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Practitioner research on task motivation in a Chinese university context: integrating macro and micro perspectives

By Na Li

Abstract

This qualitative research on task motivation is based on a four-month fieldwork in a university context in China, with myself performing dual roles as a teacher researcher working closely with two classes of final-year English majors (about 120 students in total). Positioning this research in an authentic classroom setting aims to explore task-intrinsic features perceived to be motivating (`motivating tasks'). and learner-intrinsic motivational processes during task engagement ('task motivation') in this particular context. Throughout the process, my research perspectives experienced an interesting movement: macro - micro - macro. I began my research with a broad interest in the motivation area, and increasingly narrowed my focus on `task motivation' which corresponds to the recently advocated `situation-specific' approach to motivation research. However, my following involvement in the teaching/data-gathering fieldwork pushed me to bring back the macro perspective into my research, as I found that the complex concept of task motivation could not be fully understood without taking the broader motivational influences into consideration. That is, apart from investigating how the immediate task situation influences learners, it is also very important to understand how the wider institutional, social, educational, and cultural factors influence learners' various motivational perspectives in the classroom, which may in turn shape their specific task-engagement motivation. Based on content analysis of qualitative data including written task feedback, personal letters, and group interviews, it was found that in this context there are three underlying dimensions of task motivation, that is, academic motivation, personal development motivation, and affective motivation. The study also explored what aspects of task design could effectively motivate students and why. In general, this research contributes to our understanding of Chinese university students' task motivation. It implies that adapted tasks can be appropriately integrated into the traditional English class in China and perhaps in other similar EFL contexts, and can certainly facilitate the teaching of the prescribed textbooks. It also implies that the researcher's personal involvement in the authentic teaching context is a very valuable point for both motivation research and task-oriented research

Topics: LB2300, PE
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2394

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Citations

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