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Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom: The Case of Ecuador


Abstract and Figures

This contribution reports on a study of the motivational strategies used in the English as a foreign language classroom in Ecuador. The sample consisted of secondary school teachers (N=80) and students (N=350) who were recruited randomly. Using a mixed-methods approach-a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview-the results revealed an interesting picture of motivational strategies. Specifically, the findings disclosed that the teachers used six categories of motivational strategies in their pedagogical practice. The degree of utilisation of each category varied from high to low. The most frequent category was Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours, whereas the least common was Promoting Learner Autonomy. Of the six categories used by the teachers, the three that students found most motivating were Creating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group, Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities and Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours. The study also revealed that the students wished to be exposed to more diverse motiva-tional strategies, especially those from the Promoting Learner Autonomy, Encouraging Positive Self-evaluation and Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive categories. The teachers agreed with the students' choices; yet their preferences for motivational strategy categories were sequenced differently.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching
2019, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 250–265
© Centre for Language Studies
National University of Singapore
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL
Classroom: The Case of Ecuador
Andrzej Cirocki
University of York, UK
Sandy T. Soto
Technical University of Machala, Ecuador
Maria Asuncion Rojas Encalada
Technical University of Machala, Ecuador
Ketty Vanessa Honores Cuenca
Simon Bolivar Baccalaureate School, Ecuador
This contribution reports on a study of the motivational strategies used in the English as a foreign language
classroom in Ecuador. The sample consisted of secondary school teachers (N=80) and students (N=350) who
were recruited randomly. Using a mixed-methods approach a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview
the results revealed an interesting picture of motivational strategies. Specifically, the findings disclosed that
the teachers used six categories of motivational strategies in their pedagogical practice. The degree of utilisation
of each category varied from high to low. The most frequent category was Displaying Appropriate Teacher
Behaviours, whereas the least common was Promoting Learner Autonomy. Of the six categories used by the
teachers, the three that students found most motivating were Creating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and
a Cohesive Learner Group, Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities and Displaying Appropriate
Teacher Behaviours. The study also revealed that the students wished to be exposed to more diverse motiva-
tional strategies, especially those from the Promoting Learner Autonomy, Encouraging Positive Self-evaluation
and Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive categories. The teachers agreed with the students’ choices;
yet their preferences for motivational strategy categories were sequenced differently.
1 Introduction
Dozens of definitions and theories of motivation have been proposed in the past four decades
(Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011), evidencing the continuous evolution of this concept both in psychology
and education. For example, motivation has been presented as a complex psychological construct,
defined as “the effort, want (desire) and affect associated with learning a […] language” (Gardner,
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
1985, p. 147). It has also been described as an abstract concept that not only includes a variety of
cognitions and affects (Boekaerts, 1995), but also explains “why people think and behave as they
do” (Dörnyei, 2001, p. 2). More recently, motivation has been presented as a complex social-con-
structivist mechanism of interacting forces of a biological, emotional, social and cognitive nature
that activate human behaviour (Nakata, 2006; Nevid, 2013).
Whichever approach emerged as dominant at whatever time, motivation has always been con-
sidered a factor that determines success in language learning (Dörnyei, 2001; Dörnyei & Schmidt,
2001; Dörnyei, Henry, & Muir, 2016; Ushioda, 2013). Some suggest that certain types of motivation
are more important in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) than English as a Second Language
(ESL) contexts. For example, Dörnyei argues that instrumental motivation (resulting from the need
to use the target language for communication) is of greater importance to EFL learners than integra-
tive motivation (resting on a desire to interact with, as well as become a member of, the target
language community). This is largely because EFL learners have insufficient experience with the
target language community and are not driven to blend with target language speakers (Dörnyei,
It is important to note that schools their curricula and the nature of the teaching and learning
environment and teachers play important roles in stimulating student motivation and engagement.
Teachers are particularly important, as they usually affect students’ motivation by engaging in both
formal and informal social interactions, offering appealing content and assignments, building a wel-
coming and safe classroom climate, and implementing curricula in a challenging, exploratory, rele-
vant, innovative and enjoyable fashion. All these aspects were considered in the context of the cur-
rent study, Ecuador, where a new English language curriculum is being implemented. The overarch-
ing purpose of the new curriculum is to motivate teenagers to learn English to become competent
users as well as consumers of the language in international communicative exchanges.
The current study was stimulated by both formal and informal conversations with secondary
school EFL teachers during continuing professional development workshops in Ecuador. These
teachers had lamented their students’ lack of interest and low motivation. The study adopted a se-
quential explanatory design, the quantitative stage of which was based on a questionnaire focused
on 37 motivational strategies compiled from empirical projects by Guilloteaux (2013) and Sugita
McEown and Takeuchi (2014). The purpose of the study was threefold: (1) to establish the repertoire
of motivational strategies that Ecuadorian teachers use in the classroom, (2) to ascertain which of
these strategies students report as effective and motivating and (3) to identify what motivational
strategies Ecuadorian teachers should use more often to enhance their students’ engagement in the
teaching-learning process.
Consequently, this article explores the construct of motivational strategies. At the outset, it de-
fines the concept and briefly presents major classifications of motivational strategies. It then reviews
various empirical projects that focus on motivational strategies and mainly relate to the English
language classroom. Next, it reports the findings of the mixed-methods study carried out in Ecuador.
The article ends with implications for classroom instruction and teacher education.
2 Motivational strategies
Motivation is considered one of the key factors in language learning (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011;
Lasagabaster, Doiz, & Sierra, 2014; Ushioda, 2013). It is believed to give “the primary impetus to
initiate second or foreign language … learning and later the driving force to sustain the long and
often tedious learning process” (Guilloteaux & Dörnyei, 2008, pp. 5556). For this reason, teachers
and students alike repeatedly report that insufficient motivation is the primary cause of failure in
language learning (Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011; Kikuchi, 2015; Kim, 2009). It is therefore vital that
teachers create and sustain high levels of learner motivation. To achieve this, they should systemat-
ically utilise diverse motivational strategies.
