Motivating StudentsMotivation is a key factor of performance in any field, academic learning included. A student’s success will be strongly influenced by his or her level of motivation. And since a teacher’s success can probably be measured by the success of his/her students, motivating students is a key skill to develop. Student motivation has been the subject of numerous academic studies. As a result, researchers have identified aspects and strategies which contribute to motivation. These general principals apply to all learning environments, EFL classrooms included.
students will have made some kind of decision, which led them to take an english
course. Thus they will be bringing a basic level of interest and motivation into the classroom. With young learners
the lack of having made their own decision is often compensated by their innate curiosity in what goes on around them. Thus even young learners tend to bring some kind of motivation levels into the classroom. From this point on however, it is up to the teacher to maintain these levels throughout the course, while this will largely depend on what happens in the classroom. Ideally, a teacher’s goal should be not only to maintain the intensity of their motivation but also to encourage students to become self-motivated, independent studiers.
Obviously not all students share the same needs, values, or motivations. But research has found that certain general strategies, course structuring strategies, and instructional behavior typically contribute positively to student motivation levels. Some of their common factors are related to a teacher’s attitude and approach, such as the enthusiasm and interest in a subject the teacher brings into the classroom, the rapport between teacher and students, or the active involvement of students in different aspects of a course. Others are related to organizational teaching issues, such as course organization, appropriate level of difficulty of the materials, variety in lesson contents and materials, and the use of appropriate examples. While another common factor is the perceived relevance of the materials from a student’s point of view. It is from the knowledge of these factors that guidelines can be developed to keep students motivated and excited.
It is invaluable for a teacher to find out about student needs and interests. Course structures, class activities and topics can then be geared towards this, which in turn should lead to high interest levels and a rewarding feeling for students. Making students active participants in class should have similar effects. The activate stage activities of the ESA methodology are especially designed for this, as student learning is enhanced by the productivity and creativity required found in communication games, discussions, the preparation of materials, etc. Besides taking students strengths and interests into account for course structuring purposes, it can be a good idea to let students participate in the election of some topics or materials. In any case, it is fundamental to vary material and teaching methods while slowly increasing difficulty in order to prevent boredom and provide students with a sense of achievement as well as with ongoing, achievable challenges.
Besides the importance of being enthusiastic about the subject and about one’s teaching, a teacher should set high but realistically achievable expectations for students, while encouraging them to also set realistic goals for themselves. Providing messages that enforce self-motivation and letting students know what they can do to be successful in the course are other valuable tools. A teacher’s way to respond to students’ work is also important. For instance, it has been found that students value quick and immediate feedback to their work. Good performance should be acknowledged and rewarded. If necessary, negative feedback should be given with sensitivity, focusing specifically on the task or performance, while highlighting aspects that the students did perform well. If students are stuck with any particular task, it a teacher should guide them towards finding the solution by themselves, instead of merely providing the answer.
The bottom line is to create an open and positive atmosphere, which provides students with positive feedback that they can do well. A teacher should aim to help students find personal meaning in the course material and a sense of accomplishing their personal goals, while making them feel like being valued members of a learning community. Good everyday teaching habits will provide the key for this, more so than specific motivational tasks.