Student motivation, school policy choices and modern language study in England

Abigail Parrish, Ursula Lanvers

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This paper investigates the relationship between the decisions made by school leaders in England concerning their school policy for teaching modern foreign languages (MFL) post-14, and student motivation for MFL. Seventy head teachers, 119 heads of modern languages and 666 students aged 14–15 from schools in England took part in the questionnaire-based study. Student motivation was measured using the Self-Regulation Questionnaire (Academic) [Ryan, R.M. and J.P. Connell. 1989. Perceived locus of causality and internalization: examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57, no. 5: 749–61], based on Self-Determination Theory. The relationship between student perceptions of the usefulness of specific languages and the decision to study these was considered. Results show that the way choice is presented is a key part of student motivation for MFL, and that students see different languages as useful for different reasons. Furthermore, the data suggest that the ways school leaders make decisions concerning language policy do not align with language provision that optimises student motivation. The study concludes by suggesting new pathways for rejuvenating language learner motivation in anglophone contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-298
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
Issue number3
Early online date19 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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© 2018 Association for Language Learning. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • language policy, motivation
  • school language policy
  • GCSE choices
  • motivation
  • Language learning

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