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
Motivational strategies are defined as instructional techniques, approaches, tactics or interven-
tions employed “to consciously generate and enhance student motivation, as well as maintain ongo-
ing motivated behaviour and protect it from distracting and/or competing action tendencies” (Dö-
rnyei & Ushioda, 2011, p. 103). This definition has its roots in Dörnyei’s earlier works, published
in the 1990s and 2001.
Dörnyei’s (2001) taxonomy of motivational strategies validated empirically by Cheng and
Dörnyei (2007), Guilloteaux and Dörnyei (2008), and Sugita McEown and Takeuchi (2010), to
name but a few is regarded as the most rigorous and systematic in the literature, and was therefore
chosen to guide the current study. It consists of four main dimensions (Table 1).
Table 1. Four dimensions of motivational strategies (adapted from Guilloteaux & Dörnyei, 2008, p. 58)
Creating basic motivational
Establishing a good teacher-student rapport, creating a pleasant
and supportive classroom atmosphere, and generating a cohesive
learner group with appropriate group norms.
Generating initial motivation
“Whetting the students’ appetite” by using strategies designed to
(a) increase the learners’ expectancy of success, and (b) develop
positive attitudes toward the language course and language
learning in general.
Maintaining and protecting
Promoting situation-specific task motivation (e.g. through the use
of stimulating, enjoyable, and relevant tasks), providing learners
with experiences of success, allowing them to maintain a positive
social image even when communicating with a severely limited
language code, and promoting learner autonomy.
Encouraging positive retrospective
Promoting adaptive attributions, providing effective and
encouraging feedback, increasing learner satisfaction, and offer-
ing grades in a motivational manner.
There are several other classifications distinct from Dörnyei’s, but since they do not guide the
current project, they will receive only brief attention here. For example, Williams and Burden’s
(1997) classification, also designed with language teachers in mind, is based on the social construc-
tivist theory of learning. Lamb and Wedell (2015) focus on motivational strategies in the English
language classroom through the lens of inspirational pedagogy and inspiring teachers. The general
education literature, on the other hand, offers various options, including the discussion of motiva-
tional strategies in practical terms, the combination of theory and research, and/or more traditionally,
a blend of theory, research and practice. Some useful sources include: Keller (2010), Schunk, Meece
and Pintrich (2013), and Wentzel and Brophy (2014).
The classifications above are rather complicated and comprise many strategies, because both
language learners and teaching contexts vary. Some strategies work with some learners and others
are only applicable to certain contexts. It can therefore be inferred that the effectiveness of motiva-
tional strategies depends on complex interactions among distinct contextual variables, such as ap-
proaches to learning and teaching, or teachers’ personalities, to name two (Cheng & Dörnyei, 2007;
Dörnyei & Csizér, 1998). As a result, more empirical studies are required to give detailed infor-
mation about the use of motivational strategies in individual teaching contexts, including Ecuador,
hence the current project.
3 Empirical studies on motivational strategies
The empirical literature regarding motivational strategies shows that the concept has gained im-
portance in language education and educational psychology. There are more and more sources avail-
able, many underpinned by solid empirical projects. There are several studies based on Dörnyei’s
aforementioned taxonomy of motivational strategies. What distinguishes them from one another is
their research focus. For example, Cheng and Dörnyei’s (2007) large-scale study (N=387) focused
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
on the use of motivational strategies in the Taiwanese EFL classroom. In their survey, Cheng and
Dörnyei presented a list of motivational strategies and asked their teacher participants to rate two
aspects: (1) how much importance they paid to the individual strategies and (2) how often they
implemented them in their own teaching. The study revealed that “Setting a Personal Example with
their own Behaviour” and “Recognising Students’ Effort and Celebrating their Success” were two
of the macro-strategies that Taiwanese teachers found most important. Regarding the frequency of
the implementation of the ten macro-strategies included in the survey, “Demonstrating Proper
Teacher Behaviour” was ranked first, whereas “Promoting Learner Autonomy” came last.
Since Cheng and Dörnyei used a modified survey from Dörnyei and Csizér’s (1998) study con-
ducted in Hungary, the findings also indicated that some motivational strategies were transferable
across diverse teaching contexts, whereas others were culture-sensitive. A similar comparison, but
with a broader scope (involving five countries: China, Taiwan, Hungary, Japan and Oman) was
made by Wong in 2014. She concluded her project stating that “no single motivational strategy
was viewed as effective across different EFL contexts” (Wong, 2014, p. 145), which only partially
concurred with Cheng and Dörnyei’s (2007) observations.
Dörnyei’s taxonomy of motivational strategies was also utilised to measure the correlation be-
tween teachers’ observed use of motivational strategies and students’ language learning motivation
in the South Korean English language classroom. In a project involving 27 teachers and over 1,300
students, Guilloteaux and Dörnyei (2008) collected the data using a self-report questionnaire and a
classroom observation instrument labelled “the motivation orientation of language teaching”
(MOLT) scheme, followed by a post-hoc rating scale, completed by the observer. The results sug-
gested that the English language teachers’ motivational classroom practices were directly connected
with the enhanced levels of both the students’ motivational state and their engagement in the class-
room. Similar observations regarding students’ motivational state and behaviour were later made in
Iran by Papi and Abdollahzadeh (2012). The researchers reported that Iranian students’ motivated
behaviour was significantly affected by their teachers’ motivational practices.
Similarly, the influence of motivational strategies used by teachers on English language learners
self-reported learning motivation was investigated by Moskovsky, Alrabai, Paolini and Ratcheva
(2012). In this project, a quasi-experimental design was employed. The experimental treatment
spanned an eight-week period, during which Saudi EFL learners (N=296) were exposed to ten pre-
selected motivational strategies. The experiment showed that teachers’ motivational behaviours led
to a significant increase in learner motivation in both experimental and control groups.
