ERIC Identifier: ED427318
Publication Date: 1998-00-00
Author: Ngeow, Karen Yeok-Hwa
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Motivation and Transfer in Language Learning. ERIC Digest.
Transfer and motivation play important roles in learning. Transfer, the
application of prior knowledge to new learning situations (McKeough, 1995), is
often seen as a learning goal, and thus the extent to which transfer occurs is a
measure of learning success (Pea, 1987; Perkins, 1991). Motivation, defined as
the impetus to create and sustain intentions and goal-seeking acts (Ames &
Ames, 1989), is important because it determines the extent of the learner's
active involvement and attitude toward learning.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRANSFER AND MOTIVATION
suggests that transfer and motivation are mutually supportive in creating an
optimal learning environment. If the learner perceives what he is learning to be
relevant and transferable to other situations, he will find learning meaningful,
and his motivation to acquire the skill or knowledge will increase. Similarly,
for transfer to take place, the learner must be motivated to do two things.
First, he must be able to recognize opportunities for transfer (Prawat, 1989);
second, he needs to possess the motivation to take advantage of these
opportunities (Pea, 1988).
The challenge of teaching is thus to simultaneously enhance transfer and
motivation so that they both support learning. To do this, teachers need to
first understand the nature of transfer and the nature of motivation.
THE NATURE OF TRANSFER
Teachers often ask themselves "What
is in the learning situation that needs to be transferred?" The answer may be
one or more of the following: content or conceptual knowledge, strategic or
procedural knowledge, and appropriate dispositions for learning (Thorndike,
1932; Perkins et al., 1993).
Proponents for the teaching of content knowledge over strategic knowledge
argue that learners who have mastered the content knowledge of a particular
domain are fully capable of displaying sophisticated use of effective strategies
in new situations, including those strategies never explicitly taught (Chi,
1988). They claim that without requisite domain-specific knowledge, general
strategies have a weak effect on enhancing performance in most tasks. At the
same time, a common argument for emphasizing the teaching of strategic knowledge
is that if one can identify and teach the general skills (e.g., metacognitive
and problem-solving skills) that are applicable to a broad range of tasks, it is
easier then to facilitate transfer of learning (Pressley et al., 1987). Although
proponents from the two camps disagree on the question of what exactly is
transferred, they concur that positive dispositions toward learning are vital to
learner success. These dispositions include traits like high motivation,
risk-taking attitudes, mindfulness or attentiveness, and a sense of
responsibility for learning (Salomon & Perkins, 1988; Pea, 1988).
THE NATURE OF MOTIVATION
Gardner and Lambert (1972)
introduced the notions of instrumental and integrative motivation. In the
context of language learning, instrumental motivation refers to the learner's
desire to learn a language for utilitarian purposes (such as employment or
travel), whereas integrative motivation refers to the desire to learn a language
to integrate successfully into the target language community. In later research
studies, Crookes and Schmidt (1991), and Gardner and Tremblay (1994) explored
four other motivational orientations: (a) reason for learning, (b) desire to
attain the learning goal, (c) positive attitude toward the learning situation,
and (d) effortful behavior.
Many theorists and researchers have found that it is important to recognize
the construct of motivation not as a single entity but as a multi-factorial one.
Oxford and Shearin (1994) analyzed a total of 12 motivational theories or
models, including those from socio-psychology, cognitive development, and
socio-cultural psychology, and identified six factors that impact motivation in
attitudes (i.e., sentiments toward the learning community and the target
beliefs about self (i.e., expectancies about one's attitudes to succeed,
self-efficacy, and anxiety)
goals (perceived clarity and relevance of learning goals as reasons for
involvement (i.e., extent to which the learner actively and consciously
participates in the language learning process)
environmental support (i.e., extent of teacher and peer support, and the
integration of cultural and outside-of-class support into learning experience)
personal attributes (i.e., aptitude, age, sex, and previous language learning
INSTRUCTIONAL STRATEGIES TO ENHANCE STUDENT MOTIVATION AND LEARNING TRANSFER
Research studies have shown that language acquisition
is the result of an interplay between cognitive mechanism and environmental
conditions (Spolsky, 1985; Sivert & Egbert, 1995). Understanding and
creating optimal language learning environments thus becomes a primary concern
of the language teacher. Teachers can observe circumstances under which learners
acquire language and can make adjustments toward creating optimal learning
conditions. In designing learning activities, the language teacher should
remember that because language learning focuses on both the accuracy and
appropriateness of application in various contexts of use, learners must be
given opportunities to participate as language users in multiple contexts. These
opportunities will result in learners' heightened motivation and awareness of
the intricacies of language use.
Some teaching strategies that can be used to foster motivation and provide
better transfer opportunities of language skills include the following:
Encourage learners to take ownership in learning.
Have learners take ownership of the learning assignment by letting them
identify and decide for themselves relevant learning goals. This will motivate
them to apply what they have learned to attain these learning goals.
Promote intentional cognition or mindfulness to learning in various contexts.
Learners must be able to practice language in multiple contexts in order to
bridge domains and foster active abstraction of concepts learned (Bransford, et
al. 1990). This will help learners recognize the relevance and transferability
of different learning skills or knowledge.
Increase authenticity of learning tasks and goals.
Learners should recognize a real need to accomplish learning goals that are
relevant and holistic (rather than task-specific). This prepares them for the
complexities of real-world tasks that require them to use language skills and
knowledge that have to be continually transferred.
Learner anxiety (Horwitz, 1986) and other negative feelings can be stumbling
blocks to learners becoming cognizant of learning and transfer opportunities.
Thus, providing our learners with the motivation to learn is one of the best
steps we can take to facilitate learning success. This is best conveyed by
Bruner (1960, p.31): "The best way to create interest in a subject is to render
it worth knowing, which means to make the knowledge gained usable in one's
thinking beyond the situation in which learning has occurred."
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