LINGUIST List 32.2218

Wed Jun 30 2021

Review: Applied Linguistics: Muir (2020)

Editor for this issue: Jeremy Coburn <jecoburnlinguistlist.org>



Date: 09-Jan-2021
From: Alfaf Albakistani <alfafalpagmail.com>
Subject: Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education
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Book announced at https://linguistlist.org/issues/31/31-2914.html

AUTHOR: Christine Muir
TITLE: Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education
SUBTITLE: Exploring Implications for Pedagogy
SERIES TITLE: Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters
YEAR: 2020

REVIEWER: Alfaf Albakistani, Birkbeck, University of London, UK

SUMMARY

A directed motivational current (DMC) is “a surge of motivational energy that seemingly picks individuals up and carries them sometimes unimaginable distances” (Muir, 2020, p. xvi). DMC describes “the optimal form of engagement with an extended project” (Dörnyei, Henry, Muir, 2016, p. 33). This type of motivation facilitates aiming for high-level goals and leads to positive, long-term engagement with a project to achieve a specific outcome. Although this kind of prolonged and extensive motivation can be identified instantly, it has only recently attracted attention in the field of applied linguistics. Empirical research has evaluated the key theoretical foundations and has provided significant clarification of the conceptual premise of DMC. However, too little attention has been paid to investigating DMC regarding research methodology, practical applications, and pedagogical implications in language-learning contexts. “Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education: Exploring Implications for Pedagogy”, by Christine Muir, addresses these issues and advances the theoretical and practical knowledge of DMC research.

The book investigates the theoretical basis of individuals’ intense motivational experiences by reporting on two international studies, the aims of which were to explore these novel lines of inquiry. It asks how learners can preserve DMCs for a lengthy period, and how they can report their experiences of motivation when they are stimulated by personal goals. The book examines the wider relevance of DMCs to second language (L2) learners’ experiences and pedagogical applications globally, to enable practical applications of DMC in instructional contexts. By addressing these issues, this book lays the foundations for further research on DMCs.

This book provides pioneering theories and research concerning L2 learners’ motivations, as well as coverage of the empirical research investigating DMCs within language-learning contexts. It also considers the pedagogical implications of these studies within the DMC framework and assesses the possibility of designing and implementing a project with DMC potential to facilitate group DMC for learners in L2 learning contexts.

This work provides new insights into ways in which these motivational surges could be exploited to promote learning in L2 educational contexts. By showing evidence of its practical applications in L2 classrooms, the outcomes contribute to this growing area of research into the potential benefits of DMCs in the development of language learning. Concerning the evolving area of L2-learner psychology, this book proposes that DMC is an intricate yet prevalent phenomenon among teachers and students.

The book is divided into four sections: an introduction to the key DMC concepts and the theoretical arguments (Part 1), an exploration of DMC via the international questionnaire study (Part 2), the presentation of empirical research results triggering learners’ DMC in language-learning contexts (Part 3), and a conclusion based on the findings to determine the future of DMC research (Part 4). Each part and chapter concludes with a summary of the key points.

Part 1 presents an overview and establishes the foundations of the research and outcomes presented throughout the book.

Chapter 1 places DMC within the broader framework of L2 motivation and second language acquisition (SLA) research. Instead of providing a complete review of how L2 motivation research has developed historically, Muir focuses on the main current perspectives. She provides a detailed overview of the adoption of complex dynamic system theory and how it has influenced methodologies in SLA and L2 motivation research. Muir discusses its implications for the reformulation of L2 motivation-related concepts regarding the self by reviewing research on possible selves, the L2 motivational self-system (Dörnyei, 2005, 2009b), and vision theory. She then provides a brief outline of key constructs and findings relevant to language learners’ self-concepts, emotions, and various areas related to group-level investigation (motivation, agency, affect, and flow). Chapter 1 concludes by tracking the emergence of DMCs and emphasising their broader significance in terms of comprehending the development of motivation over longer periods.

Chapter 2 expands the understanding of the entire experience of DMCs by considering several deep-rooted theories, principles, and ideas. It contains an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of the DMC framework and summarises its five outstanding characteristics: goal or vision orientation, launch, facilitative structure, positive emotional loading, and how DMCs lose impetus.

In Chapter 3, Muir introduces the concept of group DMCs and explores intensive group projects with DMC potential, emphasizing practical applications of DMC for the L2 classroom. As DMCs can occur immediately as a result of classroom events on some occasions, L2 learning can be designed in a way that allows a DMC experience to emerge for an entire group of learners in a classroom. For a better understanding of DMCs in an instructed L2 context, investigating group DMCs is helpful because L2 learning and teaching mainly take place in groups. Learner engagement in intensive group projects leads to the emergence of group DMCs due to the correspondence between the key components of DMCs and well-designed projects that include a focus on engaging goals and clearly defined structures.

