Learning from authoritarian teachers: Controlling the situation or controlling yourself can sustain motivation

Main Article Content

Kathryn Everhart Chaffee
Kimberly A. Noels
Maya Sugita McEown


Positive psychology encompasses the study of positive outcomes, optimal functioning, and resilience in difficult circumstances. In the context of language learning, positive outcomes include academic engagement, self-determined motivation, persistence in language learning, and eventually becoming a proficient user of the language. These questionnaire studies extend previous research by addressing how these positive outcomes can be achieved even in adverse circumstances. In Study 1, the primary and secondary control scales of interest were validated using 2468 students at a Canadian university. Study 2 examined the capacity of 100 Canadian language learners to adjust themselves to fit in with their environment, termed secondary control, and how it was related to their motivation for and engagement in language learning and their feelings of anxiety speaking in the classroom. Secondary control in the form of adjusting one’s attitude towards language learning challenges through positive reappraisals was positively associated with self-determined motivation, need satisfaction, and engagement. analyses, positive reappraisals were also found to buffer the negative effects of having a controlling instructor on students’ engagement and anxiety. These findings suggest that personal characteristics interact with the learning environment to allow students to function optimally in their language courses even when the teacher is controlling.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Everhart Chaffee, K., Noels, K. A., & McEown, M. S. (2014). Learning from authoritarian teachers: Controlling the situation or controlling yourself can sustain motivation. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 4(2), 355-387. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2014.4.2.9
Author Biographies

Kathryn Everhart Chaffee, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Kathryn Everhart Chaffee is a graduate student studying social and cultural psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Kimberly Noels. She completed her BA in psychology at the University of Delaware, USA, where she learned about cultural psychology from Dr. Beth Morling. Three years spent teaching English in Japan cemented her interests in cultural differences and language learning motivation. Her research focuses on examining control strategy use and academic motivation crossculturally. She is also interested in how individuals choose to seek intercultural contact with a specific culture or linguistic group.

Kimberly A. Noels, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Kimberly A. Noels trained in linguistics, communication, and psychology, and is currently a professor in the Social and Cultural Psychology area of the Department of Psychology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. Her interests focus on the social ecology of second language learning and the interconnections between language, identity, psychological well-being, and interethnic relations. Her research has received awards from the Modern Language Association, the International Association of Language and Social Psychology, National Communication Association, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.

Maya Sugita McEown, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Maya Sugita McEown is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada. She completed her PhD at the Graduate School of Foreign Language Education and Research, Kansai University, Japan. She is currently working on a comparative study of language teachers’ motivational instruction between Japanese and Canadian contexts based on self-determination theory.


