Volume 2, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2589-2053
  • E-ISSN: 2589-207x
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Teachers of young learners often seek guidance on how best to engage and motivate their students. In this study, we aimed to document engaging teacher practices in the context of foreign language classes in Japanese elementary schools. We surveyed 16 public elementary school foreign language classes in western Japan using quantitative (questionnaire; external rating) and qualitative (naturalistic observation) tools grounded in self-determination theory. Classes were sorted into three groups of high, middle, and low teacher support based on student surveys, and observed for practices that influenced student engagement in each tercile. Results indicate that students are most responsive in classrooms involving teacher warmth and strictness, homeroom teacher involvement, appropriate pacing, instructional clarity, and a balance of activities. We offer descriptions of how these practices were employed, with implications for classroom practice and teacher training.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Aline, D., & Hosoda, Y.
    (2006) Team teaching participation patterns of homeroom teachers in English activities classes in Japanese public elementary schools. JALT Journal, 28(1), 5–22. 10.37546/JALTJJ28.1‑1
    https://doi.org/10.37546/JALTJJ28.1-1 [Google Scholar]
  2. Brophy, J. E.
    (2010) Motivating students to learn (3rd ed.) New York, NY: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Butler, Y. G.
    (2005) Comparative perspectives towards communicative activities among elementary school teachers in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Language Teaching Research, 9(4), 423–446. doi:  10.1191/1362168805lr176oa
    https://doi.org/10.1191/1362168805lr176oa [Google Scholar]
  4. (2015) English language education among young learners in East Asia: A review of current research (2004–2014). Language Teaching, 48(3), 303–342. doi:  10.1017/S0261444815000105
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444815000105 [Google Scholar]
  5. Cameron, L.
    (2001) Teaching languages to young learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511733109
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511733109 [Google Scholar]
  6. Carreira, J. M.
    (2011) Relationship between motivation for learning EFL and intrinsic motivation for learning in general among Japanese elementary school students. System, 39(1), 90–102. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2011.01.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2011.01.009 [Google Scholar]
  7. Carreira, J. M., Ozaki, K., & Maeda, T.
    (2013) Motivational model of English learning among elementary school students in Japan. System, 41(3), 706–719. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2013.07.017
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2013.07.017 [Google Scholar]
  8. Cave, P.
    (2007) Primary school in Japan: Self, individuality and learning in elementary education. New York, NY: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203935811
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203935811 [Google Scholar]
  9. Copland, F., Garton, S., & Burns, A.
    (2014) Challenges in teaching English to young learners: Global perspectives and local realities. TESOL Quarterly, 48(4), 738–762. doi:  10.1002/tesq.148
    https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.148 [Google Scholar]
  10. Copland, F., & Garton, S.
    (2014) Key themes and future directions in teaching English to young learners: Introduction to the Special Issue. ELT Journal, 68(3), 223–230. doi:  10.1093/elt/ccu030
    https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccu030 [Google Scholar]
  11. Cornelius-White, J. D., & Harbaugh, A.
    (2009) Learner centered instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Cozby, P. C., & Bates, S. C.
    (2012) Methods in behavioral research. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Creswell, J. W.
    (2009) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M.
    (1985) Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum. 10.1007/978‑1‑4899‑2271‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4899-2271-7 [Google Scholar]
  15. Devellis, R. F.
    (2012) Scale development: Theory and application (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Dörnyei, Z.
    (2001) Motivational strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511667343
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511667343 [Google Scholar]
  17. Dörnyei, Z., & Csizer, K.
    (1998) Ten commandments for motivating language learners: Results of an empirical study. Language Teaching Research, 2(3), 203–229. doi:  10.1177/136216889800200303
    https://doi.org/10.1177/136216889800200303 [Google Scholar]
  18. Dörnyei, Z., MacIntyre, P., & Henry, A.
    (2015) Motivational dynamics in language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. 10.4324/9781315772714
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315772714 [Google Scholar]
  19. Fennelly, M., & Luxton, R.
    (2011) Are they ready? On the verge of compulsory English, elementary school teachers lack confidence. The Language Teacher, 35(2), 19–24.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P., & Paris, A. H.
    (2004) School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109. doi:  10.3102/00346543074001059
    https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059 [Google Scholar]
  21. Garton, S., Copland, F., & Burns, A.
    (2011) Investigating global practices in teaching English to young learners (British Council ELT Research Paper 11–01). London: British Council.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Good, T., & Brophy, J.
