The Relationship between Motivation and Second Language Reading Comprehension among Fourth Grade Filipino Students

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The Relationship between Motivation and Second Language Reading Comprehension among Fourth Grade Filipino Students


Ralph Blay

Kathleen Ann Mercado

Jobell Villacorta

De La Salle University, Manila, 




Success in first language reading comprehension is said to be influenced by one’s own motivation to read. With an attempt to prove this claim in second language reading, this study aims to (1) identify whether Grade-4 Filipino students’ motivation has a significant relationship with their L2 reading comprehension, and (2) determine which of the five aspects of motivation – challenge, curiosity, involvement, competition and compliance – influences students’ reading comprehension as assessed by the reconstructed version of the Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) by Wigfield and Guthrie. Out of the five motivation factors included in the study, two factors namely, competition and challenge, emerged as having a positive relationship with reading comprehension.


One of the four macro skills taught in an English language classroom is reading. Reading is defined as a thinking process which requires a response from the reader, may it be through making generalizations, drawing new inferences and planning succeeding steps based on what was read. The act of reading is a process which involves steps to achieve and reinforce understanding namely; word perception, comprehension, reaction and integration (Zintz & Maggart, 1986). Of all these steps, research on the field has focused on comprehension and the issues that revolve around it.  Zintz and Maggart (1986) define comprehension as the ability to build relevant ideas from individual words read in a particular context. With comprehension come two perspectives on reading as explained by Bernhardt (1991): Reading as a cognitive process and reading as a social process. The cognitive perspective sees reading as an “intrapersonal problem-solving task that takes place within the brain’s knowledge structures” (p. 6). Its text-based nature or focus on surface characteristics of the text seemingly shows the value for perception rather than meaning. Hence, it could be inferred that in reading as a cognitive process, it seems that the key factor is knowledge of the building blocks of the text (syntax) rather than its contextual meaning. The second perspective which Bernhardt (1991) explicates on is reading as a social process. Bloome and Greene (1984 as cited in Bernhardt, 1991) states that the sociolinguistic perspective on reading entails an understanding of how the act builds a social context while at the same time realizes its effect on the comprehension of meaning. In this view, reading is seen as a tool for cultural transmission and socialization among people in a sense that texts are viewed as cultural artifacts which could be interpreted in various ways. Therefore, text processing depends on a unique cultural context for each culture contributes to different ways of reading a text (Bernhardt, 1991).

An integration of the cognitive and social perspectives on reading establishes a more interactive and dynamic reading process that is revealed in L2 reading: The sociocognitive view. In the sociocognitive view, a text is interpreted in its pragmatic level rather than in its basic syntactic and semantic level. Also, intentionality and content are given more emphasis. Furthermore, the sociocognitive view on reading perceives readers’ differences in responding to different contextual references in texts being read as those that contribute to the varying interpretations of such texts (Bernhardt, 1991). Thus, a process of “reconstruction” is involved  in L2 reading whereby cognitive processes and skills used in L1 reading as well as pragmatic and cultural knowledge of the text help facilitate L2 reading, accounting for varied interpretations of meaning from one L2 reader to another.  Aeberson and Field (1997) further explains that skilled L1 readers have the potential of using their L1 reading skills in improving their L2 reading. He adds that if a reader learned to be more adaptable, dynamic, inquisitive and comprehension-monitoring in his or her L1, it is more likely that he or she will be the same when it comes to L2 reading. Therefore, it can be assumed that skills used in L1 reading are transferred during L2 reading while at the same time knowledge of context further contributes to an L2 readers’ comprehension of meaning. 

