Motivating Students by Creating a Positive Environment Currently, China is a country striving
Currently, China is a country striving to catch up with modernization in infrastructure and economic development. It's now looking to partner with willing pioneers from Europe and the US to strengthen their ability for international involvement. In China, teaching English as a foreign language is a billion dollar industry. Over 100,000 foreign experts are recruited a day with over 150,000 teachers already working as foreign language experts. (Qiang, China Daily, Hong Kong Edition, October 9, 2002, www.chinatefl.com)
That being said, the education system in China still leaves a lot to be desired for ESL students. Educational standards are a bit behind as many schools still rely on strict teacher controlled methods to run classes. (Guo, 2005) The result of this history has been an education system that emphasizes conforming behavior and memorization, while neglecting individual creativity. And though students are taught not to criticize the system, their manner of speech and expression makes it clear. (Guo) It's pretty safe to say that students in China lack the motivation needed to learn English. According to recent and historical studies in the area of motivating students, the environment is the difference between a group of motivated students and a group of unmotivated ones. (Guo, Thanasoulas, Speil) Students that believe that the activities done in the classroom are simply for the purpose of institutional obligation' classes taken out of requirement rather than learning interest; have very little motivation. A student's motivation to learn comes from knowing that what they learn will enrich their life as they see their life as enjoyable. In other words, a classroom needs to be an environment that nurtures all the students' learning interests' why someone who would study English for pleasure want to learn it.
A students' interest in learning and his motivation to carry it out perhaps can be dependent on a mixture of tactics from different studies. Firstly, students are motivated when they are encouraged. (Guo, Thanasoulas) Sometimes a country's culture doesn't encourage teachers to encouraging students for fear it will cause a student to be too lax; students will be more motivated to earn praise. The theory sounds ok, but the studies show that students need encouragement to be motivated. Another cause for lack of student motivation is a classroom environment that is too serious. (Speil) There shouldn't be any research need to be done to show that laughter and humor will make any activity more enjoyable, bring positive energy, and motivation. However, the serious environment that has been the educational environment of the past has not yielded the desired results. The theory of motivating students and the actual practice of it however are still far apart. The struggle with learning English can be seen in schools as students put countless hours of preparation to pass exam after exam so that they can be considered by foreign companies in China. Advertisements for electronic dictionaries, quick learning text books, and other multimedia products designed to improve students' English also round out the picture of the TEFL domination in China. Having lived in China for six months now, I can easily make the connection between the statistics and what I see everyday as I walk onto the campus where I've been teaching English. The environment along with the state of the country and the motivation of ESL students in China are mirror reflections of each other.
Qiang, Niu, 'China ESL: An Industry Run Amuck'' http://www.englishclub.com/tefl-articles/china-esl.htm
Thanasoulas, Dimitrios, 'Motivation and Motivating in EFL' http://www.englishclub.com/tefl-articles/motivation-motivating- efl.htm
Guo, Xuesong, 'A tale of two mainland Chinese English learners', Asian EFL Quarterly Journal, June 2005, Volume 7, Issue 2
Speil, Oskar, Discipline Without Punishment, Faber, 1962
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