Finally, in a controlled quasi-experimental study, Alrabai (2016) quantified the effects of moti-
vational strategies on Saudi EFL learners’ motivation and achievements. The experiment revealed
that the motivation-oriented intervention in the experimental group brought about enhanced levels
of learner motivation. On closer inspection, the enhanced learner motivation was seen to lead on to
higher achievements among learners in the experimental group compared with those in the control
group. Other studies reporting on a close relationship between students’ motivation and learning
achievements include Bernaus and Gardner (2008), Bernaus, Wilson and Gardner (2009), and La-
sagabaster (2011).
All these studies have made an important contribution to the field. Some found positive correla-
tions between teachers’ motivational pedagogical practices and learners’ learning motivation and
achievements. Some also showed learners’ increased engagement in the classroom. Some suggest
that EFL teachers do succeed in enhancing their students’ motivation.
There are also motivational strategies studies that do not follow Dörnyei’s framework. Although
these are not directly related to the current project, their contribution to the existing literature must
not be ignored, especially when they produce intriguing findings which differ from those already
discussed. In one project, conducted in South Korea, Maeng and Lee (2015) employed Keller’s
model of learning motivation to identify strategies used by in-service English language teachers.
The study found that less experienced teachers tend to use more motivational strategies than more
experienced instructors. In a different project, conducted in China and Indonesia, Lamb and Wedell
(2015) asked EFL learners to describe inspiring language teachers they had had in the past. The
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
learners were encouraged to reflect on these teachers’ pedagogical qualities, which enabled the re-
searchers to identify aspects of L2 pedagogy with a long-term motivational impact. Some of the
nominated teachers were later visited and observed in the classroom. The findings revealed that
Indonesian learners value teachers who conduct entertaining classes, whereas Chinese learners pre-
fer teachers who offer interesting content. The study also indicated that a teacher’s personality is
likely to have a major long-term impact on students’ motivation to learn.
As the scope of this section is rather limited, it must be clarified that there are other projects that
focus on motivational strategies. Some of these studies found positive correlations between teach-
ers’ motivational classroom practices and learners’ engagement (Ekiz & Kulmetov, 2016), class-
room participation and interaction (Frisby & Martin, 2010; Gascoigne, 2012) and increased learning
satisfaction (Wu, Wu, & Tasi, 2014) more generally.
In light of the undeniable importance that motivational strategies have in the teaching-learning
process, the need to establish repertoires of motivational strategies for English language teachers in
specific teaching contexts, and particularly in developing countries where English language teach-
ing is not satisfactory, is clear. Research on motivational strategies in EFL contexts in Latin America
is scarce, hence the current project. The present study is the first phase of a larger research project
and seeks answers to the following research questions:
1. What motivational strategies do Ecuadorian secondary school EFL teachers employ in the
teaching-learning process?
2. Which of the motivational strategies used by teachers do Ecuadorian secondary school EFL
learners find motivating?
3. What motivational strategies should be utilised more often in the Ecuadorian secondary
school EFL classroom to enhance learner engagement?
4 Research methodology
Utilising a mixed-methods approach, the study adopted a sequential explanatory design (Cre-
swell, 2003; Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003). The data were collected in two
consecutive stages: quantitative and qualitative. The purpose of using quantitative and qualitative
methods in combination, synthetic interpretative methodology, was twofold: (1) to document both
objective and subjective information, thus ensuring greater validity; and (2) to achieve greater com-
pleteness by illustrating the rather dry numerical findings with more descriptive qualitative quotes
from interviewees (Bryman, 2006). Combining the two methods additionally allowed for harnessing
the strengths and counterbalancing the weaknesses of both ways of collecting data.
The research design the study followed was regarded as fixed (Bryman, 2006). This means that
the order of the quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as the various empirical procedures
within the project, were precisely determined before the research process began. In addition to the
fixed design, the quantitative data were given methodological dominance in the study. Such domi-
nance was mainly determined in relation to the research questions. As a result, the quantitative data
were given priority as the main source of data, whereas the qualitative data played a subservient role
(Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003).
4.1 Participants
The sample was generated from randomly chosen EFL students and teachers (N=430) from sec-
ondary schools in the south of Ecuador. There were 164 (n=164; 38%) male and 266 (n =266; 62%)
female participants in the sample. All of them were Ecuadorian.
In the teachers’ group (N=80), the participants’ ages fell into five categories, the most common
being 4049 (n=34; 42.5%). The participants held BA (n=64; 80%) and MA (n=11; 14%) degrees,
as well as teaching certificates (n=5; 6%). Their teaching experience varied in length, yet the most
common bracket ranged from 11 to 15 years (n=32; 40%). The participants came from urban (n=55;
69%) and rural (n=25; 31%) schools.
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
The student participants (N=350) were enrolled in the 11th-grade urban (n=220; 63%) and rural
(n=130; 37%) schools. Their English language learning experience varied. Some had attended Eng-
lish language classes in primary and secondary schools, but some had started at the secondary level
due to an acute shortage of teachers.
4.2 Data collection
Two instruments were employed to collect the data: the questionnaire (N=430) and the semi-
structured interview (N=48). The questionnaire, translated into Spanish, consisted of three sections,
each containing a list of 37 items presented on a four-point Likert scale (-2 = strongly disagree, -1
= disagree, 1 = agree, 2 = strongly agree). The items were arranged into six categories of motiva-
tional strategies: (1) Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours, (2) Encouraging Positive Self-
evaluation, (3) Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities, (4) Creating a Friendly Classroom
Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group, (5) Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive and
(6) Promoting Learner Autonomy. The neutral option was not included on the scale as Ecuadorian
respondents tend strongly to select the middle option. The questionnaire items were either borrowed
from or modelled on those included in the surveys used by Guilloteaux (2013) and Sugita McEown
and Takeuchi (2014). Some of the items were simplified in terms of language and adjusted to the
local context. In total, 430 questionnaires were returned, 350 in the student and 80 in the teacher
The semi-structured interview was based on four questions, yet the probing procedure varied
from one participant to another. It was conducted in Spanish, the first and preferred language of the
participants. Altogether, 48 participants (28 students and 20 teachers) gave interviews. The purpose
of using semi-structured interviews was to explore motivational strategies, how teachers promoted
them and what impact they had on students. The second instrument was particularly advantageous,
for it encouraged greater “spontaneity, involvement, and thoroughness of responding” (Kerr, Ar-
onoff, & Messe, 2000, p. 181).
