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Keeping Adult Students Motivated: Reasons and Outcomes

Keeping Adult Students Motivated: Reasons and Outcomes | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Most Adult ESL students are highly motivated students – at first. They are eager to join a formal class setting to improve their English skills for themselves and for their future (career). They usually voluntarily join the class (unless instructed by a manager or supervisor). So in fact, the motivation is internal and comes naturally from within themselves. This is great for the teacher and usually assures an energetic start to the class term. However, as the term continues, the motivation naturally wines down. The excitement fades and the students have more excuses for not coming to class or when in class, have a low participation rate. So, as an ESL Instructor, why is it important to keep your students motivated? And how can you go about it? These are the two questions we will be answering in this essay.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Amy B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Firstly, let’s look at why it is important to keep your students motivated and what exactly is a motivated student. Students’ motivation is usually defined as the learners’ energy and drive to try hard, study effectively, and do the best for achieving better results. Dr. Andrew Martin, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of New South Whales, AustrWalesdeveloped the “Motivation and Engagement Wheel”, which comprises: positive thoughts, positive behaviors, negative thoughts, and negative behaviors. It’s believed, that positive thoughts and behaviors boost students’ motivation, while negative thoughts reduce their achievements. Motivation can even be learned and changed. Therefore, a lot depends on the educators (learning focus, task management) and the rejection of negative ones (students’ anxiety, failure avoidance, disengagement) helps students to feel optimistic, to get better results, to do difficult class-work confidently and enjoy student life.

Now let’s look at some strategies the ESL Instructor can implement to improve and sustain their student’s motivation.

1. Building learner's self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy refers to learners’ beliefs about their abilities in a certain area, such as literacy or speaking. The teacher plays the role of a motivator in the class. More-confident students are more likely to be more cognitively engaged in learning and thinking than students who doubt their capabilities. Praise your students when they do well and acknowledge any achievement no matter how small it is.

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2. Setting appropriate goals.

Adult students often have their own personal set of goals however to motivate persistence and success, the instructor can help the students break down those goals into short and long term goals- not just distant ones. In this way, they are more likely to experience success sooner which in turn will increase their self-efficacy.

esl teacher and student

3. Offering feedback in ways that motivate.

Often times student either under-estimate or over-estimate their language abilities. To develop accurate perceptions of their competencies, students need to receive clear, specific, and accurate feedback. The feedback should be appropriate to the learners’ needs and be specific about the area that should be improved.

4. Using assessments appropriately.

If the teacher places too much stress on the importance of assessments and tests, the students will adopt the wrong impression of what their performance goals should be. This will also make them more prone to compare their scores with other students in the class. To avoid demotivating students, instructors should present the results of assessments privately, encourage students to focus on effort and improvement whenever possible, and allow the student to take an assessment again if he or she does not receive an acceptable score.

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In this essay, we looked at the importance of sustainable motivation in an adult ESL classroom and strategies with which the ESL Instructor can establish this sustainability.

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