Exploiting Motivational Processes to Promote Advisee Engagement and Ownership in Written Advising

Hatice Karaaslan, Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, School of Foreign Languages
Gamze Güven-Yalçın, Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, School of Foreign Languages

Karaaslan, H., & Güven-Yalçın, G. (2020). Exploiting motivational processes to promote advisee engagement and ownership in written advising. Relay Journal 3(2), 173-184. https://doi.org/10.37237/relay/030203

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 This working paper elaborates on a series of written advising email exchanges conducted with an AYBU-SFL student who volunteered to become an advisee and receive online written advising from one of the researcher-LAs in this study. The study spans a period of seven months, final three months overlapping the pandemic-related lockdown during which instruction at the university was delivered online. The purpose was to exploit the strategies and tools of advising asynchronously via email utilizing Intentional Reflective Dialogue (IRD) to promote deeper reflection, while at the same time facilitating advisee engagement and encouraging advisee ownership by considering certain motivational processes, including emphasizing effort, creating hope, respecting power, building relationships, expressing enthusiasm, challenging and prompting. In the paper, the context and background, and the purpose are introduced briefly. Then the motivational processes used are presented with reference to the written advising data pointing out and illustrating how motivation-boosting elements were incorporated in this series of IRD email exchanges. Finally, the impact of exploiting motivational resources is further discussed so as to bring insights to how advisors’ focus on motivational elements while conducting advising sessions influence the overall flow with respect to advisee engagement and ownership of the process.

Keywords: Advising in Language Learning (ALL), Intentional Reflective Dialogue (IRD), motivational processes, advisee engagement and ownership, online written/asynchronous advising, advising during the pandemic period

Context and Background

 This series of written advising email exchanges have taken place between an advisee and a Learning Advisor (LA) from Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University School of Foreign Languages (AYBU-SFL) in Turkey. The purpose was to implement the advising process (See Figure 1) with its strategies and tools within the framework of Intentional Reflective Dialogue (Kato & Mynard, 2016) with an AYBU-SFL student (Elisa hereafter) who had been referred to the researcher-LA by her main class instructor and agreed to participate in advising sessions in an online written form via email providing her consent for using the data for research purposes. Elisa contacted the researcher-LA giving the account (originally in Turkish) below:

Despite studying hard, I have got 55.5/100 in my first midterm exam and this shows I haven’t been able to find the right study method. How should I study? I have two weeks before the next midterm exam but I don’t know which method to follow while studying. My department is International Relations and considering my future job, I need to know English and other foreign languages well. I should put a lot of effort and learn English very well to be able to speak it fluently. I will be very happy if you could help me.

The researcher-LA welcomed Elisa’s desire to receive written advising via email, complimenting her for taking the initiative to seek guidance while exploring alternative ways in her language learning, and started the advising process following the steps suggested in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The advising process (Kato & Mynard, 2016)

Advising strategies and tools serve various functions in a reflective dialogue. Restating, summarizing, and intuiting are signs of attentive listening, which makes the advisee experience the pleasure of being listened to and feel valued. Complimenting, empathizing and experience-sharing help to create a positive atmosphere and establish a bond -rapport and trust- between the advisee and the advisor. Meta-viewing, linking, and metaphor are used to help the advisee have a broader look, make connections and transfer skills across the different aspects of their learning. Challenging, prompting further reflection, view-point switching, reframing, and powerful questions help the advisee adopt multiple perspectives and question their existing beliefs.

Although the scheme is straightforward and the strategies are handy, conducting IRD via email asynchronously poses certain challenges especially with respect to building rapport and trust; achieving continuous advising that would help with holistic care. Therefore, another layer of implementation was laid by considering motivation-boosting elements in an effort to promote advisee engagement and ownership as these constructs highly correlate with motivation (Muir, 2001: cited in Richards, 2006). In this respect, such motivational processes as emphasizing effort, creating hope, respecting power, building relationships and expressing enthusiasm as identified by Mendler (2000) as well as challenging and prompting as specified among the characteristics of motivating lessons by Letendre (2012) were incorporated while building IRD around the emerging themes.

