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Self-Determination and Classroom Engagement of EFL Learners: A Mixed-Methods Study of the Self-System Model of Motivational Development

Authors:
  • Erzincan Binali Yildirim University

Abstract and Figures

This study examines the antecedents and outcomes of classroom engagement of 412 Turkish English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners. Grounded in self-determination theory and the self-system model of motivation, this mixed-methods study examined the relations between context (perceived autonomy-support from the instructor), self (basic psychological needs), action (behavioral, emotional, agentic, and cognitive engagement), and outcome (achievement and absenteeism). The results of structural equation modeling supported the hypothesized model and showed that learners’ perception of their teachers’ autonomy-support within the classroom predicted their need satisfaction, which in turn predicted self-determined engagement. Engagement predicted achievement and absenteeism within English courses. Semi-structured interviews showed patterns consistent with the quantitative results, and also that students felt their engagement would best be supported in classes with a positive social atmosphere. As well, their comments underscored the important role of language teachers in supporting learners’ psychological need satisfaction, classroom engagement, and positive academic outcomes. The findings suggest strategies for English language educators to bolster students’ engagement within the classrooms, including students who seem to be unmotivated, reluctant language learners.
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DOI: 10.1177/2158244019853913
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Original Research
Introduction
Engagement, with its various modifiers such as school, stu-
dent, classroom, or course, is a buzzword for a topic that has
become very popular in education circles over the last
decades (Appleton, Christenson, & Furlong, 2008; Fredricks,
Blumenfeld, Friedel, & Paris, 2005; Kahu, 2013). Although
this popular topic has been much researched, there remains a
lack of consensus on its conceptual definition and types, and
questions remain about how and why it is so crucial for
learning (Reschly & Christenson, 2012). This is particularly
true in the language education domain, where engagement
and its associations to learning within the classroom have
received less attention (Dincer, Yesilyurt, & Demiröz, 2017;
Montenegro, 2017; Noels, Chaffee, Lou, & Dincer, 2016;
Noels, Vargas Lascano, & Saumure, 2019; Philp & Duchesne,
2016). Despite the limitations in the current literature, there
is consistent evidence that engagement is strongly related to
effective learning (e.g., academic achievement, Fredricks,
Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Jang, Kim, & Reeve, 2016;
Schlenker, Schlenker, & Schlenker, 2013), and it is often
portrayed as a remedy for students’ disruptive school behav-
iors and failing grades (Fredricks et al., 2004; Ryan &
Patrick, 2001).
Given its significance, it is useful to situate engagement in
a larger motivational paradigm (Christenson, Reschly, &
Wylie, 2012). One relevant framework that adopts a holistic
approach to motivation is Self-Determination Theory (SDT;
Deci & Ryan, 1985; Ryan & Deci, 2017), which proposes
that the nature and extent of engagement follow from the
dynamics of self-processes. According to the SDT, people
853913SGOXXX10.1177/2158244019853913SAGE OpenDincer et al.
research-article20192019
1Erzincan Binali Yildirim University, Turkey
2Ataturk University, Erzurum, Turkey
3University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
4Université Laval, Québec City, Québec, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Ali Dincer, Department of English Language Teaching, Erzincan Binali
Yildirim University, 24100 Erzincan, Turkey.
Email: adincer@erzincan.edu.tr
Self-Determination and Classroom
Engagement of EFL Learners: A
Mixed-Methods Study of the Self-System
Model of Motivational Development
Ali Dincer1, Savas¸ Yes¸ilyurt2, Kimberly A. Noels3, and
Dayuma I. Vargas Lascano4
Abstract
This study examines the antecedents and outcomes of classroom engagement of 412 Turkish English as a Foreign Language
(EFL) learners. Grounded in self-determination theory and the self-system model of motivation, this mixed-methods study
examined the relations between context (perceived autonomy-support from the instructor), self (basic psychological
needs), action (behavioral, emotional, agentic, and cognitive engagement), and outcome (achievement and absenteeism). The
results of structural equation modeling supported the hypothesized model and showed that learners’ perception of their
teachers’ autonomy-support within the classroom predicted their need satisfaction, which in turn predicted self-determined
engagement. Engagement predicted achievement and absenteeism within English courses. Semi-structured interviews showed
patterns consistent with the quantitative results, and also that students felt their engagement would best be supported in
classes with a positive social atmosphere. As well, their comments underscored the important role of language teachers in
supporting learners’ psychological need satisfaction, classroom engagement, and positive academic outcomes. The findings
suggest strategies for English language educators to bolster students’ engagement within the classrooms, including students
who seem to be unmotivated, reluctant language learners.
Keywords
engagement, autonomy-support, basic psychological needs, achievement, absenteeism, mixed methods
2 SAGE Open
share universal, innate psychological needs for autonomy
(i.e., a sense of being self-governed and self-initiating in
activities), competence (i.e., a sense of being effective), and
relatedness (i.e., a sense of being emotionally connected with
others). When these psychological needs are met through
interactions with others in their social context, people are
likely to be more engaged in relevant activities. Within edu-
cation, students’ psychological needs can be affected by the
qualities of student–teacher relationships and the general
classroom climate (Jang et al., 2016; Reeve, 2013; Ryan &
Deci, 2016). Although limited, research shows that this holds
true in the foreign/second language learning (LL) domain
(Dincer & Yesilyurt, 2017; Noels et al., 2016; Noels et al.,
2019; Oga-Baldwin & Nakata, 2017).
Although some LL research has shown that engagement is
linked to the teaching context (e.g., Oga-Baldwin & Nakata,
2015), to learners’ sense of self (e.g., Noels, 2015), and to
desirable outcomes (e.g., Dincer, Yesilyurt, & Takkac, 2012),
studies in the LL domain have generally only examined
bivariate correlations among these constructs. Few studies
have adopted a multivariate perspective to examine the inter-
play among multiple perceptions of the teaching context,
learners’ needs, and engagement. A deeper understanding of
the motivational processes by which language learners’
engagement is promoted or undermined in the L2 learning
settings is needed (Dincer et al., 2017; Noels, 2015; Noels
et al., 2016; Philp & Duchesne, 2016). To address this, the
present study focuses on the complex relations among lan-
guage learners’ teaching context (teacher need support), self-
perceptions (need satisfaction), engagement, and LL
outcomes (achievement and absenteeism). It also supple-
ments this multivariate perspective with an in-depth analysis
of students’ experiences of engagement.
Conceptualization of Classroom Engagement
Engagement is defined as a student’s active involvement and
emotional quality during a learning activity (Reeve, Jang,
Carrell, Jeon, & Barch, 2004). In the educational literature,
there are different typologies of engagement and some schol-
ars have used a two-part typology of engagement, identify-
ing behavioral and emotional components of this construct
(van Uden, Ritzen, & Pieters, 2013). Others conceptualize
engagement as threefold, comprised of behavioral, emo-
tional, and cognitive components (Fredricks et al., 2005;
Fredricks et al., 2004). In the latter model, each component
correlates with the other, and the three form a single compos-
ite construct. Within this typology, behavioral engagement
refers to active involvement or participation in learning-
related activities, such as asking questions in class and doing
the homework. Emotional engagement concerns students’
affective reactions in the learning process. Cognitive engage-
ment refers to adopting sophisticated learning strategies such
as conceptual understanding over surface knowledge.
Recently, Reeve (2013; Reeve & Tseng, 2011) argued that
this three-dimensional model of engagement neglects to take
into consideration the learners’ active, constructive contribu-
tions to their learning activities, such as offering input and
making suggestions, which he labels as agentic engagement.
More research is required, however, to determine whether or
not agentic engagement is distinct from other types of
engagement and differentially predicts outcomes from the
already established three dimensions (Eccles, 2016). Thus,
the present study investigated engagement in LL as a four-
dimensional construct, including agentic engagement along
with behavioral, cognitive, and emotional engagement to
examine the distinctive roles of these four engagement types
in predicting language learners’ outcomes.
Theoretical Underpinnings of the Study
SDT provides a theoretical guide for how the social context
within the classroom can affect learners’ motivational expe-
riences (Ryan & Deci, 2017). This theory, however, does not
provide a clear picture of the role of engagement within the
learners’ motivational system. With the goal of connecting
multiple motivation theories, the researchers (Skinner,
Furrer, Marchand, & Kindermann, 2008; Skinner,
Kindermann, Connell, & Wellborn, 2009) have proposed the
Self-System Model of Motivational Development (SSMMD)
as a framework for causally connecting classroom engage-
ment to other motivational variables identified by other theo-
ries of human motivation, particularly SDT (Figure 1). In
this integrated model, there are four types of motivational
variables. Context variables refer to the social environment
of learners, including teachers, parents, and peers. Self-
variables refer to learners’ ability beliefs, values, and atti-
tudes, and particularly their perceptions of how well their
need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are satis-
fied. The third category, action, concerns goal-directed
behaviors, particularly engagement in a learning activity.
