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Individual Learner Differences In Second Language Acquisition Education Essay

1. Introduction

The actuality that adequacy levels accomplished by additional accent learners alter so abundantly (Lightbown and Spada, 2006: 53), raises an arresting catechism with commendations to additional accent accretion (SLA), why are some individuals bigger at accepting accent than others? A above acumen for this aberration in L2 adeptness levels is frequently attributed to alone abecedarian differences (ILDs), (Dörnyei, 2005: 2).

This article sets out to explain the important role that ILDs comedy in SLA, through an all-embracing altercation on the accession fabricated by L2 motivation. Three affecting theories alms altered perspectives on L2 motivation: the Socio-educational model, freedom access and the Action archetypal will be discussed in detail. I will additionally attending at the abstract accouterment currently demography abode in L2 action research, afore absolute with a altercation on the strategies that agents can use to instil and breeding action in their students.

2. Role of ILDs in SLA

Individual differences are altered acquirements characteristics which are present in all learners to capricious degrees. They can advice to analyze acquirements needs and analyze the admeasurement to which learners will accomplish in accepting a additional accent (Lightbown and Spada, 2006). These differences are social, cerebral and melancholia in nature, and accommodate aptitude, motivation, age, personality, acquirements strategies, acquirements styles and all-overs (for abundant reviews, see for example, Naiman et al 1995; Skehan 1989; Dörnyei 2005).

Their appliance to accent adeptness has fabricated ILDs, a focus of ample absorption in SLA assay (Dörnyei, 2005). Developments in research, abnormally in affiliation to bent and motivation, has apparent a about-face from a product-orientated access to a added process-orientated attitude (ibid: 6). Contempo studies accept accent the accent of the banausic attributes and situational ambience of abecedarian characteristics (Dörnyei, 2009). Accepted arguments however, accept adapted that rather than actuality caked variables, ILDs are circuitous attributes consisting of a aggregate of sub-components and sub-processes (ibid). All ILDs are alive in accent learning, about they do not action in abreast and some alike accept elements in accepted (Gardner, 2008).

A attending at some of the affecting theories which accept emerged from assay on L2 action over the aftermost fifty years will advice to explain the circuitous role that ILDs can comedy in the accent acquirements process.

3. L2 Motivation

Motivation is a learners’ acclimatization appear acquirements goals (Gardner, 1985), and is admired by abounding as the best affecting ILD in the accent acquirements action (Ellis, 1985). Therefore its appliance to the classroom ambiance becomes evident, and to apperceive what drives this action is of abundant bookish interest.

Many of the abecedarian characteristics circuitous in the SLA action are abased on, and in some cases absolutely overridden by action (Gardner, 2006). A abecedarian with a accustomed bent for acquirements languages, for example, may accretion it difficult to attain abiding accent goals after the all-important action (ibid). On the alternative hand, aerial levels of action may advance to acknowledged learning, alike breadth little bent exists for accent (ibid).

Theories attractive to explain the role of action in accent acquirements accept acquired through four capital stages. Dörnyei (2005) categorises these as: the Amusing Psychological aeon (1959-1990); the Cognitive-Situated aeon (1990’s); the Process-orientated date (late 1990’s); and assuredly a aeon (last decade) consisting of new approaches that accept focused on a learners faculty of self-identity. Table 1 summarises the capital L2 action theories and concepts.

3.1. The Amusing Psychological access to L2 motivation

Interest in L2 action was accomplished by amusing psychologists Wallace Lambert, Robert Gardner and assembly as aboriginal as 1959, attractive to accept the accent and cultural

Approach to motivation



Socio-educational model, (Gardner, 1985).

Key concepts: Commutual motivation, Integrativeness, commutual orientation.

Theory of Linguistic self-confidence, (Clement, 1986).

Key concepts: Aplomb – a self-belief of accepting the adeptness to administer the acquirements process.

Cognitive – Situated

Self-determination theory, (Brown, 1994; Noels et al., 2000).

Key concepts: intrinsic/extrinsic motivation, amotivation.

Attribution theory, (Weiner, 1992).

Key concepts: advertence accomplished success or abortion to accepted actions.

Goal ambience theory, (Oxford and Shearin, 1994).

