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An investigation of the potential of international project activities for student motivation



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  • 1. University of East London, UK Master of Arts English Language Teaching (MA ELT) Dissertation An investigation of the potential of international project activities for student motivation: A Slovenian lower secondary school case study.Mentor & Supervisor: Author:Dr. John Gray Magdalena Bobek ID No:0735560 May 2010
  • 2. AcknowledgementsI would like to acknowledge with profound gratitude the help provided by my mentor andadvisor, dr. John Gray, professor at the University of East London, UK, who stood by me onehundred per cent and guided me through my studies. Being a distance-learning student wasoften quite lonely, but with his help and expertise I was able to confront most of my querieswithout any particular obstacles.I would also like to thank my distance-learning colleagues from all over the world with whomI spent endless hours discussing and debating online and exchanging teaching ideas. I think Ihave become a better person having had the priviledge of getting to know all of you. It was anexperience I will never forget. Thank you.My thanks also go to my family, especially my sons and husband who stood by me andboosted my morale in finishing my studies. Last but not least, I would like to thank theteacher and student respondents who took the time to participate in the research survey, aswell as our school headteacher who believed in me and gave me some free space to be able tocomplete my lifes dream of getting my Masters Degree in English Language Teaching. ii
  • 3. AbstractBeing a language practitioner I have always considered motivation as one of the mostimportant prerequisites for successful and effective learning especially with learners at thelower secondary school level between the ages of 13-15, an age full of distractions andbeguilement, where the only thing that matters is the world that revolves around them. Asteachers we want to give our students the very best, but often find it difficult to motivate themmainly because of all the different factors that influence the learning process. For manysecond/foreign language learners, teachers represent the first real contact with the targetlanguage, which makes our job as educators even more challenging because we are aware thatthe students lack of motivation may influence their perception of the target language as wellas their language performance. Motivation, in all its complexity, is an aspect of teaching thatshould not be taken lightly, as it can influence the rate and success of foreign languagelearning (Wang 2008:30), in provid[ing] the primary impetus to initiate learning foreignlanguage and later the driving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process(Dŏrnyei 1998:117 in ibid:31).Given its crucial influence on second/foreign language learning I begin my dissertation with acloser look at the importance of motivation in English Language Teaching, what it entails, thevarious factors influencing it and what stimulates it. The literature review analyses theinfluences on student behaviour and achievement and looks at reasons why some learners findlanguage learning so difficult while others embrace it. The indispensable role of the teacher inmotivating learners to learn, and how they can contribute to making language learning anunforgettable experience for all concerned is given special attention. A detailed analysis ofproject-based learning as one of the strategies used not only for motivating learners, but forenhancing learner autonomy and independence is also provided. This, in turn, leads to theunderlying issue of my dissertation which is to investigate the potential of internationalproject activities for student motivation based on a Slovenian lower secondary school casestudy involving 30 student participants aged 13-16 and three teachers. My decision to persuethis topic stems from my perception as a language teacher who has incorporated internationalproject activities into my teaching that they are good for motivation and something worthexploring in greater depth. The results of the research, despite its small-scale, look verypromising. The respondents see project-based learning in a very positive light not only for iii
  • 4. stimulating motivation, but for helping develop and maintain it as well as enhancingcommunicative competence. They stress the important role of the teacher as a guide towardsachieving learner independence and autonomy and the need for the teachers positive attitudeand good rapport with students in making project-based learning possible. Internationalproject activities are seen by the respondents as a way of helping them regain their sense ofpurpose for learning the target language, as they are putting their knowledge of the targetlanguage to good use. The Research concludes with suggestions to those practitioners whohave not yet put project work, and particularly international project activities, to the test, to atleast consider incorporating them into their teaching. iv
  • 5. Key wordsIntrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, English Language Teaching, learner, student,communicative competence, autonomy, learner-centred, project-based learning, project work,mixed-ability classes, international project activitiesList of abbreviationsELT – English Language TeachingL1 – the mother tongueL2 – second or foreign language / target languageESL – English as a Second LanguageICT - Information and Communication Technology v
  • 6. TABLE OF CONTENTSAcknowledgements ……………………………………………………………………...iiAbstract ...............................................................................................................................iiiKey words …………………………………………...………………………………........vList of abbreviations ………………………………………………………………........vTable of Contents ……………………………………………………………………….viChapter One: Introduction……………………………………………………….........11.1 Overview and significance of the study ………………………………………………..11.2 The research questions ………………………………………………………………… 21.3 Structure of the thesis …………………………………………………………………..2Chapter Two: Literature Review ………………………………………………........42.1 Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………..42.2 Motivation ……………………………………………………………………………….4 2.2.1 Theories of motivation ……………………………………………………………….4 2.2.2 Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation …………………………………………………6 2.2.3 Motivation from the perspective of the learner ………………………………………7 2.2.4 Motivation from the perspective of the teacher ……………………………………..112.3 Project-based learning ………………………………………………………………....13 2.3.1 Project work for enhancing learner-centredness and autonomy……………………..14 2.3.2 Project work for dealing with differentiation in mixed-ability classes ……………...162.4 Coping with problems in using project work in ELT ……........................................17 2.4.1 Power relations and group processes ………………………………………………...17 2.4.2 The question of authenticity …………..……………………………………………..20 2.4.3 The language question………………………………………………………………..212.5 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………24Chapter Three: The Research Design ……………………………………………..263.1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….26 vi
  • 7. 3.2 The participants and research site……………….……………………………………263.3 The research methods..…………………………………………………………………27 3.3.1 The questionnaire…………………………………………………………………..27 3.3.2 The interviews….…………………………………………………………………. 28Chapter Four: Data Results Analysis and Discussion …………………………304.1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….304.2 Factors influencing motivation in foreign language learning ……………………….304.3 Motivation and communicative competence………………………………………….324.4 The question of relevancy………………………………………………………………324.5 Coping with problems encountered in project-based learning………………………33Chapter Five: Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Research …………365.1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………….365.2 A summary of the research outcomes ………………………………………………...365.3 The research questions and key ideas ………………………………………………...375.4 Conclusion ………………………………………………………………………………385.5 Suggestions for further research ………………………………………………………39Appendices ……………………………………………………………………………….41 Appendix 1- Klassens ethnographic study cited by Auerbach ……………………..41 Appendix 2-Examples of project tasks ……………………………………………….42 Appendix 3-Permission Declaration by school headteacher for conducting the survey …………………………………………………………………43 Appendix 4-The survey questionnaire………………………………………………..44 Appendix 5-Student interview questions……………………………………………..48 Appendix 6-Teacher interview questions …………………………………………...49 Appendix 7- Interview with Teacher C (by way of example for the reader) ……...50 Appendix 8 - Questionnaire results …………………………………………………53Bibliography ……………………………………………………………………………58Authorship statement ………………………………………………………………...64 vii
  • 8. Chapter One Introduction1.1 Overview and significance of the studyMotivation, as [one of the main deter]minants of second/foreign language (L2) learningachievement (Dörnyei 1994:273), has often been an issue of debate among languagepractitioners all over the world as they attempt to understand it and find strategies with whichto foster and maintain it throughout the learning process. Why is it that even though alllearners exhibit an inborn curiosity to explore the world and are likely to find the learningexperience intrinsically pleasant, this curiosity is soon vitiated once they start school whenfaced with compulsory school attendance, curriculum content and grades (Thanasoulas2002:no pagination)? Given the consensus regarding its significance in L2 learning, theprimary focus of my study will be motivation with a look at some of the different theories thathave attempted to explain it, the different factors that influence it throughout the learningprocess including the learners individuality, the beliefs they have about themselves, theirreasons for learning L2 and the significant role of the teacher all of which influence theirperception of L2 and their language performance. Particular reference will be given toproject-based learning, as it is my belief that it is one of the best ways for motivating learnerswith learning difficulties and disciplinary problems, and those who are more proficient intheir work and need further fulfilment in their studies, which is often difficult to attainespecially in mixed-ability classes. I would like to investigate in greater depth how project-based learning serves to increase learner autonomy and independence, and how it not onlystimulates the learners motivation, but also gives them the confidence and sense of self-esteem they so badly need in their L2 learning.When our school first became involved in international projects, I immediately beganincorporating various project activities into my teaching because I found them interesting, asthey were learner-centred and project-based enabling students to deal with course materialfrom a completely different angle, and my perception as a teacher was that they seemed toimpact positively on my students. The underlying issue of my research will, therefore, be toinvestigate more empirically whether project-based learning and particularly international 1
  • 9. project activities have the potential to motivate learners at the lower secondary school level tolearn. The research will include an indepth analysis of some of the advantages and benefits aswell as problems and uncertainties encountered by both learners and teachers whenincorporating project-based learning in the English Language Teaching (ELT) classroom atthis level. Based on the views and opinions of the student and teacher respondents in mysurvey I hope to have proven that such projects do have implications for the development andmaintenance of student motivation.I consider this study important not only because it will provide insight into project-basedlearning as a major technique underpinning motivation in L2 learning, but also help enhancethe use of international projects as a means of attaining this goal. Hopefully my suggestionsfor further research will serve as a signpost to those teachers who are less enthusiastic aboutincorporating project work and more precisely international project activities into theirteaching, and stimulate them to at least consider putting project work to the test.1.2 The research questionsThe main research question of my study - Do international project activities boost studentmotivation in ELT at the lower secondary school level? - will be explored through thefollowing three sub-research questions: 1. Do teachers consider project-based learning a useful way of achieving student motivation and communicative competence in ELT? 2. Do students perceive project work to be a valuable asset to their foreign language learning? 3. Do students and/or teachers feel there are problems in using project work in ELT and if so, how can they be met?1.3 Structure of the thesisThe thesis is divided into five chapters. Chapter One presents an overview of what the studyentails, its significance, hypothesis and structure. Chapter Two reviews the literature onmotivation, its role in ELT, factors affecting it, with a particular focus on project-basedlearning as a major technique underpinning motivation in L2 learning, as well as problems 2
  • 10. encountered by both students and teachers when incorporating it into the learning process.Chapter Three describes the methodology used in conducting the research including theparticipants involved, the methods used and the procedure of data collection. Chapter Fouranalyses and discusses the data obtained from the survey. Chapter Five summarises thefindings from the data collected, links the key ideas to the research questions, provides aconclusion regarding the hypothesis presented at the beginning of the dissertation, and offerssuggestions for further research. 3
  • 11. Chapter Two Literature Review2.1 IntroductionI begin the literature review with a short presentation of some of the many theories ofmotivation which researchers have used in their attempt to clarify what they considerstimulates or demotivates learners to learn, and then provide a more detailed explanation ofintrinsic and extrinsic motivation. I then look at motivation from the perspective of the learnerfollowed by that of the teacher while paying particular attention to factors which help enhancelanguage learning as well as those which may hinder it or present obstacles for both learnersand teachers to overcome in their joint effort in making language learning a success. Fromthere I turn my attention to project-based learning and its importance for enhancing learner-centredness and autonomy as well as dealing with differentiation in mixed-ability classes.Finally I have a look at potential problems which may occur when using project work in ELT,such as power relations and group processes, the question of authenticity and the languageproblem, and propose possible solutions for dealing with them. Given my hypothesis thatproject-based learning and in particular international project activities have the potential todevelop and maintain motivation, I also highlight certain advantages of incorporatinginternational project activities into the language learning process. The chapter concludes withan encouraging look to the future and urges language practitioners to consider the advantagesof project-based learning as presented in the literature review, and to at least make an attemptto incorporate it into their teaching.2.2 Motivation2.2.1 Theories of motivationThe importance of motivation in ELT is immense. It has been accepted by teachers andresearchers as one of the key factors that can influence the rate and success of foreignlanguage learning (Wang 2008:30). In the words of Dörnyei (1998:117 in ibid:31),motivation provides the primary impetus to initiate learning foreign language and later thedriving force to sustain the long and often tedious learning process. The concept of 4
