On 10 April 2017 Marwan Al-Yafi, College of Applied Sciences at Salalah, Oman, spoke at the IMPROVING TEACHING QUALITY 1 held at ROTANA RESORT, SALALAH. The English Language Center at Salalah College of Technology, under the guidance of Mr. Saeed Al-Mashikhi, Head of the ELC and the Chairman of the Steering Committee, had organized a workshop at Salalah Rotana Resort entitled “Improving Teaching Quality1”.
This was the first symposium organized by the ELC, and it aimed to continuously advance the teaching and learning process by addressing staff professional needs which are aligned with staff self – appraisals. The primary goals of these symposiums and conferences are to provide educators, academic administrators, and academics with opportunities to share ideas, reflect on their day-to-day teaching practices and exchange knowledge and experiences in the field in a stimulating professional environment.
Marwan Al-Yafi spoke on his doctoral research concerning the role of motivation in student achievement in Dhofar over the prior 3 academic calendar years at college level.
Summarized by Kevin Stoda
How motivated are our students?
This research sought to move past the stereotypes and opinions of teachers and academics or administrators, i.e. those concerned already for decades about the role that student motivation plays in language acquisition or achievement in language classes and on exams. Is there really a strong relationship between student motivation and achievement? If so, which type of motivation has the most influence? Marwan Al-Yafi explained, “I sought to disprove the null hypothesis, i.e. that student motivation has no correlation to student achievement.”
Method: Over a three-year period, a great percentage of Foundation-Program level students were surveyed at the start of each college year, i.e. every September– first at Dhofar University and later at the College of Applied Sciences in Salalah. In both locations, 59% of the students in the target population were surveyed in order to find their levels of overall motivation towards the Foundation-Program level content, namely the content of English.
Fifteen questions were presented with student participants’ replies to be considered by in the survey on a 7-point Likert Scale. The first 5 questions focused on students’ general attitude towards the content of English and attitudes toward learning English in a classroom situation. Included in these types of questions were statements of this nature: (1) I really enjoy the English Language, & (2) My language class is challenging.
The second group of 5 questions or statements concerned instrumental motivations for learning. Examples included were (3) I will study in order to get high marks because I need it for my career.
Meanwhile, the last 5 statements or questions were concerned determining to what degree these students identified with the L2 culture (or English speaking culture). Questions included in this section focused on the students’ interests in acquiring English for entertainment purposes and for overall lifestyle interests related to learning about others cultures (i.e. cultures other than the student’s own Omani cultures).
SPSS data analysis was undertaken at the end of the year by adding results on students final exams in that term. These scores were then compared to the tallied results of key variables of motivation on the Likert Scales, which these same students had identified as their levels of interest earlier in the year. In the September surveys, 80% of the students claimed to have strong motivations for studying and doing well in English. The results for both the surveyed girls and boys were nearly identical. In fact, despite there being more female than male students taking part in the surveys in both colleges’ foundations programs, there was no statistical evidence found that girls were more motivated overall than boys to learn or acquire English.
Concerning the effect of any intrinsic level of motivation upon achievement in the final SPSS runs of the data (referring to the second five questions on the survey), there was found to be statistically no intrinsic motivational relationship (Spearman’s ratio) discovered between those students with high marks on exams or courses and their recorded level of motivation to acquire or to learn English at the beginning of the calendar year of the programs in foundations. In fact, many students who had recorded high levels of intrinsic motivation in September of the calendar year had later shown lower marks than many of their peers. In short, the null hypothesis stood.
Concerning the last 5 survey questions from September, whereby the focus was on the integrative level of motivation for each student, the null hypothesis stood again at the end of the calendar years for the students who were surveyed and tested. In other words, even among those students who felt special desire to allow themselves to become more and more part of some identified English-speaking culture, there was no correlation between their desires and their final achievements in the English foundation programs. 
Finally, the level of general interest in learning English was also looked into through statistical analysis. (Recall that general interest means that the students are motivated to do well in English class regardless as to whether the course is challenging, interesting or easy.) Again there seemed to be little relationship between any general level of motivation to acquiring English in a classroom (or possibly desiring to do well in any academic setting.)
As a whole, incoming Omani students in foundations level programs in Dhofar have claimed as a whole that they have a high motivation to learn and do well in English. However, the surveys at these two particular colleges do not demonstrate that the Omani students surveyed as having significantly high levels of motivations than their peers internationally. Likewise, in all three areas or types of motivation observed in this in this study, Omani students’ motivational levels were reported to be strong. Nonetheless, there was found to be no clear influence from motivation on achievement.
Levels of intrinsic motivation were the highest level among the three types of motivation surveyed and studied among these Dhofari students. Further research is decidedly needed, however, the current study’s findings have demonstrated no clear relationship between even intrinsic motivation and final student achievement in coursework or on exams. In short, as a strong independent variable, the level of a student’s initial motivation has
In short, as a strong independent variable, the level of any student’s initial motivation has poor-to-no correlation to final achievement in English as an area of study at these foundation programs. On the other hand, motivation might well have a positive effect if studied in conjunction with other variables. Nonetheless, however, by itself, motivation is found to be fairly wanting, i.e as a key to academic success.
In other words, motivation may have an indirect effect but that requires further study. Other variables must be looked at as being keys to success.
On the other hand, lack of motivation may have a strong negative effective, i.e. in terms of students dropping out or never even going to attend college than was to be found withing the scope of this and of other similar studies. Therefore, we still likely need to motivate students to show up for class and to participate.
To keep them in the classroom and to keep them studying (or striving) we–as educators–likely must provide motivating assignments, motivating activities and offer opportunities to learn through technology or through other great teaching techniques.
Specifically concerning those students who demonstrate a high level of integrative motivation, fairly communicative tasks are warranted most of the time. Educational excursions and experiential learning outside-the-classroom will also be appropriate for harnessing motivation and increasing student’s time spent engaged with English.
Finally, Marwan Al-Yafi noted that, in view of the appeal of foreign cultures to some Omani students, it certainly would be logical that colleges, schools, and universities be prepared to hire more native English speakers on their staff’s. This is because many students do have high levels of integrative motivation.
 I am an adult learner of many foreign languages–having worked taught and studied in nearly a dozen lands over a thirty-five year period. I have acquired German and Spanish at high intermediate to advanced levels. However, first, in my attempts to in acquire Japanese and later in attempting to acquire Arabic, I have had equal motivation for doing so. Alas, like the students in this survey,
Alas, like the majority students in this survey, my acquisition of Arabic and Japanese remain much much lower than for other languages (for which I appear to have aptitude), like German, Spanish,–and even French. For example, I have had many more language “classroom contact hours” in learning Arabic than I ever had in learning French. However, my French speaking and reading abilities are still significantly higher than myArabic reading and speaking achievements.
In short, by itself, motivation appears to have little-to-no value in terms of acquisition of the target language. It can only be supportive to other elements that have much greater effect on L2 achievement.