Motivational strategies of Mandarin classrooms in England: A multiple case studies

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The paper is a classroom-based research on motivational strategies implemented by Mandarin teachers in secondary schools in England. There has been an increasing demand for learning Mandarin in secondary schools. In 2016, there were 3500 entries for Mandarin GCSE, representing a 70% increase since 2008. The Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP), funded by the Department of Education and launched by the British Council in partnership with the UCL Institute of Education, has further increased such learning demand. The MEP is expected to meet the goal of having 5,000 young people fluent in Mandarin by 2020. Yet, such an increasingly large scale of Mandarin teaching is a relatively new phenomenon in England and has not well researched. Research has clearly suggested that motivation is the key for English pupils to study Modern Foreign Languages (MFLs) (Coleman, Galaczi & Astruc, 2007). More importantly, how young non-native learners of Chinese best learn the language is not given enough consideration (Carruthers, 2012). The current study aims to address these needs by studying teaching and learning of Mandarin in England, with a focus on the role played by motivation.
While considerable research has been conducted on motivational strategies of teachers in teaching English as a lingua franca, little attention has been paid to learning MFLs. Also, most of the existing literature was informed by self-report studies of teachers with no further exploration of how and why teachers developed specific motivational strategies according to the characteristics of that language and learners. Importantly, what attitudes students hold in the language classrooms and what motivational strategies are valuable to students remain unclear. Hence, a thorough understanding of the connections among teachers, language, motivational strategies and learners deserves further exploration, particularly in the under-researched Mandarin context in England.
Dörnyei’s (2007) motivational strategies model is adopted to guide the present study. Dörnyei (2007) proposed a dynamic motivational strategies model to link between motivation theories to pedagogy, and such model has four phases: 1) Creating the basic motivation; 2) Generating initial motivation; 3) Maintaining and protecting motivation; and 4) Encouraging positive self-evaluation. The current study specifically focused on phase 3) Maintaining and protecting motivation in Dörnyei’s (2007) model because the literature has repeatedly identified continuation has always been the main concern of learning a foreign language. The research questions are as follows: 1) What are the motivational strategies implemented by the Mandarin teachers in GCSE classrooms? 2) How do the practices of the teachers maintain the motivation of the students?
Four schools in England including two academies, one comprehensive and one independent school participated in the research. Seven Mandarin teachers were interviewed, with native and non-native Chinese speakers, which aimed to explore how the teachers maintain the motivation of learning Mandarin in students. Complementary to the teachers’ interviews, 26 lesson observations were conducted in Year 10 and Year 11 to examine the implementation of motivational strategies as well as students’ behaviors. The study also included 156 students’ questionnaires and eight focus groups which aimed to understand the attitudes and experiences of students in learning Mandarin at GCSE level.
This paper focuses on the findings of motivation strategies from the teachers’ interviews and classroom observations. It is found that Mandarin teachers developed teaching strategies according to the distinctive features of Mandarin as a non-alphabet language for the learners, and the differences between English and Mandarin provides a platform for the teachers to be creative in teaching the language, and to integrate cultural elements which enhance and sustain the motivation of the GCSE Mandarin students. It is hoped that the research can contribute to the understanding of the role played by motivation in teaching and learning Mandarin, and to inform the 2020 Mandarin Excellence Programme (MEP) with the classroom-based evidence. Copyright © 2018 BERA.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018
EventBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2018 - Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Sept 201813 Sept 2018


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleBERA 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Lam, S. (2018, September). Motivational strategies of Mandarin classrooms in England: A multiple case studies. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Annual Conference, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK.


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