A mixed methods study of motivational teaching strategies in the ESL classroom in Australia

Kate Bokan-Smith

PhD thesis, conferred 2016

This thesis has two main purposes: first, to investigate how English as a second language (ESL) teachers identify and implement motivational teaching strategies in their classroom and second, to explore how their students perceive and observe specific teaching strategies.

Research participants included native and non-native English speaking teachers and their adult students with English language proficiency skills from pre-intermediate to advanced levels. The students represent a diverse population from several countries throughout the world with different goals for studying English in Australia. The study was conducted at three ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) language schools in Australia. A combination of mixed methods data collection instruments (Likert-scale questionnaire measuring teachers’ and students’ ranking of teaching strategies inspired by Dörnyei’s motivational strategy framework) and qualitative measures (pre-observation teacher interviews, classroom observations, student interviews and post-observation teacher interviews using stimulated recall) were employed. It was found that on the basis of the quantitative teacher questionnaire, teachers rated thirty-five motivational strategies and considered ‘class goals’, ‘pleasant environment’, ‘relevant curriculum’, ‘providing encouragement’ and ‘presenting motivating tasks’ as the five most important motivational strategies. Qualitative interview and classroom observation results indicated that the motivational strategies that five novice and expert teachers claimed to use in the classroom aligned well with their actual classroom practices and what students reported as motivating; however, the questionnaire ranking order of the same five strategies differed among the teachers and their students. During the post-observation interviews, teachers positively reflected on their observations, noting some parallels between previous strategy claims and actual classroom practices. Observational data revealed that while several motivational teaching strategies among the four novice and one expert teacher overlapped, the expert teacher tended to take more motivational strategy ‘risks’ by implementing a wider range of strategies more spontaneously during classroom observations.

Results from this thesis provide new insight into teachers’ motivational strategy use and students’ perceptions of their teachers’ strategic choices. This thesis has offered both a theoretically informed and an empirically grounded framework for future research on language motivation and teaching strategies through mixed methods data analysis for further classroom research.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Aek Phakiti