The last component of the model is the outcome, which, in
the educational domain, is exemplified by cognitive develop-
ment and learning. The SSMMD with its four components
articulates the process by which the basic psychological
needs posited by SDT as important aspects of the self are
affected by the context and, in turn, affect engagement and
relevant outcomes. For the present study, we adopted this
holistic model of the motivational process as depicted below.
More specifically, the more that teachers’ actions and
classroom dynamics can support learners’ need for autonomy,
competence, and relatedness, the more that learners actively
involve themselves in their learning activities, allowing them
to learn more and to show higher academic achievement
(Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Dincer et al., 2012; Noels et al.,
2016; Reeve, 2012; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Engagement, then,
mediates the relation between psychological needs and learn-
ing outcomes (Skinner et al., 2008, 2009). Indeed, a number
Dincer et al. 3
of studies support the claim that engagement plays a media-
tional role in the associations among social context, self,
action, and outcomes (Connell & Wellborn, 1991; Noels,
2015; Patrick, Ryan, & Kaplan, 2007; Skinner & Edge, 2002;
Skinner et al., 2009). This SSMMD is not unlike LL motiva-
tion models that emphasize the importance of the social con-
text, including Gardner’s (1985, 2010) socio-educational
model and Noels and colleagues’ (2016) socio-ecological
model.
Engagement and LL
In spite of the demonstrated positive effects of classroom
engagement on general learning, relatively little attention has
been given to engagement in LL. Some theoretical frame-
works use constructs analogous to engagement, including the
socio-educational (Gardner, 1985, 2010) and the socio-con-
textual (Clément, 1986) models of LL. For instance, Gardner’s
(2010) notion of motivational intensity, which refers to the
effort expended in LL in terms of the “the amount of work
done, persistence, and consistency in focus” (p. 121), is very
similar to Reeve’s (2013) conceptual definition of behavioral
engagement, which he describes as “how involved the student
is in the learning activity in terms of attention, effort and per-
sistence” (p. 579; see also Skinner et al., 2009). As well,
Gardner’s (2010) construct of positive attitudes toward the
language course clearly corresponds with the affective
engagement. Like the relation between engagement and aca-
demic outcomes, positive attitudes and motivational intensity
have been consistently associated with indices of language
achievement, including standardized measures, course
grades, and self-ratings (Masgoret & Gardner, 2003).
In addition to these parallels among constructs from LL
motivation models and engagement theories, some research
has used the construct of engagement as elaborated by edu-
cational psychologists to better understand the role of active
engagement in LL. For instance, Noels (2009) showed that
intrinsic motivation (i.e., enjoying studying, finding English
interesting) was a stronger predictor of classroom engage-
ment in English learning than extrinsic reasons such as
passing the examination or pleasing one’s parents. Similarly,
Y. L. E. Chen and Kraklow (2015) investigated motivation
and engagement in Taiwanese English as a Foreign Language
(EFL) classrooms and found that students’ overall intrinsic
motivation and external regulation significantly predicted
behavioral engagement. More self-determined motivational
orientations, then, are strong predictors of LL engagement.
According to the SSMMD, these orientations, in turn, are
predicted by the engagement as part of the motivational
cycle. Indeed, Noels and colleagues (2019) found that, across
a semester, language learners’ behavioral engagement and
motivation became reciprocally associated across time.
In terms of basic psychological needs and engagement,
Thaliah and Hashim (2008) investigated the relationship
between language teachers’ autonomy-support and learners’
engagement in Malaysian context and found that autonomy-
supportive teaching explained about 30% of the variance in
classroom engagement in terms of behavioral and cognitive
dimensions. In a more recent study using structural equation
modeling (SEM), Oga-Baldwin and Nakata (2017) investi-
gated the relation between engagement and motivation in
the language classroom using in-class engagement as a sin-
gle latent variable to predict self-determined motivation.
They found that engagement strongly predicted learners’
intrinsic motivation and identified regulation and weakly
predicted introjected regulation whereas it negatively pre-
dicted external regulation in this study. The authors con-
cluded that engagement might be an important variable in
researching the long-term dynamics in EFL classrooms. The
studies highlighted that perceived autonomy-support from
language teacher plays a significant predictive role in deter-
mining engagement, the action component of the SSMMD
model.
Of note, this small body of literature on LL engagement is
mainly composed of quantitative research collected through
cross-sectional designs. Yet, several researchers (Fredricks
et al., 2016; Harris, 2011; Zyngier, 2008) have called for well-
designed qualitative studies investigating classroom engage-
ment. Furthermore, although general education research has
investigated the impacts of teachers’ and students’ perceptions
Figure 1. The Self-System Model of Motivational Development (SSMMD).
Source. Adapted from Skinner etal. (2008) and Skinner etal. (2009) with permission.
4 SAGE Open
of classroom engagement on learning outcomes and the multi-
dimensional nature of classroom engagement, there are also
discipline-specific teaching behaviors that warrant further
investigation (Bell, 2005). However, there is little qualitative
research on language teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of
engagement in language classrooms. Indeed, in their review of
qualitative research, Philp and Duchesne (2016) highlighted
the need for a principled, qualitative, understanding of LL
engagement, which they believe should be investigated as a
context-specific concept, multi-dimensional construct. They
called for more research in this relatively unexplored terrain,
and invited researchers to define the processes by which
engagement and LL are linked, to study these processes across
different contexts as well as the moderators that influence the
association between engagement and LL.
Three other major limitations in the existing LL engage-
ment research are also present. First, previous studies have
usually assessed classroom engagement as a one- or two-
dimensional construct, often focusing only on behavioral
engagement. As each dimension of engagement is only a
single piece of the puzzle, studies that overlook the affective,
cognitive, and agentic dimensions only partially account for
the complexity of language learners’ engagement. Second,
although prior studies have tested some aspects of the
SSMMD within English language education, no applied lin-
guistics research has simultaneously included variables rep-
resenting all aspects of this model (i.e., perceived
interpersonal context, self, action [i.e., engagement], and
outcomes), which is necessary to assess the place each com-
ponent holds within the motivational process. Third, there is
quite limited qualitative research investigating language
learners’ classroom engagement, and little is known to date
about which factors play roles in fostering engagement
within language classrooms.
The Present Study
Given the limitations of previous research, this study had
two objectives. The primary objective was to assess class-
room engagement as a multi-dimensional construct to deter-
mine its role within the SSMMD as a mediator between, on
one hand, context and the self and, on the other hand, aca-
demically relevant outcomes. Based on this framework, a
hypothesized SEM is presented in Figure 2.
According to this model, autonomy-support from the lan-
guage teacher predicts outcome variables by facilitating EFL
learners’ basic needs satisfaction and, mediated by need sat-
isfaction, each type of engagement. The secondary objective
was to more deeply consider language learners’ accounts of
their experience of engagement and to examine their sugges-
tions for how teachers could better motivate students to
engage in LL. Based on the objectives, the following research
questions were posed:
Research Question 1: Do all types of engagement medi-
ate the association between perceived autonomy-support
from teachers and achievement?
Research Question 2: Do all types of engagement medi-
ate the association between perceived autonomy-support
from teachers and absenteeism?
Research Question 3: What are EFL learners’ opinions
on learning English, including (a) the role of the teacher
and the classroom context; (b) their feelings of autonomy,
competence, and relatedness; (c) their experience of
engagement; and (d) their absenteeism within their EFL
course?
Research Question 4: What are EFL learners’ opinions
about how the EFL learning experience and engagement
could be improved?
Figure 2. Hypothesized structural model.
Dincer et al. 5
Method
Research Design
We used a mixed-methods design, which combines quantita-
tive and qualitative research techniques in a single study and
more specifically adopted a concurrent triangulation design
to seek convergence between the two approaches (Creswell
& Clark, 2007; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). The design
of the study with its phases is given in Figure 3.
This approach is helpful for understanding the phenom-
ena within both macro and micro perspectives: quantitative
research shows group-level trends, and qualitative research
articulates how the phenomenon of interest is experienced by
individuals. In this design, the importance and centrality of
each method are determined by the researchers (Creswell &
Clark, 2007). We decided to use the quantitative and qualita-
tive methods to complement each other, and we integrated
their results at the interpretation level. We used the two data
to better understand EFL learners’ experience of classroom
engagement and to elaborate an understanding of how stu-
dents felt teachers could support their engagement. In the
weighting of the data, we emphasized the quantitative data
for our primary goal and followed up with analyses of par-
ticipants’ responses to open-ended questions for our second-
ary goal. We extended the research beyond numeric analyses
by adding student-generated suggestions for how the course
could best support self-determination and engagement.