  • 12. motivation has intrigued researchers for many years, and as a result many theories have beenformulated to try and explain what motivation actually entails and the reasons behind whatmakes students want or not want to learn.The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995:929) provides the general meaningof the verb to motivate as to make someone want to achieve something and make themwilling to work hard in order to do it, and motivation as eagerness and willingness to dosomething without needing to be told or forced to do it. Definitions from within ELT, whileincluding this basic concept, entail yet other elements involved in understanding what movesan individual to act, in this case to learn English (McDonough 2007:369) such as, instinct,drive, arousal, need, […] personality traits like anxiety and need for achievement, […]cognitive appraisals of success and failure, ability and self-esteem as well as the immensesocial relevance of language learning worldwide (Dörnyei 1994:274). Ellis (1994:715)defines motivation as the effort which learners put into learning an L2 as a result of their needor desire to learn it, while McDonough (2007:369) considers it to be a property of the learneras well as a dynamic, transitive concept that changes over time and is remarkablycomplex. The two Canadian psychologists, Gardner and Lambert, who initiated and inspiredmuch of the research into the nature and role of motivation in the L2 learning process, wereparticularly sensitive to the social dimension of L2 motivation (Dörnyei 1994:273) asexpressed in their integrative and instrumental concept, where integrative motivation refersto learning the language in order to take part in the culture of its people, and instrumentalmotivation as learning the language for a career goal or other practical reason (1972 in Zhou2008:8). This concept is not only relevant to bilingual Canada, where language learning is afeatured social issue - at the crux of the relationship between the Anglophone andFrancophone communities, but extends far beyond, given the fact that the vast majority ofnations in the world are multicultural, and most of these […] multilingual, as well as the factthat there are more bilinguals in the world than there are monolinguals (Dörnyei 1994:274).Skehan (1991in ibid:275) argues that the most pressing difficulty motivation researchers faceis that of "clarifying the orientation-context links that exist because of the wide range ofpotential differences in L1-L2 learning relationship[s] that exist (outside Canada!), andconfirms that the exact nature of the social and pragmatic dimensions of L2 motivation isalways dependent on who learns what languages where. Even though Gardners concept wasacknowledged to be fundamentally important, researchers were in the search for a morepragmatic, education-centred approach to motivation (ibid:273). According to Dörnyei 5
  • 13. (ibid:275) [o]ne of the most general and well-known distinctions in motivation theories is thatbetween intrinsic and extrinsic motivation as presented by Deci and Ryan (1985), whichattempts to clarify some of the factors influencing a students inclination or disinclination forlearning.2.2.2 Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivationResearchers, according to Wang (2008:30), agree that motivation is responsible fordetermining human behaviour by energizing it and giving it direction. Motivation can beconsidered as coming from within oneself, better known as intrinsic motivation, which refersto doing something because it is inherently interesting and enjoyable (Ryan and Deci2000:55-56), where choice, decision-making and volition on the part of the learner play aprimary role, and where self-direction or flexibility […] allows oness attitudes to directaction towards the effective achievement of ones aims (Deci and Ryan 1985:6). Motivationcan also come from the outside, better known as extrinsic motivation, which may come inmany forms, such as threats […], deadlines […], directives […], and competition pressurethat undermine intrinsic motivation because learners experience them as controllers of theirbehavior (Ryan and Deci 2000:59). In these circumstances the learners ability to think andreason on their own is disregarded and does not allow them to develop self-determination orindependent thinking (Ryan and Deci 1996:no pagination). Ryan and Deci add that insituations where the students believe their perspectives are valid and their rights […] equal tothe person distributing the rewards or punishment, there is often the formation of "power-relationships” with a high probability of subversion, conflict, and/or resentment (ibid). Couldit also be, as Covington (1998:18) speculates that once the extrinsic motive such as the needfor recognition - praise, applause, gold stars and grades […] is satisfied or the threat of failureremoved, there may no longer be any particular reason to continue learning? These andsimilar circumstances seem to detract from true learning and focus students attention onperformance per se, without regard for what is learned or its meaning to ones life (ibid).On the other hand, extrinsic motivation can enhance intrinsic motivation and offer the learnera greater sense of autonomy by allowing for choice and the opportunity for self-direction(ibid). Intrinsic motivation can be evoked when the learning activity and the learningenvironment elicit motivation in the student, which can be achieved [w]hen the goals andrewards of the learning are meaningful to the learner; [w]hen the learning assists the learner 6
  • 14. in obtaining valued accomplishments and [w]hen the learning assists the learners inintegrating themselves with the world, with others, and promotes self-awareness (Brandt1995:no pagination). Where L2 learning is concerned it all depends, on how important thelearner considers the goal of L2 learning to be in terms of a valued personal outcome(Dörnyei 1994:276). Learners are often conscious of their competence in completing aparticular task, and if they recognize it as appropriate and its purpose meaningful andimportant to them, then their motivation for completing it will rise (Zhou 2008:9).However, because all school activities are not inherently interesting or enjoyable forstudents, teachers are faced with the challenge of finding new strategies to promote moreactive and volitional (versus passive and controlling) forms of extrinsic motivation which willgradually lead students to internalize the responsibility and sense of value for extrinsic goals,make them their own and carry them out without external pressure thus fostering learningand competence (Ryan and Deci 2000:55-60). [O]ffering optimal challenges and effectance-relevant feedback as well as a feeling of belonging and respect can boost studentswillingness to accept the proffered classroom values and promote greater internalization ofschool-related behavioral regulations (ibid:64). The extent to which this can be accomplishedwill, however, depend on the learners themselves and the behavioural attitudes that they havetowards L2 learning.Even though language can be taught as a school subject, it is at the same time an integralpart of the individuals identity involved in almost all mental activities, and […] the mostimportant channel of social organisation embedded in the culture of the community where itis used (Dörnyei 1994:274). It is, in most cases, more complex than simply mastering newinformation and knowledge, and involves various personality traits and social components(ibid). Bearing this in mind, it is, therefore, difficult if not impossible to discuss motivation inL2 learning without considering the learners individuality, the beliefs learners hold aboutthemselves and their reasons for learning L2 (McDonough 2007:370).2.2.3 Motivation from the perspective of the learnerThere are many reasons which motivate people to learn languages. Based on an investigationof young L2 adult learners in Hungary, Dörnyei (1994:275) identifies four such motives: 1)interest in foreign languages, cultures, and people […]; 2) [the] desire to broaden ones view 7
  • 15. and avoid provincialism […]; 3) [the] desire for new stimuli and challenges […] and finallythe desire to integrate into a new community. However, the extent to which learnersindividual beliefs about themselves influence their motivation in L2 learning is, withoutquestion, a fundamental factor in determining their success or failure. Even though themotives and conditions for effective language learning may be present, they will be of noavail if, for example, the individuals self-appraisal of what he or she can or cannot do is anegative one, as this will affect how he or she strives for achievement as well as his/herfuture goal expectancy (ibid:276). Weiner, who believes that ‘[c]ausal attributions determineaffective reactions to success and failure’, identifies ability (or lack of it), effort (orinadequate effort), the task at hand and luck as the most important factors affectingattributions for achievement (1980:362), where ability and effort are considered internalcauses since they presumably reflect inherent characteristics of the individual, and taskdifficulty and luck […] external factors since both are beyond the individuals control(Covington 1998:58). Using this attribution theory Covington attempts to explain thatindividuals different explanations for their success or failure is the essence of individualdifferences in achievement motivation in that those motivated to approach success […]attribute their failures to internal factors – chiefly to a lack of effort – and their successes to acombination of high ability and effort, while failure-prone individuals […] take little creditfor their successes […] because they do [not] feel worthy of it, and blame themselves forfailure by reason of being stupid (ibid:58-59). The learned helplessness phenomenon(Smiley and Dweck 1994 in ibid:67) or state of depression or loss of hope, as it has beendescribed (ibid) only adds to the learners sense of despair which they attribute largely totheir own incompetence (ibid:68). Self-efficacy (an individuals judgement of his or herability to perform a specific action), self-confidence (the belief that one has the ability toproduce results, accomplish goals or perform tasks competently), as well as the individualsneed for achievement all contribute not only to achieving motivation in language learning, butalso to achieving proficiency in the target language (Dörnyei 1994:277). Those learners wholack belief in self-efficacy and self-confidence, often feel lost in the language class, and needmeaningful, achievable, and success-engendering language tasks which will help them togradually develop these traits (ibid). This, however, takes time and perseverance from boththe learners and the teacher and sometimes may be very difficult to attain, one of the reasonsbeing that, as learners grow, their attitudes and behaviours change and with them theirreasons for learning. 8
  • 16. As language teachers we are aware that the better we know our students the easier and moreinteresting our teaching will be. But how well do teachers really know their students?Covington (1998:83) informs us that around the age of twelve the perceived importance ofeffort wanes, and is replaced by the conviction that ability alone is sufficient for successwhich for many learners at this age becomes the limiting factor in achievement. As a resultthe work ethic that was once so strong, declines (ibid), which in turn demands more energyand perseverance from the teacher in maintaining the same level of motivation in the ELTclassroom as before. Getting teenagers involved in learning and keeping them motivated canbe quite a challenge, because they constantly need some sort of driving force to sustain the[…] learning process, which can be long and often tedious (Dörnyei 1998:117). Theapproval of significant individuals in the learners life, such as the parents, older brothers andsisters and the learners peers as well as the teachers attitude to the language and confidenceon the part of both teacher and learner are crucial contributors to the path that languagelearning will take (Harmer 2001:52).Another factor to consider is that learners may come from various ethnic backgrounds, child-rearing practices and peer dynamics (Covington 1998:51), and based on their life experienceswill view education and learning each from their own individual perspective. [S]ocialidentity – that is the sense of belonging to a particular social group, whether defined byethnicity, by language, or any other means plays a significant role in language learning as italso tends to be an emotional involvement, and mirrors the way in which learners see L2 aswell as their role in the L2 classroom (Mitchell and Myles2004:246). The results of Loseys1995 classroom-based study of differences in student output across ethnicity and gender in amixed monoligual English and bilingual Spanish/English class clearly show the extent towhich unequal power relations in the society from which learners come can affect theirparticipation, failure and/or success in L2 learning (ibid). Losey found that [i]n teacher-led,English medium, whole-class discussions, the Anglo students dominated overwhelminglywith a similar rate of participation from the few Mexican American males in the class,whereas the Mexican American women scarcely contributed at all even though theycomprised almost half the class (ibid). Surprisingly, however, when working in small groupswhether with peers or with a tutor, these women talked freely, asking many work-relatedquestions, and jointly solving problems (ibid). Losey (1995:655 in ibid) attributes thewomens silence in class – and hence, their restricted learning opportunity – to their powerlessposition as a double minority, in terms of both ethnicity and gender. The feeling of being 9
  • 17. dominated by the Anglo students and Mexican American males not only mirrors theirpowerless position, but may also give them the feeling that they are being threatened whenmisunderstandings are too frequent, and so do not want to be the center of attention whenmistakes are being made (ibid:246-248). Because [l]anguage is part of ones identity and isused to convey this identity to others, the impact that foreign language learning has on thesocial being of the learner is very significant, as it involves the adoption of new social andcultural behaviours and ways of thinking (Thanasoulas 2002: no pagination). If these newways of thinking and asserting oneself cannot be met, then as a result of the lack of self-esteem and self-confidence in their struggle to master the target language, learners maysometimes resort to resistance, that is, more or less complete withdrawal from [L2]interaction and a re-assertion of [their] first language identity […] by switching tomonolingual first language use (Mitchell and Myles 2004:248), or they may respond to wholeclass interaction with silence as did the Mexican American women in Loseys study (Losey1995:635 in ibid:246). If the society in which learners live is reluctant to recognize orcompletely neglects the foreign language, the learners may have no motivation to learn it atall (Zhou 2008:9) or may be demotivated from the very beginning and may not find itnecessary to even improve their interlanguage. Foreign language teaching within the UnitedKingdom is a good example of the concerns brought about by the reluctance of the British tolearn a foreign language at all, and the declining level of achievement in this domain(Williams et al 2002:no pagination). Even though the United Kingdom is a multilingualcountry, the public perception […] shaped and reflected by the media, is that of amonolingual, monocultural society whose standardised English […] has proved so attractiveto outsiders across the world that Britons have no need to explore other languages(McLauchlan 2007:no pagination). With British media discourses remain[ing] stronger thanthe voices of other bodies engaged with foreign languages and cultures (Coleman et al2007:no pagination), it is not surprising the extent to which this negative attitude hasinfluenced secondary school learners in demotivating them to continue studying a foreignlanguage, once it is no longer compulsory, and to regard the learning of foreign languages asdifficult, boring, and […] of little practical use (McLauchlan 2007:no pagination). This,topped off by the governments removal of language from the core curriculum for studentsfrom 14 to 16 years of age has led to a dramatic fall in numbers of language learners(Coleman et al 2007:no pagiantion), which, according to Graddol, can have seriousconsequences, [a]s we move into an era where our future will need to be based onmultilingualism(1997 in Williams et al 2002:no pagination). This is in itself a correct claim if 10
