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Review of  Motivation and Second Language Acquisition

Reviewer: James Rock
Book Title: Motivation and Second Language Acquisition
Book Author: Robert C. Gardner
Publisher: Peter Lang AG
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 23.531

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AUTHOR: Robert C. Gardner
TITLE: Motivation and Second Language Acquisition
SUBTITLE: The Socio-Educational Model
SERIES TITLE: Language as Social Action --Volume 10
YEAR: 2010

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


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

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

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

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

Gardner then moves on to discuss various types of orientations in second
language learning. He calculates that even though a total of 67 so-called
orientations are referred to in the book, many of them could be classified as
reflecting an integrative or an instrumental orientation. The chapter concludes
with a principal components analysis of the relationship between several
variables that are considered to be important in learning another language. A
factor analysis produced five factors, and of the five factors, only one
indicated any obvious link with the major components of motivation. This leads
Gardner to suggest that a large number of the variables analysed in the study
effectively had a great deal in common. A short description of the six classes
of variables found in the socio-educational model concludes the chapter
(Ability, Motivation, Culturally relevant variables, Educationally relevant
variables, Language anxiety, Instrumentally relevant variables).

Chapter Two, “On the history of the socio-educational model”, discusses the
history of the socio-educational model in three phases. Gardner identifies phase
one, “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 description
of some earlier research (Nida, 1956; Whyte & Holmberg, 1956) that inspired the
socio-educational model is discussed. The earliest empirical research associated
with the model is traced back to Lambert’s (1955) research on bilingual
dominance and the development of bilingualism in the 1950s. This research, along
with other studies by Mowrer (1950) and Ervin (1954) provided Gardner with the
theoretical foundation for the notion of integrative motivation. This was
further explored in his PhD research, where he discovered that achievement in
French was associated with language aptitude, motivation to learn French, and

In the following section, “Early History”, Gardner refers to a series of studies
undertaken at the University of Western Ontario that developed a battery of
tests known as the Attitude / Motivation Test Battery (AMTB), designed to
measure important social psychological variables associated with learning a
second language. This involved using a construct-oriented approach to test
construction (in this approach, the variables of interest are selected based on
a clear theoretical foundation, and an attempt is then made to define items that
provide as broad a coverage of each variable as possible). In a study by Gardner
& Smythe (1975a), factor analysis revealed that French achievement correlated
significantly with some attitude and motivation measures. A follow up study
revealed that the internal consistency reliability of the derived scales was
generally good for all measures and that ability and affective factors were
responsible for individual differences in achievement in a second language.
Later research focused on investigating the relation of measures of language
aptitude and affective factors to measures of achievement in French across
Canada. The results demonstrated that motivation and aptitude correlated highly
with achievement. In the final section, termed “Modern History”, Gardner
investigates the processes underlying the socio-educational model. A series of
hypotheses linked to the model are proposed and tested.

Chapter Three, “The Modern Age”, begins with a review of some research studies
that have been conducted by Gardner and his colleagues since 1991. Most of these
were undertaken in reaction to a suggestion by Crookes & Schmidt (1991) that a
new research agenda should be implemented which was more in line with mainstream
psychology and more teacher friendly. Gardner states, however, that he had in
fact been adhering to their newly proposed research ever since the model’s
inception. Consequently, the opening section of this chapter presents some
laboratory-based studies linking motivational variables to actual learning over
time, and some classroom-based studies looking at changes over the academic
year. This is followed by several studies involving structural equation modeling
that investigate aspects of the socio-educational model. Results from all of the
studies presented in the chapter confirm that there is a very consistent pattern
of relationships between measures based on the socio-educational model of second
language acquisition and that the model is very instructive in understanding the
process of learning another language. This is followed by an analysis of
alternative models that have been proposed by other researchers. These include
those proposed by Clément (1980), Dörnyei & Otto (1998), Noels (2001) and Czizér
& Dörnyei (2005). Gardner suggests that none of the models make predictions that
are at odds with any of the other models and are, thus, all essentially in
agreement with the socio-educational model.

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

In the following section, the five constructs of the socio-educational model are
explained in greater detail. Integrative motivation is also discussed and
defined as being the aggregate of integrativeness, attitudes towards the
learning situation, and motivation. The point is made by Gardner that the model
was designed in the interest of parsimony, and he freely accepts that there
could very well be other variables that might have a direct effect on language
achievement. However, according to him, the model identifies the primary
characteristics of integrative motivation. The chapter concludes with an
examination of some hypotheses that follow from the model. Gardner notes that a
major advantage of the socio-educational model over other models is the
availability of a measuring instrument (i.e. the AMTB) to examine the underlying
variables and constructs, and the hypotheses that flow from the model.