4.3 Data analysis
The two instruments generated a large amount of data. The quantitative data were analysed sta-
tistically, using PQStat (version Descriptive statistics such as the mean (M) and the
standard deviation (SD) were calculated and tabulated first. Then, the Mann-Whitney U test, the
Kruskal-Wallis test, Spearman’s coefficient and Kendall’s tau coefficient were employed to meas-
ure the relationships between specific variables. The level of significance selected was p<0.05,
whereas highly significant differences were observed when p<0.001.
By contrast, the qualitative data were analysed using thematic coding. The purpose of the the-
matic analysis was not only to identify and analyse themes in the dataset, but also to understand the
meanings that teachers and students gave to their lived experiences in the classroom. The process
of content analysis involved three steps: (1) identifying the main themes in relation to the research
questions, (2) classifying responses under the main themes and, finally, (3) integrating themes and
responses into a research report presented in Section 5. To illustrate and bring to life the various
points being made in Section 5, several quotes from participants were included.
Participants’ anonymity was ensured by replacing their names with letter-and-number-based
codes. Two types of codes were used: one for teachers (T) and one for students (S). For example,
T5 meant teacher number five and S3 meant student number 3.
5 Results
This section presents empirical findings that answer the three research questions guiding the
project. For the sake of clarity, the three issues are discussed under separate headings below.
5.1 Strategies used to motivate students to learn English
According to the gathered data, Ecuadorian teachers used a range of motivational strategies in
the classroom. They can be arranged into the six categories listed above (see 4.2). In descending
order, the categories are listed as follows (Table 2):
Table 2. Categories of motivational strategies used by teachers
Categories of motivational strategies
Displaying appropriate teacher behaviours
Creating a friendly classroom atmosphere and a cohesive learner group
Selecting and presenting instructional activities
Making learning stimulating and attractive
Encouraging positive self-evaluation
Promoting learner autonomy
As the data show, some categories were quite popular, whereas others were used very rarely.
The most popular instances identified in the pool of 37 strategies investigated in the current project
are presented in Table 3. They only represent four categories, one of which is dominant (see grey-
shaded strategies), namely “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours.”
Table 3. The most common motivational strategies used by teachers
The least frequently used motivational strategies in the set under investigation are listed in Table
4. There is one dominant category (see grey-shaded strategies) “Promoting Learner Autonomy.”
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
Table 4. The least frequently used motivational strategies
Motivational strategies
Giving student choices in deciding how and when they will be assessed
Creating opportunities for students to assess themselves
Allowing students to choose classroom activities
Sharing as much responsibility to organise the teaching-learning process with
the students as possible
Assessing students’ knowledge through role-plays, debates, games, etc.
Encouraging students to participate in English-related activities outside the
Introducing new topics through games, songs, short videos, quizzes, images,
Encouraging creativity in the classroom
Moving around the classroom to monitor each student’s work and celebrate
their successes
Rewarding students in various ways (e.g. Teach the class your favourite game,
Take a homework pass, Choose a book for reading aloud)
The use of motivational strategies was also analysed in terms of the participants’ gender, age,
teaching qualifications, teaching experience and type of school urban or rural. No significant dif-
ferences were observed in relation to gender, age and teaching qualifications because p>0.05. How-
ever, the results revealed a bigger variation in teaching experience. A significant positive correlation
(p<0.05) was found between the instructors’ teaching experience and “Displaying Appropriate
Teacher Behaviours” (r=0.2554; p=0.0092), “Creating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a Co-
hesive Learner Group” (r=0.3298, p=0.001), “Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities”
(r=0.3009; p=0.002) and “Promoting Learner Autonomy” (r=0.2029, p=0.0464) categories. This
indicated that the more experienced the teachers were, the more amenable they tended to be regard-
ing the use of the individual types of strategies. Finally, the results were analysed by school location.
The results showed highly significant differences (p<0.001) in four categories of strategies. These
included: “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours” (p=0.0012; Z=3,2352), “Creating a
Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group” (p=0.0026; Z=3.0142), “Selecting
and Presenting Instructional Activities” (p=0.0079; Z=2.6582) and “Making Learning Stimulating
and Attractive” (p=0.0058; Z=2.7694). The higher results were noticed in the urban schools. The
results disclosed a significant difference (p<0.05) for “Encouraging Positive Self-evaluation” be-
tween urban and rural schools, where, again, the higher results came from urban schools (p=0.0211;
To ensure a more objective picture of the problem under study, the teachers’ responses regarding
the use of motivational strategies were compared with students’ opinions. In general, there was
agreement among the participants. The order of the motivational categories was almost the same in
both groups, except that “Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities” and “Creating a Friendly
Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group” were reversed. The teachers thought that
they used the former more often than the latter, whereas the students believed the opposite.
During the interview stage, the participants stated that they used the strategies from the first two
categories (Table 1) more often as “they came more naturally” (T2) to them and seemed “the obvi-
ous part of good teaching” (T9). Some added that they “could not imagine being impolite to stu-
dents” (T1), while others pointed out that “students’ participation in lessons depend[ed] on how
welcoming and friendly the classroom [was]” (T2). Regarding the “Encouraging Positive Self-eval-
uation” and “Promoting Learner Autonomy” categories, the interviewees explained that they “[did]
not use these strategies as often as [they] could” (T6). Interviewees ascribed this to “insufficient
knowledge” (T14, T16, T19), both “theoretical and practical” (T8). Other comments included: “fos-
tering autonomous learning is not my priority” (T11) or “major aim” (T17), and “the implementation
of some of the strategies would require a lot of time” (T19) and “preparation, [which] I cannot afford
now” (T20).