  • 18. we consider that the number of people using English as their second language will grow from235 million to around 465 million during the next 50 years thus changing the balancebetween L1 and L2 speakers, with L2 speakers eventually overtaking L1 speakers(Graddol 1999:62 in McKay 2002:13).Finally, Klassens 1991 ethnographic study in Torontos Spanish-speaking community, asreported by Auerbach (1993:17) [see Appendix 1], revealed some of the consequencesbeginning-literate Spanish speakers faced in monoligual ESL (English as a second language)classes due to the persistent feeling of incompetence and domination. The intervieweesreported a strong sense of exclusion, due to the complete preclusion from participation andprogress until some of them even dropped out of the course (ibid:18). This only added to theirmarginalization in the outside world, as they were unable to enrole into higher level ESLcourses required for entry into job training programs which limited their employmentpossiblities (ibid). Instead of integrating these learners into the rest of the class, the teachersisolated them from the other students, either because of their own sense of frustration at beingunable to communicate with them or because they felt they were being forced to reducelesson content to the most elementary childlike uses of language (ibid), which illustrates howimportant the teachers role is in initiating and helping to sustain motivation throughout thelearning process and the power teachers have in influencing learning outcomes.2.2.4 Motivation from the perspective of the teacherBeing the person learners usually look up to and often imitate, the teacher has greatinfluencial power as far as motivation is concerned. There is no doubt that teachers must befully aware of the language content if they are to teach it effectively or else they will not beable to successfully interpret coursebook syllabuses and materials or adapt these to thespecific needs of the learners or deal with learners errors and other queries (Thornbury1997:xii). However, since learning a L2 is also influenced by cultural and attitudinal factors(ibid:x), being aware of the kind of learners one is dealing with, and knowing which approachwill appropriately motivate each group is very significant for their understanding of thelanguage content and subsequent language performance. The teachers role remains bothcentral, and difficult as it involves providing a supportive and challenging learningenvironment […] facilitating the development of the learners own motivational thinking andmost importantly not doing anything to de-motivate them (McDonough 2007:370). 11
  • 19. By using the right strategies and appropriate teaching materials teachers can trigger thelearners schematic knowledge which they bring to a given text and which influences howthey will process it (Alptekin 1993:136). Material based on local or international issues withwhich learners can identify will arouse their interest and stimulate their desire to know more(Wang 2008:32), which will in turn enable them to remember grammatical structures, phrasesand lexical items faster and easier. If the teacher is to succeed in motivating learners, then,relevance has to be the red thread permeating activities (Chambers 1999:37), or in otherwords, the teacher has to try to incorporate the learners goals and topics of interest into thecurriculum (Thanasoulas 2002:no pagination). On the contrary, teaching material that isculturally bound will create a void between the world of the writer and that of the learner asthey will have little or nothing in common causing the learner to lose interest and graduallybecome demotivated, which will, no doubt, encumber the learning process. Using materialthat is too difficult for learners to handle, having activities that are too long without anymotivational variation, and giving exams that are too demanding (Corria 1999:17-18 cited inWang 2008:32), are dangers that the teacher must be careful to avoid so as not to make thematerial and accompanying tasks a time-consuming, laborious and frustrating experience(Alptekin 1993:137). Those learners with insufficient linguistic ability will also need a largeamount of contextual support before getting any task done since many of the words they willbe decoding will either be unknown to them or accessed slowly (Paran 1996:29). Aninteresting observation made by Wang (1996:37) is that [s]uccess or lack of success plays avital role in the motivational drive of a student and that [b]oth complete failure and completesuccess may be demotivating. It is very important for teachers to select activities which willchallenge the students at the proper level, that are not beyond or below their abilities (Wang2008:33), which has proven to be a challenging task especially in mixed-ability classes.By providing a relaxed atmosphere in the ELT classroom teachers can contribute to makinglearners feel good about themselves. Allowing learners to bring their own knowledge andperspectives into the learning process (Nunan (1999 in ibid); letting them express theirfeelings and opinions to the class; making an effort to understand them, their learning stylesand language level, and accepting them for what they are all contribute to beingacknowledged by their peers and the teacher, and give them the confidence in their ability tosucceed (ibid). Giving learners the opportunity to use and practise the target language inorder to communicate their own experiences about their lives […] and talk about topics 12
  • 20. which they are interested in and like strengthens their desire to learn and improve theirinterlanguage, even if this means simply using English for practical reasons, such as ask[ing]about something they do not know or […] want to know (ibid:32-33). Often enough intrinsicmotivation will spring from an interest in what is being communicated by the language(ibid:33). It should be noted, however, that excessive correction of errors on the part of theteacher can have a devastating effect on learners as they tend to become passive in order toavoid making them. Teachers should practise tolerance when learners are trying to expresstheir thoughts and perhaps correct errors only when essential to the understanding of the mainidea being conveyed. Learners need both ample opportunities to learn and steadyencouragement and support in their learning efforts which only a safe classroom climate cangive them, a place where they feel they do not run the risk of being ridiculed (Thanasoulas2002:no pagination). Commending learners on a regular basis for their contribution to thelesson, even when minimal, and giving words of encouragement can reduce classroomanxiety and make learning less stressful (ibid).Another way of giving learners initiative is by frequently incorporating project-basedlearning activities into lessons, which will enable them to use the language effectively fortheir real communicative needs, rather than simply […] provid[ing] [them] with theknowledge about the grammar system of the target language (Hiep 2007:196).2.3 Project-based learningI am not denying the importance of grammar instruction for the development andrestructuring of the learners interlanguage, and I fully agree with Thornbury (1997:xiii-xiv)that there is a need for grammatical conscious raising techniques […] that focus the learnersattention on salient features and recurring patterns in language data which help in noticingsimilar features in real live contexts (ibid). After all one of the goals of language instructionis, as he puts it, that [...] learners move in the direction of achieving […] communicativecompetence that is the knowledge of what constitutes effective language behaviour inrelation to ones communicative objectives balanced by knowing what is correct orlinguistic competence (ibid). However, besides having sufficient language awareness to beable to alert the learner[s] to the features of the language to be noticed (ibid), teachers shouldalso give them as many opportunities as possible to experience and use the knowledgeobtained in grammar instruction. Cook (1989:41) points to the disturbing sensation faced by 13
  • 21. all L2 learners of understanding every word, […] but somehow missing the point, and addsthat [i]n production, learners need to choose the words which most suitably realize theirintention, and this does not always entail the most closely related form. For learners to beable to deviate the meanings of words, to use elipses and to understand the pragmatic meaningbehind an utterance, they need exposure to L2, which can be created in the ELT classroomthrough project-based learning activities. Enhancing learner-centredness and autonomy,dealing with differentiation in mixed-ability classes, and fostering peer interaction are some ofthe priorities of project-based learning, which not only help boost the learners will and desireto actively participate in the language learning process, but motivate them to use L2 to itsfullest potential.2.3.1 Project work for enhancing learner-centredness and autonomyAccording to Fried-Booth (2002:5), project work is about learners developing confidence inusing English in the real world, taking the experience of the classroom out into the world andprovid[ing] an opportunity for informal learning where they can work on a topic of interest tothem and use language for a specific purpose, with a particular aim in mind while at thesame time putting to use what they have learnt. It is, as Fried-Booth (ibid:6) states, one of theways of equip[ping] the learner to assume […] independence or in other words, it enhanceslearner autonomy. But what exactly is learner autonomy? Dam (1990 in Thanasoulas 2000:nopagination) holds that someone qualifies as an autonomous learner when he independentlychooses aims and purposes and sets goals; chooses materials, methods and tasks; exerciseschoice and purpose in organising and carrying out the chosen tasks; and chooses criteria forevaluation. Generally speaking, [l]earners […]are expected to assume greater responsibilityfor, and take charge of, their own learning (ibid). This, however, does not mean that theteacher becomes redundant, abdicating his/her control over what is transpiring in the languagelearning process (ibid), which some proponents of traditional grammar instruction such aswriter and trainer, Robert ONeill, seem to believe. He argues that by letting students do thelearning on their own with teachers only intervening when and if needed, might amount to aform of neglect and that [i]t could be tantamount to an abdication by the teacher of theknowledge-giving role (ONeill 1994 in Harmer 2001:57). Contrary to this affirmation,Thanasoulas (2000:no pagination) considers it nothing short of ludicrous to assert thatlearners come into the learning situation with the knowledge and skills to plan, monitor, andevaluate their learning, or to make decisions on content or objectives, and asserts that 14
  • 22. autonomous learning is by no means teacherless learning, but that teachers are needed toadapt resources, materials, and methods to the learners needs, and give them a helpinghand on their way to autonomy. Even though it is often difficult for teachers to change frombeing the purveyor of information to counsellor and manager of learning resources or to letlearners solve problems for themselves (ibid), the teacher and learner can work together topromote and foster autonomy by creating a friendly atmosphere characterised by low threat,unconditional positive regard, honest and open feedback, respect for the ideas and opinions ofothers, approval of self-improvement as a goal, and collaboration rather than competition(Candy 1991: 337 in ibid), which is exactly what project work aims to achieve.Project work is learner-centred with learners working together driven by the need to create anend-product, and what makes this so worthwhile, is the route to achieving this end product(Fried-Booth 2002:6). The product is, of course, relevant to the goals set by outsiders (i.e,teachers or the curriculum), but which will also be defined and carried out based on thegroups own personal criteria (Thanasoulas 2002:no pagination). Project work is a personalexperience, because learners are writing about their own lives […] their dreams andfantasies, their own research into topics that interest them and will undoubtedly put a lot ofeffort into getting it right (Hutchinson 1991:11). By giving learners the opportunity to workon a task which they have defined for themselves will develop their confidence andindependence (Fried-Booth 2002:6), and they will value it more because their free choice andautonomy have been maximised (Good and Brophy 1994:228 in Thanasoulas 2002:nopagination). This will gradually lead to self-motivation, which, as Ushioda (1997:41 in ibid)claims, is a question of thinking effectively and meaningfully about learning experience andlearning goals as well as a question of applying positive thought patterns and belief structuresso as to optimise and sustain ones involvement in learning.Even though project work and the communicative approach have contributed to getting thelearner more involved in language learning, they have often come under attack by those whobelieve that communicative language teaching favours native-speaker teachers over non-native speaker teachers, because it is said to demand a relatively uncontrolled range oflanguage use on the part of the student which, in turn, will expect the teacher to respond toany and every language problem which may come up (Harmer 2001:86). According to Tudor,however, it is more a matter of being mature, intuitive and open to the learners input and havea greater tolerance of uncertainty, qualities, which are in marked contrast to more traditional 15
