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Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education

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This paper investigates how L2 motivation evolves over time in higher education. A motivational-intensity questionnaire was developed and administered to a sample of 145 first-year male students studying in the foundation year of a higher education institution in Saudi Arabia. The Mann–Whitney U test and the Student’s t-test showed that the motivational intensity of second-semester students was significantly lower in terms of daily studying and preparation for major exams. The results also showed a worrying pattern of Saudi L2 learners exhibiting little inclination to practice the reading skill. Possible interpretations and implications of these findings are discussed.
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Scientic Journal of KFU (Humanities and Management Sciences) Vol.20 (1) - 2019 (1440H)
249
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education
Ali H. Al-Hoorie
Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu
Jubail, Saudi Arabia
ABSTRACT
This paper investigates how L2 motivation evolves over time in higher education. A motivational-intensity
questionnaire was developed, tested for stability and validity, and then administered to a sample of 145 rst-
year male students studying in the foundation year of Jubail Industrial College, a higher education institution
in Saudi Arabia. The statistical analysis showed that the motivational intensity of second-semester students was
signicantly lower in terms of daily studying and preparation for major exams. The results also showed a worrying
pattern of Saudi L2 learners exhibiting little inclination to practice the reading skill. Teachers should recognize
decline of study interest pattern and accordingly adjust teaching methodologies and motivational strategies.
Key Words: Autonomy, English Skills Practice, Loss of motivation.
INRODUCTION
Motivation is a subject of interdisciplinary
interest, cutting through such diverse elds
of knowledge as education, psychology,
sociology, economics, and political science.
Motivation, commonly dened as “the
extent to which the individual works
or strives to learn the language because
of a desire to do so and the satisfaction
experienced in this activity” (Gardner, 1985:
10). It is an intricate and multidimensional
concept that has been described as “one
of the most elusive concepts in the whole
domain of social sciences” (Dörnyei, 2001:
2). Although educational motivation is
already a complex concept, some scholars
have argued that it becomes even more
complex when considered in relation to
second language (L2) motivation. Other
school subjects, on the one hand, include
aspects of, or perspectives from the learner’s
cultural heritage even in a subject that might
at rst seem as neutral as history. “Anyone
who has had the opportunity to discuss some
‘historical fact’ with a member of another
ethnic community will easily recognize that
facts have different perspectives” (Gardner,
1985: 6). L2 learning, on the other hand,
is not merely learning facts about the
target language; instead, it includes further
cultural and social elements. “The learning
of a foreign language involves far more
than simply learning skills, or a system of
rules, or a grammar; it involves an alteration
in self-image, the adoption of new social
and cultural behaviors and ways of being”
(Williams and Burden, 1997: 115).
Theoretical framework
The approach adopted here to examine L2
motivation focuses on its evolution, or how
it changes over time. This is because high
motivation may look like a stable attribute of
one learner, while low or lack of motivation
might appear characteristic of another.
This is often implied in the motivational
literature when certain tools, e.g. a one-time
questionnaire, are used (Dörnyei, 2001).
Various motivational factors can inuence
one’s motivation, positively or negatively,
directly or indirectly, in variable levels in a
time-sensitive and dynamic fashion (Larsen-
Freeman and Cameron, 2008). Unfortunately,
this temporal aspect of motivation is under-
investigated. Some researchers examined
this aspect in relation to the micro-
temporal dimension. For example, German
psychologists Heckhausen and Kuhl’s (1985)
Action Control Theory is concerned with the
pre-decisional and post-decisional phases of
a single action. Similar interest was shown
for micro-temporal aspect by Williams
and Burden (1997), and Dörnyei and Ottó
(1998). On the macro-temporal side, “hardly
any research has been done on analyzing
the dynamics of L2 motivational change
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
250
and identifying typical sequential patterns
and developmental aspects” (Dörnyei,
2001: 82). The current study addresses this
macro-temporal dimension of motivation—
that is, how motivation evolves over time?
An area that falls under the temporal aspect
of motivation, together with the above-
mentioned micro perspective.
There are a few studies specically
targeting the nature of motivational
evolution, but the big picture seems rather
gloomy: There is a general consensus that
motivation declines over time. One study
found that the motivation of Japanese 7th
graders learning English rst decreased over
a period of seven months and then seemed to
stabilize when the learners started to develop
realistic goals (Koizumi and Matsuo, 1993).
In another study, interest in learning English
was found to decline from junior high,
to high school in both Japan and China
(Tachibana et al., 1996). Ushioda’s (1998)
primary focus was on effective motivational
thinking, demotivation, and self-motivation.
