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Student motivation in an online language exchange

What is the project about?

  • Students from French IV were paired with intermediate English students in France
  • French IV students wrote to intermediate English correspondents in French, while the intermediate English students practiced writing in English
  • Students wrote to each other through shared Google docs
  • The goal was to see if this online language exchange increased students' intrinsic motivation

Motivation and self-determination theory

  • To determine if students' intrinsic motivation increased, I used the self-determination theory as my framework
  • According to self-determination theory, the psychological needs of competency, relevancy, and autonomy must be fulfilled for someone to be intrinsically motivated
  • Competency: a person in appropriately challenged and feels effective
  • Relevancy: a person feels connected to the community and the goal is integrated into the person's ideal self
  • Autonomy: a person feels as though it is the choice of the individual to complete the goal or task
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Research Questions

Preliminary Results

To answer my research questions, students completed pre/post tests and wrote reflections about the process. I also analyzed word counts of students' correspondances with their French partner.

  • Competency: Students stated that they benefitted from focusing on communication (rather than grammatical perfection) with a person abroad, and many realized that communication across languages is feasible and rewarding.
  • Relevancy: Students conveyed that they enjoyed being able to apply French skills in a real world context and outside of school.
  • Autonomy: Students expressed desire to continue writing to their partners in French.
  • Overall, students seemed to have growth in their intrinsic motivation to study French.

Student Quotes

"It was very helpful to be able to talk with our correspondents with our main focus being communication rather than perfect grammar and such. I feel as though I have improved greatly."
"The language exchange was so much fun! I loved practicing French outside of school and being able to talk to a real French person! I will definitely continue to talk to her because I feel that I improve my French with every e-mail I write to her."
"I loved being able to speak to someone who has such different life experiences that me. We have different languages and different likes and dislikes but we're stil able to get our point across and that was really cool for me."