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How to Use Learners’ Internal Motivation

How to Use Learners’ Internal Motivation | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Motivating students is always a challenge and can, in fact, be one of the most difficult parts of education. There are countless ways to either encourage or intimidate a student into completing their work or participating in class but these external motivators have a limited effect. Encouragement and praise may only motivate a student while they are seated in the classroom. A teacher expressing disappointment on an uncompleted assignment may only encourage the student to avoid the subject or course work altogether. One of the best ways I have found for motivating students is to find a student's internal motivation.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Taylor O.

Finding Students' Future Goals

Almost every student has a goal or image of what their life could be like while still in school or after graduation. In my eight years of teaching experience, I have noticed that students who are difficult to motivate seem to have a large disconnect between the class or subject they are taking and their bigger and more exciting plans for their future. Students may know that earning a high grade in their English class could improve their future academic career or help them find a better job after graduation but they still struggle to work hard in a class they may not naturally enjoy or find easy. A teacher who can lessen the disconnect between the student’s future goals and the work they need to complete in the present is, in my experience, a very successful motivator.

Setting Up The Responsibilities

Finding a student’s internal drive is only part of the challenge. Even though the teacher understands a student’s internal motivation, it can be difficult to use that information successfully. Depending on the student’s self-awareness and age, it may be possible and beneficial for the student and teacher, as well as parents or other interested parties, to have a conversation discussing the responsibilities of both the teacher and the student. The teacher may be responsible for reminding the student of their internal motivation at regular intervals or avoiding certain behaviors that distract the student. The student may, in exchange, be responsible for arriving to class with completed assignments or becoming a willing participant in class activities. Although these may appear to be standard expectations for all students, those who struggle with motivating themselves will often fail to meet these expectations.

Individual Learning Plan

By clarifying the responsibilities of both the teacher and the student, the student receives personally tailored encouragement, as well as slightly altered circumstances that are more suited for the student’s classroom success. The teacher, without adding significantly to their workload, is better able to find the external motivation that will complement the student’s internal motivation.

Also read: Top Online Lesson Plan Resources for New and Advanced Teachers

My Own Experience

As a piano teacher who mostly teaches in a one-on-one setting, I have had countless opportunities to incorporate this thought process into my own teaching. Some students are more willing to participate in lessons if I give fewer verbal prompts. Others need regular verbal reminders in order to remain focused and complete their assignments. Understanding a student’s reason for beginning lessons allows me to cater to lesson plans to meet both my goals for the student’s education as well as the student’s goal for themselves.

Are You Ready to Teach ESL Students?

Using a student’s internal motivation to encourage the student is often easier to do in a one-on-one setting. However, both the concept and the general solutions previously mentioned can be easily adapted to most educational situations.

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