‘Motivating Learning’ by Jill Hadfield and Zoltán Dörnyei - Pearson

Reviewed by Danny Norrington-Davies

Motivation is often cited as a reason for success or failure in L2 learning and for many teachers motivating their learners is one of the toughest jobs they face. Though academic study has explored these issues in some depth, motivational strategies are rarely included in course designs and there have been few resources for the language classroom specifically designed to create and strengthen motivation. This is where Jill Hadfield and Zoltán Dörnyei’s ‘Motivating Learning’ comes in.

In 2005, Dörnyei proposed the L2 Motivational Self System, a construct he divided into three components; the Ideal L2 self, the Ought-to L2 self and the L2 Learning Experience. He claimed that “If the person we would like to become speaks an L2, the ideal L2 self is a powerful motivator to learn the L2” (2010). In short, if students have an inspiring vision of what they can become, they will be motivated to work towards achieving it. ‘Motivating Learning’ therefore explores how the various components of the theory can be structured into a teaching sequence which “puts the theory to the test by putting it into practice”. The result is a resource with practical activities and projects that teachers can use not only to motivate their learners but also to monitor and sustain that motivation.

As in previous books in the Research and Resources in Language Teaching series, part I reviews current research into the L2 Motivational Self system and discusses implications for classroom practice. In this section, the authors discuss how the motivational capacity of a learner’s vision is not automatic and will only become active once certain conditions are met. This leads the authors to propose a motivational programme divided into six components; creating the vision, strengthening the vision, substantiating the vision, operationalising the vision, keeping the vision alive and counterbalancing the vision.

These research outcomes feed into classroom practice in part II, which contains 98 practical activities. The first chapter, entitled ‘Imaging Identity: my future L2 self’ is designed to encourage learners to create and map visions of their L2 selves and to enable them to monitor and keep their visions alive. I particularly liked the authentic examples of L2 future-self texts which can be used to encourage learners to write their own. I also liked the way that later activities act as a form of reality check, suggesting that a desired vision is meaningless unless it is achievable. Therefore, students are encouraged to discuss what is and is not achievable before they create a ‘final’ vision of their future L2 self.

Where the first chapter in part II is more affective and imaginative and includes the use of visualisation and relaxation techniques, the second chapter, ‘Mapping the Journey’ is more concrete and practical. The idea here is for learners to use their visions to create short and long term goals that are realistic, attainable and precisely specified. For example, students can align their goals with a syllabus, consider self-study strategies, outline ways to monitor progress and share ideas on how to study effectively. To facilitate this, the book uses different techniques and task types such as brainstorming, questionnaires, ranking activities and checklists. There are also suggestions on how the classroom activities can be integrated with homework and self-study plans.

Part 3 then offers suggestions as to how the activities can be integrated into a syllabus or used alone. The writers also explore how the materials can be applied to different age groups, proficiencies and learning contexts. The final section then completes the cycle by returning to research and making suggestions for professional development projects and action research. This is designed not only to improve quality but to address possible challenges teachers face and to encourage them to contribute to the literature on the L2 Motivational Self-System.

Along with the integrated skills work and the impressive range of activity types, the future research angle is one of the most interesting aspects of this book. ‘Motivating Learning’ does not position itself as a resource with all the answers but one that sets out to help teachers find them. Though I feel it would particularly suit teachers working with students over an extensive period, I believe that material from the initial chapters would work well to inspire learners on short courses to think about what they can achieve and how they might get there. On longer courses however, we would be able to find out if they do. This knowledge would make ‘Motivating Learning’ an extremely useful resource. Let’s see what the future holds.


Dörnyei, Z. (2005) The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition research. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dörnyei, Z. (2010) Researching Motivation: from integrativeness to the ideal learner self. In Hunston S. & D. Oakley (eds.) Introducing applied linguistics. Concepts and skills. London: Routledge.