Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Learner motivations and preferences: Realities in the language classroom
by Weger-Guntharp, Heather D., Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008, 258; 3339909
Abstract (Summary)

This study investigated the intersection of English as a Global Language (EGL) motivation and classroom learning behaviors. The internal structure of language motivation has been greatly debated (see Dörnyei, 2001, 2005; MacIntyre, 2002), and it has been widely researched in the context of English as a foreign language settings (e.g., Chen, Warden, & Chang, 2005; Clément, Dörnyei, & Noels, 1994; Dörnyei, Csizér, & Németh, 2006; Lamb, 2004; Schmidt, Boraie, & Kassabgy, 1996; Shaaban & Ghaith, 2000; Warden & Lin, 2000; Yashima, Zenuk-Nishide, & Shimizu, 2004). However, the motivation of learners of English who are in an Intensive English program (IEP) in a country where English is the privileged language variety has been largely unaddressed (Z. Dörnyei, personal communication, April 22, 2007). Moreover, the traditional focus of motivation research has been on correlating motivation with student language proficiency (Dörnyei & Kormos, 2000), though some recent research has investigated motivation's relationship to learner strategies (e.g., Bacon & Finnemann, 1990; J. Brown, Robson, & Rosenkjar, 2001; Okada, Oxford, & Abo, 1996; Oxford & Shearin, 1996; Vandergriff, 2005) or to general learning beliefs (Jacques, 2001; Schmidt et al., 1996; Schmidt & Watanabe, 2001). However, no research has yet investigated the relationship of language motivation to measures of learners' preferences of typical classroom activities (e.g., preferences for types of reading materials, preferences for genres of writing, and preferences for speaking in discussions or in presentations).

This study attended to this gap by examining language motivation and classroom activity preferences among 131 adult IEP learners in Washington, D.C. The learners responded to a questionnaire developed to measure (a) motivation components and (b) learner preferences for specific classroom activities. First, results from a factor analysis indicated that there are five EGL Motivation dimensions (Learning Self-Confidence, Attitudes toward English Language Learning/Community, Personal English Use, Value of English Learning, and International Posture). A second factor analysis indicated four dimensions of Classroom Activities Attitudes (Grammar-Lexicon Activities, Personal Media Entertainment Listening Activities, Reading-Writing Professional Activities, and Interactive Listening-Speaking Activities). Third, as indicated by two measures of preference, learners reported higher preferences for listening and speaking activities to writing activities. Fourth, there were some relationships between EGL Motivation and Classroom Activities Attitudes to the learner characteristics of gender, age, geographical area of birth, and course level. Fifth, EGL Motivation was related to Classroom Activities Attitudes. Finally, Learning Self-Confidence was negatively related to overall course grades and grammar grades.

Three conclusions can be drawn from these findings. First, a continuum metaphor may be better suited for explaining the fluctuating and overlapping motivations for EGL learners than the traditional dichotomous perspective that pits instrumental against integrative motivation. Second, learners' classroom activity preferences may be linked to their identities as study abroad participants and their envisioned future uses of English. Third, the relationships between motivation and classroom preferences point to this avenue of research as one means of understanding how motivation influences classroom learning. The pedagogy discussion addresses the impact of these finding for fostering learner confidence, using authentic materials, and helping learners perceive the relevance of a variety of language skills.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Connor-Linton, Jeffrey
School: Georgetown University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Bilingual education, Linguistics, Curriculum development
Keywords: College students, English as a second language, English as a second language instruction, Language attitudes, Learning processes, Motivation, Second language, Second language learning
Publication Number: 3339909
ISBN: 978-0-549-93957-3
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