Language teacher motivation: a study of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) in New Zealand language schools

Yau, Hay-yiu
Roach, Kevin
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Master of Arts in Applied Language Studies
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Auckland University of Technology

Research on the motivation of teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL) has been scarce and fragmented. This study aims to bridge the gap in the research by investigating the motivation of ESL teachers employed in private English language schools and other state tertiary institutions in New Zealand. The rationale for the study comes from a need to understand, first, the key motivational factors involved, and second, what measures can be adopted by both teachers themselves and by the institutions they work for to sustain and nurture teacher motivation, ultimately in order to facilitate positive outcomes for students. The underlying theoretical assumption of the study was that motivation could be investigated by employing self-determination theory, which draws primarily on an intrinsic/extrinsic distinction (Dörnyei, 2001). Accordingly, the study was guided by three research questions which aimed to: 1) identify factors affecting teachers’ motivation; 2) examine teachers’ degree of motivation; and 3) elicit from teachers any measures that might sustain or nurture their motivation. To answer these research questions the study employed a mixed-method approach. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected through the implementation of 72 questionnaires, with seven respondents agreeing to keep a journal. Three semi-structured interviews were also conducted with the journal keepers. The findings of the study provide some insights into what factors are important in affecting ESL teachers’ motivation and what measures are likely to sustain or nurture their motivation. The study found that intrinsic factors were more important than extrinsic factors in affecting teaching motivation. Intrinsic aspects of work, including helping students to learn English, involvement in professional training and personal enjoyment were key factors. However extrinsic factors such as management policy and work autonomy also played significant roles. Though the degree of teacher motivation could not be ascertained by the present study, it was found that teachers were dissatisfied with lack of work autonomy and job security. Regarding measures to sustain or nurture motivation, teachers asked for more professional training and personal challenges in their work, less administrative work, more involvement in management policy and more respect from management. The implications of the study offer suggestions for ESL teachers and for the management of language schools on how to create a better working environment for facilitating positive student outcomes. It is hoped the study also stimulates further research on ESL teachers’ motivation, in a range of contexts, the sum of which will be of benefit to students, teachers, stakeholders and the whole community.

New Zealand language schools , ESL teacher motivation , Teacher motivation , Motivation , Mixed methods approach
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