How can we motivate our students? Expert opinion: Stephan Du Preez.
When students embark on a course we automatically assume that they are motivated to learn. But all too often their motivation disappears into thin air as soon as they encounter the first difficulties. Is there anything we, teachers, can do to instil and sustain motivation?
Almost everything a teacher does in the classroom has a motivational influence on students. Some of the key factors are:
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Enthusiastic teachers who love their subject matter and who show their dedication and their passion are able to involve and engage learners. Students might make fun of this dedication but deep down they admire that passion. Such a commitment is ‘contagious', instilling in students a similar willingness to gain knowledge.
So set an example and share your own personal interest in the L2 with your students. Show students that you value L2 learning as a meaningful experience that produces satisfaction and enriches your life. Tell about books you read, events you’re involved in and etc.
Showing interest in your students' learning
Show commitment towards the students' learning and progress, there is a very good chance that they will do the same thing. It is important that everybody in the classroom should be aware that you care; that you are not there just for the salary; that it is important for you that your students succeed; that you are ready to work just as hard as the students towards this success.
How to show that their learning matters to you:
offer to meet students individually to explain things;
respond immediately when they ask for help;
correct tests and papers promptly;
share material that is relevant/particularly interesting to them;
arrange or encourage to attend extracurricular instructional programmes/opportunities;
encourage extra assignments and offer to assist with these;
show concern when things aren't going well.
You need to have sufficiently high expectations for what the students can achieve. If you yourself believe that your students can reach high levels of achievement, there is a good chance that they will too. Tell them about what else they can achieve, what opportunities can open up as soon as they have achieved a certain level.
Good relationship with the students
Teachers who share warm, personal relationship with their students, who respond to their concerns, who are empathic and who succeed in establishing relationships of mutual trust and respect with the learners, are more likely to inspire them learning than those who have no personal ties with the learners.
It involves a positive attitude, without any judgement, something we may feel towards a relative, for example an aunt or uncle. Remember a relative with all their shortcomings. You might complain about their flaws. But you don’t stop loving them, caring for them, providing help and support just because they can’t do something well. Apply the same attitude to your student. This will help you be more patient, especially with weaker students.
Ability to listen and pay attention to students
Students need to feel that you pay personal attention to them. Small gestures which can show you pay attention:
Greet students, remember their names and call them by their names during the lesson and in between lessons;
Smile at them.
Notice interesting features of their appearance (e.g. new haircut).
Learn something unique about each student and occasionally mention it to them.
Ask them about their lives outside school.
Show interest in their hobbies.
Express in your comments that you've thought about them or their situation.
Refer back to what you have talked about before.
Include personal topics and examples about students in discussing content matters. Is students mentioned their area of interest, prepare materials based on this topic.
Send notes/homework to absent students.
Learners need to take considerable risk even to produce simple answers/statements because it is easy to make a mistake when you have to pay attention to pronunciation, intonation, grammar and content at the same time.
Students should feel comfortable taking risks because they know that they will not be embarrassed or criticised if they make a mistake. Make it clear to them that mistakes are a natural part of learning.
Create conditions for success
We do things best if we believe we can succeed.
adjust the difficulty level of tasks to the students’ abilities, they should be demanding but manageable
provide enough time for preparation
let students help each other
make sure they know what success in a task is
remove any serious obstacles to success
genuinely praise learners for their accomplishments and show you’re happy for them
from time to time praise the whole group. This will make weaker students believe they’re capable and will instil confidence in them.
Deliver interesting lessons
Make sure you don’t get stuck and in a rut and your lessons include humour, interesting and novel content, exotic and intriguing elements, and challenge.
Boring lessons will demotivate everyone, including a teacher. Here is an article on how to tackle Boredom in Class.
How do you keep your students motivated?
Stephan has been teaching English for more than 7 years. Apart from teaching General English courses, he has been holding speaking clubs for students of different levels and has taught Business English to managers of different ranks. Stephan can engage every student and knows how important motivation is.
Although the topic motivation is without a doubt a very trendy one I believe it to be of great importance.
Motivation is defined as a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. In other words we behave or act according to what motivates us. In this article I would like to discuss this topic using three sub topics namely self motivation, external motivation and motivation in the classroom.
We know that self motivation is the force that drives us to do things. Why is this important? Imagine yourself for a moment as someone with no motivation, someone with no drive to reach your goals, or to achieve anything in life for that matter. I am sure you would discover this life to be dull, gray and boring. I would even go as far as to use the words “completely pointless”.
So how do we go about self motivating ourselves? Well I believe it starts with taking control of your mind. You have to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in life ,but also equally important, you have to know the path you are going to take to achieve this. Another thing to realize and remember is that you do not always have the ability to control outside events. Life happens and sometimes, if we are not careful, these events can distract us from the commitment we made to ourselves. Stay true to yourself no matter what the circumstances are.
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”.―Marcus Aurelius
Unlike self motivation which is a process that happens within oneself external motivation means that your motivation to attain your goals come from a source outside yourself. We can also say that this is reward driven motivation. Not every person is the same and this is what makes life interesting.You might say but Stephan I sometimes find it extremely hard to self motivate myself.
If this is the case I would suggest that you look into this type of motivation. In extrinsic motivation, rewards or other incentives — like praise, fame, or money — are used as motivation for specific activities. Come up with some rewards for yourself if you achieve certain things. It might be something small like making yourself a cup of coffee after you have studied for an hour or something like going on that boat trip after you have achieved those major tasks at work.Whatever it is I can guarantee that you will find this sort of motivation extremely helpful and exciting.
When talking about motivating others like the students in our classrooms it is crucial to realize the importance of this role. Your students look up to you to show them the way and to teach them a valuable skill.
I have this student, let’s call him John. When John started his lessons with me about a year ago he was completely different from the way he is now. John started out as someone that was completely unsure of himself, he was unsure of his ability to learn English, honestly John was the definition of being nervous. I started by getting him to talk about himself, to tell me what makes him happy and what he would like to achieve by learning English. I worked at gaining his trust and making him feel that he is heard and that we are on this path together to achieve his many goals he had. We worked hard at motivating him to keep going.
One year later and I can say that John has changed completely. He has developed from a beginner level student to an upper intermediate student smashing every goal he has set for himself, but more so the way he developed as a person is absolutely amazing. He is confident, dedicated, communicative and not a single bit of nervousness.
I want to end this article by sharing some pro tips that I use in my daily life as a teacher.
● Give students a sense of control
● Be clear about learning objectives
● Create a threat-free environment
● Offer varied experiences.
● Use positive competition
● Offer rewards
● Give praise when earned
● Encourage self-reflection
● Model enthusiasm for learning!
● Know your students
● Give learning feedback and offer chances to improve
● Track progress
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That’s all for now!
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