Learning theories in practice/Language learning

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Motivation in Language Learning

INTRODUCTION[edit]

In the past, I have seen some of my students in my EFL classes not even know the reasons why they have to study English. This lack of understanding is due, in part, to the fact that most Korean parents are passionate and eager to provide their children with better learning conditions, such as private tutors and private language schools in addition to mandatory public schools. Consequently, those parents are likely to be forceful to make their children study English and never sit down and discuss why English is really a vital skill in this world. This situation within language learning too often results in ineffective learning outcomes. In general, in all kinds of learning, a positive attitude and motivation or drive to excel are fundamental factors which a learner should maintain in a learning process. Motivation provides the intrinsic power to make a learner keep learning and to push himself toward learning success. Foreign language learning especially demands an attitude of persistence and effort much more than any other field of study because second language learning takes extensive time and is a highly demanding task. But is it the learner’s responsibility to keep a highly motivational attitude? Under present circumstances in Korea, a teacher should also be eager to put his or her students in a self-regulatory leaning environment as well as to provide linguistic information.

Application of ARCS into ESL/EFL[edit]

There are many frameworks and guidelines for language learning, one of which is the ARCS model which incorporates motivational factors. In considering four conditions for motivation, which Keller (1983) proposed, ARCS can be applied to an ESL/EFL setting. ARCS is an acronym which stands for attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. In this chapter, I attempt to apply these four strategies for stimulating motivation into foreign language learning. The four strategies are gaining and sustaining attention, enhancing relevance, building confidence, and generating satisfaction.


Gaining and sustaining attention[edit]

Firstly, in regards to gaining learner’s attention, Keller (1983) suggested three subcategories of attention including perceptual arousal, inquiry arousal, and variability. Teachers can arouse learners’ attention by stimulating learner’s multisensory perceptions. Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) provides teachers with opportunities to exploit hypertext, hyperlinks, and multimedia on the web. The CALL has been one of the most widely-used supplemental instruction methods in parallel to the development of computer technology. For example, students who do not know some vocabulary meaning in a reading class can click the hyperlinked word for the meaning. For further explanations, teachers use Google images or video clips for the audio-visualized supplementary resources. In my experience, I have used some pictures on the Internet for the grammar instruction of comparatives and superlatives because grammar books I used were relatively short of visual aids. I collected various food images by using Google image search tool. Those items should be unfamiliar in their first language (i.e. L1) culture, such as lasagnas, risottos, etc. I showed them to children with brief explanation about each food, and then they made a food list in their most favorite order. Students then became familiar with the usage of the comparatives and superlative forms by peer comparison among the foods in their list.

Furthermore, a teacher has to try to boost L2 interests by using various anecdotes and real life examples. For example, sometimes I found some students could not be interested in the reading comprehension class because most stories and reading materials were made in the second language (i.e. L2) culture. So, they thought it was another world which was different from ours. Because of this, I used the national English newspaper, ‘Korea Times,’ which was replete with authentic stories in Korea. They could learn new words and basic grammar as well as reading comprehension through a worksheet which included explanations and quizzes. Through such resources, students can encode their L1’s cultural events in English easily.

Various cultural knowledge of the target language can influence a learner’s motivation. Gardner pointed out the factors related to early formulation of L2 motivation. One of the key factors is the integrative orientation. Integrative orientations defined as a desire to learn the L2 in order to lave contact with, and perhaps to identify with, members from the L2 community. One of the ways to gain learner’s cultural attention is the exposure to the target culture. When a student is exposed in the target culture, he or she gets the attention from it. The exposure increases the familiarity and, simultaneously, decreases the cultural gap between two cultures.

It is extremely important to help students have a more positive attitude or opinion towards the target culture. When a teacher focuses on the cultural differences between two cultures, they may be reluctant to acknowledge the target culture. Consequently, this can inhibit them from learning the target language. When I worked in a language school, one of my American colleagues honestly told me that he did not like Kimchi(Korean traditional food). Nevertheless, in his class, he always told his students that he really liked it. He said that it was very helpful way for students to open their mind to the English culture and make them think that American is not different from us. This kind of building the cultural homogeneity is a tool for cultural scaffolding in order to gain learners’ attention. Thus, teachers should not choose materials like a tour book which is full of information of just target culture, but choose materials which include cross-cultural aspects through comparison and observing between L1 and L2 cultures. The friendly attitude toward the target culture is one of the important factors to increase the desire to study the target language, as well as linguistic domains.

It seems that it is not so easy for learners living in non-English using countries to be immersed in the L2 culture. However, one of the examples can be ‘Keypal’. This is the same as the pen pal, except for using email instead of paper letters. Choi and Nesi (1998) reported that both teachers felt that the keypal offered unexpected benefits for their students. The Slovakian teacher stated that the children had learnt a lot of English, and that they had found the project was very motivating. The Korean teacher reported great enthusiasm on the part of her class: `Every Monday, I was busy with my children asking for their messages from their friends. They followed me to the washroom. They seemed very happy during the project. And, Shrum and Glisan (2000) also reported some positive effects of using "keypal" I am sure that it is really helpful for English learners to keep them in a highly motivating learning condition.