Setting and Participants
The setting was a foreign languages school within a state
university in Turkey. The foreign languages school delivers
English courses and provides English education to the fresh-
man classes across different departments, such as engineer-
ing, medicine, and tourism. Within this school, there are over
30 English instructors, each class has 20 to 32 students, and
students are assigned to classes according to results of
English placement tests taken at the beginning of the term. It
should also be noted that as the research setting is an EFL
context, students are generally unable to use English outside
the classroom and mostly rely on their teachers and class-
mates for interpersonal support (Dincer, 2014).
Participants for the quantitative phase were 412 freshmen
EFL university-level students (65% men). They were
selected according to a convenience sampling strategy, a
non-probability sampling technique that was adopted
because of the target groups’ ready to access and availability.
The students’ ages ranged from 18 to 25 years (M = 19.82;
SD = 1.27). The participants were all born in Turkey and,
like all Turkish high school graduates, had a minimum of 7
years of English studies.
Participants for the qualitative phase were 18 students
(61% men) from 135 respondents in the quantitative phase
who volunteered to participate in one-on-one interviews.
From this subsample, three to four participants from each
class were selected with a simple random sampling strategy
for the interviews. Their age ranged from 18 to 23 years
(M = 20.44; SD = 1.58), and their responses to the question-
naire did not differ significantly from the full sample on any
of the main variables or in gender distribution. The qualita-
tive sample is slightly older than the full sample (t = –2.32,
df = 410, p = .02, d = .43), with small effect size according
to the benchmarks of Cohen (1988, d = .20, small; d = .50,
medium; d = .80, large).
Measures
All measures were previously validated in Turkish (Dincer,
2014) and used a 5-point Likert-type scale from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The instruments’ internal
Figure 3. Concurrent triangulation research design.
6 SAGE Open
consistency was analyzed using Cronbach’s alpha. All the
scales have a Cronbach’s alpha scores above .70, which indi-
cates they are reliable measures (Hair, Black, Babin, &
Anderson, 2014).
Teacher autonomy-support. The Learning Climate Ques-
tionnaire (LCQ; Williams & Deci, 1996) measured how
much teachers provide their student with support in auton-
omous learning. The translated LCQ had 14 items (e.g., “I
feel that my instructor provides me with choices and
options”; α = .95), with high mean scores indicating that
students perceive an autonomy-supportive communication
style from their instructors and low mean scores indicating
students perceive an autonomy-suppressive or controlling
communication style.
Psychological needs. The Activity Feelings State (AFS; Reeve
& Sickenius, 1994) assesses how strongly learners feel that
their psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and
relatedness) have been satisfied during their learning activi-
ties. In this scale, the prompt “Being in this English class
makes me feel. . .” is followed by nine items, with three mea-
suring autonomy (e.g., “free”; α = .87), three measuring
competence (e.g., “capable”; α = .88), and three measuring
relatedness (e.g., “my skills are improving”; α = .78). For
each subscale, higher mean scores indicate higher satisfac-
tion of the psychological need.
Classroom engagement. The Classroom Engagement Scale
(CES; Reeve, 2013; Reeve & Tseng, 2011) combines items
from multiple sources to create four subscales, each repre-
senting a different dimension of classroom engagement:
Behavioral (three items, for example, “I pay attention in this
class”; α = .86), Emotional (five items, for example, “This
class is fun”; α = .91), Cognitive (four items, for example,
“When reading for this class, I try to explain the key con-
cepts in my own words”; α = .88), and Agentic (five items,
for example, “I let my teacher know what I am interested in”;
α = .87). For each subscale, higher mean scores indicate that
students engage with their LL.
Language course achievement and absenteeism. Students rated
their last English exam score with a 7-point scale from low
(0%-39%) to high (90%-100%) following the university
grading system (i.e., 90-100 = AA; 80-89 = BB; 70-79 =
CC; 60-69 = DD; any score lower than 59 is considered
fail). Higher scores indicate higher academic achievement.
Students also self-reported their course attendance through-
out the term using a 7-point scale ranging from no class
absences (0) to many class absences (16+). Higher scores
indicate greater absenteeism. Students who missed 16 or
more classes would automatically fail the course, and so, stu-
dents were likely to pay close attention to their attendance
record.
Semi-structured interviews. The qualitative phase of the
study involved semi-structured interviews that included 15
questions regarding classroom atmosphere, psychological
needs, classroom engagement, absenteeism, and suggestions
for improving the course (Table 1).
Data Collection and Analysis
The quantitative and qualitative data collection phases of this
study occurred concurrently. After securing institutional per-
mission, consent forms and questionnaires were distributed
Table 1. Questions From Semi-Structured Interviews.
Category Interview questions
Autonomy-support If one of your very close friends asked you what you think about this course and this teacher, what
would you say?
Basic psychological needs Do you feel autonomy in this class and how?
Could you give details about your relationships with classmates in the class?
How does being in this class make you feel about your English competency?
Behavioral engagement Do you participate in classroom activities orally?
What kind of behaviors do you perform in the class to be successful?
Emotional engagement Are you interested in classroom activities and course?
How do you feel in this course?
Cognitive engagement Do you do extra things that would help your learning when you are studying course-related
concepts?
What kind of strategies do you follow when studying this course?
Agentic engagement Do you ask questions that would help your learning in the class?
How do you express your opinions to your teacher in this course?
Absenteeism Could you give details about your course absenteeism and feelings when you do not attend the
course?
Student-generated suggestions If you had a magical wand to change anything about this course, what would it be?
What is your best suggestion for the improvement of this course?
Dincer et al. 7
to students during their English classes. The researcher was
the sole instructor in the classroom while participants com-
pleted the questionnaire.
After completing the questionnaire, learners who agreed
to participate in the qualitative phase with the researcher
were invited to one-on-one interviews, which took place, on
average, 1 day after the classroom visits for quantitative data
collection. Interviews were in Turkish to facilitate learners’
understanding of the questions and to allow them to answer
the questions more thoroughly. Interviews were audio-
recorded for later coding and lasted, on average, about 14
min. Before the interviews, the participants signed a consent
form informing them of the goals of the study, their rights to
withdraw from the study at any time, and keeping privacy
and anonymity of the participants in any phase of the study.
During the interviews, pre-determined, focal questions were
asked along with some explanatory (e.g., Does your feeling
stem from yourself or other factors?) and exploratory prob-
ing questions (e.g., What makes you think like that in the
class?) to deepen the discussion of the topic. In addition to
audio recording, the researcher took notes regarding the
responses.
For analysis of the quantitative data, SEM was used as the
main statistical method. SEM is a statistical methodology for
hypothesis testing by examing the relationships between
observed variables and latent variables (Byrne, 2012). SEM
was conducted to answer the first and second research ques-
tions. Using Mplus 7.0, the model shown in Figure 2 that
includes observed variables (teacher autonomy-support, four
types of engagement, achievement, and absenteeism) and the
latent variable (basic psychological needs) tested whether
the conceptual model is valid. We assessed how well the pro-
posed model fits the observed data using the chi-square test
of exact fit, the root mean square error of approximation
(RMSEA) with its confidence interval (CI), the standardized
root mean square residual (SRMR), and the comparative fit
index (CFI). Good model fit was present when either the chi-
square test was non-significant, or RMSEA and SRMR
values were less than .08, and CFI was more than .95
(Bandalos & Finney, 2010; Hu & Bentler, 1999; Phakiti,
2018).
The qualitative data were analyzed using deductive con-
tent analysis, in which themes are identified on a previously
established scheme or matrix derived from previous knowl-
edge or theory (Marshall & Rossman, 2016). This analysis
was carried out using NVivo 7.0 software to answer Research
Questions 3 and 4. Following the steps set forth by Elo and
Kyngäs (2008), a structured categorization matrix was devel-
oped in accordance with the SSMMD framework as well as
one category for student suggestions, and all data were
reviewed for the correspondence with the predetermined cat-
egories. The researchers worked together to identify the
prevalence of theoretically derived and emergent themes
within each category to minimize potential individual bias in
the analysis and to ensure the reliability of the qualitative
results. When disagreements in classification arose, the
researchers reached a resolution with a dialogue among
researchers. In the presentation of the findings, anonymized
citations of students’ responses are provided to support ana-
lytic results.
Results
Quantitative Findings
Descriptive analyses. We first checked the data for missing-
ness. Given the very low percentage of missing data (i.e.,
less than one), we decided to use imputation to replace the
missing data.