Two other studies showed a decline in the
motivation of British students between Year
7 and Year 9 (Chambers, 1999; Williams .,
2002). Ushioda (2001) interviewed 20 Irish
young adult learners of French twice with a
16-month gap. Ushioda found that the goal-
orientations of these learners evolved as
they formed clearer denitions of L2 related
personal goals. A study of Jewish learners
of modern spoken Arabic showed a small,
but consistent and signicant, decline in
motivation for all groups for all motivational
measures (Inbar, et al., 2001). Gardner, et
al., 2004 concluded that the attitudes and
motivation of Canadian university learners
of French decreased during one academic
year from the fall to the spring.
A number of theories have been developed
to explain this declining pattern. According
to Ushioda (2001) motivation does not
really decrease, but learners reevaluate the
importance of learning English and then
consciously adjust their effort accordingly.
Some researchers observe a discrepancy
between the learners’ initially high motivation
and their generally low achievement, and
conclude that the reported motivation does
not reect genuine motivation but mere
positive attitudes (Moskovsky and Alrabai,
2009; Alrabai, 2010). Other researchers
blame the unexpected reality that learners
face (Chambers, 1999; Brophy, 2010).
Learners may underestimate the amount of
effort they would be required to do. The ‘rude
awakening’ they experience may negatively
inuence their self-efcacy.
So, what is the importance of studying
macro-temporal motivation? The answer
lies in the commonly observed problem in
classrooms where teachers tend to blame
their students for lacking motivation, while
these same students lay the blame on their
teachers (Chambers, 1993). The importance
of studying the macro-temporal dimension
of motivation springs from that fact that it
offers a possible solution to this problem:
Each party needs to come to an understanding
of the other. Teachers’ understanding of
students, my concern here, could make
classroom instruction more effective as
teachers will have realistic expectations
of their students’ dynamic motivation and
readiness for learning in relation to different
times of the day, week, semester, or academic
year. This knowledge may allow teachers
to expect typical motivational patterns and
accordingly adjust their motivational effort
and teaching methodology.
Motivation in higher education
Part of this temporal dimension is
how motivation evolves over the years in
higher education. One might be tempted to
believe that the higher education student is
naturally more motivated than a schoolchild.
Based on the assumption that adult learners
are different—and consequently require
different treatment—from schoolchildren,
Knowles (1968) introduced the term
andragogy, as opposed to pedagogy, to
refer to this distinction. In this view, adults
are assumed to be more independent,
more experienced, more interested in
knowledge application in real life, and more
Scientic Journal of KFU (Humanities and Management Sciences) Vol.20 (1) - 2019 (1440H)
251
intrinsically motivated than schoolchildren.
Therefore, they need andragogical, instead
of pedagogical, methodologies to make
learning and teaching effective.
Andragogy has generated much
debate over its theoretical validity and
its applicability to all, and only, adult
learners. For example, not all adult learners
are teacher-independent, nor all children
teacher-dependent. This also applies to
being intrinsically motivated to learn the
subject matter and to have readily applicable
real-life experience related to it. This debate
led Knowles (1984) to revise his pedagogy–
andragogy dichotomy and reformulate a
more exible view of these two concepts
being in a continuum, consequently relating
the whole point to the particular details of the
learning situation rather than the learner’s
mere age.
Still, the higher education student, due to
his/her maturity, is expected to hold more
responsibility and accountability for the
learning process than the schoolchild is.
“When it comes to adults, the foundation of
higher education must assume that the adult
learner has primary responsibility for their
own motivation…. Knowing the difference
can mean the success or failure of higher
educators in conveying to students learning
skills that are permanent and student owned”
(Pew, 2007: 18). The implication of this
position is that some research ndings on
schoolchildren may not be readily applicable
to adult learners. Therefore, ndings related
to schoolchildren need to be replicated on
higher education learners before generalizing.
The Saudi context
Because the current study was conducted
in Saudi Arabia, this literature review
will focus on the studies conducted in the
Saudi context. Another study (Al-Otaibi,
2004) examined the relationship between
use of language learning strategies and
L2 motivation among Saudi students at
the Institute of Public Administration in
Riyadh. The study found that motivation
correlated with all strategies examined.
Motivation studies conducted in the Saudi
higher education context generally focused
on a number of issues other than the macro-
temporal aspect. For example, Congreve
(2005) compared students’ attitudes toward
English and Arabic at King Fahd University
for Petroleum and Minerals. The results
revealed that the participants had positive
attitudes toward both languages, but their
motivation tended to be instrumental
with regard to English, and integrative
with regard to Arabic. However, there is a
general shortage of empirical studies of L2
motivation in Saudi Arabia (Alrabai, 2010).