    (2008) Looking in classrooms (10th Ed.). New York: Longman.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Guilloteaux, M.-J., & Dörnyei, Z.
    (2008) Motivating language learners: A classroom-oriented investigation of the effects of motivational strategies on student motivation. TESOL Quarterly, 42(1), 55–77. 10.1002/j.1545‑7249.2008.tb00207.x
    https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1545-7249.2008.tb00207.x [Google Scholar]
  24. Hiver, P., & Al-Hoorie, A. H.
    (2019) Reexamining the role of vision in second language motivation: A preregistered conceptual replication of You, Dörnyei, and Csizér (2016). Language Learning, 1–56. doi:  10.1111/lang.12371
    https://doi.org/10.1111/lang.12371 [Google Scholar]
  25. Jang, H., Reeve, J., & Deci, E. L.
    (2010) Engaging students in learning activities: It is not autonomy-support or structure but autonomy-support and structure. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 588–600. doi:  10.1037/a0019682
    https://doi.org/10.1037/a0019682 [Google Scholar]
  26. Japan Statistics Bureau
    Japan Statistics Bureau (2016) Japan statistical yearbook 2016. Available from www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/index.htm
    [Google Scholar]
  27. Kang, J. S., & Crandall, J.
    (2014) Teaching young learners English. New York, NY: Heinle Cengage.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E.
    (2006) Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75–86. 10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1
    https://doi.org/10.1207/s15326985ep4102_1 [Google Scholar]
  29. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G.
    (1977) The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1) 159–174. 10.2307/2529310
    https://doi.org/10.2307/2529310 [Google Scholar]
  30. Lemov, D.
    (2015) Teach like a champion 2.0. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. McEown, M. S., & Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q.
    (2019) Self-determination for all language learners. System, 102–124. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2019.102124
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2019.102124 [Google Scholar]
  32. McEown, M. S., & Takeuchi, O.
    (2012) Motivational strategies in EFL classrooms: How do teachers impact students’ motivation?Innovation in language learning and teaching, 8(1), 20–38. doi:  10.1080/17501229.2012.741133
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17501229.2012.741133 [Google Scholar]
  33. MEXT
    MEXT (2008) Shogakkou gakushuu shidou youryou kaisetu: Gaikokugo katsudouhen [Explanatory commentary for the elementary school curriculum guidelines: Foreign language activities]. Tokyo: Kyouiku Shuppan.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. MEXT
    MEXT (2012) Hi, friends! 1. Tokyo: Kyouiku Shuppan.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Nakao, K.
    (2009) Shogakko English learning environments: The ALT role. InA. M. Stoke (Ed.), JALT 2008 Conference Proceedings (pp.137–147). Tokyo: JALT.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Nakao, K., Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q., & Fryer, L. K.
    (2019) Expanding Japanese elementary school English education: Native and nonnative speaking team-teachers’ perspectives on team-teaching quality. The Bulletin of the Graduate School of Education of Waseda University, 29, 17–31.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Nakata, Y.
    (2009) Intrinsic motivation in the EFL school context: A retrospective study of English learning experiences in Japanese elementary schools. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 6(4), 263–291.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. (2015) Insider-outsider perspective: Revisiting the conceptual framework of research methodology in language teacher education. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 38(2), 166–183. doi:  10.1080/1743727X.2014.923835
    https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2014.923835 [Google Scholar]
  39. Naoyama, Y.
    (2011) Eigo nooto 1 wo katsuyoushita eigo katsudou no jugyou [English activities lessons using English Note 1]. Tokyo: Shogakukan.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Nikolov, M.
    (1999) “Why do you learn English?’ ‘Because the teacher is short.’ A study of Hungarian children”s foreign language learning motivation. Language Teaching Research, 3(1), 33–56. 10.1177/136216889900300103
    https://doi.org/10.1177/136216889900300103 [Google Scholar]
  41. Noels, K. A., Pelletier, L. G., Clément, R., & Vallerand, R. J.
    (2000) Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory. Language Learning, 50(1), 57–85. 10.1111/0023‑8333.00111
    https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.00111 [Google Scholar]
  42. Noels, K. A.
    (2001) Learning Spanish as a second language: Learners’ orientations and perceptions of their teachers’ communication style. Language Learning, 51(1), 107–144. 10.1111/0023‑8333.00149
    https://doi.org/10.1111/0023-8333.00149 [Google Scholar]
  43. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q.
    (2019) Acting, thinking, feeling, making, collaborating: The engagement process in foreign language learning. System, 102–128. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2019.102128
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2019.102128 [Google Scholar]
  44. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q., & Fryer, L. K.
