Overview of l2 motivation
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Overview of L2 Motivation. Mikio Iguchi (1 st Year EdD student). Agenda. Purpose of today: To give you a bird’s eye view of the history of L2 motivation, its features, and recent trends. To let you review on motivation in L2 learning as language teachers.

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Overview of L2 Motivation

Mikio Iguchi (1st Year EdD student)


Purpose of today:

To give you a bird’s eye view of the history of L2 motivation, its features, and recent trends.

To let you review on motivation in L2 learning as language teachers.

To let you think, if you were to research on L2 motivation, what would be an interesting topic?


1. Social Psychology (1960s onwards)

2. Cognitive Psychology (1980s – 1990s)

3. Educational Shift & Motivational Renaissance (1990s onwards)

4. Recent Research Trends (2000s onwards)

5. Educational Implications

This presentation is mostly based on Dörnyei’s “Attitudes, orientations, and motivations in language learning: Advances in theory, research, and applications” Language Learning 53 (S1):



“Motivation is, without question, the most complex and challenging issue facing teachers today.” (Scheidecker and Freeman 1999:116)


  • Although the importance of motivation in education cannot be overlooked, its concept is inherently elusive.

There isn’t much theory that “provides an all-

round explanation of what we do and why.”

(Dörnyei 2003:1)

“Motivation is a multifaceted construct, and the

exact nature of the constituent components

activated in a particular situation depends greatly

on contextual factors.”

(Dörnyei 2003:1)

1.Integrative motivation: aim of learning is to learn about the language group, or to meet more and different people from the target language community, to the point of eventually being accepted as a member of that group.

2. Instrumental motivation: reasons of L2 learning reflect the more utilitarian value of linguistic achievement, such as benefiting in an occupation.

1. Social Psychology (1960s onwards)

  • Gardner and Lambert proposed integrative motivation and instrumental motivationfrom a social psychological point of view. (Gardner and Lambert 1959, 1972)

Integrative motivation: Psychological and emotional identification is in the core idea. (Dörnyei 2003:5-6)

1.1 Core Idea of “Integrativeness”

  • What matters in integrative motivation is how one perceives oneself, in other words, self-concept.


Identity “As-is”

Integrativeness is a process

Identity “To-be”

“Possible self”

“Ideal self”

Thought provoking questions.

“What motivates your students to learn English in your

context? And why?”


  • Self-determination theory

  • Attribution theory

  • Goal theory

  • Schumann’s theory (based on neurobiological analysis)

2. Cognitive Psychology (1980s – 1990s)

  • Findings in cognitive psychology contributed to the following theories in L2 motivation:

1.Intrinsic motivation: an inner drive, impulse, emotion, or desire that is derived from inner potentialities and latent resources. e.g. learn L2 for its own sake

2. Extrinsic motivation: an inner drive, impulse, emotion, or desire that is derived from other people, or the real world.

e.g. learn L2 for money, prizes, grades, certain types of positive feedback

2.1 Self-determination Theory

  • Self-determination theory was addressed by Deci (1975), Deci & Ryan (1985) and became an influential idea.

“Intrinsically motivated activities are ones for which there is no apparent reward except the activity itself. People seem to engage in the activities for their own sake not because they lead to an extrinsic reward... Intrinsically motivated behaviors are aimed at bringing about certain internally rewarding consequences, namely, feelings of competence and self-determination.” Deci (1975:23)

2.2 Attribution Theory

  • It was argued by Weiner (1992) that the perception of past success and failure plays a vital role in shaping one’s L2 motivation.

Past experience

Future achievement efforts

“It is generally believed that learners who attribute both success and failure to internal factors such as effort are most likely to maintain their motivation at a high level.” Richards and Schmidt (2002: 38)


Thought provoking questions.

“In what ways does past experience affect your students’ motivation to learn English?”

2.3 Goal Theory

  • Tremblay and Gardner (1995) introduced “goal salience”, which was conceptualized as a composite of the specificityof the learner’s goals and the frequency of goal-setting strategies used.

“There has hardly been any attempts in L2 strategies to adopt the other well known goal theory in educational psychology, goal orientation theory, even though, as Pintrich and Schunk (2002: 242) have recently concluded, ‘Currently, it is probably the most active area of research on student motivation in classrooms and it has direct implications for students and teachers.’” (Dörnyei 2003:9)




Goal/need significance

Coping Potential

Self and social image

2.4 Schumann’s Theory

  • Schumann’s theory tackled on L2 motivation from neurobiological point of view.  “Stimulus appraisal”

Degree of unexpectedness/familiarity


Whether the stimulus is instrumental in satisfying needs or achieving goals

Whether the individual expects to be able to cope with the event

Whether the event is compatible with social norms and the individual’s self-concept

  • Three directions within the educational and situated approach:

  • Willingness to communicate (WTC)

  • Task motivation

  • Motivation and learning strategy use

3. Educational Shift & Motivational Renaissance (1990s onwards)

  • In contrast to the macro perspective adopted within the framework of social psychology, micro perspective was adopted within the new framework of educational psychology. Focus on classroom was emphasized, which lead to research on L2 motivation based on “situated approach”.

3.1 Willingness to communicate (WTC)

  • WTC is the “readiness to enter into discourse at a particular time with a specific person or persons, using a L2.” MacIntyre, Clément, Dörnyei, and Noels (1998:547)

It is WTC that directly influences L2 use.

