Motivation among high and low achievers in English : A qualitative study of students’ motivational orientation in an upper-secondary school in Sweden

University essay from Mälardalens universitet/Akademin för utbildning, kultur och kommunikation

Abstract: The aim of this degree project was to identify motivational orientations among upper-secondary school students in grade 12. A qualitative approach, namely analysis of interviews, was used to explore six participants’ views on and reasons for learning the English language. The interviews were semi-structured where the participants had the opportunity to clarify why they were learning the language, why they had chosen the advanced, optional English 7 course, what they thought about the learning environment and how they will use English in the future. This study also had a secondary aim, which was to explore and understand the differences between the motivational orientation exhibited by high achieving students and low achieving students in the subject English.  The results showed that all the participants were motivated toward a specific goal. The high achieving students possessed integrative and instrumental motivation as they displayed an inherent interest in the cultural community associated with the target language whilst also valuing the practical aspects and benefits that come with being proficient in the language. The low achieving students only possessed instrumental motivation since the English language was learned mainly for practical purposes, travel reasons, or to secure a better job and education in the future. The analysis of the differences between the groups showed that the high achieving students had stronger ties with the English language, and with people speaking the language, than the low achieving students. The results of this study concur with earlier research on integrative orientation and how it helps to promote second language learning. They do not, however, agree with more recent studies conducted in Sweden on integrative and instrumental orientation in upper-secondary English. 

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