  1. Abuhamdeh, S., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the competitive context: an examination of personsituation interactions. Journal of Personality, 77(5), 1615-1635.
  2. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.
  3. Ashman, O., Shiomura, K., & Levy, B. R. (2006). Influence of culture and age on control beliefs: The missing link of interdependence. International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 62(2), 143-57.
  4. Assor, A., Kaplan, H., & Roth, G. (2002). Choice is good, but relevance is excellent: Autonomy-enhancing and suppressing teacher behaviours predicting students’ engagement in schoolwork. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72(2), 261+78. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12028612
  5. Bernaus, M., & Gardner, R. (2008). Teacher motivation strategies, student perceptions, student motivation, and English achievement. The Modern Language Journal, 92(3), 387-401.
  6. Black, A. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students' autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: A self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84(6), 740-756. doi:10.1002/1098-237X(200011)84:6<740::AID-SCE4>3.0.CO;2-3
  7. Boiché, J., & Stephan, Y. (2013). Motivational profiles and achievement: A prospective study testing potential mediators. Motivation and Emotion, 38(1), 79-92. doi:10.1007/s11031-013-9361-6
  8. Cappella, E., & Weinstein, R. (2001). Turning around reading achievement: Predictors of high school students' academic resilience. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(4), 758-771.
  9. Cerasoli, C. P., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 980-1008. doi:10.1037/a0035661
  10. Chaffee, K. E. (2013). Accommodating to the learning environment: Secondary control, academic motivation, and language learning outcomes in two cultures (Master’s thesis). University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10402/era.32936
  11. Chirkov, V. I., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Parent and teacher autonomy-support in Russian and U.S. adolescents: Common effects on well-being and academic motivation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32(5), 618-635. doi:10.1177/0022022101032005006
  12. Chirkov, V. I., Sheldon, K. M., & Ryan, R. M. (2011). The struggle for happiness and autonomy in cultural and personal contexts: An overview. In V. I. Chirkov, R. M. Ryan, & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Human autonomy in cultural contexts: Perspectives on the psychology of agency, freedom, and wellbeing (pp. 1-30). Dordrecht: Springer.
  13. Clément, R., & Baker, S. C. (2001). Measuring social aspects L2 acquisition and use: Scale characteristics and administration (Technical report). University of Ottawa, Canada.
  14. Comanaru, R., & Noels, K.A. (2009). Self-determination, motivation, and the learning of Chinese as a heritage language. Canadian Modern Language Review, 66, 131-158.
  15. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life (pp. 1-34). New York: Perseus.
  16. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  17. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
  18. Deci, E. L., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2004). Self-determination theory and basic need satisfaction: Understanding human development in positive psychology. Ricerche di Psichologia, 27, 17-34.
  19. Deci, E. L., Eghrari, H., Patrick, B. C., & Leone, D. R. (1994). Facilitating internalization: The self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Personality, 62, 119-142.
  20. Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M.(1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 627-668.
  21. Gardner, R. C. (2010). Motivation and second language acquisition: The socioeducational model. New York: Peter Lang.
  22. Gorsuch, R. L. (1983). Factor analysis (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  23. Hall, N. C., Perry, R. P., Ruthig, J. C., Hladkyj, S., & Chipperfield, J. G. (2006). Primary and secondary control in achievement settings: A longitudinal field study of academic motivation, emotions, and performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 36, 1430-1470.
  24. Iyengar, S. S., & Lepper, M. R. (2002). Choice and its consequences: on the costs and benefits of self-determination. In A. Tesser (Ed.), Self and motivation: Emerging psychological perspectives (pp. 71-96). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  25. Jang, H., Reeve, J., Ryan, R. M., & Kim, A. (2009). Can self-determination theory explain what underlies the productive, satisfying learning experiences of collectivistically oriented Korean students? Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 644-661. doi:10.1037/a0014241
  26. Kasser, T., Davey, J., & Ryan, R. M. (1992). Motivation, dependability, and employee-supervisor discrepancies in psychiatric vocational rehabilitation settings. Rehabilitation Psychology, 37, 175-187.
  27. Kondo-Brown, K. (2005). Differences in language skills: Heritage language learner subgroups and foreign language learners. The Modern Language Journal, 89(4), 563-581.
  28. Lepper, M. R., Corpus, J. H., & Iyengar, S. S. (2005). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivational orientations in the classroom: Age differences and academic correlates. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 184-196
  29. MacIntyre, P. D., Noels, K. A., & Clément, R. (1997). Biases in self-ratings of second language proficiency: The role of anxiety. Language Learning, 47, 265-287.
  30. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98(2), 224-253. doi:10.1037//0033-295X.98.2.224
  31. Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. (2006). Academic resilience and its psychological and educational correlates: A construct validity approach. Psychology in the Schools, 43(3), 267-281.
