LINGUIST List 23.531

Wed Feb 01 2012

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Gardner (2010)

Editor for this issue: Rajiv Rao <>

Date: 01-Feb-2012
From: James Rock <>
Subject: Motivation and Second Language Acquisition
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AUTHOR: Robert C. GardnerTITLE: Motivation and Second Language AcquisitionSUBTITLE: The Socio-Educational ModelSERIES TITLE: Language as Social Action --Volume 10PUBLISHER: Peter LangYEAR: 2010

James Rock, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Catholic Universityof the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), Milan, Italy


The socio-educational model of second language acquisition has undoubtedly had asignificant influence on the field of second language research. Fuelled by avast volume of empirical research undertaken over the last few decades,proponents of the model claim that it has successfully demonstrated itsrelevance by accounting for individual differences in second language achievement.

This book opens with a short preface that briefly refers to some of theconfusion and misunderstanding surrounding the exact nature of the motivation tolearn languages as referred to in the socio-educational model. Gardner thenproceeds to provide a brief description of the contents of each chapter of thebook.

Chapter One, “On the definition of motivation and its investigation”, beginswith a description of some fundamental aspects of the socio-educational model.The point is made that learning a second language in school is unlike learningany other subject, as affective reactions towards the second language culturalgroup come into play. This is referred to as the cultural component of secondlanguage learning and is represented by the construct of integrativeness. Theconcept of ‘integrative motivation’ is considered to be a fundamental componentof the socio-educational model and is described by Gardner as an affectiveconstruct that includes the aggregate of integrativeness, attitudes towards thelearning situation, and motivation.

In the following section, a brief investigation of what is actually meant bylearning a second language precedes a more in-depth analysis of the meaning ofmotivation. The complexity of this construct is highlighted and it is arguedthat it cannot be assessed in terms of a single component. Gardner recommendsassessing motivation in terms of three components: the desire to learn thelanguage, attitudes towards learning the language, and motivational intensity.He stresses, however, that an individual’s level of motivation is greatlyenhanced if he/she reflects an integrative orientation and favourable attitudestowards the learning situation.

Gardner then moves on to discuss various types of orientations in secondlanguage learning. He calculates that even though a total of 67 so-calledorientations are referred to in the book, many of them could be classified asreflecting an integrative or an instrumental orientation. The chapter concludeswith a principal components analysis of the relationship between severalvariables that are considered to be important in learning another language. Afactor analysis produced five factors, and of the five factors, only oneindicated any obvious link with the major components of motivation. This leadsGardner to suggest that a large number of the variables analysed in the studyeffectively had a great deal in common. A short description of the six classesof variables found in the socio-educational model concludes the chapter(Ability, Motivation, Culturally relevant variables, Educationally relevantvariables, Language anxiety, Instrumentally relevant variables).

Chapter Two, “On the history of the socio-educational model”, discusses thehistory of the socio-educational model in three phases. Gardner identifies phaseone, “Ancient History”, as dating from 1945-1972. Phase two, “Early History”,took place in the 1970s and early 1980s, with the final phase, “Modern History”,occurring in the 1980s. In section one, “Ancient History”, a short descriptionof some earlier research (Nida, 1956; Whyte & Holmberg, 1956) that inspired thesocio-educational model is discussed. The earliest empirical research associatedwith the model is traced back to Lambert’s (1955) research on bilingualdominance and the development of bilingualism in the 1950s. This research, alongwith other studies by Mowrer (1950) and Ervin (1954) provided Gardner with thetheoretical foundation for the notion of integrative motivation. This wasfurther explored in his PhD research, where he discovered that achievement inFrench was associated with language aptitude, motivation to learn French, andintegrativeness.

In the following section, “Early History”, Gardner refers to a series of studiesundertaken at the University of Western Ontario that developed a battery oftests known as the Attitude / Motivation Test Battery (AMTB), designed tomeasure important social psychological variables associated with learning asecond language. This involved using a construct-oriented approach to testconstruction (in this approach, the variables of interest are selected based ona clear theoretical foundation, and an attempt is then made to define items thatprovide as broad a coverage of each variable as possible). In a study by Gardner& Smythe (1975a), factor analysis revealed that French achievement correlatedsignificantly with some attitude and motivation measures. A follow up studyrevealed that the internal consistency reliability of the derived scales wasgenerally good for all measures and that ability and affective factors wereresponsible for individual differences in achievement in a second language.Later research focused on investigating the relation of measures of languageaptitude and affective factors to measures of achievement in French acrossCanada. The results demonstrated that motivation and aptitude correlated highlywith achievement. In the final section, termed “Modern History”, Gardnerinvestigates the processes underlying the socio-educational model. A series ofhypotheses linked to the model are proposed and tested.