The number of higher education institutions
in Saudi Arabia has greatly expanded
recently, and English is taught in most, if
not all, of these institutions. Despite this,
I am aware of only one study (Makrami,
2010) that tapped into the macro-temporal
dimension of motivation in Saudi higher
education students. Makrami surveyed L2
students at Jazan University twice with a 12-
week gap and the results showed a decrease
in their attitudes. This study lends support
to the ‘gloomy picture’ the studies reviewed
above found in other contexts: Motivation
tends to decrease over time. Maherzi (2011)
studied the relationship between female
students’ perceptions of the classroom
climate and their motivation to study the
L2 at Effat University. The analysis of the
questionnaire data showed that the students
who perceived the classroom climate as
autonomy-supportive tended to report
intrinsic motivation as well as the more self-
determined types of extrinsic motivation
(i.e., introjected and identied regulations).
Another Saudi study examined a similar
issue but it was concerned with Saudi
students studying at a U.S. university (Al
Zayid, 2012). The researcher interviewed
seven participants and found that their
motivation uctuated based on factors such
as the learning environment, their teachers,
their economic status, the results of their
standardized tests, and the availability of a
person who encouraged them.
Some studies that examined L2 motivation
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
252
in higher education were conducted in
neighboring countries. It is reasonable to
assume that higher education students in
neighboring countries, being within the
Arabian Peninsula, share some similarities
with Saudi higher education students. In
one study, Malallah (2000) compared the L2
attitudes of Kuwaiti university students. The
questionnaire results showed that science
students had the most positive attitudes,
followed by Arabic students, and then by
Islamic Studies students. Malallah attributes
this pattern to exposure to the language and to
its perceived instrumental value. In Yemen,
Tamimi and Shuib (2009) investigated
the motivation of petroleum engineering
students at Hadhramout University of
Sciences and Technology. The analysis of
their data, collected through questionnaires
and interviews, revealed that instrumental
reasons were the major factor in learning
English, followed by personal reasons, and
nally by integrative reasons.
From the above review, it is clear that there
is a gap in studying L2 motivation in terms
of its evolution over time in Saudi higher
education. This study is an attempt to ll this
gap. However, this study will approach this
issue from a different perspective, namely
motivational intensity.
MOTIVATIONAL INTENSITY
According to Gardner’s (1985) integrative
motive, L2 motivation encompasses three
components: motivational intensity (effort),
desire to learn the language (cognition), and
attitudes towards language learning (affect).
Gardner (1985) also operationalized his
theory into an extensively tested and highly
reliable self-report instrument to measure
motivation, and called it the Attitude/
Motivation Test Battery (AMTB). Despite
the reliability of the AMTB, Dörnyei (1994
and 2005) raised two validity issues. First,
the three components of motivation (effort,
cognition, and affect) have rather overlapping
items to the extent that it might be tricky
to reassemble them if they were pooled
together. This can also be an explanation
as to why these three scales intercorrelate
highly. Second, the AMTB—in addition
to assessing the underlying, unobservable
mental aspect of motivation—also measures
the actual behavioral outcomes through
the effort scale. This might play a key role
in increasing the predictive validity of the
instrument. In reality, two of the above
motivational components (cognition and
affect) may be a prerequisite for the third
(effort), which results in a nal product of
a continuum with autonomy at one end and
procrastination at the other.
Many L2 motivation researchers
investigate motivation in terms of attitudes
or reasons for studying the language, e.g.
integrative vs. instrumental, intrinsic vs.
extrinsic, or ideal vs. ought selves; others
also examine the relationship these attitudes
and reasons might have with achievement
or intended effort (Dörnyei and Ushioda,
2009). Although this is not a common
approach, it is no less valid. This approach
offers a different perspective to examine
motivation because it does not rely on why
learners study the language, but how much
they do so, which Gardner (1985) calls
motivational intensity. Therefore, provided
that the necessary conditions are available,
if a student autonomously practices the L2
outside the classroom, does not regularly
procrastinate course assignments, and
habitually spends a longer time studying the
subject, we would expect that this behavior
is an outcome of a higher level of motivation
than that of another student who does the
contrary. Thus, the student who goes home
to study and practice the L2 as much as s/
he can, is expected to be more motivated
than the student who goes home to engage in
other priorities which are never over until a
day or two before the test.
It must be emphasized here, though, that
the effort referred to above is voluntary
effort. “Focusing only on intensity does
not completely describe the concept of
motivated behavior” (Gardner, 1985: 53).