Muir discusses how projects are related to group DMCs. Despite the long history of projects in the educational sector, recent renewed interest has heightened the need for research and publications focusing on a clear understanding of project design, introduction, and management. The book discusses and criticises the projects thoroughly; the author highlights key criticisms and stresses the need to revisit projects. In support, Muir highlights current teaching approaches, such as communicative language teaching and task-based language teaching, and examines their shared foundations and relationships to projects. She calls for further investigation, arguing that DMC theory provides a better understanding of longstanding motivational processes that contribute to effective project design and implementation. Muir summarises part 1 by initiating a discussion of the potential of DMCs for future research.

Part 2 presents data from the first international study investigating the wider recognisability and relevance of DMCs, asking whether they are equally recognisable globally, as well as whether empirical evidence can provide support for the argument that DMCs are universally related to human experience.

Chapter 4 describes the development and piloting of the DMC Disposition questionnaire, then explains the procedure and the data analysis approach. The main aim of the questionnaire was to explore the broader recognisability and relevance of DMCs, whereas secondary aims were to validate the DMC concept to establish a single multi-item DMC scale and to develop a questionnaire that could be used as a foundation for future research.

Chapter 5 provides the main quantitative results. It explores the extent to which participants’ experiences of DMCs are balanced in terms of gender distribution, age, and nationality, and addresses issues related to the way DMCs are commonly experienced by participants. Muir addresses analysis-related issues, in which a DMC group should be isolated from other participants to ensure that the DMC group includes only participants who reported genuine DMC experiences. The author then discusses the process of creating a composite DMC Disposition Scale consisting of Likert-scale items, and investigates variations in the answers of the DMC group and other subgroups by examining the length of the reported period of their experiences and their demographic information. The chapter concludes by outlining the outcomes of the research questions, elaborating how the participants experienced DMCs in the language-learning context. Based on the demographic data, the findings demonstrate that DMCs, as a motivational phenomenon, are broadly recognisable and experienced globally by individuals regardless of their gender, age, or nationality.

Chapter 6 discusses findings collected from the qualitative data to answer two questions. The first concerns commonly reported triggers of DMC experiences and associated reasons, while the second investigates the reasons for or against wanting to repeat DMC experiences. The outcomes contribute greatly to our understanding of the frequent DMC triggers previewed in the literature. This accords with outcomes from the quantitative data, furthering our understanding of the varieties of triggers commonly linked to the natural emergence of DMCs, leading to the investigation of new areas regarding possible negative aspects of DMC experiences.

The summary of Part 2 reflects the overall outcomes and discusses the limitations of the research.

Part 3 focuses on the pedagogical implications of DMC theory by presenting the second international study. The study questions the possibilities for designing and implementing a project that can meaningfully facilitate DMC emergence in a group of L2 learners within the classroom context. The pedagogical implications for teachers suggest that DMCs assist learners to experience learning with greater engagement and to achieve goals effortlessly. Conversely, for learners, the DMC project is a vital aspect of successful learning and goal attainment, as learning a language is a prolonged process.

Chapter 7 provides an overview of the methodology and describes the school context, including participants, project design, procedures, data collection instruments, the approach used for analysis, and in-depth interpretations of the findings. The study recruited 16 English-language learners aged between 19 and 40 who studied at a large English-language school in an Australian university, and two experienced language teachers. The data were collected from teachers and students using personal diaries and Skype interviews to capture and record any evidence of group DMC emerging.

Chapter 8 discusses the findings for the main research question and explores whether the intensive group project with DMC potential caused the emergence of group DMC within a five-week course. This study provides novel evidence that group DMC can be facilitated intentionally as a result of specific project implementations in L2 learning contexts. The data proved that the project had a robust influence on the emergence of group DMC. The chapter also discusses student perceptions of the project regarding perceived language and skill development, and the facilitative factors that impacted on student perceptions of DMC.

Chapter 9 discusses the experiences gained from the study. It examines how the project components were perceived, and considers how the design led to the success of the entire project and how this could be improved in future research.

The summary of Part 3 revisits the main points explored in the study, evaluates the methodological approaches, discusses the study’s shortcomings and reflects on pedagogical practices.

Part 4 combines distinct sections to present a summary focusing on the future of DMC research.

Chapter 10 revisits the historical background and discusses the future of DMC research, beginning with a revision of the seven frameworks for focused interventions. It clarifies the development of DMC theory, the existing literature on projects in educational sectors, and summarises seven project templates that are assumed to inspire group DMC emergence in L2 classroom environments. Furthermore, the chapter presents the key contributions of the book regarding DMC from theoretical, pedagogical, and practical perspectives. It concludes with a wider examination of future research into DMC.

EVALUATION

“Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education: Exploring Implications for Pedagogy” offers some important insights into the field of second-language learners’ motivation, and enhances our understanding of DMCs regarding long-term impacts, individual and group motivational surges, It reveals the potential for deliberately facilitating DMC experiences for learners in language-learning contexts worldwide.