5.3 Strategies that Ecuadorian secondary school EFL learners find motivating
Another purpose of the project was to identify strategies which Ecuadorian secondary school
EFL learners found motivating. Table 5 arranges the six categories of strategies from most to least
motivating. The highest score was given to the “Creating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a
Cohesive Learner Group” category, while the lowest rating went to “Promoting Learner Auton-
Table 5. Categories of the most motivating strategies for students
Categories of motivational strategies
Creating a friendly classroom atmosphere and a cohesive learner group
Selecting and presenting instructional activities
Displaying appropriate teacher behaviours
Encouraging positive self-evaluation
Making learning stimulating and attractive
Promoting learner autonomy
Having looked at the individual strategies in the six clusters, it can be inferred that students
found some strategies more motivating than others. Examples of the most motivating strategies are
listed in Table 6, while Table 7 focuses on the least motivating.
The findings were subsequently examined with respect to participants’ gender and school loca-
tion. For gender, a significant difference was observed only in one instance: “Making Learning
Stimulating and Attractive” (p=0.0389; Z=2.0657), where the higher results concerned female par-
ticipants. The significance of school location was much more complex. For example, in four cate-
gories, “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours” (p=0.0001; Z=3.9265), “Creating a Friendly
Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group” (p=0.0068; Z=2.7046), “Selecting and Pre-
senting Instructional Activities” (p=0.0025; Z=3.027) and “Encouraging Positive Self-evaluation”
(p=0.0005; Z=3.4648), the results differed highly significantly (p<0.001), and the higher results be-
longed to the rural schools. For the “Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive” category, signif-
icant differences were also found (p<0.05) and here too the higher results applied to the rural schools
(p=0.0211; Z=2.3069).
Table 6. Strategies that students find the most motivating
Motivational strategies
Asking students to be quiet when needed to maintain a better learning environ-
ment in the classroom
Being polite to students
Providing clear explanations regarding the content of the English coursebook
Providing clear answers and explanations for students’ questions
Varying the activities students take part in in the classroom
Providing positive feedback about students’ learning progress
Giving students choices in deciding how and when they will be assessed
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
Table 7. Strategies that students find the least motivating
Motivational strategies
Assesses students’ knowledge through role-plays, debates, games, etc.
Encourages students to participate in English-related activities outside the clas-
Rewards students in various ways (e.g., Teach the class your favourite game,
Take a homework pass, Choose a book for reading aloud)
Brings humour into the classroom
Speaks slowly so that students can understand what he/she is saying
Writes clearly on the blackboard/whiteboard during the presentation/explanation
stage of the lesson
According to the qualitative data, the participants stated that they liked that their “English lan-
guage teachers create[d] a friendly atmosphere in the classroom” (S1, S6, S21). This “[made them]
feel safe” (S6) and “welcome” (S21). Some participants also mentioned that sometimes “teachers
must ask students to be quiet” (S17, S22, S24). This “usually happens when classroom situations
are getting out of control” (S22). One interviewee thought that it was “good that [teachers tried] to
regularly maintain control during lessons” (S24), as this “help[ed] students to be focused and atten-
tive” (S17). Some students “enjoy[ed] classroom rules [that teachers] set at the beginning of the
school year” (S11), yet such rules were not common in all schools. For instance, in a few urban
schools, participants stated that “rules” (S6, S13, S15) and “discipline” (S24, S25, S28) were ur-
gently required so that “students [could] concentrate on classwork” (S13, S19, S21). A few inter-
viewees added that “it [was] difficult to learn when other students chat[ted] loudly” (S3) about things
“unrelated to the theme of the class” (S2), for example, “messages or online chats” (S4).
To a lesser degree, the interviewees commented on attractive and enjoyable classes. They
“like[d] learning through [songs, games, short videos]” (S2, S5, S7). However, many stated that
such “lessons [were] infrequent” (S4, S18). On the whole, “teachers mainly [taught] from course-
books” (S10, S15), which “[made] all the lessons [more or less] the same” (S1). In general, in both
urban and rural areas, “students [found coursebook texts] boring” (S10, S21). Some thought “the
topics [were] not interesting” (S3), and quite a few admitted that they did not “enjoy reading” (S3,
S6, S8, S15). However, five participants stated that “interesting texts could [encourage them] to read
more” (S11, S24). This would mean, as two stated, that “teachers must [supplement coursebooks
with] extra materials” (S26, S28), which hardly ever happened in their school experience. Quite a
few interviewees stated that the situation could improve if “teachers taught reading [with technol-
ogy]” (S7, S13, S26), which would be “more motivating and enjoyable” (S1, S7, S22).
The participants also thought that they would enjoy lessons more, and feel more motivated, if
teachers included students more in decision-making. For example, students were willing to “help
[teachers] to choose reading texts” (S6), “suggest writing topics” (S8, S11) or “decide on activity
types” (S5) that students were asked to do during lessons or at home. Classes would also be more
attractive if there was “more emphasis on collaborative activities” (S18). This would be particularly
useful in developing “thinking” (S14), “problem solving” (S3), and “management” (S9) skills and
oral “communication in [the target language]” (S15). These joint decisions would contribute to in-
corporating materials or activities that would be “more related to students’ interests” (S5), making
“the learning process more interesting” (S9) and “engaging” (S21).
5.3 Desirability of motivational strategies to enhance students’ engagement
The study also aimed to identify students’ needs in relation to motivational strategies. The stu-
dents were asked to list strategies they would like teachers to use more frequently to improve class-
room community engagement. Table 8 lists the six most desirable strategies in descending order.
Table 8. The most desirable strategies for students
Motivational strategies
Base classroom instruction on interesting texts
Encourage students to practise vocabulary through games
Share as much responsibility to organise the teaching-learning process with the
students as possible
Use a variety of materials during every lesson (e.g., coursebooks, workbooks,
dictionaries, technology, newspapers, magazines, etc.)
Reward students in various ways (e.g., Teach the class your favourite game,
Take a homework pass, Choose a book for reading aloud)
Introduce new topics through games, songs, short videos, quizzes, images, etc.
The data revealed that the most desirable category of motivational strategies for students was
“Promoting Learner Autonomy” (M=0.36, SD=0.20). The least desirable strategies belonged to the
“Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours” (M=0.17, SD=0.21) category.
