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Motivation is one of the few individual differences in language learning that has received so much researchers’ attention.
In the 1970s and 1980s, research motivation centred upon Gardner and Lambert’s (1972) social psychological construct of integrative motivation.
Later on (in the 1990s), attention switched to a more cognitive view of motivation.
The researchers tried to examine the significance of situation-specific factors e.g. classroom learning situation (for example, Crookes and Schmidt 1991;Williams and Burden 1997).

Recently, the emphasis has been put on a dynamic nature of motivation and its temporal variation (for example, Dörnyei 2001).
Thus, a more process-oriented view of motivation has emerged.

According to Williams and Burden(1997) there can be distinguished three motivational phases:

1) reasons for doing something
2)deciding to do something
3) sustaining the effort/ persisting

Dörnyei in his process model of learning motivation for the L2 classroom also distinguished 3 stages (Dörnyei 2001):
1) preactional stage (which involves ‘choice motivation’)
2) actional stage (which involves ‘executive motivation’)
3) postactional stage (which involves ‘motivational retrospection’)

The aforementioned models of motivation are superior to the static models of motivation since they try to explain how motivation changes over time.

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A constructivist view of motivation is based on the premise that each indvidual is motivated differently.

What may motivate one person to learn a foreign language and keep studying in order to become proficient in a given language will differ from individual to individual.

Constructivism stresses the fact that an individual's motivation is a subject to social and contextual influences.

Thus, it is linked to the Social Constructivism.

Deriving from the theories of social constructivism, there can be distinguished four elements characterizing the notion of motivation (Sivan, 1986):

  1. Motivation becomes inextricably linked to the learning process of the child, enabling us to say that there exists a conjunctive process of cognitive-motivational development occurring in the classroom.

  2. It can be thought of as developmental in nature. It changes as the cognitive and emotional states of the student develop with the help of the teacher or more experienced peer. A nonstatic conceptualization of motivation means greater opportunities for the development of interest and cognitive and affective engagement.

  3. Motivation is not only the result of individual differences, but of the social conditions at the time of learning. It is constrained by social context, the goals, wishes, and desires of both student and teacher that are not obvious in surface interactions yet give impetus to action, the setting, the time, and interpersonal relations.

  4. Motivation is a means to competent classroom functioning. As a cultural norm, it is used in the classroom to define what is appropriate and what is desirable. Understanding this norm helps the student behave in appropriate motivated behaviours and thus achieve competent membership and social acceptance by either or both the teacher and peers.

Constructivists have also seen motivation as a key component of learning.

It not only helps learning, but it is essential for learning.

It includes the understanding of the ways in which the possesed knowledge may be used by the learners.

There are different kinds of students' motivation.

Constructivists stressed the importance of the intrinsic motivation.

This short video presents different types of motivation and the ways a teacher can motivate the students.


Here are some Constructive suggestions regarding motivation
They may help the students improve their motivation.

Here are more tips how to motivate the students, this time in the form of a video:



  1. Brown, D. 2006. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. New York, Longman
  2. Ellis,R. 2008. The Study of Second Language Acquisition. Oxford, Oxford University Press
  3. Fosnot, C. T. 1996. Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. New York, Teachers College Press
  4. Gass, S.M. and L. Selinker. 2008. Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. New York, Routledge
  5. Hein, G. 1991. (http://www.exploratorium.edu/IFI/resources/constructivistlearning.html)
  6. Sivan, E. 1986. "Motivation in social constructivist theory". Educational Psychologist, 21, 209–233
  7. Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processess. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
  8. Williams M. and R. Burden. 1997. Psychology for Language Teachers: A social constructivist approach. Cambridge, CUP