2.3 Motivation and Age

An infant starts probing the world spontaneously and enjoys its findings soon after it is born. This pleasant autonomous motivation is so precious and important in learning that we would like it to last forever. Unfortunately, some studies showed that motivation, especially the intrinsic one, decreased stably as age increased. Bruner (1966) argued that schools seem to kill rather than nurse students’ interests and desire for knowledge. Others argued that the gradual erosion of positive academic value and behaviors may lead to this backslide of intrinsic motive in the course of time (Anderman & Maehr, 1994; Nicholls, 1979; Sansone & Morgan, 1992). The causes for this decline have troubled the educators and researchers so much that they have been widely discussed.

To investigate pupils’ developmental changes on overall learning motivation, Harter (1981) conducted a huge survey on 3,000 third through ninth grade pupils in California, Colorado, New York, and Connecticut. In Harter’s questionnaire, she provided two choices for each question, one standing for intrinsic motivation (e.g.

Some kids know when they’ve made mistakes without checking with the teacher) and the other standing for extrinsic motivation (e.g. other kids need to check with the teacher to know if they’ve made a mistake). The limited options forced the participants to decide which kind of kid was more like them. Then, they were asked whether the option was only partly true or totally true to them by another Likert-type scale questionnaire. The results indicated that children’s intrinsic motivation for academic learning continuously and systematically decreased from third to ninth grade. According to Harter, the result may be caused by students’ shift of interests

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because as children grow older, they may find where their true concern lies, and thus channel their internal motive away from what they are encouraged to do toward what they are truly interested in, such as sports, friendship, or social activities.

Following Harter (1981), Sakurai & Takano (1985) and Carreira (2006) modified the questionnaire by simplifying the items into either-or questions to examine intrinsic motivation among Japanese pupils. The questionnaire items were categorized into six subscales: curiosity, causality, enjoyment, mastery, challenge, and attribution. The results of the two studies showed a decline of intrinsic motivation with increasing grade levels. The missing of learning goals may be the main reason for this decline.

Folmer et al. (2008) also found an age-related motivation change resulted from learners’ effort/ability attributions: only not smart kids have to work hard, but even they do so, their effort may never get repaid. Hence, they don’t have to work hard because it all depends on gene. This cognitive awareness develops as their age grows and consequently lower their learning motivation for school works. Lens et al. (2009) argued that this deterioration of intrinsic drive is especially true among low or underachieving students who have suffered from the consequences of low grades. The painful results could be being punished, looked down upon, and assigned with extra practices. It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that they lose their interest in school works after years of accumulation of bad experiences.

In addition, there are some other possible explanations of this displeasing age-related motivation decline: repeated use of extrinsic constraints that crashes autonomous learning drive (Kohn, 1993); tightened school controls that eliminate spontaneous exploration (Midgley & Feldlaufer, 1987); more and more complicated

and decontextualized content with less and less practicality in daily life that hold learners from moving forward (Brown & Campione, Bruner, 1996). A study of Gottfried et al. (2001) also measured a decreasing trend of intrinsic factors in general subjects among students from 9 to 17 years old. This lower level of learning motivation has hindered students from reaching their potential and that is not only an educational issue, but a serious societal problem (Lepper et al., 2005).

While a great number of studies have been carried out to examine this age-related changes on intrinsic motivation in general learning, only a few studies have been done to analyze motivation in L2 learning in spite of the fact that the learners’ interests needs to be sustained over many years before they can master the language. Lepper et al.’s study (2005) indicated that though inner incentive weakens with age, the extrinsic value, surprisingly, remains little changed across different age levels. The findings of Corpus et al. (2006) also reached a similar result. So, when it comes to EFL learning context, in which external rewards or goals have been proved to be very important for young children (Nikolov, 1999), can students’ EFL learning motivation be maintained as their age grows?

MacIntyre et al. (2002) reported an increase of willingness to communicate among junior high school French immersion students, which may result from the decrease of anxiety as students get used to school context and the increase of self-consciousness as students grow older. Nikolov (1999) conducted a long-term study on Hungarian children’ EFL learning motivation. The study involved 84 participants with ages between 6 and 14. Among them, 45 were studied for the full length of eight years. The participants had to write down their answers to 6

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open-ended questions. The questionnaire was administrated in the spring term of each academic year from 1977 to 1985. The results demonstrated that the learners generally upheld a positive and enthusiastic attitude toward English learning throughout all age levels, though most of them were inspired by instrumental reasons.

Muñoz and Tragant (2001) also suggested that the foreign language learning motivation among younger students was no better than that of the older students although there was a shift of motivation emphasis from intrinsic to extrinsic value.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for all studies. Ghenghesh (2010) recruited 144 grade 6 to 10 students in Egypt to examine the cross-age EFL learning motivation.

There were 101 Likert-type scale items and five open-ended questions contained in the questionnaire. The quantitative and qualitative results revealed a similar decent of L2 learning among junior high school students, yet according to the author, this may be reshaped with teachers’ attitudes or more exposure to native-like environment.

Sung and Padilla (1998) investigated foreign language learning motivation among elementary and secondary school students in the USA by means of questionnaires.

They studied the students from 4th to 12th grades, including 140 elementary school students and 451 high school ones. The results suggested that younger students were more motivated than older students. Carreira (2011) also reported a similar lessening of motivation not only for L2 learning, but also for overall intrinsic learning among Japanese pupils. The decline of EFL learning motivation may result from the course designs, teaching styles, and decontextualized contents and non-authentic language learning environment. Yet, the situation among Taiwanese elementary school students remains to be explored. Is there also a decline of overall intrinsic motivation and EFL

learning motivation among the pupils as they grow older?

在文檔中 國小學童EFL學習動機與一般性內在學習動機之關係 -以新北市國小為例 - 政大學術集成 (頁 30-34)