Key concepts: Cerebral acumen of goals as a melancholia factor.

Goal acclimatization theory, (Ames, 1992).

Key concepts: Ambition adeptness andperformance orientations.

Motivation and abecedarian action use, (Oxford and Nyikos; 1989, Macintyre et al., 1996).

Key concepts: Action as a key agency in aesthetic action use.

Task Motivation, (Julkunen, 2001; Dornyei, 2003).

Key concepts: assignment execution, appraisal, action control.

Mixed approach

i. Alertness to communicate, (Macintyre et al., 1998, 2003).

Key concepts: Alertness to acquaint as a key agency for achieving

communicative competency.


Process model, (Dornyei and Otto, 1998; Dornyei, 2001b).

Key concepts: banausic attributes of motivation, which includes a preactional/actional/postactional stage.

Current and future

L2 motivational cocky system, (Dornyei, 2005).

Key concepts: ideal L2 self, ought-to L2 self.

Complex activating systems, (Larsen-Freeman, 2007).

Key concepts: amalgam altered abstract perspectives.

Table 1. Some of the altered approaches acclimated in L2 action research

conflicts amid English and French speaking communities in Canada. Their assay adopted a socio-psychological approach, based on the axial abstraction that a learner’s success in accepting a additional accent is dictated by an attitude appear the ambition accent association (Gardner, 1985). Their assay on acceptance acquirements French showed that bent and action are anxiously associated with adeptness in accent acquirements (ibid). They assured that action is characterised by an individual’s alertness to be like associates of the ambition association (ibid).

A archetypal based on a socio-psychological access that has been absolute affecting in L2 action assay is Gardner’s socio-educational archetypal (see for example, Gardner and Lambert, 1972; Gardner, 1985; Gardner and MacIntyre, 1991). The best contempo adaptation of this archetypal is apparent in amount 1.


Other Factors

(for example, Acquirements strategies, accent ANXIETY (Gardner, 2001))

Other Support






Figure 1. A basal archetypal of the role of action in SLA (adapted from Gardner (2001b)).

The best busy and researched aspect of Gardner’s archetypal is ‘integrative motivation’, which he defines as the action to apprentice a L2 because of a absolute attitude towards, and a admiration to accommodate with that association (Gardner, 2001b). The three variables that aggregate commutual action are (ibid):

Integrativeness – this represents a admiration to apprentice a additional accent to analyze with the ambition community, and is reflected in a learner’s behaviour through the following:

An commutual orientation, apery the acumen for learning, which in this case is an absorption in acquirements an L2 to collaborate with the ambition community.

A absolute attitude appear the ambition accent group.

An absorption in adopted languages or a accepted artlessness to all accent groups.

Attitudes appear the acquirements bearings (ATLS) – this refers to attitudes appear the accent teacher, the advance in general, the advance abstracts and alternative factors accompanying to the acquirements context.

Motivation – this is a learner’s ambition apprenticed behaviour. A motivated learner: makes a concerted adeptness to apprentice a language, for archetype by accomplishing added assignment and gluttonous added acquirements opportunities, displays a able admiration to apprentice a accent and is focused on accomplishing the goal, enjoys acquirements and has an all-embracing absolute attitude appear the acquirements process.

An integratively motivated abecedarian is therefore: motivated to apprentice a additional language, agog to collaborate and be associated with the ambition community, and has a absolute angle on the acquirements situation. To sustain constant levels of motivation, integrativeness and/or a absolute ATLS are capital characteristics, however, it is the action aspect of the ‘Integrative Motivation’ circuitous that is the alive capricious and which anon influences ‘Language Achievement’ (Gardner, 2001b: 6). Therefore, a abecedarian who has a aerial akin of integrativeness and/or a absolute attitude appear learning, but is low in action is absurd to accomplish aerial levels of proficiency.

The affect of active factors on L2 action was not included in Gardner’s amount theory, but he suggests that they could be one of the ‘other supports’ affecting action (Gardner, 2001a: 7). Based on this, it is accessible to acting integrativeness with action in the representation of the archetypal in amount 1, to accord what Gardner calls ‘Instrumental Motivation’ (ibid). This is a action to apprentice a L2 for active gains, such as bigger appliance or education. An instrumentally motivated abecedarian has specific candid needs, which accommodate a purpose for acquirements and an catalyst for acknowledged accent accretion (Gardner and Lambert, 1972).

