Exploring motivation and engagement: voices of adolescent non-Arab Muslim learners of Arabic at Australian Islamic schools

15 Jul 2022

This article explores the motivation and engagement of adolescent non-Arab Muslim learners of Arabic (a-MLA) enrolled at Australian Islamic Schools (AIS). To this end, the ‘L2 Motivational Self System’ was used as a theoretical lens. This research gives ‘voice’ to learners and is dialogic, ‘speaking with’ rather than ‘speaking for’ learners in Islamic schools. It also responds to calls for the ‘renewal’ of Islamic Schools in the Western context, including in Australia, through a focus on Arabic learning. A basic interpretive qualitative approach was used, and data were collected from 40 participants using semi-structured interviews. The interviews were supplemented by classroom observations. In keeping with the emphasis placed on learners’ voices, the data presented focus on the students’ own words and perspectives. The findings suggest the presence of predominantly religious orientations to learning Arabic, but that a subset of other orientations also exists. The findings also indicate that several contextual factors can lead to disengagement and that the L2 Motivational Self System might not fully explain the situation of these learners. Nonetheless, these findings can inform the practice of teachers engaged with a-MLA and provide grounds for further research.