The aim of the study was to describe the different motivation techniques that use to motivate student engagement in the Chinese classroom. In order to carry out an assessment of this research question, I conducted different observations periods for two beginner-level classes and two advanced-level classes, and thereafter conducted interviews with the four teachers. The periods of observation amounted to a total of ten hours while the interview sessions took approximately two hours. In the course of the observation periods, I paid particular attention on how the teachers interacted with their students. My points of focus were on the intonation of the teachers, how they encouraged and supported their students and the different techniques and strategies that they employed to engage and motivate their students. I also paid particular attention to the behavior of the students to assess how they responded and interacted with their teachers. I conducted the interviews to get a deeper understanding of the various strategies and techniques that the teachers used for motivation of student engagement. It was necessary to obtain information from the individual teachers to know the various methods that work for them with regards to student motivation. I observed a total of 50 students and four teachers.
Focus on the Positive
Of all the themes, this was the theme that stood out given that it was observed on several occasion during the observation periods in the classes. All the teachers also mentioned that positive motivation was a method that worked well with them. A focus on the positive such as giving praise was recurrent on the set of data observed. Throughout the four observation periods, the teachers were seen giving positive remarks to the students and showering them with praise when they performed a task correctly. The teachers also thanked the students for following the instructions that they had held out in the completion of different tasks and exercises. Miss. V, for example, gave the comment “Good job” to the students who managed to write their names on the white board correctly. During the question and answer (Q&A) session that was used to review the previous class’ work, Miss. V praised the students that got the questions right by the comment “well done.” To one of the student who was rather shy in leading the others in reading, Miss. V guided her until she could confidently do it. When the student could finally do it confidently and correctly, Miss. V acclaimed “excellent” which brought much enjoyment to the student. Miss. V also gave compliments such as “good” and “wonderful job” during the art class session.
This theme was also evident in Miss. J’s class. To all the students who could correctly identify their names on the white board, she commented with remarks such as “well done,” “excellent” “good job” and “nice.” In the game that involved hitting a certain alphabet on the board with the toy hammer, the Miss. J showered the students who correctly hit the mentioned alphabets with comments such as “correct,” “wonderful” and “good job, keep it up.” She also encouraged the other students to clap for their colleagues who correctly hit the mentioned Chinese alphabet. Miss. J also thanked the students for behaving themselves well during class and for being good boys and girls. She commented “thank you for being good students today.” Positive praise and attitudes were exhibited by Miss. J throughout her class and she ensured that no correct answer or instance of abiding by the rules went without praising the student or the team that they were in.
The interviews with the teachers further affirmed the importance of focusing on the positive in the classrooms. Miss. V indicated that she always strived to “focus more on the positive than the negative” and always gave positive compliments for any answer given correctly or the successful completion of a task. She also mentioned her use of rewards such as stickers to motivate the students and ensure their engagement in class. Miss. V stated that she always tried to be positive in all that she did and tried never to lose her cool or patience with the students even if they were on the wrong. Miss. J, on her part, also noted that she always tried to be positive when she tried to get the students to do something. She indicated that she “ensured that the students also played a part in motivating the other students” by clapping for them and encouraging them. She also noted that no day goes by without uttering verbal praise to students in her class. Miss. J also indicated that over the years, she has observed that “positive motivation always works in ensuring student motivation and engagement in class.” Miss. J also indicated that she has observed that the use of punishment always lead to the students being in a dull mood that hampered their engagement in class. She said that she always tried to frame the negative into positive to ensure student motivation. It is evident that focus on the positive has an influence on student motivation and engagement in the classroom. The teachers were able to motivate student engagement by focusing on the positive aspects rather than the negative.
Activities were also the apparent in the data. In all the observations I carried out, the teachers ensured that the students were engaged in some form of activity that included songs and dances, games and different tasks to ensure that they were motivated and engaged in the classroom. Miss. V engaged the students in a number of activities that captures their attention and engaged them in class. In the first 5-10 minutes of the class, Miss. V led the students in singing the ‘welcome song’ which ensured that the students were psyched up and motivated for the lesson. The song was also accompanied by a dance movement that the students enjoyed participating in. Miss. V drew images on the board and invited the student to draw what she had drawn. This was a way of assessing the students’ confidence and ensures that they participated in class. To further ensure that the students had mastered what she had taught them, she taught them a new song and the accompanying dance on the concepts that she had taught. The song and dance was able to break the monotony of sitting and listening, and also reinforced the memory of the students with regards to the concepts taught. The songs motivated the students further in the learning process. Miss. V also allowed role-playing in that the students took the roles of the teacher. Miss. V’s second class was all about doing a horse puppet, an activity that was done in groups. This activity really engaged the students as they had to work together to ensure they came up with a puppet.
Miss J’s class, on the other hand, was also filled with a number of activities that were used to motivate the student’s engagement in class. Just like Miss. V’s class, Miss. J’s class began with the singing and dancing to the welcome song, which was a daily routine. As the lesson progressed, Miss. J incorporated a game that was used to encourage the mastery of the Chinese alphabet among the students. The game entailed her sticking the Chinese alphabets on the wall and calling a student to hit an alphabet she mentioned with a toy hammer. This was a very engaging game as the students enjoyed it and focused much of their attention to it. The game motivated the students in the lesson. Miss. J, later on, drew the Chinese alphabets on the white board and invited the students to go forward and trace them. The students had to make several attempts before they could finally be able to trace out the alphabets. Before the 15-minute snack break, she led the students in singing the “washing hands” and “I want snack” songs. Miss. J’s second class was craft time and the students were engaged in finger painting. She guided the students in ensuring that they mastered the art of finger painting.
Rewards were the last theme that was apparent in the data gathered from the observations and interview. This theme was evident on many instances in the classroom observations. In Miss. V’s class, for example, the students who got the correct answers during the review session of the previous lesson were rewarded with compliments such as “well done” and “excellent.” Miss. V promised to reward the group with the best horse puppet presentation with a movement high up the behavior chart. She complimented the students who maintained silence and obeyed her instructions by uttering the words “good boy” or “good girl” and encouraging the other students to follow their example. Miss. V also ensured that the students were assigned with tasks whenever they performed well in a particular task. For example, she was impressed by the students in the Zhuyin combination class and assigned them the task of drawing the images in their books.
Rewards were also present in Miss. J’s class. Miss. J used stickers to reward those who performed extremely well on particular tasks and class assignments. For example, to the students who managed to correctly identify the Chinese alphabets, they were rewarded with stickers. Miss. J also ensured that the students who behaved well in class by being attentive and obedient were rewarded by higher movements on the behavior chart that hung on the side wall. Miss. J, just like Miss. V also rewarded her students with compliments on instances where they performed well in a task or posted good results on class assignments. She would occasionally use words such as “excellent,” “good job” and “wonderful.”
The interviews conducted later on further emphasized on the importance of using rewards to motivate student engagement in class. In her interview, Miss. V indicated that rewards are a motivating factor in that the students would always strive to ensure that they earn those rewards. She stated that “rewards direct student attention and behavior towards that which is desired.” She also noted that at times she uses rewards to motivate the whole class when she is particularly impressed by the performance and behavior of the whole class. Miss. J, on the other hand, emphasized on the importance of rewards in student motivation and engagement. She stated that she often uses rewards to “motivate student performance.” She further indicated that “rewards are an impetus for good behavior and better class performance.” She noted that higher movements up the behavior charts always worked in ensuring desired behavior among the students. Miss. J further indicated that she uses candy to motivate the whole class. As shown above, rewards can be used to motivate the students to behave correctly, improve their performance and follow directions.