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Keeping the vision alive: Completing the loop

Female student at a desk smilingAccording to Atkinson & Raynor (1974), our decision to do something is influenced by a force which is the product of the value attached to the goal and success expectancy, and these have been the most researched factors in the area of motivation. When one or the other is zero, there is no motivation to perform an action. In my previous posts, I have considered motivation to be a ‘process whereby a certain amount of instigation force arises, initiates action, and persists as long as no other force comes into play to weaken it and thereby terminate action, until the planned outcome has been reached’ (Dörnyei, 1998).

Our learners will value and be more attentive to what happens in the classroom if they can perceive the link between a short-term lesson goal and their long-term goal. With a relevant short- term goal in place, we keep a learner’s vision alive, increase success-expectancy and encourage learners to use appropriate strategies to complete a task. We can then offer informative feedback, acknowledging progress and providing pointers to future action for further improvement. In this way, we encourage learners to persist by actively engaging them in the learning process, we provide them with the means to further success and we drive intrinsic motivation and effective learning. When we consider how we might realise value and success expectancy in the language classroom, it becomes apparent that the whole might be bigger than the sum of the parts.

Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series.

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Keeping the vision alive: Maintaining motivation and promoting effective learning

Young adult male learner smilingIn this series of articles, Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series, considers two key factors which affect motivation: expectancy of success and the value attached to success.

I suggest that if the connection between classroom activities and an overall language learning goal is evident, then learners will be more likely to value and hence be motivated in a lesson. They will be able to answer the question ‘Why am I doing this?’ With value ascribed to classroom activities, it will also be easier for learners to experience success on a more regular basis, a key to both increasing motivation and promoting effective learning.


The value an adult language learner attaches to a course depends upon the circumstances under which they are studying. If their aspirations concern, say, passing a university degree in which a language course is a component, then tapping into this kind of extrinsic motivation might prove difficult, in the first instance. Perhaps a more promising approach would be to tap into learners’ natural desire to communicate. We live in a world in which communication between people in different places is facilitated by technology and educational and professional mobility is a reality, and many language learners envision themselves being able to use the language in various ‘real’ situations.

It goes without saying that the greater the apparent relationship between a language course and an adult learner’s goals, the greater the value attached to the course. So, what type of course will suit learners who are aiming to be effective users of a language? From my teaching experiences, learners whose aim is to use language in the real world will be motivated by a course which reflects an ‘action-oriented approach’ to language and learning as described in the Common European Framework of Reference (2001). Such a course not only deals with the nuts and bolts of the language of study, the grammar, vocabulary and so on, but also offers learners opportunities to draw on what they know and to have a go at carrying out real world communicative tasks. The main thrust will be on doing rather than knowing.

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