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Keeping the vision alive: Success expectancy

Male teenager smiling confidentlyFollowing on from her post about the value of success, Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series, now considers the second factor that affects motivation: the expectancy of success.

By identifying an appropriate lesson objective, or short-term goal, we are creating a vehicle by which learners can more easily judge the usefulness of the task in reaching their future, long-term goal.

This not only prevents them from losing sight of what they are learning, it helps them feel that the overwhelming task of language learning is manageable. It also allows them to recognize their achievements and become more aware of their gradual progress.

As Dörnyei (1998) points out, ‘goal-setting theory is compatible with expectancy-value theories in that commitment is seen to be enhanced when people believe that achieving the goal is possible (cf. expectancy) and important (cf. tasks)’. Short-term goals play a pivotal role in cultivating success-expectancy, the second of our key motivational factors.

To generate success-expectancy, we need to do more than simply present a series of tasks on which learners are bound to do well. There needs to be an appropriate element of challenge in place for them to perceive they are making progress and so moving nearer to their overall goal.

Assuming the difficulty level of a task is appropriate to move learning forward, we will be in a position to provide learners with the strategies and the tools they need to succeed. These might include helping them employ an appropriate strategy when dealing with a listening or reading task with a particular purpose in mind, or teaching them how to overcome difficulties in communicative situations, for example, by asking for clarification or repetition.

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