How Motivation influences Achievement in a French Beginners’ Class at Kenyatta University (KU)

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How Motivation influences Achievement in a French Beginners’ Class at Kenyatta University (KU)

Keywords: Integrative Motivation, Instrumental Motivation, Achievement


I have observed that students tend to be highly motivated as they enroll for French for the first time. They are highly enthusiastic to master the language, but along the way, their interest slowly goes down. The researcher’s concern was to determine whether learner motivation influences this learning pattern or it is simply the normal learning downward curve.

Studies, such as Lambert and Gardner’s (1972), show that learners have different motivations for learning a language. Integrative motivated (motivation of the learner to learn a language is to enable him to integrate into the community of speakers of that language (Ur, 2012)) learners have an enduring motivation whereas instrumentally (learner sees language learning as a tool to achieve a certain goal, such as, to pass an exam or to get a job (Saeman, 2009)) motivated learners become de-motivated along the way.

There is, therefore, the need for teachers to understand learners’ motivations and encourage integrative motivation by teaching not only the language but also the culture of the language in the classroom.

The study was guided by the following questions:

  1. What motivates students to learn French?
  2. Does motivation remain constant throughout the semester?

Basing on reviewed literature the researcher’s observation while studying French, the researcher made the assumptions that:

  1. Initially, students display both integrative and instrumental motivation.
  2. Integrative motivation increases throughout the semester whereas instrumental motivation remains constant.

The research sought answers to the research questions and indeed, students manifest both types of motivation initially but only one (integrative) endures and yields better results.


On 19th March, 2014, I administered 10 questionnaires with two sections: one with questions on general learner views about French and the learners’ motivations for studying French and the other, their classroom experiences. The first section of the questionnaire sought to find out their initial motivation to learn French and the second section to determine how their motivation had changed or remained constant over the semester based on their classroom and learning experiences as well as their achievement over the semester.

My participants were 10 students (5 males and 5 females) from a French Beginners’ class of random age at K.U. I obtained from the personal information that all the participants were all born and raised in Kenya albeit different geographical regions. All the students were learning French for the first time. Apart from French, they all speak English and Kiswahili and majority of them speak one mother language. The participants took different majors at the University and were in different years. Being university undergraduate students, their age ranged between 18 to 25 years.

Results and Discussion

I labeled the participants as S1F, S2F, S6M et cetera where S denotes student, F denotes female and M denotes male.

Table 1: Summary of Integrative and Instrumental Motivation

Student Integrative Percentage (%) Instrumental Percentage (%) Difference between the two motivations (%) General Motivation
S1F 91 45 46 High Integrative
S2F 60 65 5 High Instrumental
S3F 95 73 22 High Integrative
S4F 87 51 36 High Integrative
S5F 58 62 4 High Instrumental
S6M 88 74 14 High Integrative
S7M 78 79 1 High Instrumental
S8M 80 97 17 High Instrumental
S9M 45 92 47 High Instrumental
S10M 53 68 15 High Instrumental


Instrumental/Integrative Motivation and Achievement

On the one hand, questions (a)-(g) in section A were intended to test instrumental motivation and 6 out of 10 students displayed instrumental motivation. On the other hand, questions (h)-(n) in section A tested integrative motivation. 4 out of 10 students had integrative motivation. Section B tested how learners’ motivation had changed over the semester.

Chart 1: Comparing Integrative and Instrumental motivation per Student


It is evident from the data that whereas students displayed both integrative and instrumental motivations, a higher number displayed instrumental motivation.

Judging from this instrumental-integrative ratio of 6:4, I can not overtly state that instrumental motivation is really superior as compared to integrative motivation. This is because students with either motivation displayed high enthusiasm, because of varied, reasons to learn the language. However, integrative motivation resulted in students performing better in the long run unlike their instrumental counterparts.

Instrumental motivation, therefore, is equally essential but it would be even better when blended with integrative motivation. This is from the point of view that S6M had 14% difference between the two types of motivation, the smallest variation where we have general motivation as high integrative, and still had his grades constantly improving throughout the semester. He further expressed interest to continue studying French in the future.

Students with high integrative motivation as in table 1 and those who expressed interest to continue studying French (in the open-ended question 3) stated, overall, positive class experiences as well improved grades over the semester.

Table 2: Students’ Experiences/Achievement

    Open-ended Question 3
  Average of Positive Experience/Achievement (%) Positive Negative
S1F 84 *  
S2F 45   *
S3F 79 *  
S4F 92 *  
S5F 68   *
S6M 90 *  
S7M 70 *  
S8M 59   *
S9M 53   *
S10M 61   *


Those who gave positive or negative accounts in the open-ended question 3 are marked with an asterisk in their respective categories.

Asked whether .............

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