Monday, October 15, 2007

Exploring the links between motivation, autonomy, and experience in foreign language learning.

Yoshiyuki Nakata (Ph. D.)
Hyogo University of Teacher Education

In his talk, Dr. Nakata outlined a pedagogical approach to self-regulated language learning. At the beginning of the presentation, he looked at the connection between motivation and autonomy. Does autonomy lead to motivation? Or is motivation a precondition for autonomy? Or is there a two-way relationship between autonomy and motivation? The key point is what kind of motivation we are interested in.

Dr. Nakata suggested that teachers could encourage autonomy by helping to develop students’ motivation to learn. By this, he meant cognitive intrinsic motivation (finding it worthwhile to learn what an activity is supposed to teach) rather than just affective intrinsic motivation (finding an activity fun). If it is only affective, intrinsic motivation might not be enough to lead to autonomous behaviour.

Dr. Nakata then brought in the concept of self-regulation. When becoming self-regulated learners, students move from reactive autonomy (where they undertake activities on their own initiative) to proactive autonomy (where they actually take control of their learning, set goals, and evaluate their progress in reaching those goals). In Dr. Nakata’s view, when we think of motivation we should consider self-regulation, both in its affective (emotion and desire) and cognitive (setting goals, reflecting and meta-cognition) aspects. In the context of the Japanese education system, many learners don’t have opportunities for cognitive self-regulation.

Presenting a developmental model of intrinsic motivation from a self-regulatory perspective, Dr. Nakata distinguished between a surface level and a core level of intrinsic motivation. Learners can possess a surface level of intrinsic motivation but still not achieve language proficiency. Furthermore, such learners can lose motivation when confronted with novel learning situation such as a new teacher or teaching method. Learners have to internalize the intrinsic value of language learning in order to become self-regulated (autonomous) learners.

According to Dr. Nakata, what is needed is a pedagogical approach for self-regulated language learning. This approach should be sensitive to context and should aim to build a trusting relationship between teacher and learner. There are three stages in this proposed approach: a preparation stage, a developmental stage and a self-regulated stage.

One important aspect of the preparation stage is that learners do not have total freedom of choice but are provided with teacher-selected freedom of choice. At this stage, there is more focus on affective rather than cognitive self-regulation. There is a lot of emphasis on creating a good classroom atmosphere, establishing a trusting relationship between teacher and students, and building learner confidence.

At the developmental stage, the focus is more on cognitive self-regulation. The teacher helps learners to set their own goals, be more reflective, and become more independent. Much less support is given to students at the self-regulated stage. The important thing here is to provide students with a wide variety of challenging and creative tasks.

In conclusion, Dr. Nakata said that there are many pedagogical approaches to learner autonomy that are suitable in particular educational contexts. Teachers have to take the educational context into account and seek ways to promote autonomy. In this way, learner autonomy can become a reality.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I am currently writing an MA thesis on learner autonomy and this particular post inspired me to add a subsection on the link between autonomy and motivation. Thank you.

Gosia (Warsaw, Poland)