The learners’ needs concerning motivational strategies were further analysed against partici-
pants’ gender and type of school. No significant differences in relation to gender were observed, but
the situation was different for the school location variable. Significant differences were found in
three motivational strategy categories, where the higher results belonged to urban schools; signifi-
cant differences were found in the “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours” (p=0.0184;
Z=2.3583) and “Creating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group”
(p=0.0167; Z=2.393) categories, and highly significant differences for the “Selecting and Presenting
Instructional Activities” category (p=0.0002; Z=3.7265).
The students’ answers to the question concerning desirable strategies were compared with teach-
ers’ responses. In the teacher questionnaire, the participants were asked to select motivational strat-
egies whose frequency they thought should be enhanced in their pedagogical practice. The results
showed only small discrepancies in the choices made by both groups. The participants unanimously
divided all the categories of motivational strategies into high- and low-priority groups. The former
consisted of “Promoting Learner Autonomy,” “Encouraging Positive Self-evaluation” and “Making
Learning Stimulating and Attractive,” while the latter included “Creating a Friendly Classroom At-
mosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group,” “Selecting and Presenting Instructional Activities” and
“Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours.” The discrepancy concerned the sequence of catego-
ries in the high-priority group.
6 Discussion
The first research question aimed at identifying motivational strategies which Ecuadorian teach-
ers used in the teaching-learning process. According to the gathered data, the teachers employed
different strategies to motivate students to learn English; they displayed appropriate behaviours,
including being polite to students, speaking clearly and loudly, listening to students when they had
problems and offering individual support. Similar strategies were analysed in other projects con-
ducted in English language classrooms (Cheng & Dörnyei, 2007; Dörnyei & Csizér, 1998; Elis-
dawati, Husein, & Setia, 2018; Guilloteaux & Dörnyei, 2008; Moskovsky, Alrabai, Paolini, &
Ratcheva, 2012; Pavlidou, 2001; Widiadnya, Seken, & Santosa, 2018) as well as non-language sub-
jects (Ibanez, Kuperminc, Jurkovic, & Perilla, 2004; Murdock & Miller, 2003; Sanchez, Colon, &
Esparza, 2005). The conclusions of these studies, similarly to the current project, suggested that the
motivational strategies listed above had an important impact on student motivation and perfor-
mance, as well as contributed to increased students’ interest and self-efficacy.
Additionally, Ecuadorian teachers motivated their students by creating a friendly classroom at-
mosphere as well as providing them with interesting activities. The former emphasises the im-
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
portance of a safe and anxiety-free classroom setting where students feel respected, accepted, in-
cluded, supported and where they can realise their potential, regardless of their individual differ-
ences. Recent research indicates that a positive classroom atmosphere is important for several rea-
sons. For example, Ekiz and Kulmetov (2016) and Frisby and Martin (2010) found that it enhanced
students’ engagement and motivation. Johnson (2009) and Frisby and Martin (2010) noticed a pos-
itive relationship between friendly classroom environments and enhanced learning. Frisby and Mar-
tin (2010) and Gascoigne (2012) additionally observed that friendly classrooms positively affected
students’ participation and interaction during lessons. Finally, Wu, Wu and Tasi (2014) reported a
strong relationship between non-threatening classroom environments and increased student learning
The strategies related to selecting and presenting appropriate instructional activities stress the
importance of a variety of activities and using pictures, gestures, and actions to make concepts and
content discussed in the classroom clear. Corroborative evidence listing materials as a motivating
factor in the English language classroom can be found in Mishan (2005), Chapelle and Lui (2007),
Csizér and Kormos (2009), Hou (2009) and Rahman and Cotter (2014), to name a few. Tomlinson
(2011) suggests that a wide range of high-quality materials must be employed to engage students in
the teaching-learning process, and be based on fundamental principles and underpinned by SLA
research. According to these principles, materials should: (1) achieve an impact, (2) help learners to
feel confident and at ease, (3) be perceived by learners as relevant and useful, (4) require and facil-
itate learners’ self-investment, (5) expose learners to authentic language, (6) draw learners’ attention
to linguistic features of the input, (7) provide learners with opportunities to use the target language
for communicative purposes, (8) consider learners’ diverse learning styles and affective attitudes,
and (9) maximise learning potential by encouraging intellectual, aesthetic and emotional involve-
ment, thus stimulating the right and left brain hemispheres (Tomlinson, 2011, pp. 823).
A problem that needs to be addressed, however, is the development of learner autonomy in the
classroom. As the data revealed, Ecuadorian teachers hardly ever used strategies aimed at fostering
independent learning and action. A considerable amount of literature has been published on learner
autonomy (Benson, 2013; Cirocki, 2016), disclosing that autonomy-supportive motivational strate-
gies seek to stimulate language learners’ intrinsic motivation as well as volition to act (Benson,
2013). In the language classroom, autonomy can be facilitated in various ways. For instance, Cirocki
(2016) suggests four approaches which allow transferring responsibility to students by encouraging
them to: plan, monitor and assess their own learning process using relevant strategies; negotiate the
syllabus; utilise technology to enhance their learning; and engage in collaborative tasks to maximise
their use of the target language. These are all intended not only to enhance willingness to engage in
learning tasks, but also to positively affect motivation. The latter has been backed by empirical
studies, including Ushioda (2006), Okazaki (2011) and, more recently, Hu and Zhang (2017).
The second research question focused on identifying classroom strategies which EFL learners
found motivating. The analysis revealed that some strategies appeared to be more motivating than
others and an interesting relationship between the teacher and student groups was observed. From
the six categories, three groups of strategies “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours,” “Cre-
ating a Friendly Classroom Atmosphere and a Cohesive Learner Group” and “Selecting and Pre-
senting Instructional Activities” were reported as more motivating than the others. This, unfortu-
nately, does not seem to corroborate the results from earlier studies. For more details, see, for ex-
ample, Cheng and Dörnyei (2007). More interestingly, these were the strategies which Ecuadorian
teachers reported utilising in the classroom regularly. The remaining categories, seen as less moti-
vating by the students are “Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive,” “Encouraging Positive
Self-evaluation” and “Promoting Learner Autonomy.” As the analysis showed, the same three cat-
egories seemed to be given much less attention by the teachers.