  • 23. teacher behaviour, but which are precisely those characteristics most people would expect ofany teacher, traditional or modern, who has their learners best interests at heart (1993 inibid:57). Judging by the increasing interest that teachers from different countries have shownin developing project ideas to suit their own teaching situation, and having them published incollections such as Project Work by Fried-Booth (2002), shows that project work can beapplied in learning situations worldwide, each unique and diverse in its approach (Fried-Booth 2002:5). How and when it is to be incorporated into lessons all depends on when theteacher considers it appropriate and the objectives they want to achieve with a particulargroup of learners.2.3.2 Project work for dealing with differentiation in mixed-ability classesEven though the teacher is no longer the dominating figure in the learner-centred approach, itstill remains their obligation to recognize and develop the students potential and distinctivequalities (Han 1979 in Zhenhui :no date/pagination), and find a balance to suit the level ofknowledge of every learner in the class, and how they can contribute to the activitiesundertaken. For teaching to be a success in classes with learners of different abilities andproficiencies teachers must recognize that they are teaching a group of individuals and not asingle student with 25 faces, that some are quicker than others and more confident whileothers are shy and slow (Pearsonlongman, no date/pagination). Learners are motivated indifferent ways and to different degrees (Thanasoulas 2002:no pagination). Some may likedoing grammar and memorising while others want to speak and role-play or may preferreading and writing, while avoiding speaking (ibid). By incorporating project work into thelesson, allows learners to work autonomously, with the teacher monitoring and offering extrahelp and guidance whenever necessary (ELT: no date/pagination). Wells (1999:333 inMitchell and Myles 2004:214) claims that whenever people collaborate in an activity, eachcan assist the others, and each can learn from the contributions of the others. Groups mayconsist of learners of widely differing levels, giving all the participants within the group,including slower learners, the opportunity to exchange ideas and incorporate preferredlearning strategies in confronting a particular task, or of stronger learners where thedifference is not too extreme in which case the autonomous work might be incoroporatedmore frequently into lessons (ELT no date/pagination). One of the great benefits of projectwork is its adaptability, meaning that the same project task can be done by students atdifferent levels, ie. prepared in a more straight forward way for younger or slower learners or 16
  • 24. involving a wider range of different structures at the intermediate level (Hutchinson 1991:4).Project work can also be done on almost any topic […] factual […] or fantastic and help todevelop the full range of the learners capabilities (ibid:6), which, in turn, can create a highlymotivated atmosphere allowing individuals, even those who are less linguistically gifted, tocontribute in ways which will reflect their different talents and creativity (Fried-Booth2002:6), something desperately needed in mixed-ability classes. A learners talent as an artist,for example, can contribute to the groups end product and give him/her the self-esteem,which would otherwise be unlikely in a more conventional language lesson (ibid). [E]ven themost reluctant, skeptical learner is susceptible to peer group enthusiasm and derives benefitfrom taking part in a project (ibid:7). Slower learners and those with disciplinary problemsseem to adapt to peer work very well, as they have less of a chance of being intimidated bythe teacher and surprisingly often show a creative side to their otherwise indifferentbehaviour. They can work at their own pace and level and achieve something that they cantake pride in, perhaps compensating for their lower language level by using more photos anddrawings in their work (Hutchinson 1991:11). Project work also supports the cross-curricular approach to learning, which gives learners the opportunity to use the knowledgethey gain in other subjects in the English class (ibid:13), thus giving learners, who are betterin other subject areas, the opportunity to use this knowledge as a resource in the languageproject being done. Some interesting examples of these types of projects from Hutchinsonsbook, Introduction to Project Work (1991), can be found in Appendix 2.But regardless of the success that project-based learning has had in schools all over the world,is not to say that it is without problems. There have been some cases where the use of projectwork has posed problems for both teachers and learners, and to which I now turn.2.4 Coping with problems in using project work in ELT2.4.1 Power relations and group processesThrough the peer interaction that begins to develop during project work, as seen in theprevious section, with learners helping, and supporting one another, working together andcollaborating around project activities, they become active constructors of their own learningenvironment, which they shape through their choice of goals and operations (Ohta 2001 in 17
  • 25. Mitchell and Myles 2004:221). Sometimes, however, the collaboration within a group oflearners may be hindered due to misconceptions and/or misunderstandings among the groupmembers. The success or failure of learner-centred learning depends to a great extent onfactors which promote group cohesiveness such as the time spent together and shared grouphistory, learning about each other, interaction, intergroup competition as well as the activepresence of the leader (Ehrman and Dörnyei 1998:142), not to mention [t]eacher behaviour,which has the power to influence not only the rapport with the students, but can also prevailupon and/or attract students to engage in tasks (Thanasoulas 2002:no pagination). Byobtaining mutual trust and respect with the learners, by means of talking to them on apersonal level and impart[ing] a sense of commitment to, and interest in the subject matterboth verbally and non-verbally, the teacher can cue the learners as to the way they shouldbehave (ibid). The teacher is a necessary component of the learning process, one who sets theclassroom climate by offering additional help in getting the learners oriented in their groups,in getting their objectives straight and in directing them to the resources they will need ingetting their work done. If, however, teachers cannot organise [or] manage the classroom asan effective learning environment, the atmosphere will no doubt become very chaotic, aplace where motivation is unlikely to develop and where, as a result of being left tothemselves, learners can become anxious or even alienated (ibid), which will undoubtedlyfurther negatively influence the work they are trying to create in their groups. There are fourstages or group processes that, according to Tuckman (1969, quoted in Argyle 1969, cited inThanasoulas 2002:no pagination) almost all groups go through from their formation onwardsthat have important implications for the study of the classroom and the use of group activitiesduring teaching (ibid).In normal conditions when a group is initially formed, participants are still dependent on theteacher, and experience anxiety and uncertainty in their search for acceptable behaviour,which is soon replaced, in the second stage, by a rebelious attitude against the leader and aresistance to the role relations within the group (ibid). Once cohesion and a sense of co-operation begin to develop by stage three, the participants resolve their problems and by stagefour begin attending to their assignment (ibid). Problems arise when group membersexperience unresolved issues and if these misunderstandings persist, or if the teacher neglectsto intervene in group activities that have somehow come to a standstill due to the lack ofteacher input, as observed by ONeill (1991). As a result the group can suffer negativeimplications not only for the end product, but also for the learners subsequent motivation 18
  • 26. (ibid). Daniels (1994 in Thanasoulas 2002:no pagination) points out that [i]n reality, thisprocess may go on forever due to student lethargy and underachievement norms in theclassroom which can hinder effective teaching and learning. In order to avoid such negativeoutcomes Thanasoulas suggests that group norms […] should be discussed and adopted bymembers, in order to be constructive and long-lasting, and [i]f a norm mandated by a teacherfails to be accepted as proper by the majority of class (or group) members, it [should] notbecome a group norm (ibid, italics and brackets added). If learners are to be considered asactive constructors of their own learning environment, (Ohta 2001 in Mitchell and Myles2004:221), then they must also have a voice in the planning and implementation of the groupgoal. On the other hand if the unresolved issues arise due to the teachers complete neglect inproviding the input needed, as in the case presented by ONeill (1991: 295) of six Japanesebusinessmen, whose discussion in pair work amounted to nothing but confusion as they triedto decifer the meaning of the instructions without any input what-so-ever from the teacher,then the outcome is also bound to be unsuccessful as are any follow-up activities, or may takelonger to accomplish.Fried-Booth (1982:100-101) asserts that the group dynamics of the entire working situationneed to be sufficiently positive over the time period to achieve the end-product, and urgesteachers to see to it that the activity operates within the students language learning capacity,[…] that the accompanying language development has a direct bearing on the need to attainlanguage objectives, that it satisf[ies] the students perception of what is relevant and likely tobe of use and interest, and that it has the flexibility for students to be creative and innovativeas [it] proceeds, since [a] tangible end-product within reach and produced by the individualand the team is the strongest possible motivating factor. All this can be made possible withthe help of the teacher, who, as the co-ordinator and instigator, has the commitment andleadership needed, to help the students feel willing to make the sestained effort in gettingtheir work done (ibid). Teachers should encourage learners to be proud of themselves, toevaluate themselves in a positive light and take credit for their advances(Thanasoulas2002:no pagination). By promoting attributions to effort rather than to ability, providingmotivational feedback and increasing learner satisfaction and the question of rewards andgrades, while at the same time taking care not to make grades the only criterion for judgingoverall success and failure(Dörnyei 2001:134 in ibid), teachers can help foster positivelearning behaviour and diminish the students feeling of underachievement. Unfortunately, 19
  • 27. there may be situations where these objectives may prove difficult to achieve due to the lackof relevancy.2.4.2 The question of authenticityA foreign language can often seem a remote and unreal thing for learners if they [do not] see[it] as relevant to their own lives (Hutchinson 1991:11). This seems to be the case withlanguage learners in Vietnam, for example, where the socio-cultural, political, and physicalconditions […] markedly differ from those in the Western World, where the learners purposefor learning English is to be able to conduct their present and future life in communicationwith native and other competent English speakers (Hiep 2007:195). Hiep argues that becausethe Vietnamese English language students share the same mother tongue they do not havethe immediate need to use English in the classroom or outside it, and [t]he principle of doingtasks in the classroom which are applicable to the world outside […] is thus questioned, as isquestioned the authentic material with which they have to work (ibid:195-196). Even thoughresearchers like Kramsch and Sullivan (1996 in ibid:196) insist that it can be problematic totake a set of teaching methods developed in one part of the world and use it in another part, itshould be noted that there may be other causes to this problem, such as traditionalexaminations, large class sizes […] students low motivation […] and […] teachers limitedexpertise in creating communicative activities like group work (ibid:200), causes which canbe found in many other parts of the world, but which need to be confronted if they are to giveproject-based learning a chance to succeed at all. However, to decide a priori that [a]teaching approach is inappropriate in a certain context, as Larsen-Freeman (2000:67 inibid:196) argues, is to ignore developments in language teaching, which might lead to thede-skilling of teachers altogether. Perhaps it is not a matter of rejecting the methodologyitself, as suggested by Harmer (2003:292 in ibid:200), but a question of how to amend[ ] andadapt[ ] communicative ideas to fit the needs of the students who come into contact withthem. These teachers should be aware that if learners are to become real language users, theymust learn that English, as an international language, should not be [used] just for talkingabout the ways of the English-speaking world, but should also be a means of telling theworld about [their] own culture, and that one of the ways of helping to bridge this relevancegap is through project work (Hutchinson 1991:11-12). By bringing the learners schematicknowledge to the surface (Alptekin 1993:136), incorporating it into the existing coursematerial and expanding it further within their own sphere through project work, makes 20
  • 28. learning more relevant to the learners because they become the focal point of the learningprocess.With the growing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and access tothe Internet, even though still accessible to only a tiny minority of the worlds citizens(Trotman 2000:no pagination), communicative language teaching and project work are slowlybeing given a new dimension. By working with peers in other institutions all over the worldlearners have the opportunity to expand on existing course material and create projects oftheir own . Using ICT tools such as e-mail, video conferencing and skype, projects can beplanned and carried out between groups of learners from different countries, giving them theopportunity to use English as a bridge enabling two cultures to communicate with each other(Hutchinson 1991:12). With the growing knowledge of ICT that learners possess now-a-days,they are able to create joint web sites and put their projects onto these web sites for the worldto see. Learners can also search the Internet for information and pictures pertaining to theirassigned projects, learn to use resources available on the Internet, such as online dictionaries,and by using cameras they can even observe or take part in each others lessons in real time(Trotman 2000:no pagination). Their use of language as they negotiate plans, analyse anddiscuss information and ideas is determined by genuine communicative needs (Hedge1993:276-277). Unfortunately some experts consider the language of peer interaction merelyjunky input and stand firm in their belief that learner-centred learning is concerned onlywith getting the meaning across even though the language used may be aberrant (ONeill1991:303).2.4.3 The language questionThere is no doubt that a vital ingredient in learning any language is […] exposure to it(Harmer 2001:66), and, according to Krashen (1985 in ibid), the best kind of language thatstudents could be exposed to, is comprehensive input, that is language which studentsunderstand the meaning of, but which is nevertheless slightly above their own productionlevel. Harmer (ibid) ascerts that the person who can provide learners with language whichhas been roughly tuned to be comprehensible to them; who can react appropriately […] in away that a coursebook […] cannot, and who knows how to talk at just the right level forthem to understand if not every word, then at least the general meaning of what is being said,is the teacher. The teachers use of language is undoubtedly important, and by use of 21
