Journal Article Re-examination of psychological needs and L2 motivation of Japanese EFL learners: An interview study.

AGAWA, Toshie  ,  TAKEUCHI, Osamu

89pp.74 - 98 , 2016-01 , Asian EFL Journal Press
The purposes of this study are to (a) re-examine the definitions of Japanese university EFL learners’ needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness and (b) make suggestions on improving a commonly used EFL learner questionnaire based on self-determination theory (SDT). The theory postulates that the more individuals’ innate psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are fulfilled, the more their behavior is intrinsically motivated. Many second language acquisition (SLA) researchers have applied the framework to the language-learning context, helping to shed light on L2 learners’ motivation. In studies of Japanese EFL learner motivation, one questionnaire (Hiromori, 2006a) has been widely used or adopted. Those studies yielded results both in line and out of line with the theory. This calls for a re-examination of the relationship between needs fulfillment and motivation and of the commonly used questionnaire. In this study, 18 Japanese university EFL learners participated in a semi-structured interview. The analysis of interview data showed that (i) whereas the fulfillment of autonomy - meaning freedom of choice - might motivate some L2 learners, it can demotivate others; (ii) a good relationship with the teacher might motivate learners while a good relationship with other classmates can have a positive or marginal impact on L2 motivation, depending on the learner; and (iii) competence needs satisfaction is most likely to motivate Japanese EFL learners. The results suggest three aspects that should be considered to improve the commonly used questionnaire in the Japanese EFL setting: (1) a redefinition of L2 learners’ autonomy needs; (2) an amendment of autonomy-related items based on the redefinition; and (3) the addition of items to gauge the teacher–student relationship. Studies similar to the current one should be conducted to test the applicability of a motivational questionnaire and SDT in various settings.

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