What is motivation?

Identifying Problem Areas and
Teaching Solutions Concerning
Individual ESL Differences;
Motivation and Attitude
Nicole Lowe, Monica Johnson-Parkhill, and Jana Grissom
What is motivation?
Motivation is an impulse that causes one
to act in a certain way. It is a dynamic
system that changes within a given day
and time. Motivation is an extremely
affective factor. Without it, learning any
language, first or second, would be
difficult, if not impossible.
Two Classes of Motivation
Gardner distinguishes between two
important classes of motivation. Language
learning motivation and classroom
motivation. For our purposes we will be
focusing on language learning motivation;
which, is more stable and consistent due to
the presumed antecedents, but it is
amenable to change. Classroom learning
motivation is influences by many factors
including class atmosphere, course content,
materials and facilities, as well as the
personal characteristics of the student.
Instrumental and Integrative
Saville addresses two forms of motivation in language
learning. Instrumental and integrative motivation stem
from different reasons and desires to learning a second
language. Instrumental motivation involves acquiring a
second language for purely practical purposes, such as
increasing occupational or business opportunities,
enhancing prestige and power, accessing scientific and
technical information, or just passing a course.
Integrative motivation is based on a desire to learn the
language or to associate with people who use it. Both
types serve the learner with some form of motivation;
which, is found to be significant in achieving the
acquisition of a second language.
Why is motivation important for
Motivation is important for ELLs because it has
been frequently cited to explain why some L2
learners are more successful than others.
Motivation has been related to cognitive
constructs, thoughts, values, and beliefs. If
students have a strong belief in their abilities they
will be more successful at learning and acquiring a
second language. Richard Clement (1994) has
extended the applicability of self confidence by
showing that it is also a significant motivation
subsystem on foreign language learning situations.
What does past and present
research say about it?
Past and present research has consistently found
connections between students’ attitudes and
motivation to their achievement in language
acquisition. Beginning in 1941 Jordan tested a
group of boys in England to measure their
attitudes in relations to their success in five
different subject areas. The five subjects tested
were French, mathematics, history, English, and
geography. The correlation between the attitude
measure compared to the achievement measure
was the second highest in French.
Motivation Research
In 1974 Duckworth and Entwistle conducted
a similar student on grammar school
students of different levels. For this group of
students there were nine subjects tested
including chemistry, history, geography,
biology, English, physics, mathematics, Latin
and French. They study concluded a
correlation among two different groups of
subjects. The subjects o mathematics,
physics, chemistry and French had a much
higher level of correlation between attitude
and achievement.
What do our course experts say
about motivation?
◦ “Motivation largely determines the level of effort which learners
expend….and it is often a key to ultimate level of proficiency.”
Snow & Fillmore
◦ “Vocabulary acquisition happens most easily in context and related to topics
that children care about. The teacher’s responsibility lies mainly in setting up
exposure to language in a vivid way and encouraging reading of material that
children care about.”
◦ Teachers must be careful when grouping children. “Those who have been in
low group classes behave precisely as one would expect….: They are poorly
motivated, low achieving, and less enthusiastic about school….”
Spada and Lightbown
◦ “…feedback that comes during communicative interaction may have a
positive effect on motivation.”
◦ There is little evidence that learners object to being corrected during
communicative activities. Thus, teachers should integrate the acquisition of
meaning and form when teaching language.
What do our course experts say
about motivation?
◦ It is the teacher’s responsibility “…to ensure that their
students stay motivated, and they should not complain that
students do not bring motivation to the classroom.”
◦ “Teachers can enhance intrinsic motivation of students by
improving the quality of teaching, especially by increasing
the clarity of instruction. This could mean explaining
concepts using simple instructions or teaching at the right
pace…not too fast or too slow.”
◦ If teachers provide positive feedback, students feel
successful and naturally gain motivation to continue
Therefore, teachers MUST find ways to
motivate students!
How does motivation relate to math
& science education?
Motivation relates to ALL subjects.
 The key is in what our course experts
◦ Teachers need to relate learning to what
students care about (Snow & Fillmore)
◦ Teachers need to be clear in their instructions
and proceed at the correct pace (Ellis)
◦ Teachers need to give positive feedback to
students (Spada & Lightbown)
What can other experts add to the
math/science discussion?