  32. Masgoret, A.-M., & Gardner, R. C. (2003). Attitudes, motivation, and second language learning: A meta-analysis of studies conducted by Gardner and associates. Language Learning, 53, 123-163.
  33. Morling, B., & Evered, S. (2006). Secondary control reviewed and defined. Psychological Bulletin, 132(2), 269-96.
  34. Morling, B., Kitayama, S., & Miyamoto, Y. (2002). Cultural practices emphasize influence in the United States and adjustment in Japan. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(3), 311-323.
  35. Noels, K. A. (2001). New orientations in language learning motivation: Towards a model of intrinsic, extrinsic, and integrative orientations and motivation. In Z. Dörnyei & R. Schmidt (Eds.), Motivation and second language acquisition (pp. 43-68). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
  36. Noels, K. A. (2005). Orientations to learning German: Heritage background and motivational processes. Canadian Modern Language Review, 62, 285-312.
  37. Noels, K. A. (2009). Identity and the internalization of language learning into the self-concept. In Z. Dörnyei & E. Ushioda (Eds.), Motivation, language identity and the L2 self (pp. 295-313). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  38. Noels, K. A. (2013). Learning Japanese; learning English: Promoting motivation through autonomy, competence and relatedness. In M. Apple, D. Da Silva, & T. Fellner (Eds.), Foreign language motivation in Japan (pp. 15-34). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
  39. Noels, K. A., Pelletier, L. G., Clément, R., & Vallerand, R. L. (2000). Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory. Language Learning, 50, 57-85.
  40. Noels, K. A., Clément, R. and Pelletier, L. G. (1999). Perceptions of teachers’ communicative style and students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 83, 23-34.
  41. Perry, R., Hall, N., & Ruthig, J. (2005). Perceived (academic) control and scholastic attainment in higher education. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research. Vol. 20 (pp. 363-436). Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com/index/J074468V70262326.pdf
  42. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press.
  43. Reynolds, J., Stewart, M., Macdonald, R., & Sischo, L. (2006). Have adolescents become too ambitious? High school seniors’ educational and occupational plans, 1976 to 2000. Social Problems, 53(2), 186-206. doi:10.1525/sp.2006.53.2.186
  44. Richer, S. F., & Vallerand, R. J. (1998). Construction et validation de l’Échelle du sentiment d’appartenance sociale. [Construction and validation of the feelings of social belongingness scale]. Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée [European Review of Applied Psychology], 48, 129-137.
  45. Rothbaum, F., Weisz, J. R., & Snyder, S. S. (1982). Changing the world and changing the self: A two-process model of perceived control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 5-37.
  46. Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs, 80, 1-28.
  47. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.
  48. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2011). A self-determination theory perspective on social, institutional, cultural, and economic supports for autonomy and their importance for well-being. In R. M. Ryan, V. I. Chirkov, & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Human autonomy in cultural contexts: Perspectives on the psychology of agency, freedom, and well-being (pp. 45-64). Dordrecht: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-9667-8
  49. Ryan, S., & Dörnyei, Z. (2013). The long-term evolution of language motivation and the L2 self. In A. Berndt (Ed.), Fremdsprachen in der Perspektive lebenslangen Lernens [Foreign languages from the perspective of lifelong learning] (pp. 89-100). Frankfurt: Peter Lang. Retrieved from http://www.zoltandornyei.co.uk/uploads/2013-ryan-dornyei-lang.pdf
  50. Salmela-Aro, K. & Upadaya, K. (2012). The schoolwork engagement inventory: Energy, dedication, and absorption (EDA). European Journal of Psychology Assessment, 28(1), 60-67.
  51. Sugita McEown, M., Noels, K. A., & Saumure, K. D. (in press). Students’ selfdetermined and integrative orientations and teachers’ motivational support in a Japanese as a foreign language context. System.
  52. Tweed, R. G., White, K., & Lehman, D. R. (2004). Culture, stress, and coping: Internally- and externally targeted control strategies of European Canadians, East Asian Canadians, and Japanese. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 652-668.
  53. Walker, J. M. T. (2008). Looking at teacher practices through the lens of parenting style. The Journal of Experimental Education, 76(2), 218-240. doi:10.3200/JEXE.76.2.218-240
  54. Waxman, H. C., Padrón, Y. N., Gray, J., & Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence. (2003). Review of research on educational resilience. Santa Cruz, CA: Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence, University of California, Santa Cruz.
  55. Weisz, J. R., Rothbaum, F. M., & Blackburn, T. C. (1984). Standing out and standing in: The psychology of control in America and Japan. American Psychologist, 39(9), 955-969.
  56. Williams, G. C., Wiener, M. W., Markakis, K. M., Reeve, J., & Deci, E. L. (1994). Medical student motivation for internal medicine. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 9, 327-333.
  57. Woud, M. L., Holmes, E. A., Postma, P., Dalgleish, T., & Mackintosh, B. (2011). Ameliorating intrusive memories of distressing experiences using computerized reappraisal training, Emotion, 12, 778-784.
  58. Wrosch, C., Heckhausen, J., & Lachman, M. E. (2000). Primary and secondary control strategies for managing health and financial stress across adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 15, 387-399.
  59. Zhou, N., Lam, S.-F., & Chan, K. C. (2012). The Chinese classroom paradox: A cross-cultural comparison of teacher controlling behaviors. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 1162-1174. doi:10.1037/a0027609.