'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
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• 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
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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
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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
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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?!
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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?
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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.
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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
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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)
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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
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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
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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’.
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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.
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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’..
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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)
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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
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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
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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’
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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’
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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
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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
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•
•
•
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Letting it out
Ignoring it
Working on one’s self esteem
Seek help from others
Reflect and learn from mistakes / faliures
Recommendations
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•
•
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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!
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