Motivational Processes Explained with Illustrative Examples

 Motivation is a key term in educational settings as initiating action toward a goal and sustaining interest in achieving that goal are both dependent on student motivation, which may fluctuate for a variety of reasons from personal, emotional to scholastic, academic. In this respect, it is important for teachers as well as LAs to find novel ideas to nurture interests and capabilities or arouse curiosity.

In an effort to experiment with the integration of such a perspective in language advising situations, this working paper aims to illustrate how motivational processes could be embedded in a series of IRDs. These IRDs were conducted via email employing the conventions of written advising over a period of seven months -final three months overlapping the pandemic-related lockdown. At the time the instruction at the university was delivered online with the advisee and the advisor exchanging a minimum of two emails weekly.

One motivational element that could be incorporated in advising sessions is Building Relationships. It is only after mutual rapport and trust has been established an advisee opens up and becomes more expressive and fluent while engaging in reflection with an advisor, and this requires effort from both sides, primarily from the advisor. Generally with advisees who have had serious trust issues in their past relationships with teachers, a caring and accepting attitude is essential in building healthy, respectful bonds. LAs can employ various strategies to achieve and maintain such relationships as illustrated in Extracts 1 below.

Extract 1: Building Relationships

Elisa:  I hope you also had productive times.

LA: Thank you very much, dear Elisa; I go through times that are productive from time to time, or during which emotional intensity increases or my priorities change, but there is always development and transformation, as in everybody else’s life. Besides, I am having a really good time with my little daughter, which motivates me and makes me stronger. I hope everybody experiences these great feelings.

Elisa: I am happy that you are safe and productive during this period of pandemic. Thank you for your good wishes.

LA: I do thank you, dear; you are an advisee who enlightens my days with your development and light. Talking to you is always very enjoyable and developing. Your perspective is always open to development and it is sincere. The fact that you have earned them at an early age also gives a lot of hope for your future. May God open your way, my dear, may your success always be.

Elisa: I take refuge in the sincerity in your last lines. Even without meeting you face-to-face, I love and respect you. Again, thank you for sparing your precious time for me. Today was a day when I was very emotional. I hope I expressed myself well.

In this specific set of email-exchanges that took place during the pandemic-related lockdown period, the LA employs the advising strategies of experience-sharing and complimenting as well as pointing out how the email exchanges between them are also important to her and improve her as an advisor. In this way, the LA aims to strengthen the bond between them and to show how important their relationship is to her. In response, Elisa is confirming this bond and rapport building on the felt sincerity in the LA’s lines.

Another effective way to encourage learners is Emphasizing Effort. Students’ lack of motivation often stems from assumptions associated with feelings of inadequacy attributing success to fixed abilities, not to effort (Dweck, 2006). Thus, the teacher or LA needs to put the emphasis on effort encouraging more of the same behavior or performance. In this respect, from an LA’s perspective it is crucial to carefully identify and point out the positive in the advisee’s views, plans or behaviors so that the advisee develops a capable self-perception. Extracts 2a and 2b below illustrate how the LA uses the strategies of complimenting and metaviewing to emphasize the effort, and how this creates a positive response in the advisee, Elisa:

Extract 2a: Emphasizing Effort

LA: Hello dear; I know about your desire to engage in written advising with me as your main class instructor has informed me about it. I am very glad to hear from you in such a short time, Elisa. It is obvious that you are a diligent student who takes responsibility for her own learning and follows through; I see this and congratulate you, dear.

Elisa: Good morning teacher, first of all thank you very much for everything. I am glad that I could express myself correctly to you. I will consider your suggestions. I am thinking of preparing a study plan for the exam. I will also consider my main class instructor’s writing related suggestions while planning my studies.

In this extract drawn from the first email exchange between them, having summarized her learning-related concerns and the resulting reason or desire to receive written advising prior to the advisor’s response here, Elisa feels contented and relieved afterwards and starts talking about her plans. She seems to think she is listened to attentively and her concerns are taken seriously. In what follows one can find further emphasis on effort, this time during the pandemic-related lockdown and when Elisa is rearranging her studies and seeking guidance or confirmation. In this distance-learning situation, she has no physical access to the school resources or no face-to-face meetings with her main class instructor. The LA is again emphasizing effort by employing the advising strategy of metaviewing/linking.

