The influence of gratitude journalling on the motivation and English language proficiency of young adult isiXhosa speakers

Aspeling, Lara Lee (2011-03)

Thesis (MPhil (General Linguistics))--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Bibliography

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The scientific study of gratitude is one of the topics currently researched by the emergent positive psychology movement, which seeks to understand more about the very best in human beings. Studies in psychology have found that gratitude and other positive emotions in the workplace seem to be linked to motivation, which in turn results in increased productivity. Much research in second language (L2) acquisition has shown a link between increased motivation and improved levels of L2 proficiency. My thesis aims to link these two types of research, by investigating the effect of gratitude journalling on isiXhosa-speaking students at a South African university of technology, in respect of their motivation to improve their English, their attitude towards English, and their English language proficiency. I also attempt to determine whether the language in which the journalling is done has any impact. I developed several tasks for my participants, in order to ascertain their attitudes towards English, their motivation to improve their English, and their English proficiency. These tasks took the form of surveys and questionnaires, which were completed before and after a journalling intervention. The intervention was in the form of journalling online, using the university's e-Learning Centre's WebCT application. The participants were divided into four groups: factual journalling in English; factual journalling in isiXhosa; gratitude journalling in English; gratitude journalling in isiXhosa. They were asked to write two to three sentences in their online journals on five out of every seven days for the period of one month. In line with the findings of previous research conducted with isiXhosa learners, the results of my investigations showed that these isiXhosa students had a fairly positive attitude towards English to begin with. No significant changes in attitudes towards English, motivation to improve English, or English proficiency, were noted among any of the four groups of journallers pre- versus post-intervention. It makes sense intuitively that gratitude journalling should increase the motivation and thus the proficiency of isiXhosa learners in English. However, in retrospect, I realise that it was somewhat ambitious to expect to see a change in English language proficiency over the period of just one month. If my participants had experienced enhanced levels of motivation as a result of the gratitude journalling (in English and/or in isiXhosa), their proficiency in English might have increased over time. However, the gratitude journalling seems not to have had an impact on the attitude towards English/motivation to improve English of these third-year isiXhosa university students. Whatever the effect might have been of the gratitude journalling in these young adults' lives, it is not reflected directly in the results of my study. Perhaps future research on the impact of gratitude journalling in the lives of university students could be conducted, using larger samples of participants, and extending the intervention over a longer period of time.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die wetenskaplike bestudering van dankbaarheid is een van die onderwerpe wat deesdae nagevors word deur die opkomende positiewe sielkunde beweging, wat daarna streef om meer te wete te kom oor die heel beste eienskappe van die mens. Ondersoeke in sielkunde het gevind dat dankbaarheid en ander positiewe emosies in die werksituasie gekoppel skyn te wees aan motivering, wat weer op sy beurt lei tot verhoogde produktiwiteit. Baie navorsing in tweedetaal(T2-)verwerwing het 'n verband gevind tussen verhoogde motivering en verhoogde vlakke van T2-vaardigheid. Hierdie tesis poog om hierdie twee tipes navorsing te verbind, deur ondersoek in te stel na die invloed van die hou van 'n dankbaarheidsjoernaal op die motivering en houding teenoor Engels en die Engelse vaardigheidsvlakke van isiXhosa-sprekende studente aan 'n Suid-Afrikaanse universiteit van tegnologie. My doel was om vas te stel of die hou van 'n dankbaarheidsjoernaal hierdie leerders sou kon help om hul motiveringsvlakke te verhoog en daarom indirek hulle vaardigheid in Engels, en om vas te stel of die taal waarin die joernaal gehou word enige impak sou hê. Ek het verskeie take ontwerp vir my deelnemers, om sodoende vas te stel wat hulle houding teenoor Engels was, sowel as hulle motivering om hul Engels te verbeter, en hulle Engelse vaardigheidsvlak. Hierdie take het opnames en vraelyste behels wat voltooi is voor en na 'n joernaal-hou intervensie. Die intervensie het behels dat die deelnemers aanlyn 'n joernaal moes hou en ek het gebruik gemaak van die universiteit se e-leer sentrum se WebCT. Die deelnemers is in vier groepe verdeel: feitelike joernaal in Engels; feitelike joernaal in isiXhosa; dankbaarheidsjoernaal in Engels; dankbaarheidsjoernaal in isiXhosa. Hulle is gevra om vir een maand lank twee of drie sinne in hulle aanlynjoernale te skryf op vyf uit elke sewe dae. In aansluiting by die bevindinge van vorige navorsing op isiXhosa-sprekende leerders, het die resultate van my ondersoek daarop gedui dat hierdie isiXhosa studente 'n relatief positiewe houding teenoor Engels gehad het, nog voor die intervensie. Geen beduidende verskille in houdings teenoor Engels, motivering om Engels te verbeter, of Engelse vaardigheid is gevind vir enige van die vier groepe toe pre-intervensie en post-intervensie prestasie met mekaar vergelyk is nie. Dit maak intuïtief sin dat die hou van 'n dankbaarheidsjoernaal deur T2-leerders sou lei tot verhoogde motivering en daarom tot verhoogde vaardigheidsvlakke in Engels. Agterna beskou, besef ek egter dat dit effens ambisieus van my was om te verwag om 'n verandering in Engelse vaardigheidsvlakke te sien binne een maand. Miskien sou my deelnemers se vaardigheidsvlakke in Engels met verloop van tyd verbeter het indien hulle wel verhoogde motivering ervaar het as gevolg van die hou van 'n dankbaarheidsjoernaal (in Engels en/of isiXhosa). Die dankbaarheidsjoernale skyn egter geen impak te gehad het op die houding teenoor Engels / motivering om Engels te verbeter by hierdie derde-jaar isiXhosa universiteitstudente nie. Watter effek die hou van 'n dankbaarheidsjoernaal ookal gehad het in die lewens van hierdie jong volwassenes, dit word nie gereflekteer in die resultate van my studie nie. Miskien sou verdere navorsing gedoen kon word oor die impak van dankbaarheidsjoernale in die lewens van universiteitstudente, met groter steekproewe en 'n langer intervensietydperk.

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