This is because “Effort alone does not
signify motivation. The motivated individual
Scientic Journal of KFU (Humanities and Management Sciences) Vol.20 (1) - 2019 (1440H)
253
expends effort toward the goal, but the
individual expending effort is not necessarily
motivated” (ibid.: 10). However, this still
implies that the learner who does not expend
effort would likely be less motivated than,
everything being equal, another learner in
the same classroom who expends effort
voluntarily and habitually. Procrastination—
or lack of voluntary effort—therefore seems
to be an expected outcome of low or lack of
motivation. In fact, some researchers have
tried to help learners decrease procrastination
with different motivational incentives (e.g.,
Tuckman, 1998). Tuckman (1991) also
devised a Procrastination Scale to measure
self-efcacy. With respect to autonomy,
Ushioda (1996) also agrees that it is a result
of motivation. “Autonomous language
learners are by denition motivated learners”
(Ushioda, 1996: 2).
THE PRESENT STUDY
The uniqueness of this study stems from
the fact that it addresses an area that has not
received sufcient attention. This area is the
evolution of the Saudi student’s L2 motivation
in higher education. Another unique aspect
of this study is that it examines this issue
from a different perspective: motivational
intensity. The present study will therefore
focus on the amount of student’s effort to
learn the L2. However, since effort alone
does not necessarily signify motivation, it is
voluntary effort that will be examined. The
questionnaire will repeatedly stress that the
items are concerned with the usual amount
of spent effort. This is intended to ensure that
a high level of effort intensity is an outcome
of genuine motivation. On the other hand, a
low level of voluntary effort, everything else
being equal, would most likely be a result
of low motivation. To be more specic, the
current study will examine the motivation
of higher education students in terms of the
following two research questions:
1. Is there a difference between 1st-semester
and 2nd-semester freshmen in reported
exam procrastination?
2. Is there a difference between these two
groups in reported autonomy in studying
and practicing the L2 outside the
classroom?
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Participants
The participants (N = 145) were male
freshman students of an elementary to pre-
intermediate level of prociency and with
an age range of 18–20. They were studying
at Jubail Industrial College (JIC), Saudi
Arabia. JIC is an all-male English-medium
college, where students primarily study
English and mathematics in the Foundation
Year (Preparatory Year). After successful
completion of this rst year, they qualify
to proceed to their technical or business
majors. The rst group of the participants
(n = 86) were in their rst semester and the
second (n = 59) in their second semester. All
participants were in their rst year studying
either English alone or both English and
mathematics.
INSTRUMENT
Due to the scarcity of studies that tested
motivational intensity, a new instrument
was developed. In order to measure exam
procrastination (rst research question),
the instrument included items about the
time the participants rst started preparing
for their tests in the semester of the study.
The participants were asked three questions
concerning the weekly Wednesday quizzes
and the two major exams that they had had
before completing the questionnaire. for
example, “When did you start preparing
for Major 1 this semester?” with the rating
scale: I didn’t study, one or two days before,
3–5 days before, a week before, 2 weeks
before, 3 weeks before, or more than that.
In order to measure autonomy (second
research question), the instrument included
items about their everyday study habits.
The instrument asked the participants seven
questions about general studying, learning
vocabulary, and practicing the four skills (for
example, “Do you usually practice speaking
English outside the classroom?” with the
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
254
rating scale usually–never). There were
two reading items related to reading online
and ofine. The ofine reading item asked
about how many pages, instead of words, the
participants read daily since the participants
were not accustomed to counting words.
Although this questionnaire relies on single-
item scales, this does not question its validity
because the items require factual information
as opposed to measuring an abstract construct
(Oppenheim, 1992; Dörnyei and Taguchi,
2010). As a measure to raise the likelihood
of eliciting truthful answers, the instrument
did not require the participants to reveal their
identities and so all questionnaires were
answered anonymously. The questionnaire
also had a dummy introduction that informed
the participants that the management of
the College was considering establishing a
speaking club for students, which was true,
and then asked the participants about their
opinions about this project. The questionnaire
clearly informed the participants that of the
research purpose that is to survey their study
patterns and how they improved their L2
for research purposes. In order to avoid any
language interference, the questionnaire was
administered in Arabic, the participants’ L1.
Before the main study, the instrument
was piloted with a group of students at the
same institution and the results were not
included in the nal analysis. In order to
check the participants’ comprehension, the
pilot questionnaire had an additional open-
ended question after each item asking the
participants to explain their choices and
give examples. This pilot questionnaire
revealed that the participants found some
items ambiguous. In particular, the items
about reading and writing practice generated
unrelated responses, such as “I write grafti”.
These two items were elaborated to obtain
responses related to improving the L2. The
participants in the pilot study also seemed
confused by the rating scales of some items.
