Attitudes and Motivation in Language Learning:
An Ecological View
Martha C. Pennington
Some Reasons for Wanting to Acquire
Additional Language Competence
Travel
Self-development
Participating in diversity
Cross-cultural communication
Educational access or enhancement
Higher earning power or better job prospects
The pursuit of international partnerships and
opportunities in business
Focus of an Ecological Approach
to Language Learning
“language as relations between people and the world,
and on language learning as ways of relating more
effectively to people and the world.”
[van Lier, L. (2004). The ecology and semiotics of
language learning: A sociocultural perspective.
Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Academic, p. 4.]
A Social Sciences View of an Educational Ecology
seeks to understand the dynamic relations of learners and the world,
whether it is at a macrolevel (e.g. culture, history, or socioeconomic
status) or at a microlevel (e.g., interactions physical objects, or
dialogues);
[allows] for broad understandings of cultural, historical, social,
institutional, and linguistic phenomena in the classroom;
recognize[s] the significance of the context and its mediating role for
human minds and actions and, furthermore, consider[s] development as
inseparable from the contexts of activities.
[Da Silva Iddings, A. C. and Jang, E.-Y. (2008). The mediational role of classroom
practices during the silent period: a new immigrant student learning the English language
in a mainstream classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 42(4), 567-590; p. 570]
As a language learner adapts to the exotic tones, rhythms, and
imagery of a second language, gains exposure to the cultural
values and self-concepts embodied in its words and discourse
patterns, and comes to understand that the language skills
which allow a person to strengthen ties to one community can
weaken bonds to another, the learner’s sense of identity is
subject to change. How individual learners respond to this
opportunity (or threat) of change may enhance or inhibit their
motivation to learn the second language.
[Richards, S. (1998). Learning English in Hong Kong: Making
connections between motivation, language use, and strategy choice. In
M. C. Pennington, Language in Hong Kong at century’s end, 303-328.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; p. 292.]
Robust Findings About Attitudes and Language Learning
Community attitudes that welcome and expect the learning of second languages help
to minimize the effects of individual differences in language learning aptitude and
language class anxiety that can affect learning outcomes.
Communities which have strong ethnolinguistic vitality, i.e. in which their ethnic
group and their language are well-established and in which they do not feel that they
are under threat of loss of their language or identity, provide a social-psychological
basis for effective language learning.
Students who are confident and have a high sense of their own self-efficacy, that is, a
strong sense of self-determination and ability to succeed, are also those who are
successful in language learning.
Individual differences in social attitudes give rise to individual differences in
motivation, which in turn are responsible for variability in achievement or outcomes
(linguistic and non-linguistic)
Differences in language learning achievement or outcomes can in turn affect attitudes
and motivation.
English Version of Direct Attitudes Questions
1. It is a good thing to have English as the main official language of Hong Kong.
2. English is the mark of an educated person.
3. When using English, I do not feel that I am Chinese any more.
4. If I use English, I will be praised and approved of by my family, relatives, and friends.
5. At times I fear that by using English I will become like a foreigner.
6. I should not be forced to learn English.
7. To read English magazines is a kind of enjoyment.
8. I do not feel awkward when using English.
9. I love conversing with Westerners in English.
10.The Cantonese language is superior to English.
11. I like to see English-speaking films.
12. If I use English, it means that I am not patriotic.
13. If I use English, my status is raised.
14. I feel uncomfortable when hearing one Chinese speaking to another in English.
15. My history, geography, and mathematics textbooks should be written or translated into Chinese.
16. I wish that I could speak fluent and accurate English.
17. I feel uneasy and lack confidence when speaking English.
18. The use of English is one of the most crucial factors which has contributed to the success of Hong Kong's
prosperity and development today.
19. The English language sounds very nice.
20. I would take English even if it were not a compulsory subject in school.
21. I feel uneasy when hearing a Chinese speaking English.
22. English should not be a medium of instruction in the schools in Hong Kong.
23. The command of English is very helpful in understanding foreigners and their cultures.
[Pierson, H. D., Fu, G. S., and Lee, S. Y. (1980). Analysis of the relationship between language attitudes and
English attainment of secondary students in Hong Kong. Language Learning, 30, 289-316.]
