select instrumental reasons more frequently than
integrative reasons for the study of language. Those who do support an integrative approach to
language study are usually more highly motivated and overall more successful in language

One area where instrumental motivation can prove to be successful is in the situation where the
learner is provided with no opportunity to use the target language and therefore, no chance to
interact with members of the target group. Lukmani (1972) found that an instrumental
orientation was more important than an integrative orientation in non-westernized female
learners of L2 English in Bombay. The social situation helps to determine both what kind of
orientation learners have and what kind is most important for language learning. Braj Kachru
(1977, cited in Brown 2000) also points out that in India, where English has become an
international language, it is not uncommon for second language learners to be successful with
instrumental purposes being the underlying reason for study.

Brown (2000) makes the point that both integrative and instrumental motivation are not
necessarily mutually exclusive. Learners rarely select one form of motivation when learning a
second language, but rather a combination of both orientations. He cites the example of
international students residing in the United States, learning English for academic purposes while
at the same time wishing to become integrated with the people and culture of the country.

Motivation is an important factor in L2 achievement. For this reason it is important to identify

both the type and combination of motivation that assists in the successful acquisition of a second
language. At the same time it is necessary to view motivation as one of a number of variables in
an intricate model of interrelated individual and situational factors which are unique to each
language learner.

Student Motivation To Learn.

ERIC Digest, Number 92. Author: Lumsden, Linda S.

Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.

Infants and young children appear to be propelled by curiosity, driven by an intense need to
explore, interact with, and make sense of their environment. As one author puts it, "Rarely does
one hear parents complain that their pre-schooler is 'unmotivated' " (James Raffini 1993).

Unfortunately, as children grow, their passion for learning frequently seems to shrink. Learning
often becomes associated with drudgery instead of delight. A large number of students--more
than one in four--leave school before graduating. Many more are physically present in the
classroom but largely mentally absent; they fail to invest themselves fully in the experience of

Awareness of how students' attitudes and beliefs about learning develop and what facilitates
learning for its own sake can assist educators in reducing student apathy.


Student motivation naturally has to do with students' desire to participate in the learning
process. But it also concerns the reasons or goals that underlie their involvement or
noninvolvement in academic activities. Although students may be equally motivated to perform a
task, the sources of their motivation may differ.

A student who is INTRINSICALLY motivated undertakes an activity "for its own sake, for the
enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits, or the feelings of accomplishment it evokes"
(Mark Lepper 1988). An EXTRINSICALLY motivated student performs "IN ORDER TO obtain some
reward or avoid some punishment external to the activity itself," such as grades, stickers, or
teacher approval (Lepper).

The term MOTIVATION TO LEARN has a slightly different meaning. It is defined by one author as
"the meaningfulness, value, and benefits of academic tasks to the learner--regardless of whether
or not they are intrinsically interesting" (Hermine Marshall 1987). Another notes that motivation

to learn is characterized by long-term, quality involvement in learning and commitment to the

process of learning (Carole Ames 1990).


According to Jere Brophy (1987), motivation to learn is a competence acquired "through general
experience but stimulated most directly through modeling, communication of expectations, and
direct instruction or socialization by significant others (especially parents and teachers)."

Children's home environment shapes the initial constellation of attitudes they develop toward
learning. When parents nurture their children's natural curiosity about the world by welcoming
their questions, encouraging exploration, and familiarizing them with resources that can enlarge
their world, they are giving their children the message that learning is worthwhile and frequently
fun and satisfying.

When children are raised in a home that nurtures a sense of self-worth, competence, autonomy,
and self-efficacy, they will be more apt to accept the risks inherent in learning. Conversely, when
children do not view themselves as basically competent and able, their freedom to engage in
academically challenging pursuits and capacity to tolerate and cope with failure are greatly

Once children start school, they begin forming beliefs about their school-related successes and
failures. The sources to which children attribute their successes (commonly effort, ability, luck,
or level of task difficulty) and failures (often lack of ability or lack of effort) have important
implications for how they approach and cope with learning situations.