Though knowledge of comprehension as well as different reading perspectives are vital in understanding the L2 reading process, questions concerning comprehension, specifically how it is achieved, should also be addressed. Previous studies have put emphasis on the primary factors that relate to comprehension: schema, knowledge of vocabulary and motivation. Researchers on L1 reading have claimed that there is a significant relationship between comprehension and any of these factors. Though schema and vocabulary knowledge have been found to exert great influence on L1 reading comprehension, success in reading comprehension has always been believed to originate from the readers themselves. Following the same standpoint in understanding L2 reading, this study aims to determine the relationship between reading comprehension and what drives L2 students to successful comprehension – motivation. Motivation could be defined as an internal state which drives one’s behavior to a certain direction; an aspiration which prompts goal-oriented behavior; and an influence of a person’s needs and desires which establishes direction to his or her behavior (Kleinginna and Kleinginna (1981 as cited in Huitt, 2001). Children’s engagement in reading could not only be explained based on cognitive skills that are at work during the reading process but could also be understood based on motivational factors  that influence reading activity (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). However, where do these motivational factors come from?  There are two types of motivation namely, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is said to be established when a person is driven by the task or learning environment itself (Brandt, 1995) as well as the idea of learning new skills and experiences (Jacobs & Newstead, 2000). On the contrary, extrinsic motivation is when rewards, punishments and other extraneous variables are employed to seemingly manipulate motivation (Ryan & Deci, 1996). However, there are instances in which extrinsic motivation is said to disrupt the development of intrinsic motivation, one of which is when rewards are given to children even if they have done the task regardless of receiving something in return (Sime, 2006).

The effectiveness of reinforcing intrinsic motivation in the classroom through stimulating tasks promises greater success in reading and further demonstrates that students who are motivated by the present learning situation they are in are more likely to achieve success in L1 reading comprehension (Guthrie, Wigfield, Humenick, Perencevich, Taboada & Barbosa, 2006).  The seemingly significant influence of motivation on reading achievement has been further realized by Baker and Wigfield (1999), revealing that all scales or factors related to different dimensions of reading motivation are significantly related to reading achievement and activity. Children’s motivation to read is also seen as multidimensional. Motivation has been able to predict reading breath as well even if it was previously manipulated. Thus, motivation, specifically intrinsic motivation, exerts greater influence not only in reading comprehension but in other aspects of reading as well, for instance, reading breadth (Wigfield & Guthrie, 1997). 

Studies on motivation in relation to L2/FL reading also provide significant results – may they be positive or negative – on comprehension. Attitudes of Japanese students regarding reading and studying in both Japanese and English did not seem to change even after undergoing an Extensive Reading Program, the effectiveness of which may be dependent on time as well as students’ motivation towards reading in that if they are already motivated enough to read texts, the ER program seems unnecessary (Apple, 2005). On the contrary, Turkish students seem to have a positive attitude towards reading for they read both for intrinsic and extrinsic purposes and are not intimidated of difficult reading tasks (Tercanlioglu, 2001). In terms of native speakers of English and their L2 reading, Kondo-Brown (2006) claims that knowledge of the L2  (in this case, Japanese) and reading comprehension are both directly related to one’s self-perception of L2 reading ability, professed difficulty in learning the L2 and the intensity for motivation in reading in the L2. In addition, students who have greater motivation in learning the L2 (Japanese) in general was found to be more intrinsically and extrinsically motivated to read in the L2. 

Based on the related literature discussed, it may be assumed that motivation may be different depending on the language involved. Moreover, it appears that intrinsic motivation exhibits a greater relationship not only with L1 but also L2 reading activities, seeing as based on the studies, intrinsically motivated students tend to have more success in either L1 or L2 reading. The findings of the literature discussed as well as their implications have helped initiate the present study’s goal to determine whether such conclusions would hold true particularly in the Philippine setting.

Though previous research concerning the relationship between motivation and reading comprehension in both L1 and L2 reading have been accomplished, using the aspects of reading motivation identified by Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) as bases in analyzing the relationship of reading motivation with L2 reading comprehension have not been widely used in local contexts. Hence, with the aid of this framework, this study aims to: (1) identify whether Grade-4 Filipino students’ reading motivation has a significant relationship with their L2 reading comprehension, and; (2) determine which among the five aspects of reading motivation covered in the reconstructed version of Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) originally developed by Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) Grade-4 students consider as most influential in their reading.