Gardner’s archetypal makes little advertence to alternative attributes, for example, claimed aspirations and accomplished experiences, which could affect an integratively motivated learner. However, empiric assay in altered contexts is continuously bringing to ablaze the achievability of including added factors in the accepted L2 motivational construct. To assay Gardner’s archetypal for adaptability, Tremblay and Gardner (1995) chip alternative abstracts of motivation, such as all-overs and goal-setting strategies. Empiric testing of the continued archetypal showed that accession of the added variables did not affect the anatomy of the aboriginal archetypal (ibid).

Research on action in altered ambience has led some activated linguists to advance the angle of the accent association associated with commutual action is bottomless for all-embracing learners of English (Ushioda and Dörnyei, 2009). In a multi-lingual association like China, for example, few opportunities abide for interacting with built-in English communities. In such a context, active action or alien factors (for example, exams and employment) are added accustomed amid learners than a admiration for amalgam with built-in speakers of English (Warden and Lin, 2008).

For this reason, alternative advisers accept adapted that the commutual assemble should at atomic be re-examined by including the all-around L2 acquirements ambience and the multi-dimensionality of a learner’s identity. Dörnyei and Csizer, (2002) adapted that rather than anecdotic with an alien accent community, the commutual abstraction could be added accurately affiliated to a learner’s centralized action of identification with a self-concept. Dörnyei’s (2005) motivational self-system which developed from this abstraction is discussed in breadth 3.4.

3.2. Self-Determination Access and SLA

Influenced by advances in motivational psychology, and a charge to accept the classroom-situated attributes of motivation, L2 assay confused on from a socio-psychological approach, to attending at affects of classroom-situated factors on motivation.

Self-determination access (SDT) is a awful affecting access in motivational psychology, and several studies accept attempted to absorb some of its apparatus to explain L2 action (for example, Brown, 1994; Noels et al., 2000).

According to this access there are three types of abecedarian motivations: built-in motivation, acquired motivation, and amotivation (Deci and Ryan, 2002). These motivations anatomy a continuum depending on the amount of abecedarian self-determination, breadth freedom is as an individual’s faculty of best and ascendancy over the acquirements action (ibid).

Intrinsic Action (IM) refers to an individual’s action to undertake an activity, absolutely for claimed animosity of amusement and amusement associated with that activity, and is apprenticed by a admiration for adequacy and freedom (Noel et al., 2000). Intrinsically motivated acceptance are advised added acceptable to accomplish autonomy, adequacy and fulfil abiding accent goals (Ramage, 1990).

Extrinsic action (EM), on the alternative hand, relates to accomplishments agitated out for: active gains, in chase for accolade or to abstain abuse (Noels et al., 2000). This action can alter in amount depending on the admeasurement to which the action is controlled by the abecedarian or alternative variables (Deci and Ryan, 2002).

Vallerand et al., (1993) accept adapted six subtypes of IM and EM which lie on a continuum of freedom (see table 2).

Noels (2001) suggests that L2 abecedarian action can be adjourned appliance the built-in and acquired constructs. These motivations however, do not necessarily accept to be exclusive, for example, a abecedarian whose behaviour is constant with ‘identified regulation’ may additionally display some of the adjoining motivations on the continuum (ibid).


Type of Motivation




Intrinsic Action to know

Performing an action for the amusement associated with acquirements or exploring new knowledge. E.g., back account a new book.

Intrinsic Action to accomplish

Performing an action for the amusement associated with accomplishing or creating something. E.g., a apprentice accomplishing added appointment than is required.

Intrinsic Action to acquaintance stimulation

Performing an action for the angry sensations (e.g. amusement and excitement) associated with assurance with the activity. E.g., a apprentice who goes to chic for the amusement of accommodating in discussions.

Extrinsic Action – Articular Regulation

Extrinsic action is internalised to the admeasurement that abecedarian behaviour is acclimatized by a faculty of amount and account of the action to the self. E.g., a apprentice who studies the night afore an assay because they anticipate it is important to them.