Even though it seems that composing email focuses on the ability to write and read, teachers can use it in other sections such as listening and speaking. For example, a teacher assigns peer groups for editing their draft writings before emailing it to their friends. Additionally, each student can read aloud the email they got to peers in class. This activity can be helpful for learning pronunciations and better speaking ability, at the same time, peers in class can build up their listening ability by listening to the reading. Furthermore, I am not sure if ‘chatpal’ has been used in language teaching, however, online voice chatting is another trend in computer-mediated communication. So, if it is applicable in language teaching, it will be able to back up the benefit of a communicative factor, in addition to the keypal’s reading and writing ability.

Enhancing relevance[edit]

Secondly, teachers improve the relevance of a task for learners through personalizing the goals. The subcategories of relevance are goal orientation, motive matching, and familiarity. Learners personalize their goals as well as the process of setting goals when their learning task and environment is active and engaging. Gardner also defines the instrumental orientation as a desire to learn the L2 to achieve some practical goal. For example, the integration of fields of studying is an effective method such as teaching listening skills in a grammar class. When the speaking proficiency is a student’s goal, the student can place a weight on communicative and colloquial studying.

I have seen some of my students with huge gaps among their language skills. For instance, one of my students had excellent grammar skills; however, her listening skills were at a beginner level. Other students often asked her grammar questions if they could not understand. She said the reason was that she liked English grammar and did well at it was because it was similar to math rules. Because of her grammar skills, she felt bored in some of the grammar classes. Classes involving listening were those that she did not like the most. In response, I changed the way of I taught grammar. For instance, I gave students a grammar quiz while reading questions aloud, as opposed to paper-based tests. The questions often involved choosing a sentence that was grammatically right or wrong. Consequently, this activity turned out to be highly successful. The same student then had to listen when in the listening class in order to get a good score in the grammar class.

Additionally, according to the Keller model, a teacher should inform the students of objectives. When the learners become aware of the objectives, they expect the successful result of the contents of the class. Wilga Rivers (1964) argues that readiness or a psychological "set" to learn as well as anxiety reduction are crucial elements of motivation. To establish readiness and set to learn, the goals, objectives, and methods of learning must be clearly spelled out and discussed with students. To inform students of the objectives is like showing them a route to the final destination of the class. When they are familiar with the purpose and goals of the lesson, they anticipate the class activities and expect successful outcomes. For example, the objective of a grammar class is for students to apply the gerund rules in everyday conversations. Learners can then form beliefs related to their successful results through the objectives.

Building confidence[edit]

Thirdly, in the ARCS model, self-efficacy or confidence in learning is one of the most important factors to make learners engage in learning. Such confidence relates to the learning requirement, success opportunities, and personal responsibility. A teacher should inform students of all performance requirements. Such information can facilitate students’ goal setting process and provide them with a set of standards they should follow.

Self –efficacy is not fixed but can be strengthened or lessened. Bandura (1982, 1997) suggested four principal sources which may influence the development of self-efficacy. (1) Enactive Mastery Experiences. (2)Vicarious Experiences. (3) Verbal Persuasion (4) Physiological States (Driscoll, 2000)

Enactive Mastery Instructors can use this strategy to help students to recall their previous successful experiences or help students to complete a relatively simple tasks in order to enhance their confidence. With the belief that "I can make it,” students will try their best and have better performance on their tasks.

Vicarious Experiences Instructors provide some successful models for students to observe and learn from those models. Besides, it’s better to provide divers models for learners so that they can find the one whose learning experience is more similar to theirs.

Verbal Persuasion Instructors provide on-time encouragement by saying “good job!,” “well done,” “perfect, ” and so on. With positive feedback, self-efficacy can be enhanced so that learners are willing to make more efforts on their learning tasks.

Physiological States Finally, one’s sensation under some specific circumstance can also affect his/her self-efficacy.That is,one's internal and postive feelings can convince one's will to achieve success.

For example, in the first class of a semester, a teacher introduces the overall information of the students. In addition, a teacher should provide them with opportunities through meaningful tasks for building their self-efficacy. The interaction among peers is the optimal conditions for building self-efficacy. Successful cultural assimilation activities with peers facilitate learners to acquire a second language in a motivational way.

In my experience, a major holiday party could turn out to be positive response from language learners in a beginner level. For example, in preparing a Halloween party, they had the basic history of the party. They also could be immersed in the target culture through participation, such as dressing up, the wearing of masks, and practicing 'trick or treat' After this activity, students could internalize their learning tasks. In addition, their successful activities resulted in higher self-efficacy on other related tasks, such as reading, listening, and writing about the same topic, Halloween.

