Saturday, July 20, 2013

2013 Jul 20 | Terry Fellner | Language Learning Motivation

Terry Fellner of Saga University
Our July meeting in Nagasaki brought Terry Fellner from Saga University to deliver two very interesting and insightful presentations. The first presentation focused on Language Learning Motivation in Japan and highlighted a new research publication (titled the same) co-authored by Mr. Fellner and Dexter Da Silva from Keisen University.

In his presentation, Terry gave us a broad stroke overview of some of the more interesting points in his research on L2 learner motivation which is one of the most recent publications in the motivational research field from Japan. According to Terry, much of the learner motivational studies with respect to language acquisition are coming out of Japan in recent times.

The following post has some of the notes I took during his lecture.
Terry began his presentation by recalling the challenges in studying learning motivation and a kind of historical overview of what has been done in the past. There are several theories and areas which are considered in his research and I'm certain that my recollection of the detail may be lacking in some places.

Terry discussed the three categories within the motivational self-system for L2 acquisition are as follows:
  • L2 - Motivational Self-System
  • Ideal L2 Self - would like to become
  • Ought to L2 self - what one should do
  • L2 learning experience - what one does
He also discussed the Self-Determination Theory which is focused on the internal motivations of individuals. A quick look at WIKI ( can fill in some of the gaps, but Deci and Ryan appear to be the main players with respect to this theory.

Terry went on to define a few stages of motivation for those of us weak on the motivational vocabulary.

The assessment included evaluation of motivational climate, basic psychological needs satisfaction, levels of self-determination and self-regulation (amotivation, external, introjected, identified and intrinsic regulation) and also the assessment of the level of satisfaction and enjoyment in exercising. (
  • Amotivation - No interest in something whatsoever.
  • External Regulation - Comes from the outside. For example, a parent makes child do homework.
  • Introjected Regulation - The individual can see the reason for something and subsequently self-motivates to some degree.
  • Identified Regulation - 
  • Integrated Regulation - 
  • Intrinsic Motivation - The point where an individual is 100% self-motivated.
A few other definitions and things which impact learner motivation:

  • Autonomy - capacity to choose to engage in activities
  • Competence - ability to carry out activity and rise to a challenge
  • Relatedness - feeling of security between learner and others (family, friends, teacher, classmates).
Here are some notes and research about demotivation, or the act of reducing motivation.

In research conducted by Irie and Johnson from the elementary school level to the high school level, some interesting results were observed:

Demotivation increases over time and is more prevalent in males.

The 6 leading causes of demotivation:
  • Teachers
  • Class - course contents and pace (boring, test driven, emphasis on memorization)
  • Experience of failure
  • Class environment
  • Learning materials
  • Lack of goals/interests
Demotivation primarily is perceived as stemming from the teacher. And teachers can only be perceived as maintaining a student motivation. Teachers are not perceived as the force for increasing motivation. Only demotivation.

Motivation in Japan

Willingness to communicate and International Posture predicts motivation.

According to Mr. Fellner's research, the most effective means of increasing learner motivation is to provide students with projects using L2.
  • Interaction with foreigners enhances International Posture.
  • Use of L2 increases proficiency
  • Self-confidence is greatest influence on willingness to communication
  • Visualizing L2 self can develop L2 Self
  • Ideal self must be well developed to predict motivation
  • Clearly developed Ought-to Self is needed (what I ought-to be doing)
Terry also talked about science and engineering students as they seemed to show more anxiety and have a greater sense of an unsupportive classroom.

Some other observations in Terry's research:

  • The Ought-to Self may be more pertinent than the Ideal Self with respect to L2 motivation.
  • Exam performance may be an alternative to international posture as a means of motivation.
  • Goal setting and international contact can lead to long term motivation
  • Reflection and involving students in motivation results has meaning.
  • Meta cognitive development improves the attitudes of past learning experiences.
Enjoyment, effort, and understanding are connected in motivated students BUT NOT unmotivated students. Just because they enjoy your class, doesn't imply motivation for improvement.

Motivational fluctuation may indicate student growth and learning. Sometimes during difficult periods the motivation drops but that might be temporary.

Terry also discussed the implications of Positive Psychology and L2 Motivation.
  • Positive psychology can provide insights into L2 motivation (J. Lake).
  • Positive L2 Selves and other motivations can be related to positive self image and self worth. Terry also noted that there is only one dissertation in this area. PHd might be possible.
Here are some notes on L2 Motivation in East Asia inside and outside of Japan.
  • In Asia, English is primarily a required subject and is viewed as the great divider of society.
  • In China: Exam score success is for the glory of the family. Chinese Imperative. 2005 study in Taiwan.
  • In Korea: importance of cultivating friendships - instrumentality is internalized (Dr. Pae - Intrinsic motivation predicted achievement as measured by TOEIC)
  • Ought-to self is more prominent in Chinese/Japanese - Iranian students it doesn't appear to be strong.
Implications of L2 Motivation - here are some of Terry's conclusions in his presentation.
  • Project-based learning and give varied choices to reach all levels of interests.
  • Focus on ESP that students need in their futures.
  • Introduce non-native English speakers - students get motivated by others.
  • Provide effective feedback - important for the student to be motivated.
  • First English teachers (i.e. elementary school English teachers) should be the best trained teachers.
  • Make students aware of motivation.
  • Use student reflection.
Thanks to Terry Fellner of Saga university for this insightful discussion. Please chime in with comments if there is more to add or some clarification needed on anything I've written in this summary.

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