More specifically, the analysis showed that the students liked that their teachers spoke loudly
and clearly. Clear explanations were particularly valued, yet, in some cases, students thought their
“teachers [were] not always well-prepared as they [could not] answer questions” (S13) related to
“vocabulary or grammar used in coursebook texts” (S6). Such situations, as some students stated,
“[were] disappointing” (S11, S18, S26) and often led to situations, usually after class, in which
“students question[ed] their teachers’ expertise” (S9). In general, however, the students felt that their
teachers “[tried] very hard to provide support whenever needed” (S5), which made students “feel
valued and included” (S22) and “more willing to participate in the classroom” (S30). The latter
tallies with Bergin and Bergin (2012, p. 525), who affirm that students’ participation in the class-
room expands when “students feel emotionally safe.”
The students would like to see more innovation in the classroom and for their classes to vary in
nature. They thought that “teachers over-rel[ied] on coursebooks” (S10). Instead, they would like to
“learn [through] songs, games, and technology” (S2, S5, S7), believing that “songs and games
[were] very beneficial” (S7) in the language classroom. This tallies with Lopez Sanz (2013), who
notices that songs and games increase students’ motivation, confidence and participation. Educa-
tional technology, in turn, offering similar benefits to songs and games, promotes autonomous and
collaborative learning (Kassim & Zuraina, 2007; Padurean & Margan, 2009; Wang, 2015), both of
which were reported in the previous section as highly desirable in the Ecuadorian context.
The last research question was about identifying motivational strategies the students would like
teachers to employ more frequently in their pedagogical practice. As the analysis showed, the three
most desirable categories were: “Promoting Learner Autonomy,” “Encouraging Positive Self-eval-
uation” and “Making Learning Stimulating and Attractive.” The underutilisation of the first and
third categories was also reported in studies by Cheng and Dörnyei (2007) and Guilloteaux (2013),
and indicated two points. Firstly, Ecuadorian teachers found it hard to believe that their students
could become more motivated by assuming more responsibility for their own learning. Secondly,
arousing students’ deep interest in English language learning did not seem to be a significant factor
in motivation. Given this evidence, it could be inferred that, in Ecuador, teachers were perceived as
transmitters of knowledge, not facilitators of the learning process. The second point also resonates
with Benson’s (2000, p. 114) remark that “education often does little to provide learners with the
opportunity to exercise autonomy in the practice of learning.”
The encouraging observation is that both teacher and student participants saw the need to im-
prove the current situation in Ecuador. Both groups concurred that more, and more varied, motiva-
tional strategies were required. The analysis revealed that both groups of participants were unani-
mous that the strategies belonging to the “Promoting Learners Autonomy,” “Encouraging Positive
Self-evaluation” and “Making Learning Stimulating and attractive” categories had to become a top
7 Conclusion and implications
This study aimed to investigate motivational strategies used in the secondary school EFL class-
room in Ecuador. The mixed-methods project showed that Ecuadorian teachers used a range of mo-
tivational strategies; yet many were underused, which might indicate that motivating students was
not a high priority for EFL teachers.
On the one hand, the current study shares some findings with previous research conducted in
Taiwan, Hungary and the US. Specifically, “Displaying Appropriate Teacher Behaviours” appeared
to be the most commonly used category of strategies in Ecuadorian schools. This observation may
imply that such strategies transfer across teaching contexts. On the other hand, the current study
differs from previous research on certain issues. The most striking is that the “Encouraging Positive
Retrospective Self-evaluation” category ranked very low, which is disappointing indeed. The strat-
egies in this cluster are essential as, among other things, they help students to sustain a positive self-
image as well as identify areas of weakness and, consequently, ways of addressing them (Dörnyei,
Since the current study is rather limited in scope, it is not possible to draw any discernible con-
clusions for the field as a whole. We believe, however, that the study gives us enough evidence to
make three recommendations for action in the southern provinces of Ecuador the context of this
research. Firstly, it is advisable that EFL teachers prioritise motivational strategies in their practice
A. Cirocki, S. T. Soto, M. A. Rojas Encalada and K. V. Honores Cuenca
Motivational Strategies in the Secondary School EFL Classroom
and utilise them regularly and for various purposes. The plenitude of such strategies will help stu-
dents to become more engaged, confident and autonomous learners. Secondly, it is important that
the concept of motivational strategies is thoroughly discussed during teacher education programmes
as well as continuing professional development events, so that both pre- and in-service teachers gain
sound theoretical and practical knowledge. Last but not least, it is recommended that educational
researchers conduct a large-scale study on motivational strategies in Ecuador to obtain a detailed
picture of how these strategies are promoted in EFL classrooms across the country, not just in the
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... In a different context, Borjian (2015) interviewed 76 public school EFL teachers in Mexico, finding that learners lack interest in learning, believe the language is too complicated; and methods and curricula are overly traditional. Locally, Cirocki, Soto, Encalada & Cuenca (2019) reported a study of the motivational strategies proposed in EFL teaching in Ecuador. It concluded that students felt they should be exposed to more diverse motivational strategies, which can promote autonomous learning, and positive self-evaluation. ...
... This study can contribute to research on secondary settings where it has been uncommon (Fisher et al., 2004;Li, 2018). Furthermore, this research could provide insights to apply in EFL class and address the need for CMC incorporation in language classes to influence students´ motivation in Ecuadorian secondary institutions Cirocki et al. (2019). The following research question will guide the development of this research. ...
