Language Learning

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Overview: Self-Determination in Language Learning

Language learning is a growth area for SDT and we are starting to see it applied to more and more contexts. The advantage it has over other frameworks for measuring language learning motivation is that it focuses on the individual learner and their environment, without pre-supposing any engagement with the target language community. This is particularly important in compulsory learning contexts, where learners may not have any expectations around this. The focus within SDT is on the learning itself, on the environment in which this takes place, and on how these things satisfy learners’ basic psychological needs. We know from studies in a whole range of contexts, with a variety of different languages and types of learner, that where basic psychological needs are satisfied, students are more engaged and more likely to continue with their studies, and the better they are likely to achieve success. Similarly, the more that undertaking the learning activity is aligned with their own beliefs and values (the more important they consider it to them), the better the outcomes.

In Practice: Language Learning

What does this mean in practical terms? It means that choice is important, and when learners choose to undertake language study, they are more likely to succeed. The key, in SDT terms, is that they perceive a sense of autonomy in relation to their learning. It also means that the role of the teacher is critical in supporting learners’ sense of autonomy, building positive working relationships in the classroom and helping learners feel competent. They may do this by providing appropriate structure. SDT studies show how this has worked for young, adolescent and adult learners, with learners of English, foreign languages and heritage languages, and in Eastern and Western contexts.

Suggested Readings & Research

(2022) Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Basic psychological needs, motivational orientations, effort, and vocabulary knowledge: A comprehensive model

Alamer, A.

(2022) PsyArXiv

Self-Determination mini-theories in second language learning: A systematic review of three decades of research

Al-Hoorie, A. H. Quint Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Hiver, P. Vitta, J. P.

(2009) Canadian Modern Language Review

Self-determination, motivation, and the learning of Chinese as a heritage language

Comanaru, R. Noels, K.A.

(2019) System

Self-determination for all language learners: New applications for formal language education

McEown, M. S. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q

(2003) Best of Language Learning (Supplément S-1): Attitudes, Orientations, and Motivation in Language Learning

Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory

Noels, K. A. Pelletier, L. G. Clément, R. Vallerand, R. J.

(2015) Japanese Psychological Research

Structure also supports autonomy: Measuring and defining autonomy‐supportive teaching in Japanese elementary foreign language classes

Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q. Nakata, Y.

(2017) Contemporary Educational Psychology

Motivating young learners: A longitudinal model of self-determined motivation in elementary school foreign language classes

Oga-Baldwin W. L. Q., Nakata Ryan, R. M.

(2022) Journal for the Psychology of Language Learning

Measuring Motivation in English schools: The Appeal of Self-Determination Theory

Parrish, A. Vernon, J.