They found it uninformative to use a scale
from always to never without explaining
what each anchor meant. Therefore, this type
of rating scale was elaborated to be “Never,”
Rarely; only when I can,” Usually; most
days of the weekand Always; every day,
or almost every day.” They also had other
minor suggestions about the rating scales
of some other items, such as ordering and
rephrasing, and their suggestions were
accepted and implemented. Finally, these
participants were not sure whether the
items were concerned about the recent or
the habitual amount of their study time.
To clarify this point, the word usually was
added and underlined in order to stress that
the required answer was the usual amount,
i.e. not the latest or the ideal.
PROCEDURE
The teacher of each class of the
Foundation Year was asked to choose four
students. The teachers were instructed to
choose one student they considered above-
average, two average students, and one
below-average. This subjective procedure
was only intended to maintain a normal
distribution by preventing the teachers from
exclusively favoring their best students. This
subjective choice was not considered in the
data analysis and the participants were not
categorized according to it. Finally, very few
participants did not go beyond the rst page
in answering the questionnaire and so they
were excluded, leaving 145 questionnaires
for the data analysis.
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
There were two scale types in the
questionnaire. For the rst type, the
responses were coded as follows: ‘Never’ =
0, ‘Seldom’ = 1, ‘Usually’ = 3, and ‘Always’
= 4. For the second type, ‘I don’t’ was coded
as zero and the other anchors were coded into
increasing numerals. Because the instrument
was concerned with motivational intensity,
which implies persistence and consistency,
it was decided to code ‘Irregularly as zero
also.
Most of the items were analyzed using
the Student’s t-test because their scales
were sufciently continuous. However, four
items—related to the two major exams, the
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weekly quizzes, and the amount of daily
studying—had to be analyzed using the
Mann–Whitney U test because the rating
scales were ordinal in nature, which violates
a condition of parametric tests such as the
t-test. Using a t-test requires interval data,
where there is an equal distance between
the scale anchors. The Mann–Whitney test
ranks the data in each condition in order to
check for systematic differences (see Brace
et al., 2012: 133).
In contrast to the t-test, the Mann–
Whitney test is a nonparametric test, and
therefore the descriptive statistics presented
will include medians (Mdn) and ranges,
instead of means and standard deviations.
For inferential statistics, in addition to
the Mann–Whitney test results (U) and
their probabilities (p-values), effect sizes
(r) will also be presented. Effect sizes can
be calculated by dividing standard scores
(Z) by the square root of the sample size
(r = Z / √N). The hypotheses were two tailed,
and the analysis was performed at the .05
level of signicance.
RESULTS
Procrastination items
There were three procrastination areas
probed by the instrument: preparing for the
weekly quizzes and preparing for each of the
two major exams the participants had had
before the study. For the rst area, the results
of the Mann–Whitney test showed that there
was no signicant difference between the
time the two groups started preparing for
the weekly quizzes, Mdn = 2, Range = 6 for
both groups, U = 2476, p = .794, r = .02.
For the second area, however, the results
showed that the 1st-semester group (Mdn =
3, Range = 6) started preparing signicantly
earlier than the 2nd-semester group (Mdn =
2, Range = 6) for the rst major exam, U
= 1727, p = .001, r = .27. For the last area,
the 1st-semester group (Mdn = 3, Range =
6) also started signicantly earlier than the
2nd-semester group (Mdn = 2, Range = 6) for
their second major exam, U = 1601, p < .001,
r = .32. These results are illustrated in Figure
1. Thus, based on these procrastination
criteria, the 1st-semester group tended to be
more motivated.
Figure (1): Median Responses of 1st-Semester and 2nd-Semester Groups
to Items Analyzed with the Mann–Whitney Test
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
256
AUTONOMY ITEMS
To examine the participants’ autonomy,
several areas were surveyed including
daily studying, learning vocabulary, and
practicing the four skills. For daily studying,
the 1st-semeter group (Mdn = 3, Range = 5)
reported studying signicantly more than
the 2nd-semester group (Mdn = 1, Range =
5) on a daily basis, U = 1926, p < .010, r
= .21. Examination of the medians shows
that the 1st-semester group reported studying
for about an hour daily, while the 2nd-
semester group reported studying for only
about a quarter of an hour. Because it was
analyzed with the Mann–Whitney test, the
daily studying item was included in Figure
1 together with the other items analyzed
with this test. With respect to daily study,
thus, the 1st-semester group seemed more
autonomous.
