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  • Fostering Autonomy, Generating

    Motivation and Shaping Identities in

    the Adolescent Language Classroom

    - An Experimental Research Project

     

     

     

    Máirín  Kelly  

    Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

    School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies

    Dublin City University

    January 2014

    Supervisors:

    Dr. Jennifer Bruen, Ms. Fiona Gallagher and Dr. Annette Simon

  •  

    i    

    Declaration

    I hereby certify that this material, which I now submit for assessment on the programme of

    study leading to the award of Doctor of Philosophy is entirely my own work, that I have

    exercised reasonable care to ensure that the work is original, and does not to the best of my

    knowledge breach any law of copyright, and has not been taken from the work of others

    save and to the extent that such work has been cited and acknowledged within the text of

    my work.

    Signed: ____________________________ ID No.: 59115505

    Date: _____________________________

  • ii    

    For my sister Karen,

    who ignited my interest in languages.

  • iii    

    Acknowledgements

    I owe a great deal of gratitude to a number of people and I would now like to offer my

    appreciation and thanks to all who have helped me. I truly hope that they are satisfied with

    the sincerity of my gratitude because, without their help, I could not have completed my

    thesis.

    Most of all, I thank my three supervisors – Dr Jenny Bruen, Ms. Fiona Gallagher and

    Dr. Annette Simon – for their constant encouragement and belief in me. You have been

    incredibly generous, often going above and beyond the call of duty, providing feedback

    over the holidays, at the weekends and late in the evenings. I wish to thank you for the

    advice and guidance that you provided and for the time that you spent reading and

    evaluating my work. Your many words of encouragement helped me to remain focused and

    grounded, but when I did experience that “brick wall feeling” or got a little lost along the

    way, you were always helpful, kind, encouraging and patient. I have been extremely lucky

    to have you as my supervisors. Annette, Fiona and Jenny, you have been outstanding role

    models.

    My acknowledgements are extended to the teacher and thirty-two research participants,

    I am grateful to them for taking part in this study. My thanks go to the secondary school in

    which I was kindly granted permission to carry out my research. To all of these individuals,

    I owe an immense debt of gratitude. I was very fortunate that they trusted me enough to

    invite me into their classrooms. Their enthusiasm and cooperation made carrying out this

    investigation a pleasure.

    I also wish to thank my family for their continued support throughout the years of my

    education, even when it seemed at times to be endless.

    And finally, I am grateful to my partner Patrick, for believing in me, and for making

    sure that I could devote all of my time to this work by taking care of everything! Thank you

    for proofreading my work and listening to me moan. Thank you for your constant support.

    Sincerely, thank you.

  • iv    

    ABSTRACT Fostering autonomy, generating motivation and shaping

    identities in the adolescent language classroom: An experimental research project

    Máirín Kelly

    This study is concerned with the concepts of learner motivation, autonomy and identity in adolescent language learning. It investigates whether the use of intervention strategies influences adolescent learners’ autonomy and motivation in a language classroom setting. The intervention strategies in question are delegation of material and task selection to the student and promotion of self-evaluation. This study also reflects on the relationship between autonomy and motivation and the notion of identity/self in language learning.

    Thirty-two students and one teacher participated in this study, selected from an all girls’ secondary school in Ireland. The students were learning Spanish as foreign language. A quasi-experiment was designed which involved a treatment (18 students) and comparison (14 students) group. The teacher used intervention strategies to teach the treatment group, while continuing to use her traditional approach with the comparison group. This study predominantly used quantitative research methods, while qualitative research methods were used to collect data of a complementary nature. Quantitative data was collected via motivation and autonomy questionnaires, while qualitative data was elicited using goal- setting records, reflection records, individual interviews and classroom observations.

    The results indicate that motivation and autonomy levels increased significantly among the learners who were exposed to the treatment for the duration of the experiment, thus suggesting that intervention strategies are effective as regards generating motivation and fostering autonomy. The findings suggest that engaging in autonomous learning practices allowed students to use the language as a vehicle to express self and identity. The findings also indicate that adolescent language learners should be given a greater input in the learning process and would benefit from the inclusion of these or similar intervention strategies in formal classroom settings.

  • v    

    Table of Contents

    LIST OF TABLES............................................................................................xi

    LIST OF FIGURES.........................................................................................xiv

    LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS........................................................................xvi

    1. INTRODUCTION............................................................................................1

    1.1 The Research Context and Rationale.......................................................3

    1.2 Research Questions.....................................................................................5

    1.3 Organisation of the Thesis.........................................................................6

    2. LITERATURE REVIEW...............................................................................7 2.1 Motivation in Foreign/Second Language Acquisition.............................7

    2.1.1 Motivation theories in language learning...............................................7

    2.1.2 Motivational classroom strategies.......................................................15

    2.1.3 Concluding remarks.....……………………......……………………17

    2.2 Autonomy in Foreign/Second Language Acquisition…..........…..……19

    2.2.1 Autonomy in language learning..........................................................19

    2.2.2 Approaches to autonomy in the second-level language classroom.........24

    2.2.3 Teacher roles.....................................................................................26

    2.2.4 Teacher/Learner training.....................................................................28

    2.2.5 Concluding remarks……….........………………...…………….......29

    2.3 Learner Identity in Foreign/Second Language Acquisition.................31

    2.3.1 Identity in language learning....................................................................31

    2.3.2 Identity and adolescent learners................................................................33

    2.3.3 Motivation and the L2 self..................................................................34

    2.3.4 Autonomy and learner identity............................................................35

  • vi    

    2.3.5 The link between motivation, autonomy and learner identity/self..........37

    2.3.6 Concluding remarks……………………….......................................42

    3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..................................................45

    3.1 Sampling....................................................................................................46

    3.1.1 Participants........................................................................................47

    3.1.1.1 The participating school........................................................47

    3.1.1.2 Students...............................................................................48

    3.1.1.3 The participating teacher....................................................50

    3.1.2 Ethical considerations.........................................................................50

    3.2 Quasi-experimental Procedure…......…………………….......………...52

    3.2.1 Implementation of intervention strategies............................................53

    3.2.1.1 Delegation of material and task selection to the student...........54

    3.2.1.2 The promotion of self-evaluation...........................................56

    3.3 Data Collection Methods and Instruments……………….......….........58

    3.3.1 Questionnaires…...................……………………………....…