Teaching English language to people in different countries that are non-native speakers entails a lot of duties and responsibilities. An English teacher should apply the principles of motivation in most, if not all, aspects of language learning acquisition . There is a need for proper preparation/planning, execution, assessment/evaluation, and re-evaluation of students’ learning. Primarily, a teacher should look at, not only his /her role and perspective teaching the subject, but also consider the personal viewpoints and motivation of young learners. Thus, questions arise as to: Why is motivation important in the classroom? Why do students have different types of motivation? How do teachers encourage and sustain students’ motivation to learn the English subject?
First, why is motivation important in the classroom? Although, the answers to this question seem commonsensical, it is important that teachers should know that students who are properly motivated – versus those who are not – tend to learn better than their counterparts do. Without motivation, students become bored and may even hate the subject. If most of the teacher-student encounters did not turn out well at the start, teachers may as well de-motivate students who lack the perceived individual competence, lack the intrinsic motivation, and so on . Students will then view the subject, and even the teachers, as being annoying, burdensome, and so forth on their part. Hence, motivation is the key to start and end the lesson to sustain learners’ interest learning the subject.
Second, why do students have different types of motivation? Some learners are predisposed (self-motivated) to learn the English language due to a number of intrinsic factors (e.g., praise, recognition, interest, sense of competence). The locus of control for self-motivated students are the intrinsic incentives, which come from within themselves, based on their own understanding or feelings of the situation that they think they have control of and in which they would be successful. On the other hand, other students are encouraged (externally motivated) to learn because of extrinsic factors (e.g., money, gift, incentives, physical setting). The locus of control for externally motivated students is the external rewards where they perceive that they have little control of the situations. Intrinsically motivated students are the ones usually successful as classroom learners.
Third, how do teachers motivate and sustain students’ motivation to learn the English subject? To elaborate on the answers to this specific question, some of the theories on motivation that I prefer are explained below :
According to B. F. Skinner, a psychological behaviorist, reward and punishment systems are motivational tools. For instance, when learners receive good grades from their teachers and praise from their parents, they are motivated to learn because positive reinforcement is applied to their good performance. When students receive negative reinforcement (e.g., school detention) because of their undesirable behavior, they respond in such as way as to avoid the same punishment from reoccurring. Thus, externally-motivated students are likely to succeed more under this theory of motivation because their positive behavior is reinforced while their negative behavior is negated.
For Abraham Maslow, in his humanistic theory of the hierarchy of needs, he claimed that the basic physiological needs (e.g., air, food) of students have to be satisfied first before leveling up to higher needs (i.e., safety, belongingness, love, self-esteem, and self-realization). The classroom teacher should thus give weight to non-native English speakers’ contingent growth motivational needs for them to aspire for the higher needs. If basic need, such as physical environment, is conducive to students’ learning, they are comfortable while investing their time to learn English better. If not, the teacher is potentially jeopardizing students’ motivation to learn further.
Frederick Herzberg, another prominent theorist of motivation, elaborated on the role motivation has for individuals. If his psychological motivation-hygiene theory is applied in a classroom setup, for instance, students’ motivation is enhanced through personal recognition, achievement, etc. when accompanied by good classroom environment, proper supervision, classroom policies, etc. However, in such a scenario, there should be a direct correlation between motivator-factors and hygienic-factors so that learners are motivated to study harder and succeed even more. As a result, even when the time comes that teachers have to correct mistakes in students’ output, they are then already internally actuated to continue with their accomplishments.
Another theorist on motivation is David McClelland . As applied in educational setting, McClelland’s theory categorizes students under these driving motivators: achievement, affiliation, and power. Learners develop any of these motivators depending on their life experiences and culture. Some students are achievers who are interested in solving problems and attaining goals. Others are ‘affiliators’ who value relationship more than anything else for them to continue interacting and collaborating with their peers. Some of these learners even compare themselves in the spirit of cooperation as team players. The rest are ‘powerwielders’ who prefer controlling other people for them to learn at a much faster rate. As a teacher, one should use any of these motivators to better structure and propel students to work efficiently and effectively in either individual or collective activities.
The last theorist that I want to relate to in this essay is that of Victor Vroom’s expectancy/valence theory. For non-native speakers of English to be motivated to learn the subject, the outcome justifies learners’ action. For Vroom, learners make a preliminary assessment of the likely completion of a task before engaging in it. Afterwards, the learners make a final assessment whether they could turn it into fruition. Just like any students of English who want a certification in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), they are motivated to have it as an evidence of their accomplishment. The students who studied hard, even in the face of obstacles, might have believed that success will outweigh the difficulties that had encountered learning the subject.
In view of the above, because teachers deal with various types of learners who have different learning styles, predisposition, understanding level, social orientation, and so forth, it is important that they should teach from the heart using a variety of instructional strategies (e.g., differentiated instructions) . Coupled with motivation, teachers should concretize their ability to teach competently and successfully using as a great conduit genuine concern for the learners. Even when some students are slow learners, teachers should learn to make use of other teaching approaches, methods, and techniques. The reason for this is that learners are unique in themselves – that is, no two (or more learners) are entirely similar in many respect. Hence, determining the type of motivation that works best with each student is highly significant in crafting a teaching-learning experience that suit individual motivational needs.
Motivation is therefore useful for effective teaching and productive learning to take place. All students should be motivated to learn any subject such as the English subject. Teachers should model in themselves high-level of motivation to ensure that learners do the same and have an equal chance of becoming successful. Teachers should also motivate students to work toward a goal so that teachers and students, respectively, are motivated to teach and learn. With this in mind, teaching-learning objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-oriented, evaluative, and re-evaluative (SMARTER) so that students have many opportunities for numerous successful learning outcomes. To enhance the motivation of students inside the classroom, educational tasks should be stress-free, engaging, and lively to allow elicitation of students’ self-improvement and creativity. When learners lack intrinsic motivation, incentive-based system might be beneficial for some externally motivated learners to gain better self-image or self-esteem. All learners should be offered with equal opportunities to display their linguistic skills and enjoy various learning strategies for them to apply what they learn in school and become successful in their chosen discipline. Since all learners are unique, motivational techniques and tools should be based on their individual needs to make sure that they have worthwhile educational experience.
Dahlman, A., Hoffman, P., & Brauhn, S. (2008). Classroom Strategies and Tools for Differentiating Instruction in the ESL Classroom. MinneTESOL/WITESOL Journal, 25. Retrieved from http://minnetesol.org/journal/vol25_html_pages/17_Dahlman.htm
Ghadirzadeh, R., Shokri, O., & Hashtroudi, F. (2012). Demotivating Factors for English Language Learning Among University Students. Journal of Social Sciences, 8(2), 189-195.
McClelland, D. (1987). Human Motivation. Cambridge: CUP Archive.
Terpstra, D. (1979). Theories of Motivation – Borrowing the Best. Personnel Journal.
TESOL. (2008, June). Motivating Language Learners to Succeed. (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Organization) Retrieved from TESOL Internation Association: Advancing Excellence in English Language Teaching: http://www.tesol.org/read-and-publish/journals/other-serial-publications/compleat-links/compleat-links-volume-5-issue-2-(june-2008)/motivating-language-learners-to-succeed