TEFL Motivating Your Students

Have you ever had trouble with a student unwilling to participate in the classroom, a student that no matter how hard you to inspire seems to remain unmotivated? This type of occurrence is very common in the classroom today. There are always the students that seem to be unmotivated, regardless of what positive encouragement you provide for them. There is no single formula to cure unmotivated students (David, 1993), but with the proper techniques and thinking, every student can be brought to participate in the classroom. There are many reasons a student may be unmotivated. Think about when you were in school; did you really want to be there learning? Most of us would have rather been outside playing, or hanging out with friends. Students go through many biological changes during school, and have many other factors affecting their overall mood. Work, friends, girlfriends, family, hormones, and the desire to fit it are just a few reasons that students may be unmotivated at any given time, and that is just touching the tip of the iceberg. Instead of guessing at why the student is unmotivated, let?s focus on ways to motivate them!

There are obviously (or maybe not obviously) many approaches to take when motivating a student. Before you confront the student think about what you know of him/her. Some of the more traditional approaches are, for example, creating a positive atmosphere that the students feel comfortable participating in; consider your class and students to find material that relates to them personally, don?t make assignments too difficult, and give frequent, early, positive feedback to give the students confidence. Being more traditional, they don?t always apply to every student and/or classroom. When you notice certain techniques that simply do not work when trying to motivate a student, don?t force it. Instead, take a different approach. Think less about the problem and more about satisfying your student?s needs. There is a reason why they are in the class. Try to understand that reason, which will lead you to the next step towards motivation. There are many different types of activity a student can participate in. Try your best to understand what activity stimulated this particular student?s interests. Was it reading, writing; maybe games? If you give the student individual attention and make an effort at developing a relationship with him/her, it will go a long way. According to study done by Sass (1989), there are eight points that determine whether or not a student will be motivated in the classroom: the instructor?s enthusiasm, the relevance of the material, the course organization, the course material being the appropriate difficulty for the class, the activity involvement of the students, having variety, rapport between the teacher and students, and the use of understandable examples. These were provided by actual classroom students, so I believe it is a great place to start. Does this address every student? It?s hard to say, but most likely not since there are so many unique personalities.

The teacher does not have an easy task at hand here; undoubtedly he/she must sacrifice a lot to get the support and participation of their students. After all is said and done, the scale will slam down ? it is always worth it. There are many ways to approach motivating your students, which one you use depends greatly on your class. Nobody should know your students as well as you do, so use the knowledge you have, and apply it to the best of your ability.

Sources: 1. Davis, Barbara Gross (1993). Tools for teaching. Jossey-Bass Publishers.

2. Sass, E. J (1989). Motivation in the college classroom: what students tell us. Teaching of Psychology, 16(2), 86-88.

Author: Matthew Johnson

Date of post: 2007-04-04