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R e i ko K o m i ya m a

CAR: A Means for Motivating

Students to Read

eading is an important skill positive feedback and other incen-
for English language learners tives for students efforts. However, in
in todays world; it supports their efforts to motivate students to
the development of overall proficiency read, teachers often do not realize that
and provides access to crucial infor- different instructional methods actu-
mation at work and in school. With ally promote different types of student
English being the dominant language motivation. The purpose of this article
of the Internet, international business, is to distinguish among these differ-
and academia (including science), ent types of motivation and illustrate
beginning and advanced students alike how to apply motivation-supportive
face pressures to develop their second instructional strategies in the class-
language (L2) reading abilities. room to create a dynamic environment
The acquisition of reading skills, where reading comes alive.
however, is never easy, and students Motivational orientations
need consistent practice to become When students read in an L2, the
fluent readers. Successful readers have experience can easily become over-
to solve many puzzles, such as learning whelming when students lack vocabu-
to recognize unfamiliar letters, words, lary, grammar, and content knowledge.
syntax, and discourse patterns. These These frustrating reading experiences
challenges can be overcome more eas- can result in decreased motivation to
ily if students are highly motivated read in the L2a truly unfortunate
to read. But what can teachers do to consequence considering the impor-
motivate students to read in English? tance of reading for most of our stu-
Some research on this subject points dents. Nurturing students motivation
to successful methods and techniques, to read, therefore, should be an essen-
such as choosing reading topics that tial part of L2 reading instruction.
appeal to students, assigning material The complexity of motivation as
and tasks at the right level, organiz- a behavioral construct has compelled
ing collaborative work, and offering researchers to identify different types

32 2009 N u m b e r 3 | E n g l i s h T E a c h i n g F o r u m
of motivations and examine how they influ- would feel guilty if she did not read
ence student learning. For example, Self- the materials assigned by her teacher.
Determination Theory (SDT)proposed by Her actions are driven by her internal
Deci, Ryan, and their colleagues (e.g., Deci feelings rather than an external reward;
and Ryan 1985; Ryan and Deci 2000)con- thus, her motivation is slightly more
siders what types of motivation may initiate self-determined than Kens.
and sustain interest in learning. Two basic Ichiro and Maya both read the assigned
forms of motivation are extrinsic and intrinsic articles because they realize that it is
motivation. Extrinsic motivation is typically important for them to develop good
driven by factors outside of the learner; extrin- English reading skills in todays world.
sically motivated students read to receive good Maya, who believes in the need for
grades, please the teacher, and outperform good reading skills, has more self-deter-
their classmates, but not because they find mined motivation than Ichiro, who
reading interesting or enjoyable. Intrinsic simply accepts the need for good read-
motivation, on the other hand, is free from ing skills as a value widely recognized in
the influence of external factors such as reward Japanese society.
or punishment. Intrinsically motivated stu- Ken, Erika, Ichiro, and Maya are all
dents read because they find it interesting or extrinsically motivated toward the assignment
enjoyable; therefore, motivation comes from because their motivations are influenced by
inside and is self-determined. SDT suggests factors external to the reading activity itself
that the more self-determined students moti- (i.e., extra points, feeling of guilt, and a value
vations are, the more likely they are to develop imposed by society). Kens motivation is the
and sustain their learning ability. To enhance least self-determined, while Erikas motiva-
self-determined motivation, SDT proposes tion is not as self-determined as Ichiros and
that teachers support students psychological Mayas. Yoko is different.
needs for competence(C), autonomy(A), and Yoko reads the New Yorker articles
relatedness(R)the set of principles referred because she is interested in the latest
to as CAR in this article. Teachers can effec- news and trends in the United States.
tively use these CAR principles to nurture Yokos motivation is fully controlled by
more self-determined readers who rely less on the self; in other words, she is intrinsi-
external reinforcement, such as grades, and cally motivated.
more on internal motivation, such as curios-
ity. However, it is important to realize that Intrinsic motivationthe most self-deter-
some forms of extrinsic motivation are more mined form of motivationhas been found
self-determined than others, as the following to produce better reading outcomes (Gottfried
1990; Wigfield and Guthrie 1997; Lau and
examples illustrate.
Chan 2003; Wang and Guthrie 2004; Guthrie
Degrees of self-determination et al. 2007). A student like Yoko tends to read
Imagine that you are an English as a For- more than her peers, understand texts bet-
eign Language (EFL) teacher at a Japanese col- ter, and use more effective reading strategies.
lege. (It is assumed that for each Japanese EFL
Extrinsically motivated Intrinsically
student described here, there are almost identi- motivated
cal counterparts in other English teaching set-
tings.) You have assigned your students some Ken Erika Ichiro Maya Yoko