Next, we examined the descriptive statistics and correla-
tions among all measures (see Table 2). Students generally
perceived their course environment as autonomy-supportive
and reported moderate levels of satisfaction of their basic
psychological needs within their English course. Students
were moderately engaged in the course across all four dimen-
sions. All variables of the model significantly correlated with
Table 2. Descriptive Statistics and Intercorrelations for All Variables.
Variables M SD 123456789
1. Teacher autonomy-
support
3.52 1.08
2. Autonomy 2.92 1.22 .57**
3. Competence 3.05 1.17 .62** .77**
4. Relatedness 3.05 1.05 .39** .65** .56**
5. Behavioral engagement 3.19 1.07 .44** .45** .49** .30**
6. Emotional engagement 3.21 1.13 .67** .65** .75** .43** .59**
7. Cognitive engagement 3.53 1.04 .46** .47** .59** .28** .46** .58**
8. Agentic engagement 3.23 1.04 .66** .59** .66** .43** .53** .73** .58**
9. Achievement 2.28 1.27 .27** .28** .43** .15* .17* .30** .31** .25**
10. Absenteeism 1.67 .93 –.22** –.18** –.24** –.12* –.21** –.24** –.21** –.25** –.13*
*p < .05. **p < .01.
8 SAGE Open
each other in the expected directions, with correlations mag-
nitude ranging from small to large. Teacher autonomy-sup-
port, three basic psychological needs, and four types of
engagement showed positive medium to large correlations
among each other (medium: rs between .40 and .59; large: rs
|.60|; Plonsky & Oswald, 2014). Achievement was weakly
(rs of |.25|; Plonsky & Oswald, 2014) to moderately posi-
tively correlated with all other variables except absenteeism.
Achievement was weakly correlated with relatedness and
behavioral engagement. Absenteeism was weakly and nega-
tively correlated with all other variables.
SEM. An initial analysis of the hypothesized model showed
poor model fit to the data (χ2 = 241.13; df = 28, N = 412;
p < .001; CFI = .90; RMSEA = .136, 90% CI = [.12, .15];
SRMR = .046). Modification indices identified covariances
among the three psychological needs, which the original
model did not include. Given that these three variables repre-
sent the broad construct of psychological needs and were
measured using the same prompt (“Being in this class makes
me feel . . . ”), these covariances likely represent variance
shared due to the common measurement. The model was
tested again with these covariances added and this modified
model showed good fit to the data (χ2 = 94.53; df = 25,
N = 412; p < .001; CFI = .97; RMSEA = .08, 90%
CI = [.07, .10]; SRMR = .030). Next, non-significant regres-
sion and covariance paths in the model were removed for
greater parsimony and direct paths from autonomy-support to
outcomes (achievement and absenteeism) were added to
allow assessment of mediation. The final model fits the data
well (χ2 = 93.94; df = 26, N = 412; p < .001; CFI = .97;
RMSEA = .08, 90% CI = [.06, .10]; SRMR = .031) and was
retained for interpretative purposes (see Figure 4).
As hypothesized, perceived autonomy-support positively
predicted basic psychological needs, which in turn positively
predicted each dimension of classroom engagement. Some
dimensions of engagement predicted achievement and absen-
teeism. Specifically, emotional and agentic engagement posi-
tively predicted achievement while cognitive engagement
negatively predicted absenteeism. Behavioral engagement
did not predict any outcome variable. In addition, achieve-
ment and absenteeism did not covary significantly.
In terms of our first and second research questions about
the mediational role of engagement, teacher autonomy-sup-
port predicted EFL learners’ academic achievement posi-
tively through two pathways: autonomy-support basic
needs emotional engagement (β = .10 [.05], p = .04) and
autonomy-support basic needs agentic engagement
(β = .10 [.05], p = .03; total indirect effect of autonomy-
support on achievement: β = .20 [.05], p < .001). The direct
path between autonomy-support and achievement was non-
significant, indicating that the effects of autonomy-support
on achievement take place through the identified indirect
pathways. Teacher autonomy-support also had a significant
indirect effect on absenteeism through the following path-
way: autonomy-support basic needs cognitive engage-
ment (β = –.09 [.03], p = .001). The direct path from
autonomy-support to absenteeism was also significant, indi-
cating that basic needs and engagement partially mediated
the association between these two variables. In summary,
more perceived autonomy-support from teachers predicted
higher satisfaction of students’ basic psychological needs,
Figure 4. Final revised model.
Note. Standardized coefficients provided.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
Dincer et al. 9
which predicted higher engagement of all types, and students
were more likely to get better grades when they engaged
emotionally and agentically and were less likely to miss
classes when they engaged cognitively.
Squared multiple correlation (R2) values showed that 56%
of the variance in basic psychological needs satisfaction is
explained by the model. The model also explained much
variance in the four domains of class engagement (behav-
ioral: 41%; emotional: 80%; cognitive: 45%; agentic: 69%).
Although the model explained some of the variances in both
outcomes, the percentages were somewhat lower, with 11%
for EFL learners’ achievement and 8% for absenteeism.
Qualitative Findings
To answer our third and fourth research questions concerning
EFL learners’ opinions on their SSMMD concepts and how
their EFL learning experience and engagement could be
improved, deductive content analyses of the interviews were
conducted. Summaries of learners’ reflections in each com-
ponent of the model and suggestions are presented next.
Classroom context. When asked for their opinions about their
English course and teacher, most participants (15 out of 18)
expressed positive impressions. Only two participants
reported not enjoying the atmosphere of their English course.
Most students also expressed positive impressions about
their teachers, characterizing them as enjoyable, understand-
ing, and patient. For instance, one learner reported, “. . .[my
teacher] understands me, lets me ask questions without hesi-
tation and express myself.” Only three participants reported
negative views about their teacher. For instance, one learner
said, “If another teacher had taught us, it would be much bet-
ter . . . we [in the class] would be happy.”
Basic psychological needs. Most participants (15 out of 18)
reported experiences of satisfaction with each of their psy-
chological needs. Regarding autonomy, students commonly
mentioned feeling free to choose when and how to partici-
pate in class (e.g., “I am free in the class; in other words, I
can do whatever I want in this class. . . By getting right to
speak I say my ideas about the course.”). For relatedness,
students commonly expressed feeling a sense of belonging to
the class and with classmates. For instance, “We [in the class]
have closer relationships with our classmates compared to
other classes. It is the same with our teachers. We can do
extra activities with our friends and even the teacher.”
Regarding competence, the most prevalent experience stu-
dents reported was feeling successful within the course. For
instance, one student stated, “At the beginning, I had nega-
tive feelings and thought ‘No, I can’t do this.’ But now, I am
gradually getting the job [of learning English] done.” Corre-
spondingly, the participants who reported negative views of
the classroom context expressed less satisfaction of their
basic psychological needs. For instance, one of these partici-
pants expressed feeling controlled in the classroom (e.g., “I
feel pressured [in the course] because I cannot even talk to
my friend next to me [in class]”). Another one said that there
is not a relaxing environment in the class and she does not
feel belongingness much (e.g., “There are many people to
whom I have not spoken or even said ‘hello’ until now [sec-
ond semester] in this class, this problem is related to them
[classmates]”). Complaining with the teacher’ instruction
style and use of outdated teaching methods (e.g., Grammar
Translation Method), she added that she felt incompetent in
mastering English (e.g., “Everything [activities] in this class
is based on English grammar. I am not doing well in even
Turkish grammar [mother tongue]”).
Classroom engagement. Based on their statements when asked
about their behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and agentic
engagement, most participants (15 out of 18) were catego-
rized as engaged learners. They actively participated in class
by, for instance, raising their hands, volunteering to write on
the blackboard, and taking notes (e.g., “By raising my hand, I
try to get right to speak. I ask questions to the teacher.”). They
reported positive course-related feelings, such as enjoying
course, feeling interested in course content, and feeling
relaxed in class (e.g., “This course is enjoyable. I really enjoy
the course.”). They used more sophisticated cognitive strate-
gies for learning English, such as reviewing course notes,
reading extra English materials, and trying to use English in
daily life (e.g., “After the course, I go to the library. I read
English texts there. I search some online documents.”). In
terms of agentic engagement, they reported driving their own
learning by, for example, asking for details when content was
not clear and expressing their likes and dislikes during classes
(e.g., “I say: My teacher, there is a mistake here that I have
found. What do you think [on the mistake]? . . . We [I and my
teacher] mutually talk and evaluate [the mistake].”). The
three students who reported negative views about their class-
room context showed low engagement—they reported
becoming bored and depressed in the class, using surface cog-
nitive strategies for learning such as memorizing (e.g., “I try
to memorize [new] vocabularies”).