Chapter Three, “The Modern Age”, begins with a review of some research studiesthat have been conducted by Gardner and his colleagues since 1991. Most of thesewere undertaken in reaction to a suggestion by Crookes & Schmidt (1991) that anew research agenda should be implemented which was more in line with mainstreampsychology and more teacher friendly. Gardner states, however, that he had infact been adhering to their newly proposed research ever since the model’sinception. Consequently, the opening section of this chapter presents somelaboratory-based studies linking motivational variables to actual learning overtime, and some classroom-based studies looking at changes over the academicyear. This is followed by several studies involving structural equation modelingthat investigate aspects of the socio-educational model. Results from all of thestudies presented in the chapter confirm that there is a very consistent patternof relationships between measures based on the socio-educational model of secondlanguage acquisition and that the model is very instructive in understanding theprocess of learning another language. This is followed by an analysis ofalternative models that have been proposed by other researchers. These includethose proposed by Clément (1980), Dörnyei & Otto (1998), Noels (2001) and Czizér& Dörnyei (2005). Gardner suggests that none of the models make predictions thatare at odds with any of the other models and are, thus, all essentially inagreement with the socio-educational model.

In Chapter Four, “The socio-educational model: structure and hypotheses”,attention is given to explaining the theoretical aspects underlying thesocio-educational model. The chapter begins with Gardner stating that thesocio-educational model distinguishes itself from many other models due to thefocus placed on the processes involved in second language learning in aclassroom context. It is not, therefore, simply an examination of therelationships between individual difference variables. This is followed by somediscussion of the fundamentals of the model, and a review of some representativeversions of the model. Gardner highlights the dynamic nature of the model inwhich individual difference variables are seen as influencing achievement in asecond language. He also stresses that although the educational context isimportant, it is students’ openness to other cultural groups (i.e.integrativeness) that will predominantly support the motivation to learn anotherlanguage.

In the following section, the five constructs of the socio-educational model areexplained in greater detail. Integrative motivation is also discussed anddefined as being the aggregate of integrativeness, attitudes towards thelearning situation, and motivation. The point is made by Gardner that the modelwas designed in the interest of parsimony, and he freely accepts that therecould very well be other variables that might have a direct effect on languageachievement. However, according to him, the model identifies the primarycharacteristics of integrative motivation. The chapter concludes with anexamination of some hypotheses that follow from the model. Gardner notes that amajor advantage of the socio-educational model over other models is theavailability of a measuring instrument (i.e. the AMTB) to examine the underlyingvariables and constructs, and the hypotheses that flow from the model.

Chapter Five, “The attitude motivation test battery”, describes the processesinvolved in developing the AMTB. This represents a scientific instrument thatcan be used to obtain clear and objective measurements of integrativemotivation. The five constructs found in the socio-educational model involveaggregates of the scales from the AMTB. Gardner is keen to point out, however,that it is how the constructs interact that reflects integrative motivation andnot simply the correlations of the aggregate scores with measures ofachievement. The approach to test construction is described, and is followed bya detailed discussion of definitions of the constructs, the relevant scales, andthe items included in the test. Attention is also given to describing theInternational AMTB and how the test is scored. The chapter concludes with areference made to the Mini-AMTB. This was initially developed in order toinvestigate the convergent validity of the scales of the full AMTB. Gardner,however, does not recommend using the mini-AMTB as a substitute for the fullscale version.

Chapter Six, “Attitudes, motivation, and language anxiety in an EFL Europeancontext”, extends the research associated with the socio-educational modelbeyond the confines of the Canadian context. This was undertaken in response tocriticism by some researchers that the model was solely appropriate for abilingual country, such as Canada. Consequently, much of the research in thischapter discusses the applicability of the socio-educational model in a Europeanforeign learning context. A detailed analysis of a large study undertaken withseveral grades of Spanish secondary school students is presented. This studyessentially confirmed that the AMTB findings obtained in Canada are alsoapplicable to a foreign language learning context. Gardner also underlines thefact that affective variables are likely to change during the language course,depending on the students’ prior level of attitudes, motivation, languageanxiety, and language achievement. Furthermore, for students low in anxiety,final grades increase substantially with increases in motivation. However, forstudents with high levels of anxiety, increases in motivation have a muchsmaller impact on achievement.

