Paper Example on Theories of Motivation as Applied to Second Language Learning

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1689 Words
Date:  2022-06-30


Different theories of motivation have been used to describe the reasons for learners' interest or lack of interest in the learning of a foreign language. One of these theories is the self-determination theory (SDT), originally formulated by Deci and Ryan (1985). The SDT theory distinguishes between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. It describes intrinsic motivation as a type of motivation where a person learns because of the enjoyment that results from the process of learning. On the other hand, SDT defines extrinsic motivation as learning driven by external rewards or punishment (Lamb 2017). This theory posits that students will tend to study best if their sources of motivation are intrinsic factors. Learners' intrinsic motivation can be nurtured through the provision of stimulating and satisfying activities. Additionally, intrinsic motivation can be promoted by teachers in the classrooms through the creation of classroom environments that support the need for relatedness, competence, and sense of autonomy. Another theory of motivation that has been used to explain second language learning is L2 Motivational self-system. The theory hypothesizes that a student is motivated to study a second language if he or she has a strong and elaborate vision of himself or herself as a future user of the language, what is referred to as future self-guides.

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Moreover, the social cognitive theory (SCT) has been used to explain the learning of the second language. Bandura's SCT posits that self-evaluation is essential is shaping learners' approach to learning tasks. Bandura (1997) also introduced the concept of self-efficacy as one of the constructs of SCT. Bandura explained that a person's self-efficacy beliefs are derived from four sources. First, a person's past performance or mastery experiences is the most important source of self-efficacy beliefs (Butz and Usher 2015; Lau et al. 2018). Past success in performing a particular task improves an individual's confidence or self-efficacy in completing similar tasks in the future while failures lower their self-efficacy beliefs (Skaalvik and Skaalvik 2017; Warner et al. 2014). Secondly, self-efficacy can be derived from modeled behavior. When a student observes a colleague completing an L2 task, he or she will feel more confident that he or she can also complete the same task. According to Bandura (1997), observing individuals similar to oneself succeed in carrying out tasks by sustained efforts enhances observer's belief that they too can succeed in similar activities. Thirdly, self-efficacy beliefs can be obtained from social persuasion (Hendricks 2016; Iaochite et al. 2014; Yang 2017). That is, a person can be persuaded to believe that they can succeed in particular tasks. An individual's self-efficacy beliefs can be enhanced through positive encouragement and persuasion that he or she is capable of completing particular tasks. Lastly, a person's self-efficacy can be derived from physiological responses. A person who has high self-efficacy experiences positive emotions.

According to Lamb (2017), self-efficacy is an essential aspect of language learner motivation in L2 learning contexts. Self-efficacy beliefs have been reported to affect students' academic achievement in L2. That is, low levels of self-efficacy have been linked to difficulty in understanding a foreign language while high levels of self-efficacy have been associated with ease in understanding a new language. Additionally, based on the SCT, students' motivation to learn a foreign language is influenced by self-efficacy (whether or not they feel capable of completing classroom activities or mastering diverse features of the second language). Students' sense of self-efficacy can be promoted by the teachers through the maximization of the opportunities for success in the L2 tasks as well as by creating a classroom learning environment that is emotionally rewarding to the learners.

Types of Motivation

One of the objectives of this study is to determine the level and types of motivation among high school students in Thailand. According to the social psychological motivation of English as a second language (L2), two types of motivation are central to the learning of L2: instrumental motivation and integrative motivation. Instrumentally motivated learners are interested in learning a particular language because of practical reasons such as joining a university or getting a salary increment (Ahmadi 2017; Drbseh 2015; Pandey 2005; Beaudrie and Fairclough 2012). A majority of college language learners have been reported to be instrumentally motivated to learn a particular language. Their motivation usually is to accomplish a college language requirement.

On the other hand, integrative motivation refers to the learners' personal affinity for the individuals who speak another language (Jean-Claude 2010; Berlin 2012; Shrum and Glisan 2015). Students who possess integrative motivation would like to learn a particular language because of the need to know the individuals who converse in that language. That is, they are also keen to learn the culture related to the language of interest. Learners who are driven by integrative motivation may have significant others (e.g., siblings, girlfriend, or boyfriend) who speak the language. This types of learners are referred to as heritage language learners. These learners usually have some level of proficiency in the language of a cultural connection to the language they would like to know through family members.