Absenteeism. When participants were asked to talk about their
course attendance, most reported that, when they missed class,
it was due to external constraints or the need for sleep (e.g.,
“As the courses starts in early the morning, I fall asleep. But, I
try to attend the class with a great pleasure.”) and felt either
neutral or discomforted about missing class (e.g., “My respon-
sibilities towards myself, family, and teacher make me think I
should attend [the course]”). A minority of students reported
skipping class voluntarily (e.g., “Frankly, I do not have an
inner force to attend [the course]”) and having positive feel-
ings about their absenteeism (e.g., “To be honest, I am happy
when I do not attend [the course]”). No information was
offered by any interviewee regarding course achievement.
In general, learners’ comments during the semi-structured
interviews show that learners who experienced mostly posi-
tive classroom contexts felt mostly autonomous, competent,
10 SAGE Open
and related to their classmates and teachers. These learners
reported engaging in their EFL course in all four dimensions
of engagement—behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and agen-
tic. They also skipped class only due to external pressures
and felt bad or neutral about doing so. In contrast, learners
who viewed their classroom context negatively expressed
low satisfaction of their basic psychological needs, reporting
even feeling controlled within their classroom context, and
expressed fewer and less complex engagement experiences.
These students also reported voluntarily choosing other
activities over attending class when possible and having pos-
itive feelings about their absenteeism. This pattern of experi-
ences corresponds with the pattern of findings from our
quantitative analysis. That is, positive, supportive classroom
contexts were positively linked to higher satisfaction of psy-
chological needs, higher engagement levels for all four
dimensions, and less absenteeism.
Student-generated suggestions for enhancing engagement.
Although about one third of participants felt that no changes
were needed and did not provide suggestions for improving
EFL courses, most participants identified at least one aspect
of their course that they would like to see changed. The most
frequently identified areas for improvement were course
content and classroom atmosphere.
In terms of course content, students felt that certain topics
covered in class were boring or irrelevant (e.g., “If I had a
magic wand, I would change the boring topics in the course.”)
and that certain language skills should receive more attention
than others (e.g., “I would place more emphasis on speaking
skill. We can learn grammar by ourselves after a certain level
but not speaking.”). In addition, students suggested specific
kinds of classroom activities that they felt would be most
effective for LL. The recommended activities shared one
thing in common; they required social interaction. For
instance, one participant commented, “More communication
dialogues and speaking activities [would be good]. . .These
kinds of activities make learning long-lasting,” while another
recommended role-playing activities, “Drama and theatrical
activities both develop learners’ English speaking skill and
increase their awareness of the course. Then, this helps learn-
ers become less timid in class. . .[activities like these] help
students gain self-confidence.” In terms of classroom atmo-
sphere, students mostly reported wanting to see more focus
on relationships within the classroom (e.g., “I like the course
atmosphere very much. I think people’s relationships are
more important than the course itself.”; “[I wish] a comfort-
able environment in the class.”).
Discussion
In this study, we investigated EFL learners’ motivational pro-
cesses following the holistic approach of the SSMMD, which
takes into consideration both teacher and learner roles.
Following this model, we hypothesized an order of
motivational components from teacher autonomy-support to
language learners’ outcomes such that teaching context pre-
dicts self-processes (i.e., need satisfaction), which in turn pre-
dicts motivated action, which ultimately predicts outcomes.
For the action component of this model, we investigated
classroom engagement as a multi-dimensional construct, with
four dimensions (behavioral, emotional, cognitive, and agen-
tic) mediating the association between context (autonomy-
support from teachers) and outcomes (achievement and
absenteeism). Furthermore, we qualitatively explored EFL
learners’ experiences related to each SSMMD component to
cross-validate our quantitative findings with the findings of
the content analysis. Finally, we explored EFL learners’ sug-
gestions for how teaching practice within the EFL classroom
could be improved, fostering student engagement and thereby
improving learning outcomes.
Consistent with our hypotheses about the importance of
social context (i.e., teacher support) and self-relevant pro-
cesses (i.e., need satisfaction) for learners’ action and out-
come components, the results generally confirmed the
“context self action outcome” sequence theorized
by the SSMMD. Within the EFL context, we found that
learners who perceived their teachers as more autonomy-
supportive experienced the higher satisfaction of their auton-
omy, competence, and relatedness needs in their EFL
learning. In turn, students who felt their psychological needs
were more satisfied reported higher engagement levels in all
four dimensions. Finally, there was general support for
higher engagement predicting higher achievement and less
absenteeism, although not all dimensions of engagement pre-
dicted each of these outcomes. Although this finding is in
line with the literature in the education context in general
(e.g., Reeve, 2013; Reeve et al., 2004; Ryan & Deci, 2000;
Taylor, Ntoumanis, & Smith, 2009), it is the first time that all
components of the SSMMD model have been assessed
simultaneously, confirming the model within the EFL
context.
This model accounted for a high amount of variability in
students’ motivational experience (psychological needs sat-
isfaction and engagement). However, there remains a sub-
stantial portion of the variability among students to be
explained. That is, although the key motivational variables
explored here predicted these student outcomes, other, as yet
unspecified, factors also play a role in students’ academic
achievement and attendance. For instance, it has been well
established that previous academic achievement is a strong if
not the strongest predictor of later academic achievement
(Duncan et al., 2007). In addition, teacher factors such as
grading techniques and assessment styles are likely to con-
tribute to variability in achievement across students
(McMillan, 2001). In terms of absenteeism, our qualitative
data provide clear examples of non-motivational factors that
can impact attendance. As previously stated, students
reported that pressures and responsibilities external to the
EFL course at times influenced their decisions to skip class,
Dincer et al. 11
such as needing more sleep and having important family
commitments to attend to. Nevertheless, engagement and
teacher autonomy-support remain important motivational
predictors of outcomes in the model.
Focusing on engagement, this study demonstrated that
different dimensions of engagement predict different out-
comes. Higher emotional and agentic engagement were asso-
ciated with better grades while higher cognitive engagement
was associated with less absenteeism. The relevance of emo-
tional and agentic engagement for academic achievement
was expected and is consistent with previous findings
(Reeve, 2012, 2013; Reeve & Tseng, 2011). As explained by
Gardner (2010), students with positive attitudes (i.e., emo-
tionally engaged) tend to show greater motivational intensity
(i.e., behavioral engagement; McEown, Noels, & Saumure,
2014) and correspondingly have a higher level of achieve-
ment. Agentically engaged students, according to Reeve
(2012), are architects of their own motivation, proactively
trying to personalize and enhance their learning context by
offering input, making suggestions, expressing preferences,
and more. As they constructively contribute to their educa-
tion, agentically engaged learners’ behaviors affect their
learning positively. These agentic learner behaviors differ
from basic behavioral engagement as demonstrated by the
fact that behavioral engagement did not predict academic
achievement in this study while agentic engagement did.
This finding supports Reeve’s (2013) view that agentic
engagement should be considered above and beyond emo-
tional, behavioral, and cognitive engagement.
Cognitive engagement, which focuses on deeper learning
strategies and investment into course-related tasks, may not
be necessary to achieve good grades, as LL assessments
focus on skills gained and not the strategies learners use to
gain those skills. However, students who are more cogni-
tively invested in their course are likely to be more interested
in participating in in-class activities, which requires atten-
dance. In addition, cognitively disengaged students may feel
less prepared for upcoming lessons and therefore be less
willing to attend class (lest they be called on by the teacher!).
The fact that behavioral engagement did not predict either
learner outcome is somewhat counterintuitive. Multiple
studies have found that behavioral engagement predicts aca-
demic achievement in general education (for review, see
Fredricks et al., 2004). Within LL, Gardner’s (2010) motiva-
tional intensity, which arguably is similar to Reeve’s defini-
tion of behavioral engagement (Reeve, 2012), has consistently
predicted achievement and other LL outcomes (Gardner,
2010; Masgoret & Gardner, 2003). At the same time, the lack
of association between behavioral engagement and achieve-
ment is not without precedence (Reeve, 2013; Reeve &
Tseng, 2011). This finding raises questions about whether
behavioral engagement is as important as other engagement
types in the language classroom. In this era of student-cen-
tered approaches that emphasize creating a pleasant and sup-
portive atmosphere in language classrooms and establishing
good relationships of mutual trust and respect between teach-
ers and learners (Dörnyei, 2001), it may be that language
learners find that answering teacher-directed questions or
participating in teacher-provided learning activities is less
important than feeling emotionally connected and contribut-
ing collaboratively to the course.
