Book Review: Teaching and Researching Motivation

(Z. Dörnyei and E. Ushioda – 2nd Edition, Pearson, 2011)

This is the second edition of an essential resource for anyone interested in researching motivation in language learning. It is particularly helpful for people who want to get started with research in this area or for those who just want to find out more. I used the first edition (Dörnyei, 2001) exhaustively when I was working on my PhD (which explored motivational perspectives on speaking the foreign language in class in Key Stage 3).

The book is divided into four parts. In the first, Dörnyei and Ushioda provide a solid overview of key motivation theories from the field of psychology, which will serve as a good introduction to language teachers and researchers who are new to the field. These include:

  • Expectancy value frameworks (concerned with a learner’s expectancy of success in a particular activity) – e.g. achievement motivation, self-efficacy theory, attribution theory, self-worth theory
  • Goal theories – e.g. goal-setting theory, goal-orientation theory etc.
  • Self-determination theory – many teachers will already be familiar with this and its distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

Components of different theories are described in an accessible way and the authors take great care to take account of motivational contexts, especially in school settings.

The authors then review the history of language learning motivation research, describing the dominant approaches at different times.

In Part 2, they go onto examine what research tells us about motivating language learners in the classroom and about creating and sustaining motivational conditions. Classroom relationships and group dynamics are covered. So this is all highly relevant for language teachers. The concept of demotivation is also explored from a research perspective alongside the effects of Global English – in particular the wider sociocultural context of language learning in the UK is discussed.

Part 3 is concerned with practicalities of researching motivation – how to go about it, possible problems that may arise etc. The authors examine a wide range of research methods – the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative approaches are covered. Particularly helpful are the numerous examples of motivation research using different research tools.

The final part of the book includes lots of sample questionnaires which researchers and teachers can utilise and adapt for their own research.

This book is very useful for getting started in the language learning motivation research field. For researchers who want to delve into individual theories in more detail, then this book on its own is not enough. For example, when doing my own research using self-efficacy theory and attribution theory, I found it very necessary to explore the writings of the key theorists in this area (e.g. Bandura and Weiner). Reading this book gave me a flavour of different theories though.

Overall I would recommend this to anyone interested in language learning motivation research.

Thanks to John Canning for his helpful resource on doing book reviews in the Humbox.

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