For the remaining items, there were not
signicant differences between the two
groups in either vocabulary, t(111) = .079,
p = 0.937, d = 0.01; listening, t(143) = 1.06,
p = 0.291, d = 0.18; speaking, t(143) = 0.917,
p = 0.361, d = 0.16; writing, t(106) = 0.008,
p = 0.994, d = 0; online reading, t(143) = .307,
p = 0.553, d = 0.10; or ofine reading, t(143)
= 0.977, p = 0.330, and d = 0.16. However,
examination of how much attention the
participants devoted to each of these areas
revealed an interesting pattern. Because it
was not planned to investigate this aspect
from the beginning, however, it will be
discussed only briey here. It can be noticed
from the means in Figure 2 that vocabulary
was the area on which the participants
reported placing the most emphasis while
the area with the least emphasis was ofine
reading. That ofine reading ranked at the
bottom of the list was rather unexpected in a
foreign language context, where learners do
not have frequent contact with L2 speakers
outside the classroom. It was expected that
reading and writing would be the most
practiced skills.
Figure (2): Mean Responses of the Two Groups to the Skills and Vocabulary Items
To summarize the results, the 1st-semester
group appeared to be more motivated in that
they procrastinated less in preparation for
major exams than did the 2nd-semester group.
The 1st-semester group also outperformed
the 2nd-semester group in daily studying.
There were no signicant differences in the
other areas investigated. Finally, the results
Scientic Journal of KFU (Humanities and Management Sciences) Vol.20 (1) - 2019 (1440H)
257
revealed an unexpected pattern where ofine
reading ranked at the bottom for both groups.
DISCUSSION
The results of this study seem to lend
some support to the other studies reviewed
above that painted a ‘gloomy picture’,
where there is a pattern of motivation to
decline over time. In the present study, this
pattern was revealed specically in exam
procrastination and daily studying, but
not in the other areas. As discussed above,
there are three possible explanations in the
literature for the observed declining pattern.
The rst is related to the distinction between
attitudes and motivation, the second to the
deterioration of self-efcacy, and the third
to the formulation of more realistic goals.
These explanations will be discussed in
relation to the ndings of this study.
Some researchers attributed L2 learners
the decline of initial high attitudes and
motivation throughout the distinction
between attitudes and genuine motivation
(Alrabai, 2010; Moskovsky and Alrabai,
2009). These researchers were reluctant
to explain the highly positive responses
obtained as a representation of motivation.
Instead, they interpreted these ndings as
positive attitudes and “global motivation” for
L2 learning (Moskovsky and Alrabai, 2009:
4) in order to accommodate the generally
low L2 achievement of the responders. The
results of the current study seem to dispute
this explanation. The 1st-semester group in
this study also reported expending effort
to learn the L2, which goes beyond mere
positive attitudes. It may make more sense
to attribute low achievement to poor self-
regulation needed to sustain effort over time,
rather than to lack of genuine motivation
in all of these responders. Moskovsky and
Alrabai’s logic would have been acceptable
if high motivation automatically led to high
achievement, while in fact it is self-regulated
effort—facilitated by high motivation—that
leads to the desired achievement. In higher
education, it may also make sense to blame
the decline in both L2 motivation and effort
on overcondence in one’s ability, rather
than the lack of real motivation, especially
at institutions that offer intensive English
programs. Learners in such cases may
believe they have reached a sufcient level
of L2 prociency and do not need to work
hard anymore. Distinguishing between
enthusiasm and real motivation gives the
impression of a difference in kind not in
degree, an idea that seems conceptually
problematic.
Another possible explanation for the
observed decline is the deterioration of
self-efcacy, which is the judgment of
one’s ability to succeed in a given activity.
Students start learning the L2 with an
amount of motivation to explore this new
domain without realizing the amount of
effort they need to exert and sustain in
order to achieve high prociency. This
late realization might constitute a negative
experience that takes its toll on self-efcacy.
In Chambers’s study (1999: 81), “The scene
is set for a very positive start. Two years
later, the picture is not quite so encouraging.
It seems that pupils’ expectations are not
matched by the reality. The honeymoon is
over”. In higher education, the transition
from high school to university or college
may similarly energize one’s motivation at
rst, leading to the same cycle again (for
similar views, see Alrabai, 2010; Brophy,
2010). This negative experience may also
result from certain institutional practices. For
example, nding a gap between coursework
and tests, not receiving attention from the
teacher due to overcrowded classrooms, and
inexible institutional policies (Ushioda,
2001) can negatively inuence self-efcacy.
The deterioration of self-efcacy seems a
satisfactory explanation for the results of
this study.
Both of these explanations implicitly
adopt the gloomy picture of motivation
abating over time. The third explanation
adopts a more positive view. Learners may
consciously decide to take up other goals
they personally consider more valuable.