The beliefs teachers themselves have about teaching and learning and the nature of the
expectations they hold for students also exert a powerful influence (Raffini). As Deborah Stipek
(1988) notes, "To a very large degree, students expect to learn if their teachers expect them to

School wide goals, policies, and procedures also interact with classroom climate and practices to
affirm or alter students' increasingly complex learning-related attitudes and beliefs.

And developmental changes comprise one more strand of the motivational web. For example,
although young children tend to maintain high expectations for success even in the face of
repeated failure, older students do not. And although younger children tend to see effort as
uniformly positive, older children view it as a "double-edged sword" (Ames). To them, failure
following high effort appears to carry more negative implications--especially for their self-
concept of ability--than failure that results from minimal or no effort.


Does it really matter whether students are primarily intrinsically or extrinsically oriented toward
learning? A growing body of evidence suggests that it does.

When intrinsically motivated, students tend to employ strategies that demand more effort and
that enable them to process information more deeply (Lepper).

J. Condry and J. Chambers (1978) found that when students were confronted with complex
intellectual tasks, those with an intrinsic orientation used more logical information-gathering and
decision-making strategies than did students who were extrinsically oriented.

Students with an intrinsic orientation also tend to prefer tasks that are moderately challenging,
whereas extrinsically oriented students gravitate toward tasks that are low in degree of difficulty.
Extrinsically oriented students are inclined to put forth the minimal amount of effort necessary to
get the maximal reward (Lepper).

Although every educational activity cannot, and perhaps should not, be intrinsically motivating,
these findings suggest that when teachers can capitalize on existing intrinsic motivation, there
are several potential benefits.


Although students' motivational histories accompany them into each new classroom setting, it is
essential for teachers to view themselves as "ACTIVE SOCIALIZATION AGENTS capable of
stimulating...student motivation to learn" (Brophy 1987).

Classroom climate is important. If students experience the classroom as a caring, supportive

place where there is a sense of belonging and everyone is valued and respected, they will tend
to participate more fully in the process of learning.

Various task dimensions can also foster motivation to learn. Ideally, tasks should be challenging
but achievable. Relevance also promotes motivation, as does "contextualizing" learning, that is,
helping students to see how skills can be applied in the real world (Lepper). Tasks that involve "a
moderate amount of discrepancy or incongruity" are beneficial because they stimulate students'
curiosity, an intrinsic motivator (Lepper).

In addition, defining tasks in terms of specific, short-term goals can assist students to associate
effort with success (Stipek). Verbally noting the purposes of specific tasks when introducing
them to students is also beneficial (Brophy 1986).

Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, should be used with caution, for they have the potential for
decreasing existing intrinsic motivation.

What takes place in the classroom is critical, but "the classroom is not an island" (Martin Maehr
and Carol Midgley 1991). Depending on their degree of congruence with classroom goals and
practices, schoolwide goals either dilute or enhance classroom efforts. To support motivation to
learn, school-level policies and practices should stress "learning, task mastery, and effort"
(Maehr and Midgley) rather than relative performance and competition.


A first step is for educators to recognize that even when students use strategies that are
ultimately self-defeating (such as withholding effort, cheating, procrastination, and so forth),
their goal is actually to protect their sense of self-worth (Raffini).

A process called ATTRIBUTION RETRAINING, which involves modeling, socialization, and practice
exercises, is sometimes used with discouraged students. The goals of attribution retraining are
to help students to (1) concentrate on the tasks rather than becoming distracted by fear of
failure; (2) respond to frustration by retracing their steps to find mistakes or figuring out
alternative ways of approaching a problem instead of giving up; and (3) attribute their failures to
insufficient effort, lack of information, or reliance on ineffective strategies rather than to lack of
ability (Brophy 1986).

Other potentially useful strategies include the following: portray effort as investment rather than
risk, portray skill development as incremental and domain-specific, focus on mastery (Brophy