Language Symbolism
English ‘outer’ values (achievement/competition values)
having to do with success, stylishness, and academic
achievement
Chinese ‘inner’ values (family/co-operation values) having
to do with tradition, home, and solidarity
Pennington, M. C. (1998). Introduction: Perspectives on language in
Hong Kong at century’s end. Language in Hong Kong at century’s end,
3-40; p. 13.]
What is Motivation?
[M]otivation provides the primary impetus to embark on learning, and later the
driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process….
[M]otivation to learn a foreign language involves all those [attitudes] and cognitions
that initiate language learning, determine language choice, and energise the
language learning process.
Due to the complex nature of language itself – it is at the same time a communication
code, an integral part of the individual’s identity, and the most important channel of
social organization – L2 motivation is a highly eclectic and multifaceted construct,
consisting of a range of different motives associated with certain features of the L2
(e.g. various attitudes towards the L2), the language learner (e.g. self confidence or
need for achievement), and the learning situation (e.g. the appraisal of the L2 course
of the teacher).
[Dörnyei, Z. (2004). Motivation, In Byram, M. (ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of
language teaching and learning, 425-432. London and New York: Routledge; p. 425.]
Types of Motivation
Instrumental
Extrinsic
vs.
vs.
Integrative
Intrinsic
Learning
Achievement
Stimulation
Amotivation
[Dörnyei, Z. (2001), Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow,
UK: Longman. Vallarand, R. J. (1997). Toward a hierarchical
model of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Advances in
Experimental Social Psychology, 29, 271-360.]
Motivation for Language Learning
For Learning English
Higher Earning Power
Better Job Prospects
Travel
Emigration
Interest
33%
28%
20%
12%
6%
Type of Motivation
instrumental
instrumental
communicative
integrative
intrinsic
For Learning Putonghua
Patriotism
Communication
Higher Earning Power
Better Job Prospects
Emigration
Government Post
34%
27%
19%
15%
12%
6%
intrinsic
communicative
instrumental
instrumental
integrative
instrumental
[Wai, S.-w. (1993). English or Mandarin: On attitudes towards language use and the trend of second language
learning in Hongkong. Dissertation submitted to the Institute of Linguist Educational Trust, London. Cited
in Pierson, H. D. (1998). Societal accommodation to English and to Putonghua in Cantonese-speaking Hong
Kong. In M. C. Pennington, Language in Hong Kong at century’s end, 91-111. Hong Kong: Hong Kong
University Press; p. 106.]
Main Findings of Lin and Detaramani Study
The majority of students are highly extrinsically motivated to learn English.
High English attainment (especially listening proficiency in social English),
intrinsic motivation, and perceived self-choice in English learning are closely
related.
Extrinsic motivation is no guarantee of high English attainment.
An individual can have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for learning
English, but those with the highest English attainment tend to be more
intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated.
[Lin, A., and Detaramani, C. (1998). By carrot and by rod: Extrinsic motivation and English
attainment of tertiary students in Hong Kong. In M. C. Pennington, Language in Hong
Kong at century’s end, 285-301. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; p. 298.]
An Extrinsic Motivational Cline
1. External regulation refers to the least self-determined form of extrinsic motivation, coming
entirely from external sources such as rewards or threats (e.g. teacher’s praise or parental
confrontation.
2. Introjected regulation involves externally imposed rules that the student accepts as norms to
be followed in order not to feel guilty (e.g. rules against playing truant).
3. Identified regulation occurs when the person engages in an activity because he or she highly
values and identifies with the behaviour, and sees its usefulness (e.g. learning a language
which is necessary to pursue one’s hobbies or interests).
4. Integrated regulation is the most developmentally advanced form of extrinsic motivation,
involving choiceful behaviour that is fully assimilated with the individual’s other values,
needs and identity (learning English because its proficiency is part of an educated
cosmopolitan culture one has adopted).
[Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New
York: Plenum.
Cited in Dörnyei, Z. (2001), Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow, UK: Longman, p. 28.]
People will be more self-determined in performing a
task to the extent that they experience:
Autonomy (i.e. experiencing oneself as the origin of one’s
behaviour),
Competence (i.e. feeling efficacious and having a sense of
accomplishment),
Relatedness (i.e. feeling close to and connected to other individuals).
[Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in
human behavior. New York: Plenum.