In Chapter Seven, “Learning English as a foreign language around the world”,Gardner investigates whether the socio-educational model is relevant in contextsaround the world when the foreign language is a global one, rather than aclearly identifiable official second language, such as French in the Canadiancontext. Attention is given to describing some earlier research that analysedsamples of students in six countries throughout the world where English istaught as a foreign language. Gardner specifically focused on assessing thereliability of the 12 scales from the AMTB. Results indicated that theInternational AMTB demonstrates substantial internal consistency reliabilityfrom country to country. Discussion is also given to analysing the factorstructure of the 12 scales. Here, once again, there was seen to be generalconsistency in all of the samples investigated. The focus then turns toinvestigating the correlation between integrative motivation and measures ofachievement in the six countries. Results indicated that the correlations wereall significant and generally substantial. The chapter concludes with somediscussion regarding the mediating effects of motivation. The model, accordingto Gardner, does not predict direct paths between either integrativeness orattitudes towards the learning situation and language achievement. Resultsclearly support this hypothesis by demonstrating that the predictive value ofintegrativeness and attitudes towards the learning situation are due to themediating effects of motivation.

Chapter Eight, “Language classroom motivation”, is written by Mercé Bernaus andfocuses on the role that motivation in the classroom plays in the acquisition ofskills taught in class. It is hypothesised that the affective characteristics ofteachers, as well as their professional behaviour in class, can directlyinfluence the classroom motivation of students. Attention is given to discussingsome of the teachers’ professional and affective factors that influencemotivation. This includes indicating some helpful actions that teachers canactually implement, so as to uphold motivation in the second language classroom.In the following section, research by Madrid (2002), on the most powerfulmotivational strategies used by teachers of English in Spain, is discussed.Madrid concludes that teachers should implement those motivational strategiesthat increase the students’ interest, attention, and satisfaction with Englishclass. The chapter concludes with an analysis of ways of maintaining teachers’and students’ motivation, as well as some discussion of new approaches tolanguage teaching that can help motivate teachers and learners.

In the concluding “Epilogue”, Gardner briefly summarises some of the earlierpoints discussed throughout the book. He once again underlines the point that itis the strength of motivation that matters in second language learning and notthe type of motivation. He argues that motivation is a broad-based construct,and that motivation comes from within the student. Consequently, althoughteachers can maintain and promote a student’s motivation, they are unable tomotivate the student. Gardner then illustrates some underlying issues associatedwith the socio-educational model. This is essentially an opportunity for him toreply to a number of comments and criticisms that have been made about the modeland its associated research. Some criticisms that have been targeted at themodel are as follows: there is a conceptual gap between motivational thinking inthe second language field and in educational psychology (Dörnyei, 2005); theresearch findings are inconsistent (Au, 1988; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991); thesocio-educational model is appropriate only to bilingual contexts (Oxford,1996); and finally, there is a need to reinterpret integrativeness (Dörnyei,2005). Gardner proceeds to successfully demonstrate that many of the criticismsand comments are unjustified, and are generally seen to be based onmisinterpretation of the model by researchers.


In “Motivation and Second Language Acquisition”, it is remarkable how Robert C.Gardner successfully manages to compress such an enormous quantity ofinformation into only 226 pages. Thus, my immediate reaction upon completing thebook was the sheer quantity of significant points that I had highlighted duringmy reading. Having been faced with the unenviable task of summarising over fiftyyears of research and ensuring the socio-educational model remains relevant inmodern second language research, Gardner has produced a fitting contribution tothe field of second language research.