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
258
The presence of other goals “compete[s] for
attention and priority within the learner’s
overall hierarchy of personal needs and
motives” (Ushioda, 2001: 111). Learners
may start to regard other subjects as more
important for academic and career success.
This explanation might be especially
relevant to higher education students, who
may reevaluate the role the L2 will play in
their short- or long-term goals. According to
the third explanation, therefore, the picture
is not as gloomy and the observed decline
is a result of the adoption of more realistic
goals after taking into consideration the
perceived value of L2 learning. The adoption
of alternative goals seems a satisfactory
explanation for the results of this study, also.
The other nding of this study was
the unexpected pattern of ofine reading
ranking the lowest in terms of the time
devoted to it. Vocabulary was the most
emphasized area. This might be explained
by the salient nature of vocabulary learning.
That is, in order to learn vocabulary, the
learner can simply go to the textbook and
review the new vocabulary items. Practicing
listening, speaking, writing (chatting), and
online reading may be facilitated by the
accessibility to modern devices and gadgets
by the young nowadays. That ofine reading
came last on the list was rather unexpected
because one might be inclined to believe that
in foreign language contexts, as opposed to
second language contexts, reading is the
activity that would always rank the highest.
There might be several explanations for this
pattern. One explanation might be that the
advent of technology that facilitates listening,
speaking, writing, and online reading
is redening foreign language contexts.
Practicing listening and speaking may not
longer be the exclusive privilege of second
language contexts. Another explanation is
that most of the available reading materials
are either authentic or too difcult for the
average student’s prociency level. Some
learners may nd it difcult to obtain
materials that are both interesting enough
to read and suitable for their current level of
prociency. An alternative explanation could
be that the students are simply unaware of
the importance and value of reading. It
has to be admitted that a reading culture is
not characteristic of many Arab societies,
particularly in the Gulf.
PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS
The major pedagogical implication of
studying the macro-temporal motivation is
for teachers to have realistic expectations
of their students’ motivation at different
times. Teachers who expect this declining
pattern can adjust their motivational effort
accordingly. For example, instead of
blaming their students and labeling them as
‘lazy’, teachers would accept this decline
as a natural developmental route of their
students’ evolving motivation. It is also likely
that the motivational strategies that might
work with students at an early stage may not
work at a later one. A particular motivational
strategy that used to work may stop working
not because the strategy is inherently faulty,
but because it may no longer be suitable for
the students from a temporal perspective.
Another implication is that it seems
reasonable to suggest that it would be more
helpful to stream teachers according to their
motivational skill. Teachers who have a wide
repertoire of motivational strategies are more
likely to fare better with low-motivation
students. Moskovsky and Alrabai (2009: 7)
suggest that their survey results illustrate that
“Saudis possess fairly substantial ‘dormant’
reserves of motivation which in more
favorable conditions could be deployed to
produce better learning outcomes.” Having
motivationally competent teachers is most
likely one of these favorable conditions.
Higher education administrators can
also contribute to the problem of declining
motivation by establishing more self-study
facilities and encouraging students to utilize
them frequently. This may help foster
autonomy and sustain motivation. These
self-study facilities should be convenient
venues for L2 practice, provide both ofine
and online materials, and offer personalized
Scientic Journal of KFU (Humanities and Management Sciences) Vol.20 (1) - 2019 (1440H)
259
guidance until learners become condent in
using them independently. The above results
suggest that young people nowadays might
be more inclined to utilize online reading
materials. Although this is a positive sign,
ofine reading should also be encouraged.
Therefore, the self-study facilities should
pay special attention to making the reading
materials relevant to their users and suitable
for their prociency levels. Many learners
simply need to be made aware of the
importance of extensive reading. Exhibiting
little interest in extensive reading is a
worrying problem. It is difcult to conceive
how academic knowledge can develop
without reading, online and ofine, playing
a prominent role in it. Instilling a reading
culture in these young people must be a
primary cause for concern to everybody
involved in education, not just higher
education administrators.
The reason why vocabulary was more
popular might be related to the saliency
of vocabulary. This idea is similar to that
of ‘specic goals’ that falls under Locke
and Latham’s (1990) goal-setting theory.
When they learn vocabulary, students may
be aware that they simply need to learn
the vocabulary items of each new lesson
and probably review those of previous
lessons. Unfortunately, practicing the other
skills is not as straightforward. Because
this level of goal clarity might be lacking,
teachers need to place greater emphasis
on helping students set specic, proximal,
and moderately difcult goals. Regrettably,
surveys of teacher motivational beliefs and
practices have found that it is very unlikely
that teachers are aware of the importance of
goal-setting or that they practice it (Dörnyei
and Csizér, 1998; Cheng and Dörnyei,
2007). Bringing this issue to the attention
of teachers and helping them to incorporate
it into their daily classroom practice could
be an important step in increasing students’
motivation.