New Yorker magazine articles as optional read-

ings for extra points. Notice how the follow-
Less self-regulated More self-regulated
ing students approach the task (see Figure1).
Ken reads the articles because he wants Autonomy
the extra points. His motivation is con- Competence Relatedness
trolled by an external reward and thus
is not self-determined.
Erika reads the articles not so much Figure 1. CAR principles develop more self-determined forms
for the extra points but because she of student
Figure 1. motivation
The role of CAR principles in developing more self-determined forms of student motivation.

E n g l i s h TE a c h i n g F o r u m | Number 3 2009 33
Nurturing self-determined motivation different comment, You used great
Employing teaching practices that enhance strategies, just as I expected, could, in
students intrinsic motivation to read is impor- fact, deteriorate intrinsic motivation.
tant. Yet, in many English teaching settings, 3. Relatedness. The third CAR compo-
because of individual differences, it is unreal- nent, relatedness, refers to students
istic to expect all students to be intrinsically feelings of being connected with their
motivated. Therefore, in addition to develop- classmates and teachers (i.e., I am not
ing students intrinsic motivation, we should alone!). Students thrive in educational
try to shift students less self-determined environments in which they feel safe,
forms of extrinsic motivation (like Kens and supported, and cared for. Relatedness is
Erikas) to the more self-determined forms of particularly important for students to
extrinsic motivation (like Ichiros and Mayas) develop more self-determined forms of
that are closer to intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivation because these types
challenge for teachers is how to facilitate this of motivation often involve students
switch in motivational orientation. acceptance of communal values. For
According to SDT, teachers can enhance instance, compared to students who feel
the development of intrinsic motivation isolated, those who feel related to their
and more self-determined forms of extrinsic classroom community find it easier to
accept the importance placed on shar-
motivation by supporting students needs for
ing reading materials with classmates.
CARcompetence, autonomy, and related-
ness (see Figure1). When CAR principles are met, students
are likely to develop the motivational ori-
1. Competence. Competence refers to stu-
entations associated with desired reading
dents feelings that they are capable of
behaviors. They will read more, understand
completing L2 reading activities (i.e., I
texts more deeply, and use strategies more
can do it!). Competence can be affect-
effectively. Let us now turn to the means for
ed by the levels of difficulty of texts and
implementing these principles in our everyday
tasks, as well as by teacher feedback. To
English reading classes.
increase and maintain students feelings
of competence, reading activities must Applying CAR principles to reading
be optimally challengingnot too easy, instruction
nor too hard. Also, teacher feedback Several variables must be considered when
should help students build confidence planning language classes. For example, when
in their abilities rather than attribute applying CAR principles to our own class-
their success to luck. rooms, we need to take into account the par-
2. Autonomy. The need for autonomy is ticular conditions of our situation, including
satisfied when students feel that they learner variables (students ages, grade levels,
are in control of their own behaviors and proficiency levels) as well as instructional
(i.e., I decided to do this!). Autono- variables (the type of class, the textbook, and
my can be influenced by factors such as course objectives). The teaching techniques
making choices, receiving rewards, and, introduced below are easily adaptable and can,
again, feedback. When students receive therefore, be used in a range of English teaching
rewards for their reading activities (e.g., settings. For ease of discussion, techniques that
extra points), and if the rewards make address each CAR component are introduced
students feel as if they are under exter- separately. Nonetheless, the techniques can eas-
nal control, students may lose their ily be combined, allowing teachers to promote
intrinsic motivation to read. Even more than one CAR component at a time.
teachers positive commentswhich
usually boost motivationcan nega- Competence
tively impact students intrinsic moti- The need for competence is satisfied when
vation if they are perceived by students students accomplish reading activities that are
as controlling. So, whereas a comment challenging but not overwhelming, so that
like You used great strategies may students feel that they are capable of com-
increase intrinsic motivation, a slightly pleting the reading task. The suggestions dis-