For another example of the peer interaction, learners can build their speaking confidence by participating in a role-play activity. Here, each learner makes an effort to practice and memorize their parts of a dialogue. The repeated practice improves the learner’s pronunciation and any counterparts in the room enhance their listening ability. For example, the performance activity like role-play or drama performance is highly beneficial. It is multi-tasking process for improving oral competency.

Perhaps it is a tough job for learners to make scripts or scenarios by themselves. So, it is reasonable to use prior works such as a 'Christmas Carol'. Initially, some students try to memorize their part, even without full understanding; however, they can fully understand the meaning through repeating memorization and one of the facial or physical of the original works. The original or existing video materials can play a modeling role for students' enhancing oral proficiency. Students can feel the satisfaction with their work in comparison to the original work: pronunciations, physical gestures, and speaking speed, etc.

The peer feedback activity also keeps the balance between competition and collaboration. For instance, the peer review of writing is the opportunity for giving or receiving advice from the peers. In addition, when the learner finds better writing than his writing, the spurring moment makes learners push themselves into the learning process. The balance between competition and collaboration plays a role of a bridge connecting the feedback activity and self confidence. Moderate competition generates a challenging opportunity for a learner. In spite of the fact that the outcome of competition is generally labeling learners as a winner or a loser, collaboration can possibly make all learners winners. In some sense, the true meaning of the competition is not a competition among peers but a competition with oneself. When a student feels frustrated to her uncompleted task, peer members can help her get to the goal line. It is another way of building self-confidence through collaboration, as well as through an independent achievement of an individual.

Finally, teachers should not only challenge learners but also provide the chance of success for learners to experience so that learners' confidence is built.

Generating satisfaction[edit]

Finally, the subcategories of satisfaction are intrinsic reinforcement, extrinsic rewards, and equity. Teachers should make learners feel the self-achievement or satisfaction when completing a task successfully. Learners can enhance their sense of self-achievement by participating in real life situations and activities. In other words, the learners’ intrinsic reinforcement comes from real life tasks. For example, when a learner gets an email reply from a foreign friend, a writing class becomes the practical information to the learner. Teacher should give students real-life tasks like shopping, making a call, and asking for direction. These tasks provide language learning students with opportunities to practice their language learning in the class. The real life exercises result in the strong self-achievement of learners.

Additionally, visualizing or charting percentile level progress monitoring can be an example of extrinsic rewards. Bar-charts or percentile of degree of completeness makes students realize their language level progress easily. With self-monitoring, they identify and judge their level of proficiency progress. For instance, line charts showing students’ level of progress can influence the students with high achievement so that they feel the satisfaction of their behavior. In the case of students with low achievement, this chart can be a turning point and provide them with a spurring momentum for their next studying efforts.

Furthermore, teachers should be aware of learner’s personal attitude such as persistence of learning and then adapt the instructional standards to their types of characteristics. Learners feel the self-achievement or satisfaction when they believe their actions will result in successfully completing challenging tasks. Teacher’s awareness of student’s attitude is related to the degree of task demand. According to Locke and Latham (1990, 1994), they reported that setting more difficult or challenging goals results in higher levels of achievement. However, Atkinson’s(1957) principle of motivation predicts that learners will be most motivated by learning activities and assignments when the level of challenge is moderate. In other words, if a student does give up a task easily, a teacher should make the task more less challenging. This means that ESL teachers should consider students’ personal characteristics, not to mention the level of language proficiency.

CONCLUSION[edit]

I happened to visit a blog of a high school student in Korea. He wrote about his thoughts related to a boring class in a short paragraph. The title was ‘Why do students sleep in class?’ He also defined the sleeping in class as the final phase of students’ unwillingness to study. In other words, they sleep when they do not think the class can elicit their learning motivation and inquiry. Considering student’s thoughts related to boring classes, teachers have a responsibility for not making them yawn in class. Certainly, no teacher wants her students to be bored in her classes however; the more important thing in teaching is that teachers do not focus on how much they teach but how well they teach. The effectiveness of language learning results from the students’ eagerness to study it. Language learning is not a one-day project, but requires learners’ endless efforts. The power to keep their learning efforts longer depends on the stimulation of motivation in language learning. Thus, teachers should be eager to get familiar with various motivational strategies and to apply them in class. No matter what kinds of field of study, learner’s motivation in studying should be preceded before the application of learning theory.


References[edit]

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  • Rivers, W. M. (1964). The Psychologist and the foreign language teacher (pp. 82- 91). University of Chicago Press Chicago
  • Shrum, J., & Glisan, E. (2000). Using technology to contextualize and integrate language instruction. Teacher's handbook: Contextualized language instruction (pp. 319-348). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.