  • 29. language does not only refer to the choice and appropriateness of structure and vocabulary,as ONeill (1991:302) clarifies, but also to the way teachers use their voices and bodies togive an extra, affective dimension to the words they speak. ONeill (ibid:303), however,seems to believe that in learner-centred lessons these skills are ignored or even decried, andthat because even in the most skilfully organized group activities, the teacher cannot monitormore than a small percentage of what any individual student actually says, all that learnersare left with is peer interaction or junky input, to use his expression. One thing that ONeill isforgetting, however, is that it is the learners who need to practice L2 not the teacher, and thatif teachers talk too much, learners are denied their own chance to practise the target language(Harmer 2001:66). By giving learners a chance to express themselves in L2 and by supplyingthem from time to time with a translation of what they cannot yet say, or in Thornburyswords, by scaffold[ing] learners production of language (2001 in Ferrer, no date:3), they aregiven the opportunity to notice how their intended meaning is realised in the target language,which helps restructure their interlanguage and develops their communicative competence(ibid:5). If the teacher is not available for guidance at any particular moment, learners canscaffold one another within the group, as in the example cited by Donato, of three adultEnglish first language learners of French collaborating to construct the past compound tenseof the reflexive verb se souvenir, to remember:A1 Speaker 1 …and then Ill say…tu as souvenu notre anniversaire de mariage…or should I say mon anniversaire?A2 Speaker 2 Tu as …A3 Speaker 3 Tu as …A4 Speaker 1 Tu as souvenu …you rememberedA5 Speaker 3 Yea, but isnt that reflexive? Tu tas …A6 Speaker 1 Ah, tu tas souvenuA7 Speaker 2 Oh, its tu esA8 Speaker 1 Tu esA9 Speaker 3 tu es, tu es, tu …A10 Speaker 1 Tes, tu tesA11 Speaker 3 tu tesA12 Speaker 1 Tu tes souvenu (Donato 1994:44 in Mitchell and Myles 2004:216)Donato makes the point that even though no one within the group has the ability to producethis complex form without help, it is through their successive individual contributions andusing their L1 as a scaffold that the verb form is collectively reshaped, which confirms thatpeer scaffolding can result in linguistic development within the individual (ibid). The 22
  • 30. question that probably comes to mind here is just how important a role should the learners L1play in peer interaction?To impede learners from using their L1 completely in the language classroom, implies, asPhillipson puts it, the rejection of the experiences of other languages, meaning the exclusionof the childs most intense existential experience (1992:189), which, according to Auerbach(1993:16) may impede language acquisition precisely because it mirrors disempoweringrelations. Because the thinking, feeling, and artistic life of a person is very much rooted intheir mother tongue (Piasecka 1988:97), it becomes the driving force in learning to speak anduse a new language. That is why learners should not be denied the right to draw on theirlanguage resources and strengths however minimal their L1 literacy may be (Auerbach1993:22). It is also a known fact that learners are very dependent on their L1 especially at thebeginning stage of L2 learning, and that even though teachers try to keep the two languagesseparate, […] learners in their own minds keep the two in contact (Widdowson 2003:150).Why should learners relinquish their mother tongue personality when they can use it to theiradvantage as a resource allowing for learner centred curriculum development (Gray2009:9), where L2 becomes an extension or alternative realization of what the learner alreadyknows (Widdowson 1979:111). This allows for language and culture shock to be alleviated,validates the learners lived experiences and supports a gradual developmental process inwhich, use of the L1 drops off naturally as it becomes less necessary (Auerbach (1993:19-20).While working on their projects learners will automatically begin interacting in both L1 andL2, because it is natural for them to be constantly referring to, and making comparisons withtheir L1 (Thornbury personal communication 2000 in Gray 2009:9), but which should notcause too great a concern for the teacher, as they are working towards an L2 end product.There will, in fact, be a lot of realistic translation work going on, as [a] lot of the sourcematerial […] (leaflets, maps, interviews, texts from reference books, etc.) will be in [L1](Hutchinson 1991:15) or on the Internet in both English and L1. It will also be difficult toanticipate all the language the learners will need, especially when working in collaborationwith learners from other countries, and in addition they will also be develop[ing] the skills oflooking for words they do not know or alternative ways of expressing what they want to say(ibid:17). Believe it or not, even grammar […] will appear more relevant because the studentsknow they will need these things for their project work (ibid:15) and/or interaction with their 23
  • 31. foreign peers. However, Hutchinson advises against assessing a project only on the basis oflinguistic accuracy, and suggests giving credit to its overall impact (ibid:18) because byencourag[ing] a focus on fluency, as project work undoubtedly does, errors of accuracy arebound to occur (ibid:8), and by drawing attention to things that are wrong over those that aregood will only add to the learners demotivation (ibid:18). Let us not forget that there is moreto language learning and education than just accuracy, and since any project is only part ofthe total amount of work within a language course, why should it become a hostage toaccuracy in oriented assessment systems (ibid)? As for those teachers who critisize project-based learning simply because of their own fear of not being able to cope with the wide rangeof language that will supposedly arise on the part of the learners (Thonosaulas 2002:nopagination), let them rest assured that because English has become the means ofcommunication among people from different first language backgrounds, acrosslinguacultural boundaries […] it functions as a global lingua franca or international language,and as such is being shaped at least as much by its nonnative speakers as by its nativespeakers (Seidlhofer 2005:339), and the desire to understand and be understood is strongerthan to only sound native-like.2.5 ConclusionIt is very difficult to come to any final conclusions regarding the ideal way to teach, becauseof the many factors involved in motivating learners to learn. ONeill (1991:302-303) tells usthat even the best teachers cannot really know what works or does not work for students, andsuggests that [a]ll they can do is sharpen their intuitions and instincts, and try out various newideas while not abandoning the things that seemed to work well in the past. Those teachers,on the other hand, who firmly believe that only by sticking to the language materials andtrying to discipline their refractory students, they will manage to create a classroomenvironment that will be conducive to learning, err, because they lose sight of the fact that,unless they accept their students personalities and work on those minute details that constitutetheir social and psychological make-up, they will fail to motivate them (Thanasoulas 2002:nopagination). Garcés (1998-99:31-32) makes the point that the development of any foreignlanguage teaching […] program involves dealing with real teachers, real students, real data,and coping with real circumstances, and that the more closely a second language teachingprogram is based on the specific needs of the students, the more successful and effective thecourse will be. I am not claiming that project-based learning is the only solution to achieving 24
  • 32. and maintaining motivation in ELT, but I do believe it provides an opportunity for the learnerto develop creativity, imagination, enquiry, and self-expression (Hutchinson 1991:18), andbecause it links language content to the learners life experiences, it helps make pedagogycontext-sensitive and location-specific as it is based on a true understanding of locallinguistic, social, cultural, and [even] political particularities’ (Kumaravadivelu 2006:69) allof which can, in turn, help foster and enhance motivation to learners of all ages. 25
  • 33. Chapter Three The Research Design3.1 IntroductionThis chapter describes the methodology used in conducting my research including adescription of the participants involved, the research site, the format and content of thequestionnaire and interviews and the procedure used for collecting the data.3.2 The participants and research siteIn my research I included 35 students ranging from 13-16 years of age, who were activeparticipants in international project activities for at least four years at the primary – lowersecondary school in which I teach. At the time this survey took place 19 of the respondentsstill attended classes at the lower secondary school level while 16 of them already attendedsecondary school, but nevertheless played an active role in the above-mentioned projects.Three students from the group were chosen to take part in a short interview and will bereferred to as Student A, Student B and Student C.In addition to the students I also included three colleagues who were involved in internationalprojects at our school for many years, and whose expertise in this area enabled them tocompetently evaluate the impact these projects have on learner motivation and especially onmotivation in L2 learning. The teacher respondents included:- Teacher A: the school computer teacher, female, aged 32, with a bachelors degree inMathematics and Computer Science. Her involvement in international projects includedpreparing and carrying out video conferences with students from different countries, andpreparing websites in collaboration with students for their international projects using ICTtools.- Teacher B: the school librarian, female, aged 47, with a bachelors degree in Librarianship 26
  • 34. and History. As co-organizer and co-ordinator of international projects at our school since1999 she has succeeded in motivating many students to work on projects including those withdisciplinary problems.- Teacher C: English Language assistant, female, Australian, aged 50, with a bachelorsdegree in Commerce and Economics obtained in Australia. She was a language assistant atour school for three years, where she assisted English teachers during regular lessons and ledproject workshops.For the most part the survey was carried out at a given time on the premises of the primary –lower secondary school in which I teach in compliance with the headteacher of our institutionand the chosen student/teacher respondents themselves. Even though the sixteen secondaryschool students were initially invited to take part in the survey on the school premises, theyparticipated by e-mail, due to their variable schedules at the various secondary schools, whichmade it impossible for all of them to be present at our institution at the same time. The schoollibrarian and school computer teacher took part in the research on the school premises at atime and day that was convenient for each of them. The foreign language assistant wasinterviewed through the Internet using Skype as she was no longer employed at our schoolduring the time of the research.The purpose of the research was explained to all the participants before the actual survey tookplace and the survey was conducted on a voluntary basis. The participants were guaranteedthat their identities would remain anonymous and their replies confidential and would only beused for the purposes of this research. They were informed that they could withdraw fromparticipation if they felt in any way uncomfortable or intimidated by the contents of thesurvey. They were also assured feedback concerning the outcomes of the research.3.3 The research methods3.3.1 The questionnaireThe questionnaire, which was prepared only for the students, was anonymous to allow forhonesty in the answers. After obtaining written permission from the schools headteacher forthe execution of my intended survey [see Appendix 3], I first conducted a pilot survey with 27
  • 35. three reliable students chosen from different classes who had a good command of English, toverify that there was no ambiguity in the understanding of the questionnaire, and to suggestany improvements that would help make it more user-friendly (Wallace 1998:139). Theyfound it quite comprehensible and had no particular comments to make regarding its overallstructure. I then administered the actual questionnaire to the lower secondary school studentsmyself to make sure that if any queries came up on their part regarding the understanding ofthe questions, they would be answered immediately. The questionnaire sent by e-mail to thestudent respondents attending secondary school was accompanied by detailed instructions andmy telephone number in case any queries came up regarding the understanding of thequestions.Given the fact that the student respondents in my survey were 13-16 years of age with alimited knowledge of English, the questionnaire, which was written only in English, containedmore closed questions with only a few containing a combination of both closed and openelements in order to make it easier for the students to answer them without any majormisunderstandings. The format of my questions included quite a few YES/NO responses,ranking, circling, ticking and four open-ended responses. [See actual questionnaire inAppendix 4]. Of the entire sixteen questions asked, only the first one is a general questionregarding the age when the respondents first started learning English. Questions 2 to 8 areconnected to motivation in learning English and focus on how it has changed through theyears if at all, as well as the factors influencing the change itself. Questions 9 to 11, 13 and 14deal with group work, its effect on motivation and problems encountered when using it.Questions 12, 15 and 16 involve the students views on international project activities. Iallowed the students to write their answers to the open questions in L1 if they felt they couldexpress their thoughts better that way.3.3.2 The interviewsI prepared two different interviews – one for the teacher participants and one for the threestudents chosen from among the student respondents. Even though most interviews are one-to-one, as Wallace (ibid:149) informs us, his suggestion of having a group interview in theform of a structured discussion using the brainstorming approach was very useful in theinterview I had with the three students. As I did not want their views and opinions to beaffected by my point of view, as that might affect the nature of the data collected (Gray 28
  • 36. 2004:23), the interview was conducted in the form of a discussion among the respondentswith very little intervention from me. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, which boostedtheir morale and encouraged them to talk and give their opinions more freely. Their groupinterview was recorded on the computer relevant parts of which were transcribed to be used inthis research. By incorporating both techniques in my survey, I was able to elicit basic factualdata from the questionnaire, and follow up on [students] attitudes and experiences throughthe interview (Wallace 1998:151). The five interview questions [see student interviewquestions in Appendix 5] dealt with their opinions regarding teacher talking time and theimportance of their own particpation in class; how important they consider accuracy/grammarand/or fluency to be when working on projects; whether they perceive international projectactivities to be an asset in their L2 learning, and to describe any problems encountered duringproject or group work. They were also asked to suggest any ideas that, in their view, wouldhelp make ELT more interesting.The teachers were interviewed individually, two on the school premises and one via skype.All three interviews were conducted in the form of a casual conversation. The interviews withTeachers A and C were conducted in English, while Teacher B chose to give her comments inL1. I prepared four semi-structured interview questions, the first of which focused on theirview of student motivation between the ages of 13-16, that is at the lower secondary schoollevel. Question 2 was designed to reflect on whether project-based learning includinginternational project activities help achieve communicative competence for learners ofEnglish, and question 3 required the teachers to give their opinions regarding the extent towhich project work helps achieve motivation. Finally they were asked to decribe some of theproblems faced when incorporating project work and more precisely group work in theirlessons. [See teacher interview questions in Appendix 6].The interview questions were given to both the teachers and students before the interviewsactually took place to allow time for reflection. I now turn to the data results produced by thisresearch. 29
