This is the first in a series of three blogs I’m planning to write about teacher-student motivation.

This is the first in a series of three blogs I’m planning to write about teacher-student motivation.


Have you ever swollen with joy when you finish a class and your students stay a little bit longer to talk to you and the rest of the class? Have you ever experienced a sense of achievement when you leave the classroom and students follow you to continue talking about the issues raised in class? Have you ever felt moved when students tell you they still remember you many years after you’ve taught them? Everyone takes pride in their classes when some of the above takes place. There’s the lingering feeling in the air that we have done something right.



A few days ago, I saw a video about a small duckling which starts following a puppy upon coming out of its egg. According to studies, newborn ducklings follow the first moving object they see. That phenomenon is called “imprinting”: an amazing and very curious example of genetic and environmental influence on animal behaviour. The first scientific studies of this phenomenon were carried out by Austrian naturalist Konrad Lorenz, one of the founders of ethology (the study of animal behavior).


He discovered that if greylag geese were reared by him from hatching, they would treat him like a parental bird. The goslings followed Lorenz about and when they were adults they courted him in preference to other greylag geese.  He first called the phenomenon "stamping in" in German, which has been translated into English as “imprinting”.

The video was very sweet and I couldn’t help smiling. I suddenly started to think that learners sometimes behave like this newborn duckling following us wherever we go. I’m not saying that our students think we have become their mother and I don’t really think they feel like ducklings either (even though kiddies are just as sweet, aren’t they?) I’m just trying to figure out what motivates our students to “follow” us. What is it that makes our teaching such a memorable experience? Because we sometimes leave a powerful imprint on our learners, so why?

I remember a situation back in 2003, when I had two groups with the same level and belonging to the same age group. One of those classes was nice, we worked effectively and I got on with every participant really well. The other group was also highly engaged but there was something else, like a magic spell, which made us all happy every time we met. We really cherished and celebrated those encounters. The students in that class cooperated a lot, they put a lot into the classes and they still e-mail me telling me how much they remember the year we shared.

Why do we teach A & B in the same way but we leave an imprint on just one – A or B?

I have all sorts of ideas, which I need to organize in my head. For the time being, you’re welcome to post your views on the subject.

Cheers! Georgina



Georgina Hudson's blogs are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



Hi Georgina, your comment is very sweet, as everything you write.Congrats ! You have perfectly described three or four occasions in which teachers realize that they have reached a student in a different way. Undoubtedly, if a person follows you to ask you about an issue raised in the class after it has finished, it is because you said something that was relevant to his life. And as you say, when these things happen, we feel as if something magic was happening between that student and yourself.
As regards your question, I have to say that it is very interesting but nothing easy to answer. I think that this beautiful connection between the learner and the teacher takes place when the teacher is able to reach the student as a “person “. I mean, when you show the learner that you are there not only to evaluate him but most important to help him overcome his fears and exploit his strengths. In addition to this, I think that this strong bond between the teacher and the student occurs when the teacher is able to open her student’s mind and make him think and reflect.
Well Georgina, I hope to be of some help. And I would really like to hear more opinions on the subject to see if we can reach a conclusion all together.
Lots of love,
Maria Victoria

I am Khalid Fuad, EFL instructor. Actually I have experienced that kind of feeling with many of my students. When I finish a class and I see that my students have learnt something form me, I feel I am the happiest person ever. It is vital to build a rapport with your students. I believe that a big part of this rapport comes from motivating your students. I mean if you manage to motivate and encourage your students, s/he will like you and your subject.
To motivate students, it is crucial to know that The complexity of motivation as a behavioral construct has compelled researchers to identify different types of motivations and examine how they influence student learning. For example, Self- Determination Theory (SDT)—proposed by Deci, Ryan, and their colleagues (e.g., Deci and Ryan 1985; Ryan and Deci 2000)—con­siders what types of motivation may initiate and sustain interest in learning. Two basic forms of motivation are extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is typically driven by factors outside of the learner; extrin­sically motivated students read to receive good grades, please the teacher, and outperform their classmates, but not because they find reading interesting or enjoyable. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is free from the influence of external factors such as reward or punishment. Intrinsically motivated stu­dents read because they find it interesting or enjoyable; therefore, motivation comes from inside and is self-determined. SDT suggests that the more self-determined students’ moti­vations are, the more likely they are to develop and sustain their learning ability. To enhance self-determined motivation, SDT proposes that teachers support students’ psychological needs for competence (C), autonomy (A), and relatedness (R)—the set of principles referred to as “CAR” in this article. Teachers can effec­tively use these CAR principles to nurture more self-determined readers who rely less on external reinforcement, such as grades, and more on internal motivation, such as curios­ity. However, it is important to realize that some forms of extrinsic motivation are more self-determined than others.

Thank you Ma Victoria, I agree with you when you refer to a more person-centred approach to teaching to leave a positive imprint on our learners, and I also like your words: "to help students overcome their fears and exploit their strengths".
Your reply's invaluable help to me in my quest for answers to my question.
I'm working on the second part. Everyone's ideas will be taken into account.

Thank you Khalidfuad for your insights into motivation. It's really worth going through the concepts you posted.
I'll definitely bear your comment in mind when I set out to write the second part of the blog.
Many thanks again!

Dear Georgina,your blog is really marvelous. I found the joy when I taught the lesson gender bias to nearly forty teachers in Bangalore during my teacher development programme. Even the professor applauded me for my lesson. There was joy on the faces of trainees, the observers, and ofcourse, on mine. Incidentaly I topped the batch with an outstanding grade. It was a memorable experience for me. The lesson really went on very well. yours lovingly, JVL Narasimha Rao

Hi,it's interesting to read the 'imprinting' part in language learning. For my case, i think the rapport between Ss and  teacher is the first thing before any magic happens. The interaction between the Ss and myself is like parters in playing games...not much imprinting but lots of discovery on one another! enjoy teaching!with love Small9 from China    

Hi Mr Rao, it feels great to hear that I can't imagine having experienced that in person. I'd love to hear more about your story. It may become your next blog. What did you do that payed you back so well? What was that joy like? Cheers! Georgina

Thank you small9,
I totally agree with you: rapport is the first thing we need to establish before we embark on our "lessons".
When I say "imprinting" I use it figuratively. As I said, I don't think ss take as for their moms and they don't feel like duclings either.
I like the idea of "following" and of "parental bonds" that the concept of imprinting carries.
Learners sometimes follow us like those ducklings and they treat us as if we were their parents or somebody in their tribe.
Many thanks again!

Dear Georgina,
Thanks for your comments.My blogs are not as great and popular as yours. They are being graded and voted rather late. I would like to write another blog only after all my blogs are graded and voted. I think I have written enough of them. Please wait for some time
yours lovingly,
JVL Narasimha Rao 

Hi Georgina,
Are you teaching young learners or adults? and this leads me to raise an important question. Is motivating young learners diffferent from mtiviating adults? How? Why?


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