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AN INVESTIGATION OF THE INFLUENCES OF CLASSROOM INTERVENTION STRATEGIES ON THE AUTONOMY AND MOTIVATION OF ADOLESCENT LANGUAGE LEARNERS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION CONTEXTS

M. Kelly

Dublin City University (IRELAND)
Over the past four decades, autonomy and motivation have become two focal points of language classroom research, emerging as significant factors affecting L2 (target language) acquisition. While decreasing motivation is especially associated with secondary education (Maehr & Anderman, 1993; Guilloteaux, 2007), many existing studies (Wachob, 2006; Kato, 2009) concentrate on tertiary education. Also, low-level motivation is particularly problematic in language classrooms (Osborne, 2005; Sanprasert, 2010), thus there appears to be a need to generate motivation in second-level language classrooms.

This study examined the influences of two intervention strategies (content negotiation and promotion of self-evaluation) on adolescent learners’ autonomy and motivation in the context of the acquisition of Spanish as a foreign language. The research instruments used in this 5-week quasi- experiment included reflection records, goal-setting and evaluation records, and pre- and post-motivation and autonomy questionnaires. The student-sample consisted of 29 females, aged 15 to 17, from a secondary school in Ireland; the experiment comprised a treatment (13 students) and comparison (16 students) group. While the teacher-participant used the Intervention Strategies (ISs) to teach the treatment group, she did not depart from her traditional approach with the comparison group. The following were the research questions: (a) Do the ISs influence learner motivation and, if so, how?
(b) Do the ISs influence learner autonomy and, if so, how?

The results indicate that the ISs were effective as regards generating motivation and fostering autonomy. Unlike the comparison group, there were significant increases in the treatment group’s autonomy and motivational levels in the post-results. These findings would suggest that, to facilitate enhanced motivation in secondary education contexts, learners should be given a greater input in the learning process with teachers taking a backseat. With a reputation of lacking enthusiasm (Dörnyei, 2003; Guilloteaux, 2007), adolescent language learners would perhaps benefit from the inclusion of these or similar ISs in formal classroom settings.