  • 37. Chapter Four Data Results Analysis and Discussion4.1 IntroductionIn this chapter I will analyse and discuss the data results obtained from the questionnaire andthe views expressed by both the students and teachers in the interviews. All 19 studentrespondents from the lower secondary school level took part in the questionnaire, while onlyeleven out of the initial sixteen students from the secondary schools managed to send me theircompleted questionnaires by e-mail. All the interviews were carried out as planned. Myfindings and data analysis will, therefore, be based on the answers and views of 30 studentsand three teachers. Relevant information obtained from the student and teacher interviews hasbeen incorporated into the body of my dissertation along with direct quotes given by therespondents themselves. The interview with Teacher C can be found in Appendix 7 by way ofexample for the reader. All data results obtained from the questionnaire can be found inAppendix 8, and have also been incorporated into my analysis and discussion. The results willbe analysed under the following headings: 1. Factors influencing motivation in foreign language learning 2. Motivation and communicative competence 3. The Question of Relevancy 4. Coping with problems encountered in project-based learning4.2 Factors influencing motivation in foreign language learningHow to teach effectively in order to help learners achieve successful foreign languagelearning is a language teachers main priority. One of the main factors in determining theoutcome of any language course is motivation, which, even though achieved, may be verydifficult to maintain as the learning progresses, one of the reasons being the change in thelearners attitude to learning as they get older (See Chapter Two). Based on the questionnaireresults, even though 26 out of the entire 30 student respondents stated they enjoyed learning 30
  • 38. English when they first started learning it, when asked if they enjoy learning it now, only 19students or 63% answered YES and 10 students or 33%, SOMETIMES, the two top reasonsbeing the teacher and that their own attitude to learning had changed. The three teacherrespondents seemed to agree that students at the lower secondary school level are notmotivated enough to learn. Both Teachers A and B agreed that learners are far too oftencompelled to absorb too much information without really understanding it, which only adds totheir frustration and demotivation, or as Teacher B commented: They are not adults yet and at this age do not have enough experience in life to know why motivation is important. They are bombarded with too much information and cannot take it all in.[A]part from the need to get good grades Teacher C [see Appendix 7] did not see students atthis age as keen to learn, but she felt that they considered learning merely a process that theyhave to go through. Surprisingly, however, 96% of all the student respondents said theywould still make an effort to do well in English even if there were no tests or exams to studyfor, not so much because they like it, but because it is an important language for internationalcommunication and they plan to use it in the future. Being able to have a conversation with anative speaker or other foreign person, and using their knowledge of English when workingon projects or other tasks independently regardless of any mistakes made, were ranked as thetop two situations where the students feel the most satisfied with their English, while goodmarks on test papers ranked last. Both the student and teacher participants emphasized theimportant role of the teacher in helping to motivate learners to learn and the need for projectwork to make L2 learning more interesting and enjoyable. Teacher B convincingly argued: The teacher has to be the one to motivate learners to learn because at this age many are still not self-confident enough to know how to motivate themselves. One of the ways that has proven to be very effective is getting them involved in international projects, which seem to do away with the fear of the unknown and help bring back their self-confidence.Even though most teachers try to provide as much practice of real-life interactions in theclassroom as possible (Zhenhui no date/pagination), the real test of the learners ability tointeract in L2 comes when confronted with unexpected situations where they are forced toreact spontaneously and appropriately on the spot so to speak. Both student and teacherinterviewees were unanimous in their view regarding the impact of projects and especiallyinternational project activities in helping to achieve this aim. Teacher C [see Appendix 7]summed it up nicely saying, exposure to an international atmosphere […] [gives] the students 31
  • 39. […] another platform for the use of their acquired knowledge […] creates a sense ofadventure, where learning becomes more attractive to students which increases theirenthusiasm and hence motivation. All 30 student respondents enjoy working on projectsbecause of the variegated activities involved. [See their comments in Appendix 8 – questionresults 12 and 12(a)]. Once motivation has been attained, however, it must also be maintained.4.3 Motivation and communicative competenceOnce motivation is achieved, teachers have to get the learners linguistic and communicativecompetence working hand in hand to maintain their motivation, while taking care not toforget that communicative competence does not automatically result from linguisticcompetence (ibid). Bearing in mind Cooks assertion that [t]here are times, when makinglanguage function effectively is more important than producing perfectly pronounced,grammatically correct sentences (1989:41), it becomes evident, as Zhenhui (nodate/pagination) states, that a good command of English grammar, vocabulary, and syntaxdoes not necessarily add up to a good mastery of English, but that there should be anunderstanding of what the social conventions governing language form and behaviour withina communicative group are. All three student interviewees agreed that exposure to the targetlanguage is vital in ELT and stressed their desire for teachers who talk too much, or are, as(Thornbury 1997:xiii) puts it, over-zealous in their desire to display their languageawareness, as well as those over-concerned with linguistic accuracy at the expense offluency, not to overdo it, but to give learners the chance to talk in order for them to graduallygain the confidence and independence in L2 that so many of them lack. Just the right amountof teacher input will enable learners to hear new structures and phrases being used correctlyfirst hand, which will not only benefit their linguistic competence, but also theircommunicative competence when working independently in their groups where they will becompelled to use what they have learned without the teachers direct assistance. In order forthis to be meaningful to learners, the student interviewees stressed the importance ofrelevance to which I now turn.4.4 The question of relevancyIn order to inspire or motivate learners to learn, Thanasoulas (2002:no pagination) remindsus that activities have to be relevant for the learners, and it is the teachers job to find out their 32
  • 40. goals and the topics they want to learn, and try to incorporate them into the curriculum. Asdiscussed in Chapter Two (2.2.4), it has to do with bringing the learning experience closer tothe students and making it relevant to their needs. 87% of all the student respondents agreedthat international projects made English more relevant. Speaking on behalf of the threestudent interviewees, Student A commented: By having direct contact with the language you get experience because you are forced to use what you know and the atmosphere is a more relaxed one, which makes it easier to correct any mistakes made without feeling pressured. If the project involves going to another country, you have no one to depend on except yourself in getting it right and you then begin to realize how important it is to use the language as much as possible.According to Student C by having the opportunity to use English more frequently in everydaysituations you gradually become more aware of your own accuracy and start correctingyourself almost simultaneously. The more opportunities learners have in using the targetlanguage in relevent situations, the sooner they gain a deeper understanding of the meaningbehind the language. The interesting remark that Student C added was that you cannot helpbut be more aware of your interlocutors mistakes as well, which is sometimes difficult tooverlook, especially if the meaning behind the utterance is not understood. When askedat question 15(a) how international project activities have made English more relevant forthem, the students comments included: - You get experience in communicating in English. - Using English in a project tells you how much you actually know. - It helps to improve your pronunciation. - Experience with foreign students makes learning easier.With project-based learning it is a matter of starting with your own life experiences, withthings that relate to you as an individual, bringing these experiences to the surface, sharingthem with others and expanding them further, and where international projects are concerned,even beyond the classroom walls. However, even though proven to be an asset, students andteachers alike have at one time or another experienced problems when using project work inlanguage classrooms.4.5 Coping with problems encountered in project-based learningOne of the problems mentioned in the survey was accuracy and the question of assessment.Perhaps it is true that once language habits are formed, they are difficult to break, however,accuracy does not mean 100% error-free, which is in itself an impossible achievement 33
  • 41. (Zhenhui no date/pagination). [E]rrors should be tolerated and the teacher should emphasizethat error-making is not at all disgraceful, but a natural and common practice (ibid). Whenasked how they would prefer to communicate in class or when working on their projects, 53%of the student respondents preferred using a lot of English and only some L1, in their caseSlovenian, 30% preferred using only English, while only 17% opted for a little English andmainly L1, and 0% were in favour of using L1 only. Student B remarked that the gravity ofgrammar mistakes depends on whether you are writing, speaking, presenting or casuallydiscussing in L2 and that as school work is directly linked to grades, learners tend to makemore mistakes in class under pressure than in a relaxed atmosphere outside the classroom.Even though projects serve as a tremendous asset to foreign language learning, only 77% ofthe respondents believed that projects should be assessed, of which 65% opted for assessingthe overall project, 26% the presentation of the project, while only 9% chose assessinggrammar only. Student C added that even though grammar is very important, it should notalways be given top priority, but that conveying the intended message is almost as importantif not the most important part of language learning. The teacher interviewees agreed that eventhough this is true, students should not take assessment lightly and should try to do their bestat all times, since the education system still focuses primarily on grades as the deciding factorin their education. Student B commented that a lot of frustration could be avoided if someteachers were not so narrow-minded, and added: Some teachers do not let students give their opinions or contradict them in any way even if the students know another answer is possible. Many teachers are very dependent on coursebooks and stick to what is written in them, so you are not allowed to give another answer.Could this mean that some teachers are afraid of being challenged by learners, and prefer touse methods and techniques which they deem exotic and modern or which demonstratespecialized knowledge to justify their status as professionals in order to avoid theuncomfortable feeling brought about by an awareness of how little more [they] really doknow about learning than [their] students (Atkinson 1987:242)? The power generated fromteachers to students is best described by Teacher B, who commented that: [a] negative or superior attitude to learning from the teacher will only discourage learners to learn and that goes for whichever subject one teaches. But being open to ideas from students will not only benefit them, but will strengthen their belief in the teacher. This positive relationship between student and teacher is very important in achieving motivation. 34
  • 42. The student interviewees indentified yet another problem when working in groups, that ofworking with lazy students and foreigners who have been in the country for only a short timeand have trouble understanding and expressing themselves in L2 and in the L1 of the countryin which they are residing, in this case Slovenia. The student respondents most frequentsolutions to this problem included trying to convince these learners to work by giving themeasier tasks to do in the group, encouraging them to do their best and sometimes evenfinishing the work themselves, and if all else fails, as in the case with lazy students, informingthe teacher about their negative attitude and letting them deal with it. All three studentinterviewees considered group project assessment in situations like this out of the question, asit would not be fair for all group members to get a good grade if the work was done only by afew. Teacher C commented that there are always bound to be some less enthusiastic studentsespecially in mixed-ability groups, who will be looked down on by other group members, andsuggested that by assigning them specific tasks at their level, ones they can handle, usuallyhelps make them feel like they are part of the team and encourages participation [seeAppendix 7]. Both Teachers A and B agreed that even though slower students may take a bitlonger to finish their assignments, and may need to be reminded of what still needs to be donemore often than others, they are usually very eager and motivated to complete their workespecially if it involves themes they can relate to, and are also anxious to discuss the projectresults with their foreign counterparts. Teacher A was convinced that it is preciselyinternational project activities that motivate even learners with the worst disciplinaryproblems, and added that in her experience with international projects disciplinary problemswith students simply do not exist.Having analysed and discussed the data results obtained from the questionnaire and the viewsexpressed by both the student and teacher respondents in the interviews, I will now examinehow the research outcomes have succeeded in providing answers for the research questions. 35