Extrinsic Action – Introjected Regulation

Learner behaviour is acclimatized by internalisation of accomplished alien means. E.g., belief the night afore an assay because it is accepted of a acceptable student.

Extrinsic Action – Alien Regulation

Learner behaviour is acclimatized absolutely by alien agency (rewards or constraints) – assuming the atomic self-determined anatomy of acquired motivation. E.g., Belief the night afore an assay because of burden from parents.


A abridgement of acquired and built-in motivation. A abecedarian feels their behaviour is acclimatized by factors out of their control, and may eventually bead out of the acquirements process.

Table 2. Accent Acquirements Acclimatization Scale: Built-in Motivation, Acquired Action and Amotivation (adapted from Vallerand et al., (1993)).

Intrinsic action is characterised by a able faculty of self-determination, and is anxiously associated with commutual action (Noels, 2001). This suggests that acceptance acquirements a accent for amusement may additionally be gluttonous alternation with the L2 community. Built-in action however, is articular added with attitudes appear learning, than the ambition association (ibid: 54).

The amusing ambiance (for example, the teacher, ancestors associates and the L2 community) has ample access on a student’s acumen of self-determination. A abecedary plays a cogent role in this regard, and can advance built-in action by auspicious abecedarian freedom and accouterment absolute acknowledgment (Noels, 2000: 55). Similarly, acceptance acquirements for built-in affidavit are added acute to the teacher’s advisory appearance (ibid).

In contrast, the beneath self-determined alien adjustment basal of acquired action is affiliated to active behaviour (Noels, 2001: 53). A limitation of acquired behaviour is that it can accept concise characteristics. A abstraction agitated out by Ramage (1990) showed that acceptance who learnt a accent for bookish affidavit are added acceptable to abandon approaching accent classes. Acquired advance pressures, for example, compulsatory reading, can additionally abnormally affect a learner’s built-in interests (Dörnyei, 1994a).

3.3. A Process-orientated access to motivation

Dörnyei and Otto’s (1998) action archetypal of action integrates assorted abstract perspectives of L2 motivation, and draws absorption to the banausic attributes of action in classroom learning. The archetypal is afflicted by Heckhausen and Kuhl’s Action ascendancy theory, which proposes two consecutive phases of motivational behaviour: an individual’s action to anatomy an attention, and a action to admit and sustain the advised action (Heckhausen, 1991).

Dörnyei and Otto’s archetypal break bottomward the motivational action into three banausic phases. The aboriginal relates to the transformation of antecedent desires to goals, and again intentions. The abutting sees these intentions actuality enacted, arch to the successful/unsuccessful adeptness of goals, and the final appearance is an all-embracing appraisement of the acquirements action (see amount 2).

Preactional Stage

(Choice Motivation)

Motivational Functions: accomplish action to baddest a goal; anatomy an ambition to act; baddest an action plan to achieve the intention.

Possible factors influencing motivation: ambition properties; attitude appear the acquirements process; attitude appear the ambition community; acumen of self-ability; amusing ecology advance or discouragement.

Actional Stage

(Executive Motivation)

Motivational Functions: backpack out sub-tasks to advance motivation; advancing appraisement of achievement; action ascendancy (self-regulation to advice persevere with learning).

Possible factors influencing motivation: affection of the acquirements experience; amount of autonomy; teacher, abecedarian accumulation and ancestors influence/support; classroom anatomy (competitive or co-operative); adeptness and adeptness to use self-motivating, goal-setting and acquirements strategies.

Postactional Stage

(Motivational Retrospection)

Motivational Functions: aspect affidavit to success or failure; busy centralized standards and action-specific strategies; abolish aboriginal ambition and added planning.

Possible factors influencing motivation: claimed allegation style; self-confidence; feedback.

Figure 2. Action archetypal of L2 acquirements action (adapted from Dornyei, (2003: 19)).

An important affirmation fabricated by the process-orientated archetypal is that motivational behaviour is afflicted by altered factors. Consequently, altered theories of action can be associated with anniversary appearance (Dörnyei, 2003: 18). Integrativeness, for example, may be the motivational access on ambition ambience in the preactional stage. In the controlling phase, anchored aspects of action comedy a greater role, mechanisms of the assignment processing arrangement are added accordant actuality (Dörnyei, 2003). The attendant links that learners accomplish amid the aboriginal ambition and absolute adeptness in the post-actional date are acceptable to be attributed to accomplished acquirements experiences, a motivational behaviour addressed by Weiner (1992) in the allegation theory.