    (2018) Schools can improve motivational quality: Profile transitions across early foreign language learning experiences. Motivation and Emotion, 42(4), 527–545. doi:  10.1007/s11031‑018‑9681‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-018-9681-7 [Google Scholar]
  45. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q., & Nakata, Y.
    (2014a) Optimizing new language use by employing young learners’ own language. ELT Journal, 68(4), 410–421. doi:  10.1093/elt/ccu010
    https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/ccu010 [Google Scholar]
  46. (2014b) Supplementing the elementary foreign language course of study with a self-determination framework. International Journal of Curriculum Development and Practice, 16(1), 13–26.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. (2015) Structure also supports autonomy: Measuring and defining autonomy-supportive teaching in Japanese elementary foreign language classes. Japanese Psychological Research, 57(3), 167–179. doi:  10.1111/jpr.12077
    https://doi.org/10.1111/jpr.12077 [Google Scholar]
  48. (2017) Engagement, gender, and motivation: A predictive model for Japanese young language learners. System, 65, 151–163. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2017.01.011
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2017.01.011 [Google Scholar]
  49. Oga-Baldwin, W. L. Q., Nakata, Y., Parker, P. D., & Ryan, R. M.
    (2017) Motivating young language learners: A longitudinal model of self-determined motivation in elementary school foreign language classes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 49, 140–150. doi:  10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.01.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.01.010 [Google Scholar]
  50. Philp, J., & Duchesne, S.
    (2016) Exploring engagement in tasks in the language classroom. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 36, 50–72. 10.1017/S0267190515000094
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190515000094 [Google Scholar]
  51. Pinter, A.
    (2011) Children learning second languages. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan. 10.1057/9780230302297
    https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230302297 [Google Scholar]
  52. Reeve, J.
    (2012) A self-determination theory perspective on student engagement. InS. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp.149–172). Boston, MA: Springer US. 10.1007/978‑1‑4614‑2018‑7_7
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-2018-7_7 [Google Scholar]
  53. Reeve, J., & Jang, H.
    (2006) What teachers say and do to support students’ autonomy during a learning activity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 209–218. doi:  10.1037/0022‑0663.98.1.209
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.209 [Google Scholar]
  54. Reeve, J., Cole, S. G., & Olson, B. C.
    (1986) The Zeigarnik effect and intrinsic motivation: Are they the same?Motivation and Emotion, 10(3), 233–245. 10.1007/BF00992318
    https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00992318 [Google Scholar]
  55. Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P.
    (1989) Perceived locus of causality and internalization: Examining reasons for acting in two domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 749–761. 10.1037/0022‑3514.57.5.749
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.57.5.749 [Google Scholar]
  56. Schön, D., Boyer, M., Moreno, S., Besson, M., Peretz, I., & Kolinsky, R.
    (2008) Songs as an aid for language acquisition. Cognition, 106(2), 975–983. doi:  10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.005
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2007.03.005 [Google Scholar]
  57. Sherlock, Z.
    (2016) Japans textbook inequality: How cultural bias affects foreign language acquisition. Power and Education, 8(1), 73–87. doi:  10.1177/1757743815624119
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1757743815624119 [Google Scholar]
  58. Skinner, E. A., & Belmont, M. J.
    (1993) Motivation in the classroom: Reciprocal effects of teacher behavior and student engagement across the school year. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(4), 571–581. doi:  10.1037/0022‑0663.85.4.571
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.85.4.571 [Google Scholar]
  59. StataCorp
    StataCorp (2013) Stata statistical software: Release 13. College Station, TX: StataCorp LP.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Svalberg, A. M.-L.
    (2009) Engagement with language: Interrogating a construct. Language Awareness, 18(3–4), 242–258. doi:  10.1080/09658410903197264
    https://doi.org/10.1080/09658410903197264 [Google Scholar]
  61. Tomlinson, B., & Masuhara, H.
    (2009) Playing to learn: A review of physical games in second language acquisition. Simulation & Gaming, 40(5), 645–668. doi:  10.1177/1046878109339969
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878109339969 [Google Scholar]
  62. Willingham, D.
    (2009) Why don’t students like school?San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Wu, X.
    (2003) Intrinsic motivation and young language learners: The impact of the classroom environment. System, 31(4), 501–517. doi:  10.1016/j.system.2003.04.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2003.04.001 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): classroom practice , engagement , foreign language , mixed-methods and motivation
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error