Since it is one of the study’s goals to determine whether reading motivation of Filipino students relates to their L2 reading comprehension, aspects of reading motivation as reflected in the Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) constructed by Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) serves as the present research’s underlying framework. The Motivation for Reading Questionnaire covers 11 aspects of reading motivation which are grouped into three major categories of motivation namely: self-efficacy, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and social motivation for reading. Due to certain limitations of the study, the researchers opted to revise the MRQ which resulted in covering only five aspects of reading motivation as deemed most intrinsically reliable by Wigfield and Guthrie themselves: challenge, curiosity, involvement, social competition and compliance. Challenge is an aspect under the self-efficacy category. Challenge refers to the fulfillment of having been able to understand complex ideas in a text. On the other hand, curiosity, involvement and competition are classified under intrinsic & extrinsic motivation. Aspects that fall under intrinsic motivation are curiosity and involvement; curiosity is defined as one’s drive to learn about a topic of interest while involvement is the enthusiasm towards reading literary as well as expository texts. Finally, compliance is the only aspect considered under the social motivation category. Compliance refers to reading to achieve a goal or accomplish a requirement. Successful reading comprehension may rely on any of these five aspects depending on what the reader feels most strongly about. Hence, the specific motivator in which a reader identifies him or herself the most may vary from one reader to another, showing different probabilities in terms of aspects that could be considered as highly influential to reading comprehension. 

Apart from revising the Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) – which was originally constructed with 54-items that covered 11 aspects of reading motivation – due to constraints in time that could have affected regular classroom sessions in which data were gathered, there are other limitations that might have influenced the outcome of the study. The revisions made by the researchers resulted in having only five aspects of reading motivation being measured. Furthermore, there were no male participants in the study given that the schools in which data were collected are both exclusive schools for girls which are more accessible to the researchers because two of them happen to work there. Moreover, the reading comprehension test employed in the study was not a test officially developed to determine students’ aptitude in reading comprehension but rather, the reading text and its corresponding comprehension questions were obtained from a locally published Grade-4 English text book. What caused the researchers to choose a text and comprehension test from a locally published text book is because most reading comprehension tests considered for the study are foreign made and due to probable cultural and contextual differences, the Filipino students might not be aware of some cultural references made in foreign-made texts. Finally, the analysis of data only focused on correlating mean scores of students in the motivation questionnaire and reading comprehension test and comparing the mean scores of students in each aspect of motivation. Describing how each aspect of reading motivation relates to reading comprehension was not covered.


Research Design

Since the study aims to determine whether reading motivation relates to reading comprehension, a correlational research design was employed. Scores of each participant in a reading motivation questionnaire were obtained and correlated with their corresponding scores in a reading comprehension test. That way, the relationship between the two variables would be determined, may it be significant or not. Participants’ mean scores in different reading motivation categories were also compared so as to identify which category elementary students consider the most in their reading habits.


A total of 260 Grade-4 students from two private exclusive schools in the Philippines served as participants in the study.  The participants were chosen as samples primarily because of accessibility for they were classes being presently handled by two of the researchers. The students are all female whose age is approximately nine to ten years old.


 Since one of the variables being measured in the study is reading motivation, a revised version of Wigfield and Guthrie’s (1997) The Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) as reconstructed by the researchers was employed Originally constructed with 54 items that covered eleven aspects of reading motivation. The researchers’ reconstructed version of the questionnaire is comprised of only fifteen items that cover only five aspects of reading motivation: challenge, curiosity, reading involvement, competition, and compliance. The said five aspects of reading included the reconstructed MRQ employed by the researchers were the ones identified by Wigfield and Guthrie (1997) as the most reliable ones. They tested the questionnaire’s reliability twice for the purposes of their study; curiosity yielded a .68 and .80 reliability values, challenge obtained a .66 and .72 reliability, involvement had .77 and .81, competition had .77 and .79 and compliance had .71 and .70 values for reliability. Hence, based on the findings of Wigfield and Guthrie in relation to reliability of the MRQ, the researchers opted to choose the five aspects of motivation that had high values of reliability to cover in their reconstructed version of the MRQ. Each item was answered on a 1 to 4 scale: 1 = very different from me, 2= a little different from me, 3 = a little like me and 4 = a lot like me. Since the MRQ was set to be administered during an English class, the revision of the questionnaire was taken into account due to time constraints that may affect the regular English session.      

In order to determine students’ aptitude in reading comprehension, a reading comprehension test was implemented. The reading comprehension test was taken from a locally published Grade-4 textbook, “Reading for Young Achievers Grade 4” by Corazon Y. Delgado. The test contains a reading text entitled “Rewarding Sincerity”, an adaptation of Abbie Farwell Brown’s “The Dove that Spoke the Truth”, followed by a ten-item test, eight of which were of the multiple-choice type while two were open-ended. Since two items catered to the applied level of comprehension, meaning, opinions of readers were being elicited, these questions were edited by the researchers, reconstructing them into multiple-choice type of questions. The editing of the said questions was patterned according to how other items were constructed. The choice of reading text was determined according to values being taught through the story as well as its experiential relevance to the students’ lives.