Two aspects that the archetypal overlooks are: the achievability of several actional processes active concurrently, or an actional action with assorted motivational influences (Dörnyei, 2003). This is acceptable in a academy setting, breadth acceptance generally accept assorted goals (for example, amusing and academic) and overlapping motivational influences (for example, task, advance or class related) (ibid). The archetypal assumes that the actional processes accept authentic boundaries, about in an educational ambience it may be difficult to analyze breadth one actional action starts and the abutting begins.

3.4. Present and future: The motivational self-system and a Activating systems approach.

Since the socio-psychological aeon of action research, the all-around absoluteness of English has afflicted immensely. The accelerated globalisation of English has challenged the authority of abounding SLA theories (Kachru, 1988), because these theories abort to accede the ambience of the apple Englishes abecedarian (Sridhar and Sridhar, 1992).

With bound or no acquaintance opportunities with the built-in ambition community, the angle of a ‘self-concept’ (referring to an individual’s images and cognitions of the self) adapted by Dörnyei and Csizer (2002), is possibly a added accordant motivational affection in abounding EFL contexts. Dörnyei developed this abstraction further, in his L2 motivational self-system, which equated integrativeness with an ‘ideal L2 self’ (Dörnyei, 2005; 2010). The capital components

of this arrangement are: (Dörnyei, 2010)

‘Ideal L2 Self’ – a L2-specific angel of the attributes that one would like to possess. For example, hopes, desires, aspirations.

‘Ought-to L2 Self’ – a self-guide which refers to those attributes one thinks one care to acquire to accommodated expectations and abstain abrogating outcomes.

‘L2 Acquirements Experience’ – this refers to the controlling motives (similar to those articular in the Action model) associated with the actual acquirements ambiance and experience. For example, appulse of the teacher, alternative learners, the course, the acquaintance of success.

The antecedent abaft the self-system is that a learners admiration to become a being accomplished in the L2, serves as a able melancholia force to apprentice a accent (Ushioda and Dörnyei, 2009: 3-4). A contempo abstraction in the Japanese ambience showed that this admiration represented by the ideal L2 cocky is agnate to the abstraction of integrativeness in Gardner’s socio-educational model, but the ideal L2 cocky is apparently added authentic in answer motivated behaviour (Ryan, 2009)

Dörnyei’s abstraction of agreement the ‘self’ at the centre of the conceptual role of action offers a new perspective, about it overlooks the process-orientated, and contextually activating attributes of motivation. Justifying this circuitous attributes of L2 motivation, can alone be accessible by amalgam added than one access (Macintyre et al., 2010).

A achievability of accumulation altered perspectives of action is adapted by Ushioda (2009) with her person-in-context, relational appearance of appearing motivation. She suggests that amalgam accordant abstract frameworks to abutment approaching assay of the circuitous attributes of interactional processes and contextual factors in motivational behaviour can advice to accommodate a bigger compassionate of how L2 action is shaped (ibid).

A agnate achievability is offered by the abstract paradigms of activating systems access (for a abundant review, see Larsen-Freeman and Cameron, 2008). This access involves a abstraction of systems, breadth the arrangement is analysed as a accomplished rather than as its alone genitalia (ibid). Abecedarian aberration is apparent as the aftereffect of a circuitous arrangement of accordant factors alive in unison, rather than as a aftereffect of differences in alone determinants (for example, bent or motivation) (Dörnyei, 2009). As an archetype of an appliance of a activating systems access to L2 learning, Dörnyei suggests the achievability of anecdotic an optimal aggregate of motivational, cerebral and melancholia factors with absorption to assignment behaviour, that action as an chip assemblage (for a abundant analysis see, ibid).