Extract 2b: Emphasizing Effort

Elisa: During my studies, I have focused more on reading and listening. I often read articles and I think I have improved myself on this subject.

LA: These studies must have developed the skills to follow written and audio content and to process and interpret incoming information. They will certainly improve your writing and speaking skills also with the foundation that has been formed over time.

Still another motivational element that could be utilized during an advising exchange is Creating Hope. Generally, everybody wants to be hopeful and positive about the likelihood of attaining the things they desire to have in life. In the learners’ case, if they feel success is not quite likely, they get discouraged and give up, thinking that they are not capable. On the contrary, when learning is facilitated by guiding learners to set attainable and observable goals and when tasks are controlled for the amount of challenge they pose, learners feeling more hopeful and having a positive outlook on life are likely to take part in activities more enthusiastically (Mendler, 2000).

With respect to advising, the same applies, and planting seeds of hope in an advisee’s mind is enhanced by asking inclusive, rather than exclusive questions (See Table 1 below for examples of exclusive vs inclusive questions).

Table 1. Exclusive vs. Inclusive Question Samples

Exclusive Forms Inclusive Forms
Who has ever traveled out of our city? Who would like to travel somewhere different?
Who read a book outside of school lately? I just read a book about xxx. Have you ever heard, read, or seen a movie about that?
Who completed their homework last night? How many of you remember that we had homework last night? Can anyone tell me what it was about?
Raise your hand if you have been to an art museum. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a picture you liked.

Source: Adapted from Jensen (2013)

One such example for creating hope embedded in intuition and powerful inclusive questions is presented in Extract 3 below.

 Extract 3: Creating Hope

Elisa: Reading, listening and writing skills improve each other as you have said. For this, time is very important; I try to put English in every aspect of my life. After passing the English proficiency exam, now I look for links and applications to practice the skills I need to improve. I believe that after some time, I will feel more courageous with my English knowledge.

LA: I guess the process will proceed like that; especially after the pandemic period, we will become stronger, more courageous, more practical with our short, medium and long-term plans, but we will also be flexible, creative, innovative and constantly learning people. Do you think we will develop and expand this knowledge and experience not only with our use of foreign languages, but also with many other tools and methods we have been introduced meanwhile? In general, what kind of “you” do you have in mind with the vision of the future, dear?

Elisa: You have said that we are individuals who develop ourselves and upload information on us during the pandemic, and I hope we will use this information efficiently after the pandemic period. I have tried to explain myself and my thoughts to you with clarity. We have all seen that what matters in the flow of information is not that we are within the four walls, but the desire within us. If we wanted to, we would not participate in online classes, or we would not engage in research to improve ourselves. I think I would be an individual who makes plans and implements them with more enthusiasm and determination. I know that I will embrace myself and our people more in the name of differences, and I will develop more myself dreaming of change.

Here, the LA builds on Elisa’s hopeful statement regarding how brave she will be feeling with her improved English knowledge, and creates further hope using the strategies of intuition and powerful, inclusive questions (Jensen, 2013; Kato & Mynard, 2016) regarding her future vision of herself. This move finds response in the advisee as revealed in her statements regarding her future vision as someone planning to be more enthusiastic and ambitious as well as being more accepting of others and situations, as such building on her learnings from the pandemic period.

What else might help to make advising sessions more compelling and motivating for advisees is Respecting Power. When an advisee is made to feel she has a meaningful influence on people and situations, and her emotions and opinions are valued, she feels competent and respected. Allowing advisee involvement and providing choices help with empowerment, autonomy and motivation as well as encouraging the advisee to attain the ownership of learning. Extract 4 below illustrates how respecting power is integrated into the advising exchanges:

Extract 4: Respecting Power

Elisa: When I take notes, I create my own diagrams for the contents in the lectures. I think these diagrams and tables will stick better in my mind. I am very aware of the moments I get tired while studying, and I often have a concentration problem during such moments. In order to fully understand a subject or write my paragraph assignments as good as I want, I prefer the times of the day when I am calmer, and my mind is not very busy with other things. For this reason, I usually take short breaks or plan my study for the next day.

