The dynamics of intense long-term motivation in language learning: Directed Motivational Currents in theory and practice

Muir, Christine (2016) The dynamics of intense long-term motivation in language learning: Directed Motivational Currents in theory and practice. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Directed Motivational Currents (DMCs) are a novel motivational construct which describe periods of highly motivated behaviour while working towards a well-defined and personally significant end goal (see e.g. Dörnyei, Henry & Muir, 2016). Such periods of motivation are found in diverse contexts and directed towards varied outcomes, yet are uniquely recognisable by the highly positive emotionality exhibited by individuals, who during this time often surpass even their wildest expectations. To date, DMC research has focused on qualitative accounts of the personal experiences of DMCs, and while this has offered a wealth of comprehensive data, key research strands remain unexplored. In response to this, this thesis comprises two complementary studies, each looking at a novel aspect of DMC theory and application.

Study 1 takes a quantitative approach to research by addressing questions related to the recognisability of DMCs across continents and contexts, and considers basic questions such as how many people report having experienced periods of DMC-like motivation, what inspired them, and the durations they lasted. It additionally looks at the demographic factors of respondents to understand whether there are links between DMCs and either gender, age or nationality. The study uses a newly developed online questionnaire tool and involves a total of 1563 participants of 71 different nationalities. The results support the notion that DMCs are a well-recognisable and widely experienced motivational phenomenon in society, and indicate no significant links between DMCs and any demographic factors. In terms of language learning, the findings support the assertion that DMCs are found across a wide range of language levels and contexts.

Study 2 addresses the practical applicability of DMC theory to language learning and teaching. This classroom intervention study – conducted in collaboration with Jessica Florent and David Leach – aimed to purposefully facilitate a group DMC experience in a class of 16 business English language learners. The basis of this study stems from the observation that within a classroom context, group DMCs can be thought of as intensive group projects. The study was structured around an ‘All Eyes on the Final Product’ project framework (Dörnyei et al., 2016), the end goal being the organisation of a large charity fundraising event. Data was collected throughout the five weeks from personal diary entries and Skype interviews with both students and teachers. Findings suggest the intervention was highly successful in creating a group DMC experience, and significantly, it was also found that students reported notable positive developments throughout the course, both in terms of their language learning and in other key skills.

The cumulative conclusions presented in this thesis are therefore highly encouraging, offering strong empirical support to the claim that DMCs are a well-recognised and widely experienced motivational phenomenon which transcends borders and contexts. Results equally suggest that the purposeful facilitation of DMC experiences with varied groups of language learners in diverse contexts – to achieve dual motivational and educational aims – might be a very real possibility. Although positive results are reported, both studies venture into previously unchartered research territory and, in light of this, the conclusions put forward require validation and confirmation through further empirical work. Suggestions for future research are made.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Dörnyei, Zoltán
Schmitt, Norbert
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1050 Educational psychology
P Language and literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 33810
Depositing User: Muir, Christine
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2018 11:33

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