The book is well written and complex points and studies are discussed in anextremely comprehensible manner, thus ensuring that the reader never becomesbogged down with unclear terminology and statistical references. Gardner’sdecision to delay any kind of presentation of the stages of thesocio-educational model, until the reader is fully aware of the model’sevolution and the concepts behind the model, is much appreciated. Chapter One isparticularly helpful, therefore, for those readers who are less familiar withresearch on motivation. Many of the key concepts explored in the book areclearly defined here, thus ensuring that the reader is set up nicely for morein-depth discussion in the subsequent chapters. Furthermore, splitting hisdiscussion of the historical evolution of the model (Chapter Two) into threedistinct time periods significantly helps clarify details of the model’sdevelopment for the reader.

The emphasis placed by Gardner on clarification is strongly felt throughout thisbook. He goes at length to set the record straight regarding the historicaldevelopment of the model and, thus, frees it from ambiguity and unwarrantedcriticism. He thoroughly describes the various stages involved in the model andits underlying rationale (Chapter Four), and provides a detailed description ofhow the AMTB was developed (Chapter Five). Furthermore, Gardner presents a vastarray of earlier studies supporting the validity of the socio-educational modelin second and foreign language learning contexts (Chapter Six). In doing so,Gardner demonstrates that many criticisms are simply due to misinterpretation ofthe model.

A pleasing feature of the book is Gardner’s full commitment to the model and themagnanimous way he responds to what he feels are unjust criticisms of it. Hesimply addresses their relevance to the socio-educational model andwholeheartedly accepts that there may well be alternative ways of consideringthe dynamics involved in learning a second language. Nevertheless, the reader isleft in no doubt that Gardner successfully deals with the various criticisms ofthe model. This is predominantly due to the exhaustive research that Gardner hasundertaken on the model and the fact that so many of his studies in differentcultural contexts have withstood the test of empirical verification.

This is a thought-provoking book that will hopefully stimulate further research.From a didactic standpoint, the fact that the language classroom situation couldhave different influences on individual students depending on their prior levelsof motivation, attitudes, language anxiety and language achievement would appearto be particularly significant for those proposing techniques to motivatestudents. In conclusion, therefore, I fully agree that this book is highlyrecommended reading for any course on motivation in second language acquisition,as well as for any researchers or graduate students in the field of motivationresearch.


Au, S. Y. (1988) A critical appraisal of Gardner’s social psychological theoryof second-language (L2) learning. Language Learning, 38, 75-100.

Clément, R. (1980) Ethnicity, contact and communicative competence in a secondlanguage. In H. Giles, W. P. Robinson, & P. M. Smith (Eds.), Language: SocialPsychological Perspectives: Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1980, 147-154.

Crookes, G. & Schmidt, R. W. (1991) Motivation: Reopening the research agenda.Language Learning, 41, 469-512.

Czizér, K. & Dörnyei, Z. (2005) The internal structure of language learningmotivation and its relationship with language choice and learning effort. ModernLanguage Journal, 89, 19-36.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005) The Psychology of the Language Learner: IndividualDifferences in Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dörnyei, Z. & Otto, I. (1998) Motivation in action: A process model of L2motivation. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, 4, 43-69.

Ervin, S. (1954) Identification and Bilingualism (mimeo). Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity.

Gardner, R. C. & Smythe, P. C. (1975a) Second language acquisition: A socialpsychological approach. Research Bulletin No. 332, The University of WesternOntario.

Lambert, W. E. (1955) Measurement of the linguistic dominance of bilinguals.Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 50, 197-200.

Madrid, D. (2002) The power of the FL teacher’s motivational strategies. Cauce,25, 369-422.

Mowrer, O. H. (1950) Learning Theory and Personality Dynamics. New York: Ronald.

Nida, E. A. (1956) Motivation in second-language learning. Language learning, 7,11-16.

Noels, K. A. (2001) New orientations in language learning motivation: Towards amodel of intrinsic, extrinsic, and integrative orientations and motivation. InZ. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and Second Language Acquisition.Honolulu, HI: The University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching & CurriculumCenter, pp. 43-68.

Oxford, R. L. (1996) New pathways of language learning motivation. In R. L.Oxford (Ed.), Language Learning Motivation: Pathways to the New Century(Technical Report No. 11). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Second LanguageTeaching and Curriculum Center, 1-8.

Whyte, W. F. & Holmberg, A. R. (1956) Human problems of U.S. enterprise in LatinAmerica. Human Organisation, 15, 1040.


James Rock is a lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore), Milan, Italy. He teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. His current research interests include second language acquisition, vocabulary learning strategies, and the use of Q-methodology in learner strategy research.

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