Data Gathering Procedure

Once the researchers have chosen the participants for the study, the instruments to be used to gather data were prepared; the revision of the MRQ as well as the choosing of the reading text and editing of questions in the comprehension test took place. Subsequently, the Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) was implemented first.  Since the implementation of the MRQ was done during English class time, the participants were only given 10 minutes to answer the questionnaire to avoid consuming too much time allotted for the regular English session. The researchers then implemented the reading comprehension test a week after the administration of the reading motivation questionnaire. The first part of the test involved the researcher reading aloud the reading text (“Rewarding Sincerity”) as it was being shown to the class via overhead projector. Afterwards, the participants were asked to accomplish a 10-item multiple-choice type of test in 10 minutes without the copy of the text being shown to them. Their answers were written on a one-fourth sheet of paper and were corrected by the researchers.

Data Analysis 

Given that one of the study’s primary objectives is to determine whether reading motivation relates to reading comprehension, scores of each student in the MRQ and reading comprehension test were correlated using Pearson r correlation. In addition, to determine the factors that may have a significant relationship with reading comprehension, each motivation factor, namely challenge, curiosity, involvement, competition, and compliance were correlated with the dependent variable. Regression was also done not only to confirm the results of the correlation, but also to see the predictive relationship each motivation factor might have in determining reading comprehension.


The descriptive statistics of the reading comprehension and factors of reading motivation were reported. These factors are then intercorrelated using Pearson r. The multiple regression was used where factors of reading motivation were used to predict reading comprehension scores.

Table 1

Motivation Factors and Reading Comprehension: Descriptive Statistics (N=260)







Reading Comprehension




































A score of eight (8) turned out to be the average score for the 260 valid cases in the study, with the lowest cases scoring a minimum of 2 out of 10 and obtaining all correct answers as the maximum. A standard deviation of 1.66 is indicative that the scores obtained are spread across the spectrum.

The descriptive statistics for the motivation factors vary slightly, with the highest obtained M at 3.291, belonging to involvement. It also has the smallest SD, which may mean that the group of values obtained from the answers of the students is closer to the actual mean of the sample. The lowest M obtained from the motivation factors is challenge at 2.73.

Table 2

Motivation Factors and Reading Comprehension: Correlations (N=260)








(1) Reading Comprehension






(2) Challenge






(3) Curiosity






(4) Involvement






(5) Competition






(6) Compliance







Of the correlations done between reading comprehension and all the motivation factors, two factors emerged as having a significant relationship to the dependent variable, comprehension. In Table 3 above, any relationship with a p value of less than 0.05 is considered significant, and of these, challenge and competition both have a significant correlation with reading comprehension. This is possibly indicative of the significance of the role that both challenge and competition play in understanding a given reading selection among Filipino middle school students.

Multiple regression analysis was conducted where the five factors of reading motivation was used to predict reading comprehension scores.

Table 3

Summary of Multiple Regression Analyses for Variables Predicting Reading Comprehension (N=260)





SE ß































Note: R = .23,   R²= .0507, Adjusted R² = .03, F(5,254)=2.71


In Table 3, the relationship between reading comprehension is confirmed by regression testing done between the different factors and the dependent variable itself. Both challenge and competition have significant p-values, and as a point of interest, their respective B values also have an almost inverse relationship, i.e. one that cancels out the other. The significant values of the predictive factors that have a positive correlation with reading comprehension are also indicated above.


The underlying dimensions of reading motivation as assessed by the MRQ were examined in grade four students to determine if there was a support for the multidimensional model posited by Wigfield and Guthrie (1997). Reading motivation researchers and theorists have defined and studied several different motivational constructs, including beliefs about competence and ability, self-efficacy, valuing of achievement tasks, goals for achievement, and intrinsic motivation to learn. Five factors were taken into consideration to support the multidimensional model of reading motivation – challenge, curiosity, reading involvement, competition and compliance. The correlation among these factors was analyzed to determine which factor affects the most in the reading comprehension of the students. Furthermore, correlation between motivation scores and comprehension test scores obtained were tested in the study to determine if motivation affects the reading comprehension.