Given that previous research by Gardner and his col-
leagues shows motivational intensity to be a constant predic-
tor of achievement, a closer look at the operationalization of
motivational intensity is needed. This inspection suggests
that motivational intensity measures (see Gardner, 2010) not
only include behavioral engagement (e.g., “I keep up to date
with English by working on it almost every day”) but also
other aspects such as agentic engagement (e.g., “When I
have a problem understanding something in English class, I
always ask my teacher for help”; “I really work hard to learn
English”) within the same scale. The associations with
achievement, then, may be due to the combined aspects of
engagement that are assessed by this index. Assuming that is
the case, researchers must decide whether a comprehensive
index is sufficient for their research objective or whether dif-
ferentiating subtypes of engagement is preferable.
The results also show that classroom engagement medi-
ates the associations between teacher autonomy-support and
both achievement and absenteeism. Specifically, emotional
and agentic engagement fully mediated the link between
autonomy-support and academic achievement whereas cog-
nitive engagement partially mediated the link between
autonomy-support and absenteeism. These findings are con-
sistent with Fredricks and colleagues’ (2004) and Skinner
and colleagues’ (2008, 2009) views that motivated action is
the mechanism through which all other motivational pro-
cesses bring about learners’ outcomes. At the same time, the
partial mediation of cognitive engagement suggests other
mechanisms are also in play. Although engagement is an
important type of motivated action and the focus of this
study, it is not the only motivated action—persistence, task
selection, and coping, for instance, are also motivated actions
(Skinner & Pitzer, 2012). As such, teacher autonomy-support
likely affects absenteeism not only through cognitive engage-
ment but also by creating a classroom environment that stu-
dents enjoy and so they choose to attend regularly (i.e., task
selection).
The qualitative findings show that most students had posi-
tive motivational experiences in their EFL class, although a
small subset did not. Students who had positive experiences
were invariably positive about course atmosphere, basic
needs satisfaction, engagement, and less absenteeism. The
opposite was also true. Students with negative experiences
reported negative experiences in all aspects of their motiva-
tional process. As a whole, this pattern is consistent with the
SSMMD model that posits that positive social classroom
contexts are linked to positive experiences of need satisfac-
tion, to engagement, and to positive learner outcomes, as
well as the low occurrence of negative outcomes.
12 SAGE Open
Perhaps more importantly, the student-generated sugges-
tions for improving their EFL courses demonstrate that social
interactions in the classroom play a central role for their moti-
vational and learning experiences. Although some students
did not report any problems with their course and were
pleased with the teacher and the teaching practices, most indi-
cated that engagement could be enhanced by having language
activities that allow them to practice the language with one
another and by having positive relationships among peers and
with teachers. Supporting the claim of Philp and Duchesne
(2016) that the contextual factors such as the setting, the task,
and the students must be considered for engagement, these
relationships may be especially important in the EFL setting
given that most foreign language learners do not have access
to day-to-day language-relevant social interactions outside
the classroom. This concern may also be particularly impor-
tant in cultural settings where the teacher is seen as knowl-
edge provider or craftsperson who shapes language learners,
and learners feel much dependency on the teacher in teaching
and learning process (Saban, Kocbeker, & Saban, 2007).
The study findings presented here parallel a number of
SDT studies outlining how to implement an autonomy-sup-
portive teaching style in education (for reviews, see Reeve,
2012, 2013, 2016; Reeve et al., 2004), and we offer practical
recommendations for EFL teachers and educators at large
based on the findings.
Use teaching practices that allow language learners to
feel autonomous and competent and that allow them
to have positive social interactions with their peers
and teacher. Giving participation opportunities to all
students, choosing teaching tasks that are personally
relevant to the learners and match their proficiency
levels, providing constructive feedback, being
approachable to students, and caring for and respect-
ing learners are just some examples of how we can
help satisfy learners’ psychological needs.
Create opportunities for the learners to engage with
their learning not only at a behavioral level but also
emotionally and cognitively. Acknowledge students’
feelings in the classroom and address situations that
may lead to negative emotional experiences. Educate
learners to use more complex cognitive LL strategies
both inside and outside of the classroom and encour-
age them to connect new information to what they
have previously learned. As well, helping students
focus their attention and to work hard could indirectly
foster positive outcomes.
Emphasize agentic behaviors in the class. Be open to
and welcoming of learner suggestions for classroom
activities, and encourage learners to actively seek help
when needed.
Do not ignore the social nature of LL. A positive
atmosphere where students feel comfortable interact-
ing with each other and with the teacher facilitates
student engagement with both course content and
learning activities.
The mixed-methods approach adopted in this study, along
with our multi-dimensional approach to engagement, and
our use of a model addressing engagement from a broader
standpoint of learners’ general motivation process, all con-
tribute to a more nuanced understanding of classroom
engagement in EFL learners and how students’ learning may
be enhanced. There are, however, three limitations to keep
in mind in this study. First, the setting of the study is an EFL
context. Thus, the readers extrapolating the findings to the
English as a Second Language (ESL) context should be cau-
tious about the implications, because EFL and ESL class-
rooms can have different characteristics in terms of
motivation, language use, and cultural points (Krieger,
2005). Furthermore, what is theoretically good for one set-
ting sometimes may be invalid for other settings (J. F. Chen,
Warden, & Chang, 2005). Second, self-report scales and
interviews were used in the process of gathering engage-
ment data. Although self-reports are extensively used in lan-
guage and educational research, they provide only subjective
information. Therefore, other data collection methods such
as observations of teacher–student interactions in the class-
room and teacher reports in addition to student reports
should be considered in future engagement research
(Fredricks et al., 2005). Third, the cross-sectional nature of
the data does not allow causal interpretations of the associa-
tions investigated here, even though the guiding SSMMD
model posits a causal sequence. Further research should,
therefore, focus on longitudinal studies, tracking the devel-
opment of engagement in language learners over time (Oga-
Baldwin & Nakata, 2017). We need many experimental
designs researching the causal directions and investigating
the differences and the relationships in different engage-
ment levels (Carreira, Ozaki, & Maeda, 2013). In addition,
teacher motivation is also influenced by the classroom con-
text and learner behaviors. Considering the reciprocal rela-
tions between learner engagement and teacher motivation,
the hypothesized model can be extended and EFL instruc-
tors’ motivation to teach English can be further investigated
within the framework of classroom engagement (Reeve,
2013; Reeve et al., 2004).
Grounded in the well-constructed hypotheses of the
SSMMD and using a mixed-methods approach, the study
reported here provides a nuanced view of EFL learners’
motivational self-systems and supports the SSMMD model
of classroom engagement with its social context antecedents
and learner outcomes as a whole. It also polishes the signifi-
cant role of autonomy-supportive teacher behaviors in the
self, action, and outcome components of the model. Taken
together, this study provides important implications for lan-
guage educators on how to foster language learners’ class-
room engagement and mentor autonomously engaged
language learners.
Dincer et al. 13
Authors’ Note
This study is a part of the first author’s doctoral dissertation under
the supervision of the second and third authors.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article:
Financial support for this project was gratefully received from the
Research Fellowship Programmes of the Scientific and
Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) to the first
author and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada to the third author.
ORCID iD
Ali Dincer https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0732-3975
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Author Biographies
Ali Dincer (PhD, Ataturk University) is a faculty member in the
Department of English Language Teaching at Erzincan Binali
Yildirim University, Turkey. His primary research interests include
language learning motivation, language learner autonomy, and
classroom engagement.
Savaş Yeşilyurt (PhD, Ataturk University) works as a faculty
member in the Department of Tourism Guidance at Ataturk
University, Turkey. His research focuses on the psychological
aspects of foreign language learning, language learning motivation,
and language teacher education.
Kimberly A. Noels (PhD, University of Ottawa) is a professor of
Psychology at the University of Alberta. She studies the role of self-
determination and motivation in the process of learning new lan-
guages (including foreign, second, heritage, and classical lan-
guages), and the impact of the societal, cultural, and interpersonal
contexts within which language learning takes place.
Dayuma I. Vargas Lascano (PhD, University of Alberta) is a post-
doctoral fellow in psychology at the University of Laval, Canada.
Following a developmental perspective, her research focuses on
students’ engagement and motivation with their learning/academ-
ics, its socio-emotional antecedents, and learning outcomes.
... SDT postulates that there are three basic psychological needs (BPN) that individuals are striving to satisfy ( Ryan & Deci, 2017 ). When these needs are properly fulfilled, language learners are likely to engage in and volitionally practice the language in an optimal manner ( Dincer et al., 2019 ;Noels et al., 1999Noels et al., , 2019Oga-Baldwin & Nakata, 2017 ). Specifically, 'autonomy' refers to the feeling of having options that can be freely endorsed while learning the language. ...