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

Chapter Six, “Attitudes, motivation, and language anxiety in an EFL European
context”, extends the research associated with the socio-educational model
beyond the confines of the Canadian context. This was undertaken in response to
criticism by some researchers that the model was solely appropriate for a
bilingual country, such as Canada. Consequently, much of the research in this
chapter discusses the applicability of the socio-educational model in a European
foreign learning context. A detailed analysis of a large study undertaken with
several grades of Spanish secondary school students is presented. This study
essentially confirmed that the AMTB findings obtained in Canada are also
applicable to a foreign language learning context. Gardner also underlines the
fact that affective variables are likely to change during the language course,
depending on the students’ prior level of attitudes, motivation, language
anxiety, and language achievement. Furthermore, for students low in anxiety,
final grades increase substantially with increases in motivation. However, for
students with high levels of anxiety, increases in motivation have a much
smaller 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 contexts
around the world when the foreign language is a global one, rather than a
clearly identifiable official second language, such as French in the Canadian
context. Attention is given to describing some earlier research that analysed
samples of students in six countries throughout the world where English is
taught as a foreign language. Gardner specifically focused on assessing the
reliability of the 12 scales from the AMTB. Results indicated that the
International AMTB demonstrates substantial internal consistency reliability
from country to country. Discussion is also given to analysing the factor
structure of the 12 scales. Here, once again, there was seen to be general
consistency in all of the samples investigated. The focus then turns to
investigating the correlation between integrative motivation and measures of
achievement in the six countries. Results indicated that the correlations were
all significant and generally substantial. The chapter concludes with some
discussion regarding the mediating effects of motivation. The model, according
to Gardner, does not predict direct paths between either integrativeness or
attitudes towards the learning situation and language achievement. Results
clearly support this hypothesis by demonstrating that the predictive value of
integrativeness and attitudes towards the learning situation are due to the
mediating effects of motivation.

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

In the concluding “Epilogue”, Gardner briefly summarises some of the earlier
points discussed throughout the book. He once again underlines the point that it
is the strength of motivation that matters in second language learning and not
the type of motivation. He argues that motivation is a broad-based construct,
and that motivation comes from within the student. Consequently, although
teachers can maintain and promote a student’s motivation, they are unable to
motivate the student. Gardner then illustrates some underlying issues associated
with the socio-educational model. This is essentially an opportunity for him to
reply to a number of comments and criticisms that have been made about the model
and its associated research. Some criticisms that have been targeted at the
model are as follows: there is a conceptual gap between motivational thinking in
the second language field and in educational psychology (Dörnyei, 2005); the
research findings are inconsistent (Au, 1988; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991); the
socio-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 criticisms
and comments are unjustified, and are generally seen to be based on
misinterpretation 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 of
information into only 226 pages. Thus, my immediate reaction upon completing the
book was the sheer quantity of significant points that I had highlighted during
my reading. Having been faced with the unenviable task of summarising over fifty
years of research and ensuring the socio-educational model remains relevant in
modern second language research, Gardner has produced a fitting contribution to
the field of second language research.

The book is well written and complex points and studies are discussed in an
extremely comprehensible manner, thus ensuring that the reader never becomes
bogged down with unclear terminology and statistical references. Gardner’s
decision to delay any kind of presentation of the stages of the
socio-educational model, until the reader is fully aware of the model’s
evolution and the concepts behind the model, is much appreciated. Chapter One is
particularly helpful, therefore, for those readers who are less familiar with
research on motivation. Many of the key concepts explored in the book are
clearly defined here, thus ensuring that the reader is set up nicely for more
in-depth discussion in the subsequent chapters. Furthermore, splitting his
discussion of the historical evolution of the model (Chapter Two) into three
distinct time periods significantly helps clarify details of the model’s
development for the reader.

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

A pleasing feature of the book is Gardner’s full commitment to the model and the
magnanimous way he responds to what he feels are unjust criticisms of it. He
simply addresses their relevance to the socio-educational model and
wholeheartedly accepts that there may well be alternative ways of considering
the dynamics involved in learning a second language. Nevertheless, the reader is
left in no doubt that Gardner successfully deals with the various criticisms of
the model. This is predominantly due to the exhaustive research that Gardner has
undertaken on the model and the fact that so many of his studies in different
cultural 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 could
have different influences on individual students depending on their prior levels
of motivation, attitudes, language anxiety and language achievement would appear
to be particularly significant for those proposing techniques to motivate
students. In conclusion, therefore, I fully agree that this book is highly
recommended reading for any course on motivation in second language acquisition,
as well as for any researchers or graduate students in the field of motivation


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

Clément, R. (1980) Ethnicity, contact and communicative competence in a second
language. In H. Giles, W. P. Robinson, & P. M. Smith (Eds.), Language: Social
Psychological 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 learning
motivation and its relationship with language choice and learning effort. Modern
Language Journal, 89, 19-36.

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

Dörnyei, Z. & Otto, I. (1998) Motivation in action: A process model of L2
motivation. Working Papers in Applied Linguistics, 4, 43-69.

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

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

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,

Noels, K. A. (2001) New orientations in language learning motivation: Towards a
model of intrinsic, extrinsic, and integrative orientations and motivation. In
Z. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and Second Language Acquisition.
Honolulu, HI: The University of Hawaii, Second Language Teaching & Curriculum
Center, 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 Language
Teaching and Curriculum Center, 1-8.

Whyte, W. F. & Holmberg, A. R. (1956) Human problems of U.S. enterprise in Latin
America. 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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