Traditionally, motivation researchers have been more concerned about what motivation is rather than how to motivate students. Recently, research interests have shifted towards educational purposes and an increasing number of studies now propose motivational strategies. Motivational strategies refer to “methods and techniques to generate and maintain the learners’ motivation” (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 2). Using motivational strategies is generally believed to facilitate students’ motivation, but only a few studies have found empirical evidence to support this claim. For example, Hiromori (2006) used “creative writing activities with student self-monitoring techniques” as a motivational strategy and showed that the strategy had a significant positive effect on students’ motivation toward learning English. Tanaka and Hiromori (2007) proposed that “group presentation activities” are a useful motivational strategy. They successfully enhanced students’ intrinsic motivation during a 5-week intervention. However, the number of studies that examine the effect of motivational strategies in the actual English language classroom is limited. In this article, I would like to point out two drawbacks of the above studies.
The first drawback is related to the definition of motivation. Most of the preceding studies on motivation define motivation as a trait attribute. However, many researchers segmentalize motivation into different levels (e.g. Crookes & Schmidt, 1991). Vallerand and Ratelle (2002) analyzed intrinsic motivation in three levels, namely situational level, contextual level, and global level. They recommend that motivation be considered not merely as a unitary concept, but as a complex concept. However, studies examining the effect of motivational strategies focus only on the trait and unitary aspects of motivation. Thus, there needs to be an examination of the effect of motivational strategies on motivation in different levels. In this article, three types of intrinsic motivation are addressed, namely intrinsic motivation to listening/speaking activities, intrinsic classroom motivation, and intrinsic trait motivation.
The second drawback concerns research design. Much of the research that examines the effect of motivational strategies adopts a pre-post design. However, in order to capture motivational changes in more detail, adding more measurement times would be useful. In this article, intrinsic motivation was measured at three different times; that is, pre-measurement, mid-measurement, and post-measurement.
Thus, this study aims to enhance students’ intrinsic motivation in three levels. I adopt Self-Determination Theory (SDT), a well-developed motivation theory in psychology, as the theoretical underpinning. This theory provides a useful framework for examining the effect of motivational strategy because it assumes the existence of three psychological needs (i.e., the need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness) as prerequisites for enhancing student motivation.
The purposes of this study are as follows: (1) to enhance intrinsic motivation to engage in listening activities; (2) to enhance intrinsic motivation to engage in speaking activities; (3) to enhance intrinsic classroom motivation; and (4) to enhance intrinsic trait motivation. This study further explores facilitating factors of intrinsic motivation in the three levels. Thus, this article also aims (5) to examine which psychological need (the need for autonomy, competence or relatedness) plays the most significant role in students’ motivational development; and (6) to explore new facilitating factors of intrinsic motivation.
Fifty-two university students who were enrolled in a first-year English language course participated in this study. The students met once a week in a 90-minute class. The intervention was given to them for fifteen weeks. Prior to the beginning of the intervention, students were given questionnaires about language learning motivation and the three psychological needs. The same questionnaires were administered in the middle and at the end of the intervention. An open-ended questionnaire was also administered to students at the post-measurement stage.
The results of the quantitative analysis showed that: (1) the intervention had a significant positive effect on students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in listening/speaking activities and intrinsic classroom motivation; (2) the need for competence had a strong relationship with the development in students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in listening activities; (3) the need for competence and relatedness had a strong relationship with development in students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in speaking activities; (4) all three needs were related to the development in intrinsic classroom motivation. Further, the results of qualitative analysis indicated that (5) “usefulness” might be another facilitating factor of motivation.