Effects of tutoring discourse structure on motivation among university foreign language learners
Matthews, Paul Harvey
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While a good deal of foreign language (FL) instruction takes place in the context of individual tutoring, few studies have investigated tutors' instructional discourse. One- onone tutoring is believed to be a powerful site for affecting learner motivation but empirical evidence is sparse. Indeed, recent calls to broaden constructs of motivation in FL research are largely yet unheeded. In the present study, 29 students seeking initial, one-on-one university-level FL tutoring sessions and 262 FL students who had never sought college level tutoring were assessed for performance goal and mastery goal orientations toward achievement, achievement task values, and self-efficacy for FL learning. Discriminant analysis on motivational, demographic, and educational characteristics determined that tutees had lower overall grade point averages but higher mastery and performance goal orientations than classroom students. Tutees' pre- to post- tutoring self-efficacy for FL learning was measured, and a statistically significant mean improvement was found. Next, four sessions with the most marked gains in self-efficacy were compared with the four sessions with the most marked decreases in self-efficacy. Structural characteristics (session length, overlapped speech, tutor verbosity) and discourse features (language choice, global session function, FL rules, examples, questions, attributions, characterizations of the FL, and tutor admissions of lack of FL knowledge and of FL error) were compared between motivationally effective and ineffective tutoring sessions. Generally, successful sessions were shorter and had less overlapped speech. Discourse in successful sessions characterized the FL as regular by focusing on FL rules, deep explanation rather than superficial correction of tutee work, positive statements about the FL, and fewer admissions of tutor error. In neither group of sessions was the FL used as the vehicle for instruction. Tutor examples and explicit attributions about tutee success did not differentiate effective from ineffective sessions in this study, though previous research on tutoring had suggested they would.
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