34 2009 Number 3 | E n g l i s h TE a c h i n g F o r u m
cussed below support feelings of competence. Autonomy
Introduce reading assignments in small, Students needs for autonomy are satisfied
simple steps. Breaking down a reading when they feel that they are in control of their
assignment into manageable steps is own behavior. Their sense of autonomy can be
one way to help students experience influenced by opportunities to choose topics
success. For example, we can incorpo- and tasks as well as factors such as rewards and
rate a pre-reading stage into our les- feedback. The suggestions that follow support
sons where students activate their back- student autonomy.
ground knowledge about the topic, Have students choose a topic for addi-
preview the passage, and predict the tional reading within a thematic unit.
content of the reading. When we give students a choice, we
Provide visual support to complement need to make sure that the choice is
texts and aid comprehension, including reasonable for our teaching contexts. If
illustrations, charts, tables, and graphic our lessons center on specific themes, it
organizers. Using graphic organizers, makes little sense to allow students to
for instance, has proven effective for choose whatever topics they would like
helping students understand text struc- to read. In such cases, it behooves us
tures (Jiang and Grabe 2007). to narrow down topics for students to
Distribute reading guides to enhance choose from so that their reading activi-
comprehension and interest. Include ties can be linked to, and support, our
text summaries (identifying such things overall themes. We must also be aware
as theme, plot, characters), comprehen- that having a choice can sometimes
sion questions, and prompts for post- make students feel overwhelmed, espe-
reading activities. cially for those unaccustomed to being
Provide definitions of key vocabulary given choices (Katz and Assor 2007).
to reduce the difficulty of the read- Begin giving choices with small, con-
ing. We might also want to teach stu- crete, and nonthreatening tasks in set-
dents how to use dictionaries effectively tings where students are unfamiliar or
and efficiently. This can yield a posi- uncomfortable with making choices
tive long-term effect because students of their own. As an illustration, for an
equipped with dictionary-use skills are after-reading activity, giving students a
more likely to sustain their feelings set of comprehension questions (e.g.,
of competence across multiple reading five questions) and asking them to
tasks in the future. answer a subset of those questions (e.g.,
Allow students enough time to finish three questions) might be a good way
reading. From a motivational perspec- to introduce choice.
tive, giving students enough time to Arrange programmed Sustained Silent
finish their reading is highly important. Reading activities where students
If students constantly run out of time choose the topic, genre, and level of
when completing assigned readings, difficulty of the reading material and
they could easily lose confidence in simply read for pleasure. This helps
their reading abilities. students find enjoyment and interest in
Give students meaningful opportuni- reading. It is fine if students choose easy
ties to reread texts. When students have readings, as long as they keep reading.
opportunities to reread, they feel that Avoid giving controlling feedback.
their reading skills have improved. We Teachers comments and their com-
can design meaningful exercises by ask- munication styles can weaken students
ing students to reread texts for different sense of autonomy if perceived as con-
purposes, from different perspectives, trolling. Comments that could suggest
or with a different pedagogical focus, our control over students behaviors
such as reading to acquire vocabulary, (e.g., Great, you did exactly what I
identify the main idea, or analyze the wanted you to do!) should be avoided.
texts structure. We may also want to stay away from