LA: You are a highly aware student who can monitor her study process by paying attention to her physical and mental responses and can determine the moments when she is tired or ready to learn; I congratulate you, Elisa.

Here, by using the strategies of summarizing and complimenting, the LA appreciates Elisa’s level of awareness regarding how she monitors and responds to her bodily and mental states while studying and respects her power.

The last motivational process mentioned in Mendler’s (2000) model is Expressing Enthusiasm. It is well documented in the literature that a learner is highly motivated to show success when she thinks people, especially the ones important to her, see her as an individual and have high expectations of success from her. Similarly, showing how enthusiastic you are about your job as a teacher or LA or how much you care about your students or advisees set a good example for them. Your commitment to your work encourages them to become more optimistic about learning a language and more willing to put effort into achieving it. In what follows in Extract 5, an example of expressing enthusiasm is presented:

Extract 5: Expressing Enthusiasm

Elisa: I believe in myself because I work for it. I’m so lucky to meet you.

LA: I feel I’m lucky, too because I am very happy to be able to help our students even now when I am at home on maternity leave. I feel useful. This is very important and meaningful for me as I do not want to be the mother of a single baby but a resourceful person for as many people as possible. Your words here are the best New Year messages for me, Elisa. Wish you a Happy New Year with your loved ones. May good things surround you and your life in the New Year, 2020, as well!

Here, the LA expresses her enthusiasm about her advising experience with Elisa in order to encourage her to be more willing to put effort into achieving her goals in language learning and to value her decision to reflect on her learning experience under the guidance of a learning advisor.

In addition to these five key motivational processes, there are two important characteristics of engaging lessons, as well as advising sessions. They are Challenging and Prompting (further reflection). In challenging, the advisee is challenged to help with the realization whether what she presents as her opinions, emotions or plans are thoroughly evaluated by herself or if there are other aspects which she might like to elaborate on further if encouraged. While using this strategy, there are certain points to consider though such as fine tuning the difficulty level and ensuring the context is right in the sense that the advisee finds the subject important. In prompting further reflection, by asking powerful, compelling questions, deeper dialogues can be achieved, and the advisee can be motivated to consider her situation from new, multiple perspectives.

This engagement becomes more and more meaningful as change takes place in small, but important steps, towards a goal that really matters to the advisee. The advisor listens to what the advisee is telling, tries to understand how important the issue is to the advisee and asks follow-up questions to make the advisee elaborate on the topic at a deeper level, with no assumptions made or immature conclusions drawn. There are examples presented in Extract 6 below illustrating challenging and prompting further reflection.

Extract 6: Challenging

Elisa: Since I started to study at the English preparatory school, I have been a day-to-day studier; this was the same during my university exam preparation period and I developed this study habit at that time. The time I spend on studying English started to increase even more. Because of my inner desire to learn… and being away from my family, I have plenty of time, so I have the opportunity to study effectively.

LA: I have no doubt that this study will take you to your goals due to the importance you give to studying effectively, efficiently, regularly and with discipline, dear. You are saying you are studying on a daily basis; what are you working on in general while studying like this, Elisa? What are the things that make this daily study activity effective and productive? How do you measure this efficiency? Would you like to tell me a little bit about those?

Elisa: In your first question, you are asking how I understand that I am studying my lessons efficiently. I often write things down in my own logic in order not to forget the information I have learned. Since I have a visual memory, I make notes and study them. I find note-taking more useful than memorization. Most of the time, I identify topics that I don’t understand, and I revise them when my mind is not busy with other things.

LA: Knowing yourself and being aware of your dominant learning methods show how conscious you are as a student and this is the most basic thing on the road to studying efficiently. Making notes that will activate your visual memory is something that makes you feel good in this sense; so, what exactly do you mean when you say “to write things down in my own logic”? Is this logic one that makes your study efficient? And can you tell me a little more about the “times when your mind is not very busy with other things” and during which you prefer to study difficult subjects?

