Motivation and Motivating in the Foreign Language Classroom

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2008
21 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Motivation
2.1 Definition
2.2 Types of Second Language Motivation
2.2.1 Self-determination Theory: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
2.2.2 Gardner’s Motivation Theory: Integrative and Instrumental Motivation

3. Components of Second Language Motivation – Dörnyei’s Extended Framework
3.1 Basic Ideas of Dörnyei
3.2 Language-Related Factors
3.3 Learner Factors
3.4 Learning-Situation-Related Factors

4. Motivational Strategies in the Foreign Language Classroom – An Overview

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

7. Appendix

1. Introduction

The study of motivation to learn a L2[1] is a thoroughly discussed and researched subject in the field of L2 acquisition. Nevertheless questions like “What is motivation? How do humans get motivated? What specifies motivation in language learning?” (Nakata 2006, p. 23) are very difficult, maybe even impossible, to answer entirely.

So the aim of the following investigation should not be to give a complete picture of research on L2 motivation but to explore special parts of this extensive topic more precisely and to find out what exactly a teacher can contribute to a motivational teaching in the L2 classroom.

To show how to enhance students’ motivational intensity, it is necessary to know what motivation is. Therefore the complex theoretical concept of motivation itself will be dealt with at first in this paper. Furthermore there are various kinds of motivation which have been identified by researchers. Some of them will be presented in connection with their theoretical concepts and with reference to this it should be discussed if there is a type of motivation being most effective in terms of L2 learning. In a further step the factors of L2 motivation influencing the level of L2 learning motivation will be investigated in more detail. Having dealt with the nature of motivation itself and its factors the research will have a more practical orientation to the foreign language classroom. For that the point of view will be directed towards teachers and their possibilities of using motivational strategies and techniques in the foreign language classroom. The question how students’ motivation can be increased should be the issue to discuss in this place.

2. Motivation

2.1 Definition

Although researchers have investigated the study of motivation to learn a L2 for almost five decades “[t]he term ‘motivation’ presents a real mystery” (Dörnyei 2001, p. 7). Behind this formulation stands the complex, multifaceted nature of motivation which makes it a real challenge to define the term exactly. Nakata (2006) even mentioned that “motivation in language learning may be more complex than human motivation in general” (p. 49).

In one definition Dörnyei and Ottó (1998, p. 65) recognized the dynamic and changing element of L2 motivation and described it as a function of the human thinking process:

In a general sense, motivation can be defined as the dynamically changing cumulative arousal in a person that initiates, directs, coordinates, amplifies, terminates, and evaluates the cognitive and motor processes whereby initial wishes and desires are selected, prioritised, operationalised and (successfully or unsuccessfully) acted out. (cited in Dörnyei 2001, p. 9)

In another definition ‘motivation’ was considered as “[t]he effort learners put into learning an L2 as a result of their desire or need to learn it” (Ellis 1997, p. 141). So, in this connection, the emphasis was put on the learner’s effort. According to Gardner and MacIntyre, motivation can be explained by the following three main components: “desire to achieve a goal, effort extended in this direction, and satisfaction with the task” (Mitchell & Myles 2004, p. 26). These factors seem to be very similar to that what was mentioned in the previously given definition by Ellis.

Over and above that there is a great variety of further definitions in the literature. In relation to the impossibility of taking all definitions into consideration it should be generally added that Dörnyei (2001) worked out the existence of six main challenges researchers have come across in their investigations: the challenge of consciousness vs. unconsciousness, cognition vs. affect, reduction vs. comprehensiveness, parallel multiplicity, context and time (cf. pp. 7-8). Additionally, the author stated that the only thing all researchers would be in agreement with is that motivation means “the choice of a particular action, the persistence with it and the effort expended on it” (ibd., p. 8).

2.2 Types of Second Language Motivation

2.2.1 Self-determination Theory: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

Self-determination theory, one of the leading motivation theories in psychology, was developed on the assumption that there exist human needs to experience autonomy[2], competence[3] and relatedness[4] in order to feel satisfied (cf. ibd., p. 29). Self-determination, in general, is considered to be the process of using one’s will. The main terms associated with self-determination theory are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. In relation to self-determination “intrinsic motivation [...] is the human need to be competent and self-determining in relation to one’s environment” (Nakata 2006, p. 97). According to Deci and Ryan (1985, pp. 32-33) the nature of intrinsic motivation can be described as follows:

The intrinsic needs for competence and self-determination motivate an ongoing process for seeking and attempting to conquer optimal challenges. When people are free from the instruction of drives and emotions, they seek situations that interest them and require the use of their creativity and resourcefulness. (cited in Nakata 2006, p. 97)

Moreover, Vallerend and his colleagues could identify three types of intrinsic motivation: the intrinsic motivation to learn means “engaging in an activity for the pleasure and satisfaction of understanding something new, satisfying one’s curiosity and exploring the world” (Dörnyei 2001, p. 28). “[E]ngaging in an activity for the satisfaction of surpassing oneself, coping with challenges and accomplishing or creating something” (ibd.) is defined as the intrinsic motivation towards achievement and to experience stimulation is seen as “engaging in an activity to experience pleasant sensations” (ibd.).

Whereas intrinsic motivation means that people behave in a particular way because they are driven by their own desire to experience pleasure and satisfaction, in terms of extrinsic motivation a particular behaviour is carried out in order to receive a reward (e.g. good marks) or to avoid punishment. In short, this type of motivation deals with behaviour performed to achieve some instrumental end. (cf. Dörnyei 2001, p.27; Noels et al. 2003, p.39)

According to [the self-determination-theory], various types of regulations exist and these can be placed on a continuum between self-determined (intrinsic) and controlled (extrinsic) forms of motivation, depending on how ‘internalised’[5] they are (Dörnyei 2001, p. 28).

In this connection, Deci & Ryan made a distinction between four subtypes of extrinsic motivation. The lowest level of self-determination is the external regulation where students’ behaviour is only performed because of external factors such as teacher’s praise or parental confrontation. Introjected regulation, the second stage, is characterized by students’ acceptance to follow norms. However, they do not act on the basis of their personal, internal choice. There exists rather the need not to feel guilty. A third type of extrinsic motivation, identified regulation, can be seen as a more self-determined stage. In this stage learners carry out a particular behaviour because they have personal relevant reasons in order to achieve a certain goal. In terms of extrinsic motivation integrated regulation is stated to be the highest level of self-determination: learners’ behaviour is performed because of its relevance, and even importance, to their sense of self. So students have the possibility to choose an activity on their own and, over and above that, the choiceful behaviour is fully internalised with other values and needs. (cf. Dörnyei 2001, p.28; Nakata 2006, p. 99; Noels et al. 2003, p. 39-40)


[1] Second language

[2] „i.e. experiencing oneself as the origin of one’s behaviour“ (Dörnyei 2001, p. 29)

[3] „i.e. feeling efficacious and having a sense of accomplishment“ (ibd.)

[4] „i.e. feeling close to and connected to other individuals“ (ibd.)

[5] „i.e. how much the regulation has been transferred from outside to inside the individual” (Dörnyei 2001, p. 28)

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Motivation and Motivating in the Foreign Language Classroom
University of Cologne
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Intrinsic Motivation, Extrinsic Motivation, Self-determination Theory, Gardner's Motivation Theory, Integrative Motivation, Instrumental Motivation, Language-Related Factors, Learner Factors, Learning-Situation-Related Factors
Quote paper
Steffi Joetze (Author), 2008, Motivation and Motivating in the Foreign Language Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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