Teach English in ChaiwAn Zhen - Nantong Shi

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1. Introduction Motivation is important and necessary to help students to learn. It can be a tricky thing to accomplish and maintain but it is a worthwhile endeavor to increase the class’ motivation as much as possible. In order to do this, I have looked at a list of characteristics identified by Sass[1] in a study of over twenty courses, that are major contributors to student motivation. These factors we will be looking at are: · Instructor's enthusiasm · Relevance and grading · Organization of the course · Appropriate difficulty level of the material · Active involvement of students · Variety · Rapport between teacher and students 2. Enthusiasm Instructor's Enthusiasm It is understandable why the instructor’s enthusiasm would be a major factor—perhaps even the most important—when it comes to motivating students. It is unreasonable to expect students to be interested in a subject if the instructor himself finds it tedious and boring. Student’s Enthusiasm Other than the influence the instructor’s enthusiasm has on students, there are other factors that play a role in the enthusiasm students will have for the subject, for the most part, this will come down to managing expectations. For one thing, it has been proven[2] that in instances where the teacher expects the students to succeed the students had a more positive outlook and hence worked harder on class assignments, and even come to think of themselves as high achievers. 3. Relevance and grading If a teacher is too focused on grading it can cause most students to stare blindly at their grades instead of mastering all the necessary skills. As stated by McKeachie, “If your tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study.”[3] It is because of this that researchers recommend de-emphasizing grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points.[4] Instead of grades, they advise emphasizing mastery and learning instead. The reason this is so effective is because mistakes are seen as an acceptable part of learning and thus students don’t risk their self-worth each time they do homework but rather they attempting to learn. 4. Organization of the course The ideal thing to do is to structure your course in such a way as to motivate students. A simple way to do this is to try and devise a syllabus and use examples based on the students’ strengths and interests. A simple but powerful aid for this is to perform a needs analysis at the start of the course to get a good feel about what their educational, professional, or personal goals are.[5] 5. Appropriate difficulty level of the material Cashin stated it most succinctly when he said, “Give students opportunities to succeed at the beginning of the semester. Once students feel they can succeed, you can gradually increase the difficulty level. If assignments and exams include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenges.”[6] 6. Active involvement of students A strategy to use that helps to involve students actively is to give them choices, giving them a sense of control.[7] This can be done by, for example, allowing students to choose between a term paper or an assignment. While it is tempting to employ competition to help improve student involvement, and friendly competition can be useful, it is important to avoid intense competition as it can produce anxiety in some students. As said by Bligh, “Students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favorable to the teaching method when they work cooperatively in groups rather than compete as individuals.”[8] 7. Variety As the saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.” Too little variety and students are likely to become bored. However, by using a variety of different teaching methods you can reawaken students’ involvement as well as their motivation.[9] 8. Rapport between teacher and students When a teacher builds a good rapport with a student, it can cause the student to want to do well. there are many strategies to employ to help develop rapport. One such strategy is by making sure to give feedback as quickly as possible and by rewarding students who did well publicly and immediately. While both positive and negative feedback has an effect, research has proven that positive feedback has a bigger effect.[10] Praising a student can build their self-confidence and esteem as well as improve the rapport between student and teacher. While positive comments are more powerful, it is not, however, possible to never have anything negative to say. When this happens, it is important to make sure the students know your comments are about the work and not a personal attack. It can also be useful to soften the blow of a negative comment with a compliment. References [1] Sass, E. J. "Motivation in the College Classroom: What Students Tell Us." Teaching of Psychology, 1989, 16(2), 86-88. [2] Rosenthal, R., and Jacobson, L. Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupil’s Intellectual Development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968 [3] McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. (8th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1986. [4] Forsyth, D. R., and McMillan, J. H. "Practical Proposals for Motivating Students." In R. J. Menges and M. D. Svinicki (eds.), College Teaching: From Theory to Practice. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. [5] Brock, S. C. Practitioners' Views on Teaching the Large Introductory College Course. Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University, 1976. [6] Cashin, W. E. "Motivating Students." Idea Paper, no. 1. Manhattan: Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development in Higher Education, Kansas State University, 1979. [7] Ames, R., and Ames, C. "Motivation and Effective Teaching." In B. F. Jones and L. Idol (eds.), Dimensions of Thinking and Cognitive Instruction. Hillsdale, N. J.: ErIbaum, 1990. [8] Bligh, D. A. What's the Use of Lecturing? Devon, England: Teaching Services Centre, University of Exeter, 1971. [9] Forsyth, D. R., and McMillan, J. H. "Practical Proposals for Motivating Students." In R. J. Menges and M. D. Svinicki (eds.), College Teaching: From Theory to Practice. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, no. 45. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991. [10] Lucas, A. F. "Using Psychological Models to Understand Student Motivation." In M. D. Svinicki (ed.), The Changing Face of College Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 42. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.