In addition to goal-setting, another
pedagogical implication is to incorporate
more frequent testing. Tuckman (2000)
found that using frequent testing increased
the achievement of college students from
a whole grade (a B compared to a C) to a
third of a grade (a B- compared to a C+).
However, this increase in achievement,
though desirable and an indication of less
procrastination, reects external pressure not
self-determined motivation. Still, frequent
testing may motivate learners to develop
self-regulation skills, which may be valuable
in the long run. This implication obviously
needs empirical validation.
LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
Generally, responses elicited by self-report
questionnaires are potentially problematic
in representing reality due to the possibility
of memory bias. Still, some methodologists
argue that a retrospective design may yield
more valid data when it elicits the amount
of past behavior after a relatively short time
such as weeks or months—like the case in
the present study—as opposed to eliciting
attitudes and feelings about past events
(Ruspini, 2002). In addition, in their ‘grumpy
overview’ of emotion and memory research,
Levine and Pizarro (2004) concluded that
emotional memories are malleable and can
be shaped by post-event experience and
appraisals. “After all, the primary function
of memory may be to guide future behavior
rather than to keep an exact record of the
past” (Levine and Pizarro, 2004: 534). We
do not know what emotions were associated
with exams for each participant in the
sample and what emotions were elicited
by the questionnaire. Hence, the tentative
ndings of this quantitative study need
to be conrmed qualitatively as well as
longitudinally.
FUTURE RESEARCH
In this study, three possible explanations
of the declining motivation were discussed.
A future study would shed more light on
which of these, or other, explanations is more
relevant to which group of learners and why.
Future research would also explain why this
declining pattern did not apply to the short
Evolution of L2 Motivation in Higher Education Ali H. Al-Hoorie
260
weekly quizzes. Further research should
also address this macro-temporal motivation
in other academic years (i.e., before and
after freshman year), as well as trends of
motivation within a single semester. Even
within one class, attention and motivation
to pay attention may uctuate. Examining
this issue and whether it is related to
other issues such as time of day would be
interesting. It might also be informative to
relate these trends to other factors, such as
tests, grades, prociency levels, and inter-
semester breaks. Policies and regulations
of individual institutions may play a critical
role in shaping motivational evolution.
Future research should inform us about
the effects different policies have and what
motivational approaches should accompany
each of these policies. In addition, it would
be interesting to examine what motivational
effects result from changing the class
teacher. Teacher’s motivation may also
change over time. Teachers micro- and
macro-temporal motivation and that of their
students might correlate and inuence each
other. Addressing the interplay of these two
patterns should be another area of future
research. It would be more intriguing if this
interplay is studied from a dynamic systems
theory perspective (cf. Larsen-Freeman and
Cameron, 2008). Finally, future research
should also examine in more detail how
teachers could benet from knowledge of
this changing motivational pattern, as well
as whether L2 learners themselves can also
benet from this knowledge.
CONCLUSION
This paper has attempted to investigate
the macro-temporal dimension of L2
motivation in higher education. The ndings
might be interpreted as a conrmation of
the gloomy picture of motivational decline,
or in a more optimistic light where learners
formulate goals that are more realistic. In the
latter case, their motivation does not actually
decline, but enters a new phase. Regardless
of which of these two interpretations is
adopted, teachers should recognize this
pattern and accordingly adjust teaching
methodologies and motivational strategies.
The consistency of the current results with
others in this area appears to lend support to
measuring motivation through motivational
intensity when operationalized in terms of
voluntariness and habituality.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I would like to thank the following people
for their assistance in various phases of this
study: Abdullatif Campbell, Mohammad
Zaid, Mohammed Nasser Alhuqbani, Phil
Scholeld, William C. Peterson, Zoltan
Dornyei, and two anonymous reviewers.
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... Motivation With a growing awareness of the dynamic, interconnected feature of language learning motivation, more and more studies have adopted the CDST perspective (with its accompanying analytic techniques) to researching learning motivation, and yielded insightful findings regarding the complexity and dynamics of motivational processes, as well as developmental patterns of motivation (e.g., Chan et al., 2015;Dörnyei and Ryan, 2015;Piniel and Csizér, 2015;Al-Hoorie, 2019;Papi and Hiver, 2020;Zheng et al., 2020). For example, in the first volume dedicated to the dynamics of motivation, Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning, Piniel and Csizér (2015) investigated Hungarian freshman students' motivational changes over a period of one semester. ...
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