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Despite the ongoing debates toward the use of grammar in language learning, providing sufficient grammar teaching and skills seems important for EFL learners. Thus, it seems important to maintain learners' motivation to learn grammar. As one of the most important aspects in EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learning, motivation needs to be improved in order to sustain learners' interests and achieve language learning goals. Several researchers suggest incorporating technology to teach or learn grammar as a part of motivational strategies. The present study aims to review theoretical framework and previous studies related to EFL learners 'motivation and the use of technology-based grammar learning. The results suggest a correlation between the improvement of learners' motivation toward grammar learning and the integration of technology-based grammar learning in language classrooms. Nevertheless, the integration of technology to grammar learning needs to be equipped with learners' abilities to use technology as it will not create maximum results without learners being able to know how to operate certain technology. It raises questions such as whether technology-based grammar learning can be used for all language learners or only for a small percentage of learners. Thus, further studies toward technology-based grammar learning still have their merits in order to provide deeper insights on the matter. ABSTRAK Terlepas dari perdebatan yang sedang berlangsung tentang penggunaan grammar dalam pembelajaran bahasa, memiliki pengajar dengan keterampiran yang memadai tampaknya penting bagi pelajar EFL (English as a Foreign Language). Oleh karena itu, penting untuk menjaga motivasi peserta didik dalam belajar. Sebagai salah satu aspek penting dalam pembelajaran EFL, motivasi perlu ditingkatkan untuk mempertahankan minat peserta didik dan mencapai tujuan pembelajaran bahasa. Beberapa peneliti menyarankan untuk memasukkan teknologi dalam mengajar sebagai bagian dari strategi. Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk meninjau kerangka teioritis dan penelitian sebelumnya yang berkaitan dengan motivasi pelajar EFL dan penggunaan pembelajaran grammar berbasis teknologi. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan adanya korelasi antara peningkatan motivasi peserta didik terhadap pembelajaran grammar dan integrasi pembelajaran grammar berbasis teknologi di ruang kelas. Namun demikian, pengintegrasian teknologi ke dalam pembelajaran grammar perlu dibekali dengan kemampuan peserta didik dalam menggunakan teknologi, karena tidak akan memberikan hasil yang maksimal jika tidak mengetahui cara mengoperasikannya. Ini mrnimbulkan pertanyaan seperti apakah pembelajaran grammar berbasis teknologi dapat digunakan untuk semua pelajar atau hanya untuk sebagian kecil pelajar. Dengan demikian, studi lebih lanjut terhadap pembelajaran grammar berbasis teknologi masih memiliki kelebihan guna emberikan wawasan yang lebih mendaam tentang masalah tersebut.
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Politeness was needed to be implemented since rudeness creates conflict between teacher and students. Politeness also used in order to teach students the way of being polite, and redress the conflict in conversation. This study aimed at analyzing the implication of using politeness strategies on teaching and learning process. The subjects of this study were the tenth grade teacher and students of SMK Nusa Dua Bali. The data were in the form of conversations among the subjects in their interactions during the teaching and learning process in the classroom. The data were collected through observations and interview. The result of this study showed that, there were some implications of the politeness strategy employed by the teacher and students at SMK Nusa Dua, such as politeness created efficient teaching and learning process, respected communications between teacher and students. Besides that cooperation interaction between teacher and students were found improving, and less imposition and indirectness in teaching and learning process. Those implications motivate students and develop a meaningful teaching and learning process.
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Concepts of learner autonomy and the self-determination theory provided a theoretical rationale for the action program for learner autonomy. The action program incorporated satisfying learners’ basic psychological needs into English Foreign Language (EFL) course education. The action program was implemented for one academic year. Both qualitative and quantitative methods were used in this study. Outcomes of the action research indicated that (1) the satisfaction of learners’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness facilitated them to move along the “learner autonomy continuum” from dependence to autonomy, which was in agreement with the process of internalization of extrinsic motivation; (2) the students’ English proficiency improved with the progress of learner autonomy; and (3) the implementation of the action program for one year was not enough to cultivate fully autonomous EFL learners. The study implied that collaborative learning played an important role in fostering learner autonomy in China and that instrumental motivation and educational culture also had impacts on learner autonomy development.
This volume gives an overview of the theory of motivation and applies it to practical skills and strategies, providing new insights into the field of motivational studies and its implications for second-language pedagogy.
With the advent of the 21st century, there has been a growing realisation, particularly in developing countries, that an ability to use the English language is necessary to participate fully in global economic and social opportunities. As a result, there has been a proliferation of national and international initiatives to channel English language teaching (ELT) endeavours into directions that might lead to more effective outcomes. The past two decades have also ushered in innovative practices that have had an impact on ELT and its interrelated areas like course design, materials development, teaching/learning methodology, and the use of resources provided by ever easier access to technology.
Cultivating motivation is crucial to a language learner's success - and therefore crucial for the language teacher and researcher to understand. This fully revised edition of a groundbreaking work reflects the dramatic changes the field of motivation research has undergone in recent years, including the impact of language globalisation and various dynamic and relational research methodologies, and offers ways in which this research can be put to practical use in the classroom and in research.
It is impossible to control another person's motivation. But much of the instructor's job involves stimulating learner motivation, and learning environments should ideally be designed toward this goal. Motivational Design for Learning and Performance introduces readers to the core concepts of motivation and motivational design and applies this knowledge to the design process in a systematic step-by-step format. The ARCS model-theoretically robust, rooted in best practices, and adaptable to a variety of practical uses-forms the basis of this problem-solving approach. Separate chapters cover each component of the model-attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction-and offer strategies for promoting each one in learners. From there, the motivational design process is explained in detail, supplemented by real-world examples and ready-to-use worksheets. The methods are applied to traditional and alternative settings, including gifted classes, elementary grades, self-directed learning, and corporate training. nd the book is geared toward the non-specialist reader, making it accessible to those without a psychology or teaching background. With this guide, the reader learns how to: Identify motivation problems and goals Decide whether the environment or the learners need changing Generate attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction in learners Integrate motivational design and instructional design Select, develop, and evaluate motivational materials Plus a wealth of tables, worksheets, measures, and other valuable tools aid in the design process Comprehensive and enlightening, Motivational Design for Learning and Performance furnishes an eminently practical body of knowledge to researchers and professionals in performance technology and instructional design as well as educational psychologists, teachers and trainers. © Springer Science-Business Media, LLC 2010. All rights reserved.