Motivating Students Motivation is one of the most important

Motivation is one of the most important tools for successful learning. Students who enjoy what they do and see a reason for it will be more enthusiastic and more receptive to new materials. Highly motivated students are easier and much more fun to teach. Considering the numerous and diverse aspects which influence a student's motivation, it is up to the teacher to adapt and find ways to stimulate even the most unmotivated student.

Not all students are motivated in the same way and for a teacher to act effectively, it is important to recognise these differences, how they learn, what their needs are and other influences which affect their learning capacity. Those who are so called intrinsically motivated show a natural curiosity towards new information. They also find hard work rewarding and set very high standards for themselves. However, an extrinsically motivated student needs goals and incentives. For example, they will most likely only work hard for a test if it is to be marked. This does not mean they are lazy or disinterested, only that they are motivated in different ways'.

All students require feedback from their teacher and it is up to him/her to deliver this in a positive way. Setting high but realistic standards for your students will motivate them to work hard without becoming frustrated. Students, who are confronted with work too hard for their level will feel out of their depth, and in most cases, will give up. Specific guidelines will help students feel more in control of their work'. For example, telling them which level they must reach to succeed in a test, giving out mock exam sheets from time to time in lead up to an exam and enforcing revision in the classroom will give students the motivation to work hard because they will know exactly where they stand with their development. Self-analysis and assessing the work of peers and the sharing of ideas will also enhance this learning process'.

This brings us to the role the teacher plays in making the classroom a stimulating place to be and learn. Of course he/she will have to use different motivational tools depending on the size of the class, age of the students and their cultural and religious backgrounds. When teaching English as a foreign language one is more than likely to have students from several different cultures within one class, and therefore this must be taken into account when trying to motivate the different students. For some, it may simply be custom to be more reserved and less outspoken than we are used to in the west. These students should be encouraged but not embarrassed, or even worse, offended by making them do things with which they don't feel comfortable. Generally, the teacher should use language which enforces discipline but does not evoke a position of power and make sure that he/she uses a variety of materials to add interest. Using positive language, both to praise but also correct students, will be more effective than focusing on the negative. For example: 'You did so well in the worksheet exercises today, now we should work a bit on your pronunciation'.

Effective ways of getting students motivated and having fun is to find subjects in which they are interested. It is important to know their reasons for attending your class so you can relate the exercises to this. For example, adult learners may be motivated by a job prospect and find it particularly helpful to learn material specific to business. Young students would no doubt find it stimulating to be able to apply what they learn in class, to an everyday situation. Organising a trip to an English Tea Room would give them an opportunity to practice their skills in a real life setting. For young children, a star chart rewards system may be helpful, only the teacher should be careful to give credit in all areas of achievement amongst the student .

To conclude, student motivation is largely due to the teacher's attitude and ability to create a stimulating environment. Well balanced lessons which are prepared considering all of the above factors, will give the students the motivation necessary to be successful learners, and the teacher the joy of watching them progress.


1.Source: Lile, William T, Motivation in the ESL Classroom, Nagoya International Senior High School, Japan, as seen in The Online TESL Journal.

2.Source: (American Psychological Association 1992; Bligh 1971, Forsyth and McMillan 1991, Lowman 1984) as seen in Barbara Gross Davis' Tools for Teaching, University of California, Berkley.

3.Source: (American Psychological Association 1992; Cashin 1979, Tiberius 1990) as seen in Barbara Gross Davis' Tools for Teaching, University of California, Berkley.

4.Source: Pintrich, P.R.- Article in the Journal of Educational Psychology, 2003.

5.Dr Saville-Troike, Muriel, 1978.

6.Budden, Jo, Motivating the students,