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Exploring Language Learner Motivation and Autonomy in Colombia

Mixed Methods Research Study


I conducted this rigorous mixed methods study of learner motivation and

autonomy among learners in the large blended learning English language

program at the university in which I worked at the time. The study formed

the basis of my master's dissertation, and insights gleaned from 

quantitative surveys and qualitative interviews allowed me to pinpoint key areas to address - and how best to address them - through transformative changes to teaching practice, curriculum and use of educational technology. I presented findings and key recommendations to coordinators and fellow teachers in the English department in March 2020. 

A feature of the study (to get a little technical) was my use of 'New Statistics' methods common to research in the natural sciences, which rely on bootstrapped 95% confidence intervals and effect sizes for data analysis, and allow researchers to make powerful inferences about even large populations beyond the study participants. This avoids the often flawed reliance on the p-value for null hypothesis testing which (incredibly!) threatens the validity of much of the quantitative research done in the social sciences (see more on that here and also here). 


See below for the study abstract, together with other samples from the dissertation and my presentation on it. 

Project Info







Mixed methods research study, Master's dissertation



Academic writing, quantitative/qualitative research methods, data analysis and interpretation, SPSS software, analytical/interpretive thinking, project management, problem solving



"This study examined language learner motivation and autonomy, and factors that might constrain these key aspects of learning, in an undergraduate English as a foreign language (EFL) programme in Colombia. Adopting an applied research perspective, the aim was to address a perceived lack of learner motivation and autonomy in the context of the study, while contributing to the literature on learner characteristics in the under-researched context of Colombia. Using a two-phased sequential mixed methods approach, a phase 1 questionnaire measured learners’ motivation from the perspective of the socio-educational model (Gardner, 1985) and self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 1985; Ryan and Deci, 2017), as well as learners’ psychological, behavioural and technical readiness for autonomy.


Data analysis was conducted using robust ‘New Statistics’ methods (Cumming, 2012; Plonsky, 2015). Results indicated high levels of learner motivation, limited levels of autonomy, and substantial positive correlations between students’ behavioural autonomy and more internalised forms of motivation. Phase 2 data from interviews with students and teachers depicted a less favourable picture of learners’ motivation, indicating constraints that included a teacher-centred educational culture in Colombia, grade-dependent behaviour, apathy toward learning English, and heavy workloads. The findings of this study appeared to validate the central hypotheses of the two models of motivation in the Colombian context, and led to specific suggestions for pedagogy in the context of the study."


Extract from student questionnaire

Extract of student survey (in Spanish)

*Survey conducted digitally using

Descriptive statistics with inferential analysis

Descriptive statistics and inferential analysis

Detail of implications and suggestions

Extract of implications and suggestions for pedagogical solutions

Extract presentation of findings.png

Slide from presentation of findings and recommendations

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