The goals of this book were accomplished by providing evidence that intense and longstanding motivational experiences are promptly and widely recognisable by learners in various L2 learning environments, including English Language Teaching (ELT), formal and informal learning settings, and ELT classrooms. By examining how language learners continue to be motivated for lengthy periods, Muir combines literature about language learners’ motivations with practical pedagogical implications, resulting in a compelling book that effectively links research to pedagogy concerning DMCs and language learning and teaching. The book contributes to making this recent type of motivation increasingly popular, not only in the applied linguistics field, but also in educational psychology.

This work is unique because it is the first book to include full and extensive examination of DMCs and to expand on what was covered in the previous literature. Moreover, it is coherent because each topic is related straightforwardly to the general understanding of DMCs, and is aligned directly with what was established previously within the broader field of L2 motivation research. It presents a collection of literature, including dominant approaches from multiple disciplines inside and outside of the SLA field, thus making major contributions to the description of the functions of this multifaceted and exceptional type of motivation. For example, in Part 1, Muir deals briefly with three areas that increase our understanding of the positive emotional loading of DMCs from a variety of theoretical perspectives, including possible selves in social psychology, goal theories in motivational psychology, and the concept of eudaimonia well-being in positive psychology.

The book fits in with other literature on group DMC, suggesting that, despite the personalised nature of DMC regarding individuals’ personal goals and educational contexts, the group work of language learners in the classroom may allow DMC to emerge (Henry, Dörnyei & Davydenko, 2015). Furthermore, the use of a variety of teaching approaches, such as the project-based method that involves collaborative learning, increases learner motivation. Therefore, triggering and maintaining group DMC plays a vital role in boosting group dynamics (Dörnyei & Murphey, 2003), which subsequently affects their learning success. In this case, teachers should be aware of the practical applications of DMC and how to implement a project with DMC potential effectively in order to facilitate group DMC. However, the lack of group DMC in previous studies left this key area underexplored. Muir bridges this gap and, in Part 3, explores how group DMC can be used purposefully via the implementation of an intensive group project in an L2 classroom. Muir conceptualises the entire project within the “All Eyes on the Final Product” framework (Dörnyei, Henry & Muir, 2016) and, by drawing on the criteria for effective intervention, concludes that these factors play a central role in the effectiveness of the intervention.

By doing so, she makes an important contribution to the field of DMC research because the outcomes provide inspiring evidence that it is possible to deliberately facilitate group DMC in an L2 classroom. In addition, collaborating with teachers paves the way for future research into the possibility of applying DMC theory in practical L2 pedagogical contexts by teaming up with practitioners.

Muir’s research is outstanding in terms of her methodological approaches, which address the methodological limitations raised in past studies. Traditionally, DMC has been assessed using qualitative methods, which gives greater advantage to the studies in this book because quantitative methods were employed to explore DMC. Most previous qualitative studies relied heavily on retrospective interviews as data collection instruments for DMCs, recording participants’ recollections of DMC experiences. However, difficulties arise when an attempt is made to explore DMC experiences across wider contexts, such as the broader recognisability of DMC. Thus, as Muir developed the first international questionnaire (Part 2) to explore DMCs quantitatively, she provides a starting point for other research methodologies to conduct further quantitative investigations of DMC. Moreover, introducing this wide-ranging and ground-breaking DMC Disposition questionnaire leaves abundant room for further progress in exploring DMC experiences in different learning and teaching contexts.

Muir has successfully presented not only an organised and efficient foundational basis for key concepts of DMCs for novice readers, but has also provided concise descriptions for readers more familiar with the topic. The book is suitable for L2 learners and researchers who are interested in L2 language-learning motivation, and for teachers who are seeking activities to boost motivation within the classroom. Specifically, the emphasis on DMC in the context of group projects will increase researchers’ and practitioners’ understanding in future research. The summary sections after each chapter and part are effective in assisting readers in finding the main points and essential details. The afterward section provides students with practical guidance, useful resources, and readings about designing, planning, and researching their own projects with DMC potential.

REFERENCES

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

Dörnyei, Z. (2009b). The L2 motivational self-system. In Z. Dörnyei and E. Ushioda (Eds.) “Motivation, Language Identity and the L2 Self” (pp. 9–42). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Dörnyei, Z., Henry, A., & Muir, C. (2016). “Motivational Currents in Language Learning: Frameworks for Focused Interventions”. New York, NY: Routledge.

Dörnyei, Z., & Murphey, T. (2003). “Group Dynamics in the Language Classroom”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Henry, A., Dörnyei, Z., & Davydenko, S. (2015). The anatomy of directed motivational currents: exploring intense and enduring periods of L2 motivation. ”Modern Language Journal”. 99, 329–345. doi: 10.1111/modl.12214

Muir, C. (2020). ”Directed motivational currents and language education: Exploring implications for pedagogy”. Multilingual Matters.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER

I'm a first-year Ph.D. student in the Applied Linguistics department at Birkbeck, University of London and an EFL tutor. I'm interested in second language learners' and teachers' psychology including motivation, enjoyment and anxiety in classrooms.



Page Updated: 30-Jun-2021