'When I have a test, I feel like I'm heading to my grave!’. Language Tests: Motivators or Demotivators? Faris Keblawi Al-Qasemi Academy - Israel [email protected] Saturday 10.04.2010 10/3/2015 1 • Motivation – how teachers, parents and policy makers view it • Tests – their power / how teachers use them / how students view tests • Personal relevance What is this presentation about? • the relationhsip between motivation and language tests • When tests demotivate learners • When tests motivate learners • What learners do to overcome the demotivating experiences 10/3/2015 3 Important remarks • Research still ongoing • Not all data was analyzed • It is possible to interpret the data in more than one way • The findings might be relevant to other subjects as well Motivation • Self determination theory – – autonomy, intrinsic, extrinsic motivation, amotivation • Goal theories – difficulty/ specificity and commitment – performance vs. mastery • Attribution theories – how individual perceive their experiences – locus of causality –locus of control • Demotivation 10/3/2015 5 Characteristics of Motivation / demotivation • Dynamic – Change in motivation intensity – Contextualtiy of motivation • The general learning context • The specific learning context • The specific aspect of the learned language • Complex – one can be motivated by more than one type of motive at a time Circular – the notion of resultative motivation Motivation --------------- Success Motivation Success Action Differences between motivation and demotivation Language tests • Widespread use of languages tests to test learners / assessing candidates’ verbal abilities • Different kinds of languages tests: – Proficiency tests – Achievement tests – Diagnostic tests – Placement tests We are interested in these two tests But high stakes proficiency tests were ‘at the corner’ all the time 10/3/2015 8 Tests and motivation – What does research say? • Plenty of research on motivation and LLM / on language tests • Little research on how tests affect LLM. • Tests as extrinsic motivators • Tests as demotivators – Shohamy 2001 – Problem with referring to tests’ related factors – Dörnyei (1998) – experiences of failure or lack of success were second in frequency – Sakai and Kikuchi's (2009) – test scores were even more demotivating than teachers’ behavior and competence. • Tests as intrinsic motivators?! 10/3/2015 9 Research issues How tests affect language learners’ motivation • Can language tests motivate learners? How? • Can language tests demotivate learners? How? • How language learners cope with the demotivating experiences caused by tests? 10/3/2015 10 Research method, tools and participants • Qualitative method – questions of HOW • semi-structured interviews • of 20 high school Arab learners of English, divided equally between male and female learners. • Good, average and weak students were included • 6 teachers were interviewed as well. Not reported here. 10/3/2015 11 Tests as demotivators When performing well in tests is perceived as a matter of chance – “The tests do not reflect what the students know. Chance plays a role. If you get one multiple choice question wrong, you lose 10 points”. (Sh-F) - Attribution theory / Amotivation 10/3/2015 12 Tests as demotivators – cnt’d When perceived as not reflecting students’ abilities – lack validity – “I had one student who had a native like accent with very sophisticated writing abilities. She wrote English poems that were enjoyable to read, but she didn’t use to do well in tests… It was difficult for me to give her exam papers back as I could read the frustration in her face and eyes ”. (F-F-teacher) 10/3/2015 13 Tests as demotivators – cnt’d When learners feel they are not ready for the test: – ‘Before I came to this school the teacher would explain everything for us, a piece by piece…. On the day of the test we would be ready’ – ‘There is too much to study with little time’ - attribution 10/3/2015 14 Tests as demotivators – cnt’d • When the tests are perceived too difficult / unfair: – ‘The tests are of high level. Since I feel I’m below average I do not do well. I try to study but in vain’. Goal Theories • When the experiences of failure repeat: – ‘But..but after a while one loses hope’ - amotivation 10/3/2015 15 Tests as demotivators – cnt’d • When other learners get higher marks because they cheat: – ‘About 10 students cheat in tests and they get marks that they do not deserve. It’s not fair it is even frustrating’. 