Discussion is organized in two issues: students’ reading motivation in relation to their reading comprehension and the most dominant factor that affects students’ motivation. It is revealed in this study that there was a weak positive correlation between reading motivation and the reading comprehension of the students.  It can be concluded that by some means motivation can lead to increased engagement, which can lead to higher, more valid comprehension performance on high stakes assessments. In this study involvement assumes an active, intentional stance toward the text, enabling one to both persevere in getting information from text and using both the textual information and cognitive processes to make meaning. Without motivation, specifically the intention and persistence to the goal of understanding texts for various purposes, there is little comprehension. Thus, Wigfield and Guthrie (2005) argued that definitions of reading comprehension should include motivation. Engaged readers are motivated to read for different purposes, utilize knowledge gained from previous experience to generate new understandings, and participate in meaningful social interaction around reading. In conceptualizing reading motivation, we adapted constructs defined and developed by researchers in the achievement motivation field. Currently, many motivation theorists propose that individuals’ competence and efficacy beliefs, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and purpose for achievement play a crucial role in their decisions about which activities to do, how long to do them, and how much effort to put into them (Bandura, 1997; Eccles, Wigfield, & Schiefele, 1998; Pintrich & Schunk,1996). Thus, making motivated readers more engaged in reading and be positive towards reading. 

One important implication of this conceptualization of motivation is that it is multifaceted: there are different aspects of motivation (Wigfield, 1997). It is therefore not appropriate to think of children as motivated or unmotivated, but rather as motivated in variety of ways because there are still many factors to be considered such as behavioral, cultural, social, and cognitive factors. More importantly, applying these to classroom environment, children’s motivation to read can be enhanced when interesting texts and materials are used in class. Examples of these include fiction and nonfiction books, electronic reading sources especially that we are living in the world of technology, lively reference materials featuring pictures and variety of activities. Furthermore, a major approach that can be used to enhance motivation is through cooperative learning which involves students working together in groups rather than their own o competing with others. From previous researches, when teachers adopt a cooperative instructional and reward structure in their classrooms, achievement often improves, social relations are more positive, and students’ motivation is enhanced (Sharan & Shaulov, 1993). Learning and motivation appear to be highest in cooperative learning situations that are characterized by both group goals and individual accountability (Slavin, 1995). Such situations appear to create positive interdependence and stimulating group inquiry, which in turn arouse social and academic motivational goals (Stevens & Slavins, 1995).

The analysis of mean scores on different scales showed students’ motivation is strong in the area of involvement. This can be interpreted that students reading involvement is one way of finding enjoyment through experiencing different kinds of literary or informal texts. Importance of reading is valued by individuals through different tasks or activities. The rest of the aspects such as curiosity, challenge, competition and compliance were assumed to be trivial factors to be considered. The results for compliance, and in large part, curiosity as well, may in fact be indicative of students that read not only because they are asked to, but because they do it voluntarily, i.e. without any need for external motivation. Curiosity also can tell how much of the students’ interests are sustained. These findings suggest that students read for both extrinsic and intrinsic reasons, and do not avoid difficult reading activities. Social reasons, as a motivation for reading, had one of the lowest scores on any scale. However, competition which falls under extrinsic motivation was insignificant for the students reading motivation.

Researchers who may want to delve into the same subject using the same framework may attempt to cover all 11 aspects of motivation as originally covered by Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ). That way, more aspects of motivation could be analyzed in relation to L2 reading comprehension among Filipino students. Furthermore, future research may evaluate aspects of reading motivation of mixed-gender participants as well as students in higher grade levels. A more exhaustive analysis could also be provided in prospective attempts to replicate or improve the study by correlating each aspect of motivation with the student’s corresponding reading comprehension score. Finally, in order to come up with a comparative analysis using the text employed in the reading comprehension test as one point of comparison, other researchers in the field may consider using a standardized reading comprehension test developed internationally in measuring students’ comprehension and identify whether locally and internationally produced texts influence comprehension and motivation in L2 reading. 


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Category: PESL 2009