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The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners Essay

CRITICAL REVIEW

Peacock, M. (1997). The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners. ELT Journal. 51(2), 144-156. Language instruction has five important components: students, a teacher, materials, teaching methods, and evaluation. Why are materials important in language instruction? They do not only influence the content and the procedures but also the effectiveness of learning. Finding the right course book and supplementary materials is one of the most important tasks a teacher needs to undertake. Should teachers use authentic or non-authentic materials in teaching language? Many researchers claim that authentic materials motivate learners but some other authors maintain that authentic materials reduce learners materials. In the article The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners, printed in an ELT Journal volume, the author, Matthew Peacock, explores the question of how authentic materials have an effect on the motivation of EFL learners. By doing a classroom research project, the author has tested the experimental hypotheses and previous writers’ untested claims that authentic materials increase learners motivation.

The article consists of five main sections: Introduction, Background to the study, Data collection and analysis, Result, Discussion and conclusion. In the introduction, the author presents the writers, who favored the use of authentic materials. In addition, the author introduces some researchers’ two quasi-experimental studies, that researched effect of authentic materials on learner motivation. However, the author argues that the writers’ claims have not yet been tested and the assertions, based on the two inadequate, unpersuasive quasi-experiments, have not yet been satisfactorily tested. And this urges the author to do his research to find out a more exact, more persuasive answer about the effect of authentic materials on EFL learners. In the Background to the study, the author explains the terms of “motivation” and “authentic materials” by choosing the definitions put forward by Crookers and Schmidt (1991) and Little, Devitt, Singleton (1989) respectively.

The experiment of his study is carried out in two beginner-level students classes at a South Korea university EFL institute. The author describes how to collect and analyze data in Data and analysis section. As the author presents, data was collected over seven weeks while learners were working in group without control and three date collection instruments were used: two observation sheets, a self-report questionnaire and five-minute post-class interview. The author also explained that all data were analyzed separately. The Result section of the article provides “a result indicating that authentic materials significantly increased learner on-task behavior” (148) and overall class motivation. However, the author finds that the difference in self-reported learner motivation when learners used authentic materials is not significant. In the Discussion and conclusions section, the author suggest that teachers of adult EFL beginners should try suitable authentic materials when teaching.

However, based on the research finding, he argues that learners are motivated by authentic material not because they are interesting or not. In addition, according to the study result, the author asserts that there are separate components of classroom motivation and proposes a motion that the researchers should make the distinction between them. The article is a report of a research study. The scope of the research is clearly determined by the title: The effect of authentic materials on the motivation of EFL learners but in fact, the results of the research seem to be limited by the small scale of the study and the level of the learners (p.146). The study results could have been more persuasive if the research had been conducted with different-level students of different educational levels or the author should have narrowed the research scope by changing this or that detail in the research report title. In addition, the method of collecting data by interviewing seems to be inappropriate, inefficient and limited in the degree of accuracy. As the author presents the interviews are conducted in English with beginner-level students after being used different materials on different days (p.151).

As the result, some of the research study maintains somewhat ambiguous to me. In the Discussion and conclusions section, the reason given by the author to indicate that it is impossible to say if authentic materials give learners motivation or not, should have been more clear so that it would have remained satisfying and understandable for readers. However, the article is a clear report of particularly useful research study. The layout of the report is really coherent and easy to follow. At the beginning of the article, the author clearly states why the research is done and what is expected to happen. To make the report clearer to understand, the author displays thorough definitions of the important terms as “motivation” and “authentic materials”. The methods of collecting and analyzing data of the research are different and clearly explained (p.146-148). Graphs (p.149-150) and illustrations (p.155-156) used to complement the report are good and necessary method the author uses to present data. The research numerical results of the statistics are also reported clearly in details. In the Discussions and conclusions, the author critiques his own study before others do (p.153).

This provides the reader with a more qualitative understanding of the findings. By doing an experimental research, the author, with clear evidences, develops the former writers’ untested hypotheses and makes sufficiently tested claims about how authentic materials have effect on the motivation of EFL learners. He shows with evidence that authentic materials provide valuable support (creative approach to teaching) and can be used for a specially designed curriculum. They are a bridge between the classroom and the real world. The author’s findings also suggest teachers to use appropriate authentic materials in teaching adult EFL not only of advanced level but also of beginner level, so that they help the teachers improve the education of their students.

On the other hand the author also raises a preliminary indication that that learners may be motivated by authentic materials not because the materials are more interesting. It provides a good starting point for further research. In conclusion, the article provides readers a more exact and adequate answer to the question how authentic materials motivate learners. It also provides teachers with understanding that it’s important to make the distinction between components of learners motivation and to choose right materials that may increase learners’ attention, on-task behavior and concentration. Apart from the mentioned minor ambiguity and unclearness, it can be asserted that the article is an useful research for us, the teachers of EFL.


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