  • 43. Chapter Five Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Research5.1 IntroductionIn this chapter I will provide a summary of the research outcomes, link the key ideas to theresearch questions, provide a conclusion regarding the hypothesis presented at the beginningof my dissertation, and finally offer suggestions for further research.5.2 A summary of the research outcomesOne of the main factors influencing motivation in language learning at the lower secondaryschool level are the students themselves and their attitude towards learning which theyperceive changes as they get older. The teachers attitude is also considered to have an impacton stimulating or demotivating learners. After all a key element in achieving motivation andenthusiasm in language learning is for the teacher to establish a relationship of mutual trustand respect with the learners, keeping in mind that their commitment to and interest in thesubject matter is reflected in the learners themselves (Alison (1993 in Thanosaulus 2002:nopagination). However, there still exist those teachers who teach from a pedestal using onlythe coursebook, and who disregard any new teaching techniques or innovative ideas, whichdeeply discourages students to learn. Judging by their comments, it seems obvious thatlearners at this age yearn for some independence in their learning and thus the need forproject-based learning to become a component part of the learning process, as it not onlyenables them to practise L2 through doing, but also enhances learner autonomy and givesthem a purpose for applying what they know. Learners also want exposure, which enhancesboth linguistic and communicative competence and makes it a valuable asset to their L2learning as a whole. By adding the international aspect to project-based learning, students notonly achieve motivation, but by practising L2 in real life interactions (Zhenhui nodate/pagination) in a relaxed atmosphere, they gradually become more independent in theiruse of the target language. However, project work has some urgent problems that have to bedealt with to assure for its continued success. 36
  • 44. One of these is project assessment and the question as to what should be assessed. Accordingto the student respondents grammar is given too much attention. They consider theappropriateness in specific situations as more important than merely stressing the correctnessof grammar and vocabulary. However, because it is difficult to evade the necessity andimportance of assessment as part of the education system, students are urged that whileenjoying project work, to take grammar more seriously. The problem of assessment is alsoevident when working on projects in mixed-ability groups or groups that include lazy studentsor foreign students who have been in the country for only a short time and have troubleunderstanding and expressing themselves in L2 and in the L1 of the country in which they areresiding. While eager to show their willingness in encouraging slower learners to learn,students are reluctant to having group projects assessed when most of the work is done by oneor two members while the rest show minimal effort in getting the job done. If, however,project assessment is inevitable, then, students should be assessed based on the individualeffort put into the overall product. From the teachers point of view, by assigning slowerlearners specific tasks that will make them feel they have contributed something to the group,even though minimal, or having them contribute through their other talents will certainlystimulate their participation and motivate all the members of the group towards a successfulproject outcome.5.3 The research questions and key ideasThe main research question of my study - Do international project activities boost studentmotivation in ELT at the lower secondary school level? - was explored through the three sub-research questions to which I now turn: 1. Do teachers consider project-based learning a useful way of achieving student motivation and communicative competence in ELT? 2. Do students perceive project work to be a valuable asset to their foreign language learning? 3. Do students and/or teachers feel there are problems in using project work in ELT and if so, how can they be met?From the evidence presented and analysed we can safely say that project-based learning hasimplications for the development and maintenance of student motivation and communicativecompetence in ELT. What makes it so inviting is its adaptability to learners of all ages and 37
  • 45. abilities, offering them a limitless range of possible activities and topics to work with whileat the same time making it a personal experience for each individual learner (Hutchinson1991:10). It gives learners the opportunity to link learning content with their own lifeexperiences and makes learning more enjoyable. It leaves the learner with a sense ofaccomplishment, which, even though small, plays an important role in creating motivation. Itunderpins the cross-cultural approach to teaching and by fostering the use of a wide range ofcommunicative skills, links the learner with the outside world. Learners, who haveexperienced project-based learning and in particular international project activities, welcomeit with open arms as it allows for learner centredness and gives them more autonomy in theirwork, and less able learners the opportunity to participate better without the fear of beingintimidated. All learners have a greater sense of responsibility to themselves and their peers ingetting the work done as they are all working towards the same goal. What makes projectwork even more inviting for the teacher is that even the most reluctant, skeptical learner issusceptible to peer work enthusiasm and derives benefit in taking part in a project (Fried-Booth 2002:7). Problems when using project work are bound to occur, and when they do,they should be dealt with simultaneously by all the members involved. By getting learnersinvolved in making choices and decisions together with the teacher through dialogue, will notonly help in making them feel more secure in their learning, but their enthusiasm for learningwill grow (Wallace 1998:172-73) as will their sense of autonomy.5.4 ConclusionThe research based on a Slovenian lower secondary school case study as presented in mydissertation suggests that the potential of international project activities for student motivationin L2 learning is significant. Project work not only contributes to stimulating motivation andadds the spark needed to boost the learners desire to learn, but the new learning experiencesthat the students encounter when working with peers at the international level also haveimplications for the development and maintenance of motivation, which in turn benefits theirlearning. By serving as a bridge between cultures and enabling users of English to tell theworld about their own culture, international projects have given learners a sense of purposefor learning L2. They are not only working towards scholastic achievement, but are puttingtheir knowledge to good use. By knowing that their end products will be displayed in foreignschools, read by foreign students, foreign teachers and possibly published in foreigneducational magazines and websites, students want to do their best. The teachers role is 38
  • 46. undeniably important in guiding the learners on their way to learner independence andautonomy. Only those teachers who can defy traditional school settings with […] a host ofinstitutional constraints that […] tend to cultivate [merely] extrinsic motivation will succeedin bringing the learner into a collaborative process of competence building (Brown1994:10). International project activities support peer scaffolding which can lead to theindividuals linguistic development. By actively using what they already know about English,learners will become all the more confident, and by further developing language skills in theirsearch for new ways of expressing themselves as well as through their interactions with theirforeign peers, their confidence will grow. There is no doubt that mistakes will be made alongthe way, but with the teachers positive attitude even these will be overcome.5.5 Suggestions for further researchAs a language practitioner I have always held my ground against coursebook dependency,because I feel it not only marginalizes the teachers role to that of little more than atechnician (Richards 1998:132), but also limits the leaners opportunity to experiencelanguage in a wider scope. It takes a lot of time and effort to find new strategies and techniqesto make learning interesting and motivating for learners, and even though some practitionersseem to think it a waste of time, project work has proven to be very successful in this area, notto mention international project activities that have left their mark on learners of all ages. Itwould be wise for teachers who have not yet applied project work in their teaching to witnesshow this strategy works by attending classes at individual schools where it has proven to besuccessful or seminars and teachers conferences given by colleagues who have experiencedinternational projects. Given their potential for student motivation the question as to whetherthey should become incorporated into the curriculum could be dealt with at teacher studygroups, where their advantages and/or disadvantages as well as the question of theirassessment could be discussed and eventually put to the test. Following their application itwould be wise for teachers to get feedback as to their potential from the students themselves.Despite the small scale research provided by my thesis I hope it has thrown some light ontothe potential of international projects for student motivation. Like Covington (1998:2) Ibelieve that education should provide young people with a sense of empowerment that makestheir futures real by moving beyond merely offering them a few plausible but limitedalternatives to indicating how their preferred dreams can actually be attained. After all the 39
  • 47. greatest legacy of education is to encourage in our students a will to learn and to continuelearning as personal circumstances change – in short, to promote a capacity for resiliency andself-renewal (ibid:3). Is this not what education is all about? 40
  • 48. APPENDICES APPENDIX 1 Klassens ethnographic study cited by AuerbachAuerbach cites some of the problems faced by interviewees in Klassens (1991)ethnographic study:Similarly Klassens ethnographic study in Torontos Spanish-speaking community found thatmonolingual ESL classes were virtually inaccessible to the beginning-literate Spanishspeakers. Despite their lack of Spanish literacy, the people he interviewed were able tomanage in virtually every domain of their lives except in the ESL classroom; there, theyreported becoming completely silenced, making virtually no progress, or dropping out: Angela … said that she had never gone back to an ESL class she once started because the teacher embarrassed her by asking her about things she had never learned before. Maria and Dõna Lucia described spending their time in class drawing letters and words they could not understand while everyone else read the words and learned. Maria said she left the class knowing no more than when she first came …. Pedro and Rebecca both said that, because they did not know Spanish (meaning that they did not know proper schooled Spanish), they could not understand the ESL teachers explanations about grammar, especially verbs (p.52). (Auerbach 1993:17-18) 41
  • 49. APPENDIX 2 Examples of project tasksThree examples of project tasks from Hutchinsons INTRODUCTION TO PROJECTWORK (1991) that make use of knowledge from Geography, Science and Biology classesand show the cross-curricular aspect of project work:(i)Make a project about a country.1 Choose a country. Find someinformation about it. Try an atlas, anencyclopaedia, the Internet, travelagencies, and the country’s embassy.2 Write a few paragraphs about thecountry.3 Illustrate your text with a map andpictures.(ii)Make a poster about anenvironmental problem.1 Choose your topic.2 Do some research to find informationand illustrations.3.Design your poster and write your text.(iii)Make a project about teenage health.1 Choose some topics to write about, e.g. food,exercise, drugs.2 Make some rules for living a healthy life.3 Find some pictures to illustrate your ideas.4 Present your ideas as an information leaflet or as ashort TV programme. (Hutchinson 1991:14-19) 42
  • 50. APPENDIX 3Permission Declaration by school headteacher for conducting the survey 43
  • 51. APPENDIX 4 The survey questionnaireDear Participants,I have invited you to take part in a survey questionnaire which forms part of my MA thesis inEnglish Language Teaching at the University of East London, UK. It involves the views ofstudents at the lower secondary school level on motivation in ELT and project-based learningwith a focus on international project activities. It will only take a few minutes of your time tocomplete. I guarantee that your identities will remain anonymous and your replies confidentialand will be used only for the purposes of this research.Thank you for your trust in me and for your cooperation.Yours sincerely,Magdalena BobekOsnovna šola PivkaSlovenia. The Questionnaire Read the statements and/or questions carefully before answering them. The questionnaire is anonymous, so please be honest in your answers.1. Circle the age when you started learning English. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 102. Did you enjoy learning English then? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO 44
  • 52. 3. Why are you studying English now? Rank in order of importance (1= the most important). Write the appropriate number in the box provided.  because I need it for my further education to get my diploma  because I like it  because I plan to use it in the future  because it is an important language for international communication4. Do you enjoy learning English now? Circle (a), (b) or (c). a. YES b. NO c. SOMETIMES5. How would you describe your motivation for learning English now compared to when you first started? Tick (√) one right answer for you.  The same  Better  Worse  Variable/changeable6. Based on your answer at number (5), what or who do you think has affected your motivation for learning English in all these years? Tick (√) up to three answers or give another reason.  The teacher  Your school friends  Irrelevant learning material  Good learning material  Tests and exams  Your family (parents, older brothers/sisters)  Your attitude to learning has changed  Other: ____________________________________________________________.7. When do you feel the most satisfied with your English? Circle two of the best answers for you. a. when I get a good mark on a written test paper b. when I understand the English lesson and can do the homework assignment by myself c. when I am able to have a conversation in English with a native speaker or other foreign person without help from anyone d. when I can use my knowledge of English in working on projects or other tasks oral or written even though I may make some mistakes with the language, which doesnt bother me 45
  • 53. 8. Would you still make an effort to do well in English if there were no tests and/or exams to study for? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO9. When working on a project, how do you prefer to work? Circle two possible answers. a. individually b. in pairs c. in groups d. whole class with the teacher in control and having the last word10. Here are some problems encountered by students when working with other classmates in a group? Rank them in order of difficulty based on your own experience (1= the most difficult problem to cope with).  lazy attitudes from some students  disagreements regarding the understanding of the work to be done  disagreements regarding who will lead the group work  using English in group discussions11. How did you deal with the problem that was the most difficult to cope with? ______________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________12. You have been involved in many international projects in the past. Just to refresh your memory: Comenius – Bridges, Eurofolk, Colour My World… ETwinning – The Round Table, Clocks of Europe, Eurocastles... Spring Day Europe at school… Many of them involved preparing project activities in groups, presenting them and exchanging ideas and end products with friends from different countries, and debating with them through video conferences and skype. Did you enjoy doing these projects? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO12(a). If you circled YES at (12), what did you enjoy about them? _______________________________________________________________________________________________12(b).If you circled NO at (12), why did you not enjoy them? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 46