Apart from instrumental and integrative motivations, students' motivation to learn a new language has also been linked to intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation (Inngam and Eamoraphan, 2014). Intrinsic motivation refers to doing something for its inherent satisfactions instead of some separable consequence. A person who has this type of motivation is motivated to act for the fun or the challenge associated with the action rather than for external rewards or pressures (Ryan and Deci, 2000). According to Inngam and Eamoraphan (2014), intrinsic motivation involves doing something for the enjoyment received from such acts. In the context of language learning, the satisfaction associated with learning of a foreign language include going to or knowing more about various foreign countries and making many new foreign friends (Deci and Ryan, 1985).

On the contrary, extrinsic motivation refers to the act of doing an activity with the aim of attaining some separable outcome. Therefore, in contrast to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation does not involve doing something for enjoyment but its instrumental value (Ryan and Deci, 2000). On the other hand, Inngam and Eamoraphan (2014) define extrinsic motivation in language learning as the act of learning a language because people around the learner believe that the language is essential. In this case, the learner is motivated to study a foreign language with the aim of gaining rewards or escaping the threat of punishment.

Past Studies on Motivation and English Language Learning

Several past studies have revealed the importance of various types of motivation in learning of foreign languages. For instance, Srithongkham (2012) conducted a study with the aim of investigating the level of intrinsic motivation of L2 English learners as well as comparing the level of intrinsic motivation of these learners based on their academic achievement and expected elective program. The research subjects of this study consisted of 206 students at a government high school recruited into the study through simple random sampling technique. The participants' intrinsic motivation was measured using a questionnaire. Data analysis revealed that the participants had a moderate level of intrinsic motivation towards learning of English. The intrinsic motivational factors included challenge, interest-enjoyment, and the need for autonomy. Further, t-test analysis revealed statistically significant differences in the level of motivation of high-achieving students and low-achieving ones. More specifically, high-achievers were found to be highly intrinsically motivated while low-achievers had lower levels of intrinsic motivation. Specifically, low achievers were less determined, reported weaker competence evaluations, were less challenged, had lower interest-enjoyment, and less autonomous than the high-achievers.

Attitude and motivation play essential roles in language learning. Unfavorable attitudes and lack of motivation have been reported to hinder students' learning of language. Because of this, Kosonen (2017) conducted a study aimed at discovering the types of attitudes and motivations that Northern Thailand's high school students have towards the English language. Findings of this study revealed that most of the students feel that the English language is crucial for them, now and in the future. Because of this, the majority of the respondents were motivated to improve their language skills with the aim of gaining proficiency in the English language. Additionally, it was found out that most of the participants had limited exposure to the English language outside of school. Despite this, the students reported to have a positive attitude towards the language and were highly motivated towards learning English. The author further explored whether the participants were instrumentally and integratively motivated. Findings showed that the participants were instrumentally motivated. Majority of the respondents did not have much exposure to the language outside of school and thus had low integrative motivation. Consequently, integrative motivation could be increased through increased exposure of the students to the language outside of school.

The type of motivation possessed by English language learners has also been explored using Gardner's socio-educational model (Cho and Teo 2014). Cho and Teo's (2014) was aimed at investigating students' second language orientations and attitudes and whether or not language orientations and attitudes varied according to students' backgrounds. Learners' integrative and instrumental orientations and attitude were assessed using Bernaus and Gardner's (2008) Attitude/Motivation Test Battery. Findings of this study showed that participants' had a higher instrumental orientation (x = 4.37) than integrative orientation (x = 3.99). This implies that instrumental motivation is more important than integrative motivation for students learning English as a foreign language. Students' interest in learning of the English language was linked to practical reasons such as further education, communication, and reading written English. Gender differences in motivation towards English learning was also reported. Specifically, the female participants had higher integrative and instrumental orientations and more positive attitude than their male counterparts.

The influence of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation on learning of English as a foreign language has also been investigated by researchers. In one of these studies, Inngam and Eamoraphan (2014) sought to establish the level of learners' extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in English language learning in both public and private schools. Additionally, the researchers sought to determine the differences in intrinsic and extrinsic motivational levels of English learners in public and private schools. Findings of this study revealed that students from private and public schools had different levels of motivation. Those from public schools had lower levels of intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation compared to their counterparts from a private school.

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