4. The activated amount of access – motivational strategies for the classroom

Chomsky (1988) emphasises the basal role played by agents in abecedarian action by suggesting that ninety nine per cent of teaching involves accepting acceptance absorbed in learning. A accent teacher’s motivational convenance is additionally affiliated anon to added levels of abecedarian action (Guilloteaux and Dörnyei, 2008). Therefore, the charge to use adapted strategies to administer classroom action is acutely accordant to L2 practitioners.

Motivational strategies are techniques acclimated by a abecedary to administer abecedarian motivation, or acclimated by alone learners to adapt their own action levels (Guilloteaux and Dörnyei, 2008). Although, several action strategies accept been proposed in L2 abstract (for example, Williams and Burden, 1997; Dörnyei, 2001a; Alison and Halliwell, 2002), absolute few are accurate by empiric evidence. Self-motivating strategies for learners are an alike beneath researched breadth of L2 action (Dörnyei, 2006).

An archetype of an elaborate, theory-based framework which looks at motivational strategies from both a abecedary and bacteria angle is proposed by Dörnyei (2001a). This archetypal consists of four phases (ibid):

Creating the basal motivational condition, by establishing a acceptable student-teacher relationship, a airy acquirements atmosphere and a adamant abecedarian group.

Generating antecedent action by:

Strengthening accent accompanying ethics and attitudes (intrinsic, commutual or active values).

Increasing the assumption of success.

Increasing goal-orientedness, for example, by authoritative learners acquainted of the activated (non-syllabus related) affidavit or amount of accomplishing an activity.

Making teaching abstracts relevant.

Creating astute abecedarian beliefs. Abounding new learners accept inaccurate behavior about accent learning, a realisation of their falseness can accept a demotivating influence.

Maintaining and attention motivation, to accumulate afterimage of goals, and advance absorption and concentration. The best accordant strategies in this appearance include:

Making the acquirements action aesthetic and interesting.

Presenting tasks in a melancholia manner, authoritative them aesthetic and relevant.

Setting specific abecedarian goals.

Preserving the learner’s self-esteem and announcement their self-confidence.

Creating abecedarian autonomy.

Promoting self-motivating abecedarian strategies in adjustment to:

Preserve the aboriginal ambition commitment, for example, by auspicious learners to bethink favourable expectations or absolute rewards.

Maintain concentration, for example, by auspicious learners to: analyze and administer distractions; and focus on the aboriginal accomplish to booty back alpha an activity.

Eliminate apathy and add added absorption in a task, for example, by assuming learners how to add a aberration to a assignment and appliance their acuteness to accomplish it added stimulating.

Manage confusing affections and accomplish a absolute affecting state, for example, by accepting acceptance to self-encourage and introducing them to alleviation techniques.

Remove abrogating and utilise absolute ecology influences, for example, by auspicious acceptance to abolish distractions and allurement for associate help.

Encouraging absolute attendant self-evaluation, by :

Promoting absolute abecedarian attributions (an abstraction accurate by the Allegation theory, Weiner, 1992)

Providing motivational feedback, that is advisory and encouraging. This can advice to access abecedarian accomplishment and self-confidence, and encourages effective self-reflection on weaknesses.

Using rewards and grades cautiously, as they can abstract the abecedarian from the absolute purpose of the assignment (Dörnyei, 2006:730). Back they are used, they should be offered in a motivational manner.

The best melancholia of agents are advised to be those who await on a few simple and anxiously called techniques (Dörnyei, 2006: 730-731). Therefore, accomplishing optimal levels of abecedarian action are added acceptable if motivational strategies are akin by a abecedary selectively, to learners’ specific needs.

5. Conclusion

This article discussed the cogent role that motivation, as an archetype of an ILD variable, plays in the continued and backbreaking assignment of additional accent acquisition. I presented three affecting theories that accept approached L2 action from altered perspectives, and looked at some of the accepted trends in motivational research. A attending at some accessible motivational strategies approved how abstract concepts can be activated to advance the affection of classroom learning.

The motivational characteristics of the L2 abecedarian highlight the circuitous but affecting role played by ILDs in SLA. Abounding of the variables circuitous in L2 action accept a amount of overlap, and collaborate both with anniversary alternative and alternative ILDs (Gardner, 2008). In adjustment to accept the accurate attributes of these webs of interactions and their affect on L2 achievement, the possibilities offered by a activating systems access is apparently the best way forward.

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