Motivation in the Classroom Motivation is needed in any walk of
Motivation is needed in any walk of life if people are to succeed. If we are not stimulated to tackle a challenge then we will not attempt it, and so motivation has to be an important consideration when teaching any students, not just those learning English.
Studies on motivation in the classroom such talk about two kinds of motivation; intrinsic which comes from within the student and is about his or her personal goals, and extrinsic motivation which concerns external motivational factors such as exams, rewards, peer pressure etc.
Adults in a learning situation may be more intrinsically motivated as they have made a conscious decision to learn, whereas younger learners may be less so as they have no choice. Elizabeth Holmes (www.teachernet.co.uk Motivation in the Classroom 2003)) writes, 'One of the main goals of teaching is the development of continuous and lasting intrinsic motivation in pupils'. The point is that if students are only ever extrinsically motivated then once these influences are removed they will lack an internal drive to learn.
Dimitrios Thanasoulas (www.englishclub.com Motivation & Motivating in EFL 2002)) writes about basic conditions which need to exist before we try to motivate students. These are, 'Appropriate teacher behaviour and good teacher-student rapport, a pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere and a cohesive learner group.' He explains that teachers need to set good role models with high expectations, politeness, respect for and interest in their pupils. The classroom environment needs to be organised, welcoming and none threatening and the learner group needs to interact well together.
Various authors suggest strategies for motivating students and there are common strands. Leon Bantjes (www.motivationdepo.com Motivation)) splits ideas into two types. Intrinsic ones include explaining why learning a particular content or skill is important, setting goals for learning, relating learning to student needs, creating and maintaining curiosity. Extrinsic ones include providing clear expectations, good feedback and valuable rewards.
Robert Harris (www.virtualsalt.com Some Ideas for Motivating Students 1991) provides other suggestions including using 'positive emotions to enhance learning' saying that if you can introduce fun, laughter even sadness into lessons they are more interesting to students. He writes about showing energy, being flexible and getting students to experience success by a series of little stages towards a greater goal.
Lynn Gallacher (www.teachingenglish.org.uk Project work with teenagers) concentrates on another popular theme in motivation, that of involvement of pupils where they are proactive in the learning process and have an input in the end result. The medium for this is project work in groups. She advocates that all four skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking are practised, there are authentic tasks and outcomes and that interpersonal relations are improved.
Whilst it is one issue getting pupils motivated it is also important to maintain that motivation and Jeremy Harmer (www.etprofessional.com Engaging Students as Learners 2006) writes about sustaining that original engagement. He believes that that the four most important elements in doing this are that pupils enjoy the lessons, as far as is possible, that they feel they are involved, not just sitting like empty vessels, that they can see what the outcomes are of the course of learning and that they have some kind of 'agency' meaning that they have some responsibility for the things being learnt, the methods of studying, the ways of assessing and monitoring. Obviously this fourth element is easier to put in place with adult learners, but younger ones should not be excluded from having some autonomy in the learning process.
All the theories and suggestions relating to motivation of students provide plenty of ideas for teachers who want to maximise the learning potential in a classroom. However they still rely on a very important factor, that of the teacher themselves being motivated. Kurt Hurley (www.articlecentral.org Motivation ' The 4 most potent ways to Awaken your Enthusiasm 2005) points out that as individuals we too need to remain motivated by focussing on the feeling we get from being successful at our own tasks, to give ourselves incentives and rewards, to be positive in our outlook and to try to keep ourselves healthy. If we do these things then we will be in a better position to motivate our students.