E n g l i s h Te a c h i n g F o r u m | Number 3 2009 35
excessive use of should and must when reading activities that allow students to
giving directions. work in small groups of perhaps three
Avoid overemphasizing the importance to five students.
of rewards. Teachers are not the only Have more-advanced readers help less-
source of potential external control over advanced readers to create feelings of
student behaviors. When students are support and collaboration.
given rewards for their reading activities Encourage students to share their
(e.g., extra points), and if the rewards work with each other (e.g., answers
make students feel as if they are under to comprehension questions, complet-
external control, students can lose their ed graphic organizers, and response
intrinsic motivation to read. Test scores, papers). This may seem simple, but it
grades, and other forms of rewards could very well promote students sense
could also be perceived by students as of belonging.
controlling. We should therefore not Discourage excessive competition in
overemphasize the importance of these reading. Competition among students
external rewards. The key to sustain has the potential to prevent them from
students sense of autonomy is to help establishing cooperative relationships
them feel in control of their own behav- with each other. Thus, we need to make
iors, rather than feeling that teachers, sure that the competition that often
parents, or peers are controlling them. exists among students remains at a
healthy, rather than a disruptive, level.
Relatedness lets students connect with Combining CAR principles
their classmates and teachers. The following Each of the three CAR componentscom-
suggestions support feelings of relatedness. petence, autonomy, and relatednessis a vital
Incorporate activities that nurture part of building reading motivation, just as the
cooperative interactions among stu- body, engine, and tires are vital parts of a car.
dents. Group work such as a jigsaw Yet, it is quite possible to combine techniques
reading can be quite effective for this to reinforce more than one aspect of CAR at
purpose because it engages students the same time. For example, if we ask students
in meaningful interactions with each to work in groups while learning to use diction-
other. In typical jigsaw reading activi- aries, we develop students sense of relatedness
ties, students are divided into small as well as competence. If we allow students to
groups, and each group is assigned choose a portion of a text for dictionary prac-
different reading material (or a differ- tice, we can support students need for autono-
ent portion of the same text). After my as well. We can be creative and flexible when
reading, students discuss the mate- implementing CAR, as long as we remember
rial in their groups to become fully that the principles will not work if any of the
familiar with the piece. Then, groups three aspects is missing, just as a car will not run
are re-formed so that each new group if it is missing its body, engine, or tires.
includes students who have read dif- The principles of CAR can be applied to
ferent materials. In their new groups, everyday EFL reading instruction to promote
students share what they have read with intrinsic motivation as well as more self-deter-
other students. A notable strength of mined forms of extrinsic motivation. The
this activity is that it allows students to techniques introduced in this article do not
contribute to discussions (in re-formed require teachers to alter their overall instruc-
groups) as experts on their own piece, tional methods or existing reading curricula.
which fosters respectful relationships The practices of finding ways to give students
among students. choices and offering appropriate feedback, for
Involve students in discussions about example, can be easily integrated into reading
main ideas, themes, and strategies for activities already in place. It should be noted
understanding texts to make them feel that EFL students motivation to write, listen,
part of the classroom community. In and speak in English can also be successfully
addition, we can set up pre- and post- enhanced through CAR principles. The tech-

36 2009 Number 3 | E n g l i s h Te a c h i n g F o r u m
nique of breaking an assignment into doable Reading motivation and reading comprehension
steps, for instance, can be easily utilized across growth in the later elementary years. Contem-
porary Educational Psychology 32 (3): 282313.
skill areas and will support students sense of
Jiang, X., and W. Grabe. 2007. Graphic organizers in
competence in completing other skill activities. reading instruction: Research findings and issues.
Reading in a Foreign Language 19 (1): 3455.
Conclusion Katz, I., and A. Assor. 2007. When choice motivates
With each and every year, EFL students and when it does not. Educational Psychology
Review 19 (4): 42942.
experience a greater need for improved Eng-
Lau, K., and D. W. Chan. 2003. Reading strategy
lish reading abilities. To respond to these use and motivation among Chinese good and
needs, we teachers need to reconsider our poor readers in Hong Kong. Journal of Research
reading pedagogy and move beyond tradition- in Reading 26 (2): 17790.
al approaches that focus on vocabulary, gram- Ryan, R. M., and E. L. Deci. 2000. Intrinsic and
extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and
mar, and text structure. Strengthening and
new directions. Contemporary Educational Psy-
maintaining student motivation are crucial to chology 25 (1): 5467.
reading instruction because reading in an L2 Wang, J. H., and J. T. Guthrie. 2004. Modeling
requires a lot time, effort, and perseverance. the effects of intrinsic motivation, extrinsic
As teachers, we need to be aware of the links motivation, amount of reading, and past reading
achievement on text comprehension between
between motivational approaches and read-
U.S. and Chinese students. Reading Research
ing development; we need to nurture student Quarterly 39 (2): 16286.
motivational orientations that are most likely Wigfield, A., and J. T. Guthrie. 1997. Relations of
to yield positive results. childrens motivation for reading to the amount
and breadth of their reading. Journal of Educa-
References tional Psychology 89 (3): 42032.
Deci, E. L., and R. M. Ryan. 1985. Intrinsic motiva-
Reiko komiyama, PhD, is an assistant
tion and self-determination in human behavior.
New York: Plenum Press. professor of TESOL at California State
Gottfried, A. E. 1990. Academic intrinsic motiva- University, Sacramento. She has taught
tion in young elementary school children. Jour- EFL in Japan and ESL in the United States.
nal of Educational Psychology 82 (3): 52538. Her areas of interest include motivation,
Guthrie, J. T., A. L. W. Hoa, A. Wigfield, S. M. L2 reading development, and TESOL
Tonks, N. M. Humenick, and E. Littles. 2007. teacher education.

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