Factors that support

WTC (Layer III to VI)

3.2 Task Motivation

  • Task motivation makes it researchable for SLA researchers to see how learners can be motivated when they tackle tasks.

Task execution

Figure 2. Schematic representation

of the three mechanisms making up the proposed task-processing system. Dörnyei (2003:15)




Action control

“While learners are engaged in executing a task, they continuously appraise the process, and when the ongoing monitoring reveals that progress is slowing, halting, or backsliding, they activate the action control system to ‘save’ or enhance the action.” Dörnyei (2003:16)


Dörnyei (2003) concludes that “the study of task motivation is certainly one of the most fruitful directions for future research.”

3.3 Motivation and Learning Strategy Use

  • Since the mid 1990s, researchers began to study the interrelationship between L2 motivation and language learning strategy.

Learning Strategy

*Note that the preferred term currently is “Self-regulatory learning”

L2 Motivation

“most participants appeared to have great difficulty in discussing different aspects of their metacognitive strategy use and conveyed a lack of sense of control over their learning….Very little evidence was found of planning behavior” Williams, Burden, and Lanvers (2002:519)

4. Recent Research Trends (mainly 2000s onwards)

  • Motivation began to be seen as dynamic and temporal. Motivation evolves over time. (Williams and Burden, 1997; Ushioda, 1994, 1996, 1998)

  • Process-oriented approach was adopted in L2 motivation research (Dörnyei and Ottó, 1998; Dörnyei 2001)

  • it accounts for “ups and downs” of motivation. Dörnyei (2003:17)

  • Also, it should be noted that, the self-determination theory evolved to the popular concept of “learner autonomy”. Its relation with motivation is gathering attention. (Benson, 2000; Ushioda, 1996, 1998, 2007; Ehrman and Dörnyei, 1998)

4.1 Process Model of L2 Motivation

  • Process model categorizes three types of motivation according to the timing of learning stage. This is not just limited within the classroom.

Preactional Stage

Actional Stage

Postactional Stage

Choice Motivation:

motivation is generated and initiated

Executive Motivation:

  • ongoing appraisal of the student’s progress and action control (self-regulation)

Motivational Retrospection:

encouraging self-evaluation and even self-reflection

Dörnyei (2003: 19)

Thought provoking questions.

(If you have taught English) What specific teaching methodology actually motivated your learners to learn English? Can you think of one?


2. (If you have learned L2) What specific teaching methodology actually motivated you to learn L2? Can you think of one?


1. Devising Motivational Strategies

2. Formulation of Self-motivating Strategies

3. Teacher Motivation

5. Educational Implications

  • As seen earlier, educational shift in L2 motivation research enabled researchers to focus on micro-level classroom activities, and its learning process. There are three areas in which findings contribute to classroom teaching.

5.1 Devising Motivational Strategies

  • Focus on classroom situation made ways to develop practical motivational strategies that can be applied to generate and maintain L2 motivation. (Dörnyei 2003: 23-24)

1. Creating the basic motivational conditions

4. Encouraging positive retrospective self-evaluation

2. Generating initial motivation

3. Maintaining and protecting motivation

5.2 Formulation of Self-motivating Strategies

  • Formulation of self-motivating strategies was proposed which enables L2 learners to take personal control of the affective domains that shape L2 motivation. (Dörnyei 2003: 23, 25-26)

1. Commitment control strategies:for helping to preserve or increase learner’s original goal commitment.

2. Metacognitive control strategies: for monitoring and controlling concentration and for curtailing unnecessary procrastination.

3. Satiation control strategies: for eliminating boredom and adding extra attraction or interest to the task.

4. Emotion control strategies: for managing disruptive emotional states or moods and for generating emotions that will be conducive to implementing one’s intentions.

5. Environmental control strategies: for eliminating negative environmental influences and exploiting positive environmental influences by making the environment an ally in the pursuit of a difficult goal.

5.3 Teacher Motivation

  • The importance of teacher motivation is unquestionable, but little has been found.

“The amount of L2 research on this issue is meager, and quite surprisingly, teacher motivation is also a relatively uncharted area in educational psychology.” Dörnyei (2003: 26)


Dörnyei (2003) points out that “there have been no attempts in the field to compile a list of ‘ways to motivate language teacher’, even though a scientifically validated list of this sort would predictably be very useful and much sought after..”

Thought provoking questions.

“What motivates you as a language teacher to teach English in your context? And why?”

Note: This may be a sensitive issue, so if you are to discuss this outside this room, please do not refer to specific individual names. (NG: “Mikio said he was not motivated in teaching his student, when…”)





Social Psychology

Cognitive Psychology

Educational Shift


  • 1960s onwards

  • Macro perspective (correlation between individual’s attitude and society.)

  • Key figure: Robert Gardner, Wallace Lambert.

  • 1980s – 1990s

  • Focus on individual’s mental processes and representation of knowledge in mind.

  • 1990s onwards

  • Micro perspective (application of motivational psychology to classroom teaching and learning.)

  • Situated approach: focus on classroom.

  • Key figure: ZoltánDörnyei

  • 2000s onwards

  • Process-oriented approach.

  • Motivation and autonomy.

“I anticipate that the next decade will bring about a consolidation of the wide range of new themes and theoretical orientations that have emerged in the past 10-15 years, and that the often speculative theorizing will be grounded in solid research findings, from both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms.” Dörnyei (2003: 27)

Thank You !

Motivation Group 2007-2008

Reference: Process Model of L2 Motivation

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