Elisa: When I take notes, I create my own diagrams for the contents in the lectures. I think these diagrams and tables will stick better in my mind. I am very aware of the moments I get tired while studying, and I often have a concentration problem during such moments. In order to fully understand a subject or write my paragraph assignments as good as I want, I prefer the times of the day when I am calmer, and my mind is not very busy with other things. For this reason, I usually take short breaks or plan my study for the next day.

In the first set of advising exchanges above, by appealing to the motivational process of creating hope and employing the strategy of complimenting, the LA aims to prepare Elisa for the upcoming challenge and prompting further reflection presented in the form of powerful questions to encourage her to reflect more deeply on her study plans. In the second set of exchanges, by complimenting, respecting power and asking powerful questions, the LA prepares Elisa for further reflection again. In response, Elisa elaborates further on her study schedule and provides more details to discuss; she seems to have a clearer picture of what she plans to study when and how.

 Discussion and Conclusion

This working paper focuses on a series of written advising email exchanges conducted asynchronously over a period of seven months, final three months overlapping the pandemic-related lockdown. It aims to illustrate how motivational resources could be utilized in facilitating the advising experience for both the advisee and the advisor. Further, it examines the kind of influence incorporating motivational elements might have on the overall flow with respect to advisee engagement and ownership of the process.

Through examples and subsequent analysis and comments on them, it has been shown that motivational elements including building relationship, emphasizing effort, creating hope, respecting power, expressing enthusiasm, challenging and prompting could effectively be integrated into the advising dialogues employing the currently available advising strategies. It has also been revealed in this specific case that addressing these motivation-boosting features while structuring the dialogue could enhance the IRD experience in significant ways, resulting in higher advisee engagement and ownership and continuous advising.

Considering the hardships we all go through and the stressors we encounter during the pandemic period, advising, not only for language learning purposes, has gained greater importance; as such, future work into advising can focus on ways to incorporate not only motivational but also resilience-related processes or strategies regarding how to bounce back from the effects of traumatic events by taking care of yourself, maintaining your meaning and purpose in life, holding a positive outlook, strengthening your relationships, and active problem solving.


This work was supported by the Scientific Research Fund (BAP) at Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University, Turkey, as part of Project 3934 in the 2017-2018 academic year. The authors would like to thank their colleague Pınar Üstündağ-Algın who referred her student to the researcher-LAs in this study for written advising, as such making this paper on the experience possible. They also would like to dedicate this full paper to the professionals in the field of education on whom a huge burden, both professional and emotional, has been placed. You are seen. You are honoured and respected with gratitude for the work you are doing in this time of crisis.

Notes on the contributors

 Hatice Karaaslan, holding a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Middle East Technical University and Learning Advising Certificates from Kanda University of International Studies, works as an EFL instructor, a learning advisor and an advisor educator at Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University School of Foreign Languages, Turkey. Her interests include corpus linguistics, critical thinking, blended/flipped learning, self-determination, and advising in language learning. hkaraaslan@ybu.edu.tr

Gamze Güven-Yalçın is an EFL instructor, a learning advisor, an advisor educator and the co-coordinator of the Learning Advisory Program (LAP) at Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University School of Foreign Languages, Turkey. She holds her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature, a Live Online Trainor Certificate (LANCELOT) and Learning Advising Certificates from Kanda University of International Studies. Her interests include advising in language learning, advisor education, developing advising tools, and gamification in language learning. ggyalcin@ybu.edu.tr


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Jensen, E. (2013). Engaging students with poverty in mind: Practical strategies for raising achievement. ASCD.

Kato, S., and Mynard, J. (2016). Reflective dialogue: Advising in language learning. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315739649

Letendre, R. C. (2012). Mini grant: Practical strategies for working successfully with “difficult” students. https://tinyurl.com/y5cdvcu9

Mendler, A. N. (2000). Motivating students who don’t care: Successful techniques for educators. National Educational Service.

Richards, A. (2006). Motivational strategies and student participation. (Unpublished master’s thesis). State University of New York http://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/ehd_theses/360

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