When students are truly motivated to learn English, they will make greater progress at a faster rate. Motivation needs to be generated early on at the beginning of the semester, as it is, in my opinion, unlikely to successfully develop at a later stage.Motivation is a must in any task-based activity involving a group or class. Any activity mainly relies on its participants. They are the effect/result of learning, and in my point of view they are the cause/reason for their own success at language learning. Motivation is a “causal” relationship where a student’s increased ability, namely effort, positively impacts performance, thus yielding better scores and results overall.Hence, students are a vital component for the success of the learning process in general. They are guided by the teacher to reformulate or reorganize information and achieve specific goals. To succeed, students need to focus on the following four basic components: Reasons for taking action – why learners choose to make an effort in any learning situation · Persistence in continuing with any specific action – how long learners are willing to spend time to complete a task · Effort spent in completing a task – how hard they are willing to work on a task · Relevance to their overall learning process – how connected they feel about sub-tasks leading them to achieve their overall goalsTwo factors affect student motivation: a) The learner and his beliefs about himself and the task at hand, as his/her level of motivation is equal to the effort exerted in a class to complete any given task. b) The learning process itself depends upon successfully applying a number of learning strategies to achieve success However, we must not forget that the main components of the learning process are: the strategic role of the teacher and classroom dynamics. Over the years, I have come to keep an eye out for tell tale signs of lack of motivation both during class time and even at home based on evidence from assigned homework. One of the following is enough warning for me as a teacher to begin to pay close attention to what is actually happening in class. A combination of two or more is what I call “a deadly combination”. These can be briefly summarized as · Absence / tardiness · Distraction/ spacing out · Lack of effort / abandonment of tasks · Using native language in class · Passivity / disinterest · Low self-esteem / expecting failure · AvoidanceThen, what is the problem? Is it the teaching and testing strategies? Is it that there is no attempt on the teacher’s part to aid in the motivational development of learners? Is it the anxiety within the class environment? Or, is it the unrealistically high teacher expectations?But how can teachers motivate learners? Teachers need to assess the following components essential for creating a successful learner. These will be listed in the form of questions so that they can be combined in the form of a simple checklist that can be used by teachers to self-reflect. a. Does your lesson have a clearly indicated purpose? b. Do you take into account your audience/clients? c. Is your content informative and relevant? d. Do you find ways to attract student attention? e. Do you challenge them? f. Do you use technology? g. Are you yourself motivated?The last question is vital. We teachers ought to ask it when we self-reflect. We often forget to ask ourselves about how we actually feel about our teaching situation. A motivated teacher likes what she does, so students feel the passion in his/her class. This obviously makes what is being taught mush easier, class time seems to fly, and students are eager to attend his/her classes. Motivation is contagious. Our students read through our every move. They analyze every word we utter. If we seem uninterested or bored, how can we expect our students to be even the least bit motivated?In an attempt to encourage students to read and write, or work through any suggested task, we as teachers need to set up with our learners a number of common goals and objectives. This will ensure their responsibility for what they are attempting to learn, a first step toward learner independence. However, we as teachers need to extend our role into a wider one of being guides, leaders, and advisors. The old belief that teachers impart all knowledge is no longer valid, as our role has evolved and we should now focus on providing strategies to enable students to handle new tasks. This would also require us to organize and manage well the class learning environment.As a first step, teachers need to encourage peer respect, especially student opinion. Students need to listen to others. In this way, we can gradually encourage self and peer evaluation.Overall, teachers should ensure goal orientation, having a thread of relevance, which is both a long and short term goal. This means that any task needs to be clearly introduced so that students before embarking on it realize its benefit and how it fits in the big picture. This not only contextualizes the work they do, but it also demonstrates a teacher’s overall competence. The assigned tasks ought to be also varied, relevant, and meaningful, tackling issues that students enjoy discussing. When assigning tasks, a teacher ought to be flexible and adaptable to student needs. If a specific activity takes longer than expected, allow more time and provide praise for attempting to get through the work not success in getting high grades. Effort counts and the grades will come later as performance improves. Focus ought to be on expectations not outcomes. These will materialize in time. So, be honest when giving feedback. This means being realistic when giving feedback or making suggestions not just encouraging. Be supportive both inside and out of class. Be available for your students, as the positive effect of affect goes a long way.Do not de-motivate your learners. Do not think that being their buddy works. It does not. At the end of the day, you need to exercise some form of classroom control or else students end up blaming the teacher for being too easy or becoming tough too late. They may also blame the teacher for being indifferent to noise, for lacking attention to their individual needs, or for even losing her temper. Class management problems happen mainly because of not setting up an organizational plan from the beginning of the course, because of delaying oral or written feedback, and because of untimely grading of assignments.All the above means that when lack of motivation sets in, do not attribute any setbacks in learning to laziness or inability. Just ask yourself: what can I do to fix this?Practical suggestions: Use data sheets or graphs to track student progress; frequently share them with your students
- Use peer feedback in pairs to maximize learner independence
- Negotiate content of your syllabus to personalize and add interest
- Make your own class rules and announce them early on; these are not to be broken!
- Make on-going evaluation an integral part of learning by self or peer
- Create a weekly agenda, as students manage to remain on task when they know what’s coming up and what to expect
One of the lessons I learnt from the many years I have been teaching English is that your subject matter can be anything you or your students like. I've given lessons, at my students' request, on the World Cup, UFOs, Harry Potter, euthanasia, cosmetic surgery, and cloning, to name but a few. Another valuable lesson learnt is humor. This basically means that letting your personality shine through breaks down all barriers because teaching weak students isn't terrifying; it can be rewarding and great fun! In my opinion, if a person has a predictable personality or is unmotivated, then they should not teach!