Motivation in the classroom In the classroom, as in most areas of


In the classroom, as in most areas of life, motivation is essential for a person to succeed. It is important for a teacher to have some understanding of what motivation is and how it will affect each and every student and their learning progress. As Alan Rogers writes, ‘motivation… is as much a matter of concern for the teacher as it is for the learner; it depends as much on the attitudes of the teacher as on the attitudes of the students’ (Rogers 1996: 66) In an attempt to define motivation H. Douglas Brown points out, a cognitive view of motivation includes factors such as the need for exploration, activity, stimulation, new knowledge, and ego enhancement (Brown 2000: 160-166). In layman’s terms there is or has been created a desire to achieve something. Inspired is another term used to reference an act or action of an individual or group who appear to be driven towards a goal. Marion Williams and Richard Burden suggest that motivation is a ‘state of cognitive arousal’ which provokes a ‘decision to act’ as a result of which there is ‘sustained intellectual and/or physical effort’ so that the person can achieve some previously set goal’ (Williams and Burden 1997: 120). They go on to point out that the strength of that motivation will depend on how much value the individual places on the outcome he or she wishes to achieve. The value factor is very important as it can be affected by internal and external forces positively and negatively. Motivation is divided into two areas ‘extrinsic’ and ‘intrinsic’ and has been described by Jeremy Harmer in the following way.

Extrinsic motivation is caused by any number of outside factors, for example, the need to pass an exam, the hope of financial reward, or the possibility of future travel.

Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, comes from within the individual. Thus a person might be motivated by the enjoyment of the learning process itself or by a desire to make themselves feel better. Most researchers and methodologists have come to the view that intrinsic motivation is especially important for encouraging success. Even where the original reason for taking up a language course, for example, is extrinsic, the chances of success will be greatly enhanced if the student comes to love the learning process. (Harmer 2001: 51).

This is where the teacher can greatly affect the success of the student in so far as how lessons are presented, and also how the teacher in fact presents themselves to their students. The students will be influenced by the attitude of the teacher both in the way they dress and behave, just as much if not more so than in the way they project the information that is to be learned. It is vital to the success of the student that the teacher has prepared themselves and the lesson, has an obvious enthusiasm for teaching and a positive ‘can do’ attitude.

In the classroom, although the teacher may not have the ability to determine the size or shape of the room, they can affect the physical appearance. Determine the seating arrangement, in such a way to create a good emotional atmosphere. An attractive classroom can have a positive influence on the students and impact their motivation to learn. Most importantly though is the emotional environment, if the students feel safe to express themselves, and safe to make mistakes without the fear of negative correction there is motivation to learn. All students need to feel that they are part of a supportive and cooperative environment. Most important of all as stated by Jeremy Harmer, the teacher’s rapport with the students is critical to creating the right conditions for motivated learning (Harmer 2001: 53). Harmer continues with, if students are to continue to be intrinsically motivated they clearly need to be interested both in the subject they are studying and in the activities and topics they are presented with. We need to provide them with a variety of subjects and exercises to keep them engaged.