Cited in Dörnyei, Z. (2001), Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow, UK:
Longman, p. 29.]
Determinants of the Expectancy of Success
in an Educational Setting
Attribution: processing one’s past experience
Self-efficacy: judging one’s own abilities and
competence
Self-esteem: attempting to maintain one’s self
worth
[Adapted from Dörnyei, Z. (2001), Teaching and researching motivation.
Harlow, UK: Longman, pp. 20-21.]
Ways to Raise Learners’ Sense of Self-Efficacy
Successful previous performance
Vicarious learning (scaffolding, observing models)
Verbal encouragement and praise by others
Reducing anxiety and stress
[Adapted from Bandura, A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive
development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 117-148.]
How Do Goals Affect Performance?
1. They direct attention and effort towards goal-relevant
activities at the expense of actions that are not relevant.
2. They regulate effort expenditure in that people adjust their
effort to the difficulty level required by the task.
3. They encourage persistence until the goal is accomplished.
4. They promote the search for relevant action plans or task
strategies.
[Dörnyei, Z. (2001), Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow, UK:
Longman, p. 26.]
Ways Language Teachers Can Contribute to
Students’ Positive Motivation
Enhancing learner autonomy and freedom of choice;
Enhancing students’ feelings of competence, self-efficacy and self-esteem by
providing aid and scaffolding for tasks so they can perform them and by valuing
their work and contributions to class;
Providing social support in terms of group activities and facilitation;
Setting challenging and specific goals;
Providing opportunities for intrinsic motivation by learning, achievement, and
stimulation;
Helping them to see the usefulness of learning behaviors and to understand how
those behaviors relate to and fit with their own values, needs, and identity, thereby
aiding students to regulate their own learning and to move from extrinsic external
regulation to intrinsic internalize regulation of their own behavior.
Ways to Increase Language Teachers’
Motivation and Commitment
Variable work requiring creative responses and problem-solving
Large, complex tasks
Performance of work geared to achieve major, central results
Self-controlled work
Self-managed individualized growth plan
Self-designed action research to assess and change performance
Two-way lateral feedback in group reflection, problem-solving,
and idea-sharing
[Adapted from Pennington, M. C. (1992b). Motivating English language teachers
through job enrichment. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 5, 199-218; p. 209,
Table 1.]
Some Questions Relating to Attitudes and Motivation
in Language Learning and Teaching in the Hong Kong Context
Variable work requiring creative responses and problem-solving
Large, complex tasks
Performance of work geared to achieve major, central results
Self-controlled work
Self-managed individualized growth plan
Self-designed action research to assess and change performance
Two-way lateral feedback in group reflection, problem-solving, and ideasharing
[Adapted from Pennington, M. C. (1992b). Motivating English language teachers
through job enrichment. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 5, 199-218; p. 209,
Table 1.]
Some More Questions Relating to Attitudes and Motivation
in Language Learning and Teaching in the Hong Kong Context
Are the curriculum and teaching-learning expectations for language
supported by attitudes in the society and those of teachers and learners?
To what extent are languages being taught in a way that matches the
reasons and motivations Hong Kong citizens have for learning them?
Does the teaching and learning of languages have a healthy connection to
the teaching and learning of other subjects?
To what extent are the curriculum and teaching methods geared to Hong
Kong students and the Hong Kong educational ecology?
To what extent are languages being taught in an FL vs. a SL orientation?
To what extent are the Hong Kong language curriculum and the teachers of
individual classes promoting activities to reduce classroom anxiety so that
students will feel comfortable using a language other than Chinese in class?
Further Questions Relating to Attitudes and Motivation
in Language Learning and Teaching in the Hong Kong Context
To what extent are languages being taught in ways that motivates learning?
e.g.
 encouraging choice and self-direction
 helping to build a sense of self-efficacy
 building interest in the language and its associated culture
 being task-oriented and goal-oriented
 improving students’ language learning skills and abilities
Is there a specific emphasis on improving students’ ability and motivation
to learn languages, such as through enhancing their sense of self-efficacy,
helping them develop intrinsic motivation, and offering practice in a wide
range of language learning strategies?
To what extent are language teachers’ attitudes and motivations being
addressed in teacher education and professional development?
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Attitudes and Motivation in Language Learning: An