... Research in SDT indicates that holding high levels on the BPN is associated with positive learning outcomes, such as increased autonomous motivation in learning the language ( Noels et al., 1999 ), both inside and outside the language learning classroom ( Alamer & Al Khateeb, 2021 ); greater vocabulary knowledge ( Alamer, 2021a ); improved cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement ( Dincer et al., 2019 ;Oga-Baldwin et al., 2017 ); positive perceptions about teachers' teaching styles ( McEown et al., 2014 ); decreased feelings of social, psychological, and proficiency anxiety ( Alamer & Almulhim, 2021 ;Alamer & Lee, 2021 ;Zhou, 2016). For example, Alamer's (2021a ) study used a mediational model and showed that the BPN have a direct effect on vocabulary knowledge over and above the mediation processes of effort. ...
... This specific direct effect provided unique information about the explanatory power of the basic needs for increased vocabulary learning and possibly other L2 learning outcomes. Similarly, Dincer et al., (2019) evaluated the extent to which Turkish students of English perceived autonomy-support from the teachers is linked to their BPN, which, in turn, relate to behavioral, emotional, agentic, and cognitive engagement, which, in turn, are linked collectively to L2 achievement. The study showed evidence of this chain of effects and illustrated the robustness of BPN to predict all types of engagement. ...
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The present study aims to introduce the advancement of the exploratory structural equation modeling (ESEM) and bifactor ESEM for construct validation purposes in second language research. It does so by applying the methods to the Basic Psychological Needs in Second Language (BPN-L2) Scale (Alamer, 2021a) to assess its factorial validity from a novel perspective. Bifactor ESEM is useful in situations where the theory postulates two layers of constructs (global and specific constructs). A comparison was made between four CFA and ESEM models, and the bifactor ESEM was the model of choice because it provided sufficient details about the multidimensionality of the BPN-L2 scale which accounted for the specific constructs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) and the general construct (i.e., the basic psychological needs) and allowed for the assessment of convergent, discriminant, and predictive (criterion) validity from a new perspective. Predictive (criterion-related) validity was assessed using the structural bifactor ESEM by showing that the specific factors explained autonomous motivation differently compared to the global BPN factor, thus confirming the presence of imbalance at the specific factors level. The study provided guidelines in applying bifactor ESEM and presented an applied example with the syntax required to run the models in Mplus. The findings showed that the BPN-L2 scale is reliable and valid through the bifactor ESEM solution and that CFA solutions failed to support the measurement model.
... They maintained that these features interact to determine learners' optimism toward the learning process. Dincer et al. (2019) stated that some activities such as doing tasks, classroom participation, and interacting with teachers in terms of asking and answering questions are related to behavioral engagement. Mercer (2019) stated that the behavioral dimension of engagement distinguishes engagement from motivation. ...
... Mercer (2019) stated that the behavioral dimension of engagement distinguishes engagement from motivation. Dincer et al. (2019) also defined emotional engagement as learners' emotional reactions in classroom contexts. Moreover, they described cognitive engagement as learners' tendency to use complicated learning strategies instead of simple strategies. ...
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This paper aimed at examining the related studies on the relationship between teacher empathy and learner engagement in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learning contexts. The positive and significant relationship between teacher empathy and learner engagement has been verified in the literature. Studies have shown the positive influence of teacher-learner rapport on learner engagement. Moreover, studies indicated that teacher empathy leads to learner self-confidence in educational contexts. The literature review has also shown that teachers’ provision of a positive environment through empathy, sympathy, and kindness can trigger learner motivation and engagement. Moreover, teachers’ empathy can reduce the stress level which, in turn, positively affects learners’ engagement level. Eventually, the pedagogical implications to engage learners and teachers in academic contexts have been provided. However, some suggestions have been offered to expand the insights over the associations between positive psychological constructs and teachers’ emotions.
... Research using the above instruments and modified forms also have sustained history in language education (Fryer & Oga-Baldwin, 2019;Noels et al., 1999). Cross-sectional studies indicate that learners benefit from increased autonomy support in the classroom environment (Dincer et al., 2019;Joe et al., 2017;Khajavy et al., 2016). More communicative language classes in a Korean university showed greater relevance of intrinsic motivation to learning outcomes, while more traditional classes were associated with a more externally regulated source of motives (Pae & Shin, 2011). ...
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Self-determination theory is one of the most established motivational theories both within second language learning and beyond. This theory has generated several mini-theories, namely: organismic integration theory, cognitive evaluation theory, basic psychological needs theory, goal contents theory, causality orientations theory, and relationships motivation theory. After providing an up-to-date account of these mini-theories, we present the results of a systematic review of empirical second language research into self-determination theory over a 30-year period (k = 111). Our analysis of studies in this report pool showed that some mini-theories were well-represented while others were underrepresented or absent from the literature. We also examined this report pool to note trends in research design, operationalization, measurement, and application of self-determination theory constructs. Based on our results, we highlight directions for future research in relation to theory and practice.
... Some inquiries have also inspected the function of context-related factors (e.g., Lee et al., 2011;Harbaugh and Cavanagh, 2012;Shernoff et al., 2014;Virtanen et al., 2015, among others). The rest have focused on the effects of students' personal, psychological, and emotional factors on their academic engagement (e.g., Beri and Stanikzai, 2018;Dincer et al., 2019;Zhang et al., 2020;Chen et al., 2021, among others). Nevertheless, the influence of academic motivation and L2 enjoyment on student academic engagement has rarely been explored. ...
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Students’ personal, emotional, and psychological traits are perceived to be highly influential in their academic engagement; therefore, many investigations have been conducted into the role of students’ characteristics in their level of engagement. Yet, the role of L2 enjoyment and academic motivation as two instances of students’ emotional traits was disregarded. To narrow this gap, this article aimed to assess the effects of these two constructs on Chinese EFL students’ academic engagement. To accomplish this, three pre-designed scales were virtually administered to 490 Chinese students. Using the Spearman Rho test, significant correlations were discovered among the variables. Further, through regression analysis, the predictive power of dependent variables was also assessed. Chinese students’ academic engagement was proved to be favorably predicted by L2 enjoyment and academic motivation. The implications and limitations are finally discussed.
... Engaging in education is lively and self-motivated and is likely to have favorable outcomes in the educational presentation (Reschly and Christenson, 2012). It is crucial to comprehend the intellectual, affective, and behavioral elements when deciding the level of English educational engagement to advance the effective achievement of English in an EFL setting (Dincer et al., 2019). As intellectual elements related to engagement, mindful training is being debated has been at the center of attention as an element of the conceptual framework (Schreiner and Louis, 2006). ...
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One of the growing area of interest in the educational area is student engagement which is the major construct of positive psychology (PP) vital in growing energetic, innovative, and pleasurable learning, but unluckily, all students are not engaged in terms of cognition, emotion, and behavior in learning. Another concept in the PP literature is resilience which emphasizes institutes' and people's powers and self-constraint to conform to accidental conditions. Furthermore, mindfulness as a significant term in PP has critical benefits such as improving working memory, improving wellbeing, and lowering tension. Considering the importance of mindfulness and engagement in academic environments and that such a notion in foreign language learning is neglected, the current study attempts to inspect the effect of mindfulness and resilience on the engagement of Chinese foreign language students. To meet this objective, 1,693 EFL learners participated in this study. They responded to the mindfulness scale, resilience scale, and engagement questionnaire. Subsequently, the Spearman Rho test was exploited to shed light on probable relationships. The findings indicated that there was a significant correlation among the variable of the study. Moreover, a linear multiple regression analysis was run to examine the predictor roles of mindfulness and resilience in learners' engagement. The findings revealed that both mindfulness and resilience are positive and reliable predictors of engagement. In a nutshell, the central position of resilience and mindfulness in language learning was verified, and based on the findings; a few suggestions are made considering the results of the research.
... In short, engagement constitutes a crucial element in L2 learning success. Brutt-Griffler and Jang (2022) found that behavioral engagement positively correlated with L2 proficiency (see also Dincer et al., 2019). The growing popularity of the concept of engagement in the field of SLA also pertains to its perceived malleability and amenability via pedagogical interventions (Fredricks et al., 2019;Skinner, 2016). ...
Article
Full-text available
No study has investigated the relationship between student engagement per se and student motivation within second language (L2) pragmatics, notwithstanding the significance of engagement for L2 learning. The present study aimed to explore the effects of two global motivational orientations (autonomous and controlled motivations) on behavioral engagement within the perspective of L2 pragmatics by drawing on self-determination theory. A total of 76 college students agreed to participate and were requested to fill out a tailor-made, 34-item, 6-point Likert-scale questionnaire. The results of data analysis using standard multiple linear regression revealed that both Autonomous and Controlled Motivations significantly predicted and explained a large amount of variance in Engagement, F(2, 71) = 161.28, p < .01, R2 = .82, adjusted R2 = .81, and that the effect of Controlled Motivation, B = .33, t(71) = 8.05, p < .01, was twice as large as that of Autonomous Motivation, B = .16, t(71) = 4.91, p < .01. These findings indicate that students’ controlled motivation is more powerful in enhancing their engagement in learning L2 pragmatics. Pedagogically, it implies that teachers should bolster students’ motivation to learn L2 pragmatics, which can eventually lead to their increased engagement.