“Using ESOL strategies to
scaffold…instruction will enable English
language learners to learn better by
increasing their level of interest and
motivation in the content you teach. Human
nature is such that most people show little
interest in things they can’t or don’t
understand. Even if initially interested, most
learners react to not ‘getting it’ by simply
turning off and tuning out. Feelings of
interest quickly give way to feelings of
frustration.” (Reiss)
What can other experts add to the
math/science discussion?
“Instead of blaming the students for their lack of
motivation, teachers need to ask…: What form of
norms, values, beliefs, and expectations are being
conveyed through spoken and unspoken messages
in class every day? How are immigrant students
made to feel about their capabilities and
possibilities for success? Does the climate of the
class make students feel capable, valued,
challenged, and supported? Are they continuously
being provided with opportunities for
development of their conceptual, academic, and
linguistic capabilities?” (Walqui)
What can other experts add to the
math/science discussion?
“Course specific motivational components… Relevance…refers to the
extent to which the classroom instruction and course content are
seen to be conducive to achieving the goal…” (Dornyei, 1994)
“Tactics for teachers seeking to motivate students…
◦ Tell students you care for them, and that your high standards for
them are the highest from of caring.
◦ Demonstrate that you value creativity and individual awareness.
◦ Show students you care for them by watching carefully for
individual differences; recognize which students will ask for help
and which will not, who is afraid, or who wants no help at all.
◦ Help students distinguish between…(good stress) and
unwarranted pressure.
◦ Listen to students’ opinions about classroom occurrences they
deem unfair, teaching practices that bore them, or the ideas that
would benefit the whole group.” (Diaz-Rico)
Motivation directly affects an ELL’s
attitude and ability to overcome
challenges in learning a second language.
Use ESOL strategies to scaffold instruction
◦ Prevents feelings of frustration
◦ ELL’s become more interested in content when
they are able to understand it better
◦ Increases ELL’s motivation, attitude, learning, and
language acquisition (Reiss, 2005)
Educators need to incorporate elements from
many theoretical approaches in their
classroom intervention strategies to address
the challenges of motivation for the needs of
each individual ELL. (Zwiers, 2008)
Get to know ELL students, their families, and their
social background.
Synthesize the underlying reasons for the ELL’s
willingness to engage in classroom learning
“The difficulty lies in determining the appropriate
classroom interventions for a particular teaching
context, education system and curriculum and in
transforming theory into everyday classroom
practice.” (Tsiplakides and Keramida, 2010).
Three strategies to increase the motivation of
English Language Learners:
When an ELL student is struggling with an intrinsic
motivation due to the negative attitudes of society toward
their 'non-standard' language, then educators should teach
the ELL student to read using the 'standard' language and
accept the ‘non-standard’ spoken language. “Teachers
should be encouraged to have an attitude of acceptance of
'non-standard' language varieties and speakers of such
varieties" (Roos, 2013).
Scaffolding instruction also helps ELL students develop
feelings of self-confidence. The more they believe in
themselves as learners, the better learners they actually
become. One success leads to many others and the ELL
will grow as a learner, both in content knowledge and in
English language ability. (Reiss, 2005)
Providing group work rather than individual work
encourages cooperation but also lessens the ELL’s
concerns about protecting their self-worth. (Tsiplakeides&
Keramida, 2010)
Negative attitude from
society toward their ‘nonstandard’ language
Teach the ELL student to read
using the 'standard' language
and accept the ‘non-standard’
spoken language. (Roos, 2013)
Lack of Self-Confidence
Scaffold Instruction, one
success leads to many others.
(Reiss, 2005)
Protecting Self-Worth
Group work encourages
cooperation. (Tsiplakeides&
Keramida, 2010)
In Conclusion
Researchers have found direct correlations
between the attitudes of students and their
achievement in mathematics and science. Educators
need to:
 Take account of the individual differences of each
 Implement appropriate strategies
 Nurture positive ELL attitudes
 Increase motivation in the classroom through:
Course content
Personal characteristics of the student.
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