  • 54. 13. When preparing a class and/or international project with your classmates, what do you consider to be the best way to communicate in the group that will benefit your English language advancement?. Circle one answer. a. using English only b. using a lot of English and some Slovenian c. using only a bit of English and mainly Slovenian d. using Slovenian only14. Do you think project work should be assessed? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO14(a). If you circled YES in (14), what do you think should be assessed? Circle one answer. a. grammar only b. the overall project c. the presentation of the project15. Have international projects made learning English more relevant for you? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO15(a) If you circled YES at (15), explain how they have made English more relevant?________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________16. Have international projects helped in motivating you to learn English? Circle (a) or (b). a. YES b. NO16(a) If you circled YES at (16), briefly explain how they have helped make English more enjoyable for you.____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.Thats the end of the questionnaire. Thank you for your time and effort.I wish you good luck in your studies.Magdalena Bobek. 47
  • 55. APPENDIX 5 Student interview questions Interview questions for the studentsInterviewee: …………………….. Intended duration: …………….mins.Date: ……………………………..Interview began: ……………………Location: ………………………...Interview finished: ………………… Actual duration: ……………….mins.Topic: Views on Student Motivation and Project-based Learning in English Language Teaching 1. Do you enjoy it when only the teacher talks English in class or do you want the opportunity to practise English too? 2. You have prepared many projects in the last few years. Do you always concentrate on English grammar mistakes when preparing a project for presentation in class or during a video conference discussion/debate on a certain topic, and if so, do you consider it important to correct them or is it more important for you to get your intended meaning across? 3. Do you think international project activities to be an asset to your foreign language learning? If yes, why? If no, why not? 4. Can you think of any other problems regarding the use of project work or international project activities other than the ones already mentioned in the questionnaire? 5. What do you suggest would make English Language Teaching more interesting? 48
  • 56. APPENDIX 6 Teacher interview questions Interview questions for the teachersInterviewee: …………………….. Intended duration: …………….mins.Date: ……………………………..Interview began: ……………………Location: ………………………...Interview finished: ………………… Actual duration: ……………….mins.Topic: Views on Student Motivation and Project-based Learning in English Language Teaching 1. Do you feel that students between the ages of 13-16 are motivated enough to learn? If not, please give at least one reason. 2. Judging from your experience with project work and especially international project activities, do you believe that project-based learning helps achieve communicative competence for learners of English at the lower-secondary school level? How? 3. In your opinion to what extent does project work help achieve student motivation? 4. Have you ever encountered any problems while incorporating project work in your teaching such as lazy attitudes from some students, various disagreements in the groups regarding the work to be done or who will lead the group work, problems with slower learners or any other problems? If so, name at least two and explain how you dealt with them. 49
  • 57. APPENDIX 7 Interview with Teacher C (by way of example for the reader)Interviewee: Teacher C Intended duration: 30 mins.Date: 7th March 2010 Interview began: 8.15 p.m.Location: Internet – Skype Interview finished: 9.00 p.m. Actual duration: 45 mins.Topic: Views on Student Motivation and Project-based Learning in English Language TeachingInterviewer:Thanks for allowing me to interview you. Feel free to say whatever you think is importantregarding the topic of motivation and project work, as we agreed on over the phone. If youdont want to answer a question, just let me know and well go on to the next one. OK?Teacher C:OK. Fine. No worries.Interviewer:Youve had quite a lot of experience in teaching English. Do you feel that studentsbetween the ages of 13-16 are motivated enough to learn?Teacher C:Not really, hmmmm…. apart from the need to get good grades at school, which for some isnot thought to be important anyway, I dont think students in this age group are keen tolearn…Learning at school is a process that they have to go through and … I think many ofthem see it as just that at this stage.Interviewer:But dont you think they are motivated at all? 50
  • 58. Teacher C:Whether or not they are motivated to learn for other reasons than getting a grade is difficult tosay – that is I dont know if they are interested in learning something new for the sake oflearning itself. Of course, there are always students who are avid learners and are alwaysmotivated, but … I dont think they are the majority.Interviewer:Judging from your experience with project work and especially international projectactivities, do you believe that project-based learning helps achieve communicativecompetence for learners of English at the lower-secondary school level?Teacher C:think the exposure to an international atmosphere is extremely positive for students. Itencourages them to find out about and understand other cultures…Well, at least in myexperience all international projects were conducted in English ... and this gave the studentswho participated another platform for the use of their acquired knowledge.Interviewer:What do you mean by another platform?Teacher C:It meant that they had to prepare for video-conference events… exchange information withtheir international counterparts, prepare reports and presentations and generally expand theiruse and fluency in English….. I think that all these activities increase students competence aswell as self-confidence.Interviewer:In your opinion to what extent does project work help achieve student motivation?Teacher C:I think project work, particularly international project work, creates an atmosphere ofadventure which undoubtedly motivates students to participate…and …it …mmm... offersthem new experiences and encourages them to see learning in a different light. If learning is 51
  • 59. not solely connectecd with the classroom it becomes more attractive to students, increasestheir enthusiasm and hence motivation.Interviewer:Have you ever encountered any problems while incorporating project work in yourteaching…maybe lazy attitudes from some students, or various disagreements in the groupsregarding the work to be done or who will lead the group work…perhaps problems withslower learners or anything you can think of?Teacher C:I dont recall having any particular problems with students during project work … ofcourse there are always some students who are less enthusiastic.Interviewer:And how did you deal with them?Teacher C:If they work in groups and are assigned tasks this usually helps to make them feel part ofthe team and encourages participation.Interviewer:Thank you so much for taking part in my survey. Ill let you know when its finished, sothat you can read it. Good luck and take care. 52
  • 60. Appendix 8 Questionnaire resultsThe questionnaire results are based on the answers given by 30 student respondents:- 19 students from the lower secondary school level aged 13-15- 11 students from the secondary school level aged 16.1. Circle the age when you started learning English.Results: (ranked in order of the most frequent starting age): 9, 6, 4, 5, 8, 102. Did you enjoy learning English then?Results: (percentage of students that selected each option):YES = 87% NO = 13 %3. Why are you studying English now? Rank in order of importance (1= the most important).Results: (ranked in order of importance – (1) is the most important): 1. because it is an important language for international communication 2. because I plan to use it in the future 3. because I need it for my further education to get my diploma 4. because I like it4. Do you enjoy learning English now?Results: (number and percentage of students that selected each option):YES = 19 students or 63 % NO = 1 student or 4 % SOMETIMES = 10 students or 33%5. How would you describe your motivation for learning English now compared to when you first started?Results: (ranked in order of the most frequently ticked description): 1. Better 2. Variable/changeable 3. Worse 4. The same 53
  • 61. 6. Based on your answer at number (5), what or who do you think has affected your motivation for learning English in all these years?Results: (ranked in order of most frequently ticked answers – (1) is the most frequently ticked): 1. The teacher 2. Your attitude to learning has changed 3. Good learning material 4. Your school friends / Your family (parents, older brothers/sisters) / Tests and exams / Irrelevant learning material7. When do you feel the most satisfied with your English?Results: (students opinions ranked from the most to the least satisfied situations):1. c. when I am able to have a conversation in English with a native speaker or other foreign person without help from anyone2. d. when I can use my knowledge of English in working on projects or other tasks oral or written even though I may make some mistakes with the language, which doesnt bother me3. b. when I understand the English lesson and can do the homework assignment by myself4. a. when I get a good mark on a written test paper8. Would you still make an effort to do well in English if there were no tests and/or exams to study for?Results: (percentage of students that selected each option): YES = 96 % NO = 4 %9. When working on a project, how do you prefer to work?Results: (ranked in order of the most frequent answers given by students, (1) being the mostfrequent): 1. in pairs 2. in groups 3. individually 4. whole class with the teacher in control and having the last word10. Here are some problems encountered by students when working with other classmates 54
  • 62. in a group? Rank them in order of difficulty based on your own experience.Results: (ranked in order of difficulty: (1) is seen as the most difficult problem): 1. lazy attitudes from some students (chosen by 12 students) 2. disagreements regarding the understanding of the work to be done 3. disagreements regarding who will lead the group work 4. using English in group discussions11. How did you deal with the problem that was the most difficult to cope with?Results:Some of the solutions proposed by students for the most difficult problem at question number(10) included: I tried to convince them to work; The group gave them an easy task to do; The other members encouraged them to do their best; I finished the work myself; I informed the teacher about the lazy student.*For the problem ranked as the second most difficult one at question number 10 (disagreements regarding the understanding of the work to be done), the students asked the teacher to explain again what was to be done and/or expected of them in the group.12. You have been involved in many international projects in the past. Just to refresh your memory: Comenius – Bridges, Eurofolk, Colour My World… ETwinning – The Round Table, Clocks of Europe, Eurocastles... Spring Day Europe at school… Many of them involved preparing project activities in groups, presenting them and exchanging ideas and end products with friends from different countries, and debating with them through video conferences and skype. Did you enjoy doing these projects?Results: (percentage of students that selected each option): YES = 100 % NO = 0 %12(a). If you circled YES at (12), what did you enjoy about them?Results:Some of the answers given by the students were very similar, so I incorporated them into thefollowing answers: 55
  • 63. I like team work. Its about learning the language and having fun at the same time. We learned about other people and cultures. The themes were good. I enjoyed the video conferences and having a penfriend. It was fun debating in English with my friends. I was connected with someone from another country. The teacher had a positive attitude. The projects gave me the opportunity to absorb the language and I began to understand it better and use it more. I enjoyed debating in English.12(b).If you circled NO at (12), why did you not enjoy them?Results: No one answered this question because all 30 respondents enjoyed working on the projects.13. When preparing a class and/or international project with your classmates, what do you consider to be the best way to communicate in the group that will benefit your English language advancement?.Results: (the number and percentage of students that selected each option):- using a lot of English and some Slovenian – 16 students or (53 %)- using English only – 9 students or (30 %)- using only a bit of English and mainly Slovenian – 5 students or (17 %)- using Slovenian only – no students or (0 %)14. Do you think project work should be assessed?Results: (number and percentage of students that selected each option): YES = 23 students or 77 % NO = 7 students or 23 %14(a). If you circled YES in (14), what do you think should be assessed?Results: (options are ranked in order of preference accompanied by the number and percentage of the 23 students from previous question that selected each option): 1. the overall project – 15 students or (65 %) 2. the presentation of the project – 6 students or (26 %) 3. grammar only – 2 student or (9 %) 56
  • 64. 15. Have international projects made learning English more relevant for you? Results: (number and percentage of students that selected each option): YES = 26 students or 87 % NO = 4 students or 13 %15(a) If you circled YES at (15), explain how they have made English more relevant?Results: Students answers included: You get experience in communicating in English. They bring the world closer to you in an interesting way. English has become more relevant to me and has begun to mean something to me. Using English in a project tells you how much you actually know. Experience with foreign students is very good and it makes learning easier. It helps to improve your pronunciation and later on even grammar. You have the opportunity to talk with peers about a variety of things that help you later on in your studies. I can now see how important it really is in the world and how important it is for me to be able to speak it. Being involved in international projects means you have to devote more time to learning English, but it is worth the effort, because it gets easier.16. Have international projects helped in motivating you to learn English?Results: (number and percentage of students that selected each option): YES = 26 students or 88 % NO = 4 students or 12 %16(a) If you circled YES at (16), briefly explain how they have helped make English more enjoyable for you.Results: Some interesting answers included: It is more than just grammar. It enables me to talk to native L2 speakers. You can learn about English in a relaxed atmosphere. I felt good because I could follow lessons better and my interest in English increased. It enables us to not only understand the language, but speak better. 57
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  • 71. Authorship statementI declare that this dissertation is original and my own copyrighted work, producedautonomously on the basis of the referenced bibliography and under the guidance of mymentor and supervisor, dr. John Gray. Author:20th May, 2010 Magdalena Bobek. 64