... Student engagement in the process of mastering a foreign language not only is highly desirable but also could be considered even more important than other subject areas such as science and mathematics since EFL learners should invest a considerable amount of sustained effort, time, and attention in practicing the learning materials to guarantee the automatization of language skills (Mercer & Dörnyei, 2020). A recent study by Dincer et al. (2019) showed that engagement could predict achievement and absenteeism in EFL courses. Furthermore, considering the utmost importance of meaningful learning as recommended in task-based and communicative language teaching approaches (Dörnyei, 2019), it is essential to carefully examine learner engagement in foreign language education as well as the factors which could contribute to its enhancement. ...
Article
Full-text available
Given the crucial importance of engagement in learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and the increasing interest in its psychological dimensions, this study was an attempt to examine the effect of teacher support on engagement by considering the serial mediating roles of learning experience and motivated learning behaviour. Participants were 384 EFL learners chosen through multi-stage cluster sampling. The SEM results demonstrated that teacher support directly and positively predicted engagement. Additionally, teacher support affected engagement through the serial mediating roles of learning experience and motivated learning behaviour. Teachers can provide learners with substantial support and encouragement to enhance their learning experience, which could in turn considerably affect their motivated learning behaviour. Consequently, EFL learners who are motivated and willing to exert effort in learning and classroom activities would be more engaged in their learning process. Finally, important implications and suggestions for future research are presented.
... However, only recently has it attracted the attention of researchers in L2 education. While research on language student engagement might be at its initial stage of development, its expanding scope and appeal are evident in the increasing number of conceptual papers, meta-analysis articles, and empirical studies (e.g., Dincer et al., 2019;Mercer, 2019;Mercer & Dörnyei, 2020;Mystkowska-Wiertelak, 2020;Svalberg, 2017), as its role is very significant in language education. As highlighted in Zhou et al.'s (2021) review paper, the multi-faceted nature of engagement involving emotions, international cognitions, sociocultural interactions, and observable behaviors (Fredricks et al., 2016) makes this construct attractive to many L2 researchers. ...
Article
A convergent parallel mixed-methods approach was used to explore teacher care, teacher-student rapport, and engagement in pursuing academic goals in a foreign language (L2) context, as perceived by 223 Iranian and 208 Polish L2 students. Quantitative data were obtained through three scales, the cross-cultural validity and factor structure of which were ensured through testing measurement invariance and confirmatory factor analysis, respectively. The structural equation modeling results obtained through running Mplus approved that care and rapport predicted Iranian and Polish students' engagement in pursuing academic goals in an L2 context. For checking the equality of the structural path coefficients, the Omnibus Wald test was employed. Group differences in factor means were tested, showing that Iranian and Polish students differed significantly regarding their levels of engagement. Qualitative data, obtained through running interviews with 30 Iranian and 24 Polish students, selected from the initial sample, approved the predictive links of care and rapport with Iranian and Polish students' engagement in pursuing academic goals in an L2 context. However, the students' qualitative reports revealed how their perceived country's cultural and instructional contexts influenced their engagement, empirically supporting the supposition that engagement is the by-product of the dynamic interaction between the individual factors and the instructional context, necessitating the examination of the role of sociocultural values and home culture in accomplishing this educational objective.
... They maintained that these features interact with each other to determine learners' optimism toward the learning process. Dincer et al. (2019) stated that some activities such as doing tasks, classroom participation, and interacting with teachers in terms of asking and answering questions are related to behavioral engagement. They also defined emotional engagement as learners' emotional reactions in classroom contexts. ...
Article
Full-text available
This review aimed at examining the related studies on the effect of English as a foreign language learners' (EFL) psychological well-being and academic engagement as positive emotional constructs on learners' grit. The positive significant effect of psychological well-being on learners' grit has been confirmed in the literature review. Studies have shown that resilience, enjoyment, engagement, lack of depression, interest, and world meaningfulness can act as mediator variables in the relationship between psychological well-being and grit. Furthermore, few studies have been done on the effect of academic engagement on learners' grit. The studies showed that some factors such as meticulousness, self-control, self-confidence, and motivation act as mediators in the relationship between academic engagement and grittiness. In the end, the pedagogical implications are expounded to promote the quality of language learning quality. This review also provides some suggestions for further research to clarify our perspective over positive emotional variables and their relationships with each other.
Article
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Drawing on student self-report survey data, this study examines student engagement across 67 urban high schools in the School District of Philadelphia. Results show that schools with higher rates of affective, behavioral, and cognitive engagement differ significantly from schools with other engagement profiles in students’ average reports of teacher care and student voice. Path analyses lend support for self-determination theory and corroborate qualitative research that observes that student voice can improve student engagement. By highlighting the roles of teacher care and feelings of competence and belonging, this study identifies key means by which student voice influences student engagement.
Thesis
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The purpose of this study was to explore antecedents and outcomes of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners' self-determined classroom engagement within a self-system model of motivation process development framework. Grounded on the modern motivation theory, Self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), a mixed-method research was conducted with 412 EFL learners answering self-report questionnaires and randomly chosen 18 interviewees in preparatory classes of a foreign languages vocational school at a medium-scaled Turkish university. Data triangulation showed that quantitative and qualitative findings were consistent with one another according to general tendencies about context (perceived autonomy-support), self (basic psychological needs), action (behavioural, emotional, agentic and cognitive engagement) and outcome (achievement and attendance) variables. The hypothesized path models among context, self, action and outcome, highlighted that learners' perceptions of classroom social context facilitate or undermine their intrinsic desires to act, which in turn have a substantial impact on their achievement and attendance in English language course. Themes from the interviews also underscored that course teacher is a motivation supporter in EFL classrooms and plays a pivotal role in learners' self-related ideas, multidimensional classroom engagement and positive outcomes in English course. By presenting details on underlying structures of EFL learners' motivational self-systems within antecedents and outcomes of classroom engagement framework, it provided significant insights into many questions about classroom engagement. The findings of the study have implications for those in charge of English as a foreign language teaching who want to foster learners' engagement more or have to cope with a high number of unmotivated language learners in their classrooms.
Chapter
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This study seeks to extend our present knowledge of language learners' classroom engagement by exploring the relationship between the multidimensional classroom engagement and the group variables: course achievement, course absence and motivational orientation to learn English. A survey research design was adopted, and 122 EFL learners provided insights into the factors related to their multidimensional classroom engagement. ANOVA analyses were conducted to display group differences. The results indicated that EFL learners had an average level of classroom engagement in terms of four dimensions of the engagement and their engagement dimensions had distinct characteristics with respect to the group variables. The results showed that the students having higher course achievement, higher attendance, intrinsic motivation to learn English had significantly higher classroom engagement than the learners with lower means on these variables. The study with its insights about the influential factors related to classroom engagement is important for the language teachers aiming to contribute to EFL achievement in their teaching contexts. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- APA: Dincer A., Yeşilyurt S., & Demiröz H. (2017). Multi-dimensional classroom engagement in EFL classrooms. In D. Köksal (Ed.), Researching ELT: Classroom methodology and beyond (pp.91-102). New-York: Peter Lang.
Article
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Based on a modern motivation theory of learning, self-determination theory (SDT), this study aimed to investigate the relationships between English as a foreign language (EFL) learners' motivation to speak, autonomous regulation, autonomy support from teachers, and classroom engagement, with both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The participants of the study were EFL learners from a state university in Turkey. One hundred forty-two undergraduates responded to a questionnaire about the constructs and seven of them participated in following oral interviews. The quantitative findings showed that students' intrinsic motivation rate is higher than their other orientations and that their orientations correlated with regulation, teacher autonomy support, and classroom engagement in line with the theory. Qualitative findings also yielded that, although students are mostly intrinsically orientated, other motivational factors also play roles in their volition to
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Book
I: Background.- 1. An Introduction.- 2. Conceptualizations of Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination.- II: Self-Determination Theory.- 3. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Perceived Causality and Perceived Competence.- 4. Cognitive Evaluation Theory: Interpersonal Communication and Intrapersonal Regulation.- 5. Toward an Organismic Integration Theory: Motivation and Development.- 6. Causality Orientations Theory: Personality Influences on Motivation.- III: Alternative Approaches.- 7. Operant and Attributional Theories.- 8. Information-Processing Theories.- IV: Applications and Implications.- 9. Education.- 10. Psychotherapy.- 11. Work.- 12. Sports.- References.- Author Index.