In second language (L2) learning and teaching motivation has been considered one of the most influential variables (Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra, 2014). However, even if in the recent decade, a surge in motivational research can be observed, relatively few studies have been conducted on the motivation of young learners (Boo, Dörnyei and Ryan, 2015). In school settings, L2 students may display different attitudes towards distinct tasks, which in turn might affect the degree of their active engagement (Dörnyei and Kormos, 2000). As such, learners’ motivation can thus be viewed as situation-specific (Dörnyei, 2002; Dörnyei and Kormos, 2000), as it may vary on the basis of the task at hand. As a matter of fact, different tasks might affect the language learning experience of L2 learners (Dörnyei, 2003), and enjoyable and satisfying EFL classroom activities and tasks often result the most important motivating factors, especially among children (Nikolov, 1999). Nevertheless, in-depth research that focuses specifically on young learners’ motivation from a task-based perspective is still scarce (Muñoz, 2017).
The aim of the present study was to explore the motivational effects, beliefs and attitudes towards learning English as foreign language (EFL) in general and the dictogloss task in particular of a group of 64 Spanish young EFL learners (age range 11-12). The pupils worked on a different dictogloss task once a week during three weeks: first individually, then a week after they worked on the dictogloss task in pairs, and the week after they worked on it on their own again. The pupils were asked to fill in twice a motivation questionnaire based on Doiz, Lasagabaster and Sierra (2014) and Schmidt and Watanabe (2001) before the first time they performed the first dictogloss, and then after the last dictogloss task. The questionnaire consisted of 27 items (Likert-scale) with regard to pupils’ motivation and attitudes towards English, as well as their beliefs about L2 learning, the task itself (i.e. dictogloss), its usefulness in the improvement of their EFL skills, and their preferences for individual vs. pair work. There were additional 6 open-ended items in order to elicit what the pupils liked most/least of task they completed (dictogloss), individual and collaborative work.
The answers of the questionnaire were analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The qualitative analysis showed mixed findings for these learners’ attitudes towards the dictogloss task and working in pairs or on their own. The pupils systematically referred to both positive and negative sides of the task itself and working collaboratively vs. individually, although they exhibited a clear preference for the former. Overall, their attitudes towards English were positive and their motivation to learn it seems to consolidate while their anxiety levels lower. The findings of this study aim to provide primary school teachers with more insight about the role of motivation in the EFL classroom and how it may be affected by the different tasks.