Turner and Paris’ Six C’s of Motivation (1995) identifies six characteristics of motivating contexts, namely, choice, challenge, control, collaboration, constructing meaning, and consequences. Choice, Challenge, Control, and Collaboration were discussed in previous blog posts.
The fifth C is Constructing Meaning. What does this mean? Meaning is constructed when learners understand the value of what they are learning and can see how it may relate to them personally and to their lives in the real world. When a learner sees the relevance of what is being studied, willingness to invest time and effort increases. Students’ motivation to learn increases when they consider the knowledge to be valuable (Wang & Han, 2001).
The program of study, and the way it is presented, can influence the learner’s identification with it and contribute to whether it becomes meaningful or not. For example, a teacher may wish students to read and understand an article dealing with exercise and health. This reading task may be assigned in different ways – more or less engaging:
Option 1: The teacher says, “Read the article carefully and answer the questions that follow. Then submit your answers.”
Option 2: The teacher says. “Think about what physical exercise you did in the last 7 days and then list it accurately. Share and discuss this list with a partner. When you finish, read the article carefully, answer the questions, and identify information that may be especially relevant to yourself or to your partner. Share this with your partner.”
Option 2 is likely to make the task more relevant to the learner than option 1. Here the teacher helps the student construct meaning.
Edusoft’s English Discoveries program recognizes the importance of providing learners with content that is relevant to their lives. Firstly, the units cover a wide range of topics from everyday life – food, health, sport, friends, work, etc. Secondly, the units provide practice on what is required in day-to-day situations such as ordering food at a restaurant, making an appointment with a doctor, waiting to catch a plane, etc. Students absorb language which they can immediately use. Thirdly, once learners have control of the language around a specific topic, they are given open-ended tasks that tend to be personally meaningful. The online program provides open writing and speaking tasks. The materials for the teacher to use in the face-to-face lessons further personalize what is studied online. Handouts encourage the student to engage in the use of the target language.
It is common sense that when a learner studies something that is perceived as relevant, the process of learning becomes meaningful, and his/her motivation increases. Both the chosen program of study, as well as the teacher, can play vital roles in helping the learner construct meaning and approach the task of learning a language with enthusiasm, drive, and initiative.