10/3/2015 16 Tests as motivators – Extrinsic motive Study only for the test Interviewer – Well...If you were told the English tests would be abolished, how would you react? Student: I’ll be extremely pleased...I mean any student will be happy if tests were abolished...yes...we’ll be pleased Interviewer: Now if they totally abolish all the English tests, would you still sit at home and study English..review amm.. grammar and learn vocabulary Student: [with much assertion] No! Of course not! This will never happen. 10/3/2015 17 Tests as motivators – Extrinsic motive The need to meet other’s expectations, family, teachers… • I feel scared of the English test..and.. especially if my father wants me to do well in it’ (O-M) • Avoiding punishment – ‘My dad will certainly punish me if I do not get a high mark. But…I only think of test on the day of the test’.. 10/3/2015 18 Tests as motivators – Extrinsic motive • Want to get a tangible benefit – If my father promises to buy me something, then I make sure to get a high mark, even through cheating’ (copying from others). (A-M) 10/3/2015 19 Tests as motivators – Extrinsic motive An opportunity to get recognition – ‘I didn’t usually get high scores in tests. In the last test I got a very high score and I felt proud when I talked to my teacher in the presence of my classmates. My teacher approached me and told me how proud he was of me. I decided to study harder in order to do well in all future tests’ – Note the circularity of motivation 10/3/2015 20 Intrinsic motivation Looking forward for tests: Interviewer: ..and how do you feel when you have a test? Student: English… I feel enthusiastic! Interviewer: Why do you feel so? Student: Because I love English and I know that I will do well in the test. Intrinsic motive – accomplishing a goal / stimulation 10/3/2015 21 Coping with demotivation cnt’d First reaction- letting it out! The boys curse! ‘I started to curse the test…’ (N-M) ‘ I immediately tear the paper apart’ The girls are more gentle!? ‘When I do not do well, I cry!’ ‘I cried a bit…because my mark wasn’t that good..but then … I forgot’ 10/3/2015 22 Coping with demotivation cnt’d Ignore it, leave it to time or busy yourself with something else • ‘I played on my computer. I tried to forget and I throw away the exam paper... I do not see it [the exam paper] again and I won’t remember it. ….I throw it and forgot it!’ • ‘We say [the girl and her friends], we do not want to talk about it…I try not to talk about it to others’ 10/3/2015 23 Coping with demotivation cnt’d Working on one’s own self-esteem / motivation ‘I told myself… this is not the first or last test …[sometimes] one fails a test’ (F) ‘I convinced myself that I deserve more and that this mark does not reflect me’. (N-M) ‘I try to motivate myself by [saying to myself] that I will do better in the next test’. (O-M) 10/3/2015 24 Coping with demotivation cnt’d Accept / seek help from others Student: It’s not that I got a very low mark...but it was a mark that did not suit me. The teacher told me she was surprised and she offered help. She asked me to go to her if there was anything I did not understand. Interviewer: Did this help you? Student: Of course it did! I felt she cared about me and loved me...and.. (RW-F) 10/3/2015 25 Coping with demoivation cont’d Get more motivated! – reflect / learn from mistakes to do better • I tried my best to know what I should do in order to do better in the future tests…and I improved. (S-M) • ‘I examine the mistakes I made in order not to repeat them’. (F-M) 10/3/2015 26 Conclusions • Tests can demotivate learners when: • performing well in tests is perceived as a matter of chance • tests are perceived unfair / too difficult • when they lack validity – they do not reflect learner’s knowledge • learners feel they are not ready to take a test • learners repeatedly fail them / get low marks • when other perform better through cheating 10/3/2015 27 Conclusions • Tests can extrinsically motivate learners: • Many learners study only for tests • When learners want to please / not disappoint others • When learners want to avoid punishment • When learners want to get tangible benefits • When learners want recognition Conclusions Tests can intrinsically motivated learners • When learners seek challenge and chance to show their talents Conclusions Dealing with demotivation • • • • • Letting it out Ignoring it Working on one’s self esteem Seek help from others Reflect and learn from mistakes / faliures Recommendations • • • • Make the tests as fair as possible Give sufficient time for students to prepare Offer students help if they experience failure Teach students how to deal with the results of tests • Do not only use test • Do not use tests as punishment Thank you!