Motivation and English Achievement: An Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis of a New Measure for Chinese Students of English Learning

By Wang, FengXia | North American Journal of Psychology, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Motivation and English Achievement: An Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis of a New Measure for Chinese Students of English Learning


Wang, FengXia, North American Journal of Psychology


In the field of second language acquisition (SLA) there have been various attempts to define second language acquisition motivation and to discover the relationship between motivation and English achievement. It has been argued that learning a second language differs from learning other school subjects because of its social nature (Dornyei, 2003). Many theories of language learning motivation tend to be social-psychological, among which the most influential is Gardner's socio-educational model, including attitudes, motivations and anxiety variables (Gardner, 1988; Gardner, Masgoret, Tennant, & Mihic, 2004; Masgoret & Gardner, 2003). Integrative orientation and instrumental orientation are two important factors in his theory. An integrative orientation occurs when learners hold favorable attitudes to the language/culture, and wish to identify with the culture of speakers of that language. An instrumental orientation refers to the utility value of learning a second/foreign language, such as passing examinations, financial rewards or future career. Burke (2004) found that aspects of integrative motivation are related to greater motivational effort as well as better language competence in learning a second language. An instrumental orientation was likely related to outcomes such as job-seeking and social status.

In recent years Gardner's socio-educational model has met with some criticism. Much of the criticism seems to question the importance of social aspects of second language learning motivation, and its relevance in different contexts (Mori & Gobel, 2006). Furthermore, Csize and Dornyei (2005) found that the term integrativeness was not so much related to any actual integration into a second language community as to a more basic identification process within the individual's self-concept. It is necessary to seek potential new conceptualizations and interpretations.

In the 1990s guided by self-determination theory (SDT) some researchers tried to explore the motivation of SLA (Noels, 2003, 2005; Noels, Pelletier, Clement, & Vallerand, 2001; Shaikholeslami, 2006; Tae-II, 2008). Moreover, psychology researchers have become increasingly aware of the importance of contextual and cultural variables affecting motivational processes, especially the difference between Asian students and American or European students (Yi-Guang, McKeachie, & Yung, 2003). In China, English is regarded as a foreign language (EFL) and Chinese culture is somewhat different from American culture on account of its booming economy, rapidly growing international trade and expanding presence in the world science and technology market, so it is very important to investigate the English learning motivation of Chinese students. Furthermore, most researchers focus on western culture and there is no appropriate scale to assess the motivation of English learning of Chinese students. Therefore, one important purpose of the study is to construct a new measure of English learning motivation.

Intrinsic motivation originates from within the individual and results in enjoyment of the process of increasing one's competency in regard to particular academic tasks. Extrinsic motivation is motivation induced by rewards or punishment dependent upon success or failure in the task (Deci & Ryan 2000; Walker, Greene, & Mansell, 2006). Contrasted with intrinsically motivated students, who work for the feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment, extrinsically motivated students will perform mainly for the attainment of a desired external reward or to avoid external punishment.

Are extrinsic and intrinsic motives necessarily incompatible? In the past, researchers found that extrinsic motivation sometimes has a destructive impact on intrinsic motivation by perceived constraints on autonomy (Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973). Hennessey and Amabile (1998) also found that a promised reward for non-specific performance lessened intrinsic motivation by reducing perceived self-determination or increasing attention to the reward. …

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