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Motivation: Adults vs. Young learners

Motivation: Adults vs. Young learners | ITTT | TEFL Blog

People of all ages around the world wish to learn English, for varying reasons, and many begin this endeavor at different times in their lives. For teachers, it is important to understand that the approach to teaching English is not painted with a broad stroke across all ages of learners. To ensure that you reach your class in the most effective way possible it is vital to know what level your students are at and also what motivated them to learn English.

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

Beginning Students

Beginners are not all equal. There are varying sub-levels to the beginning level. As a teacher, it is important to know which sub level your group of students is at. The different categories of beginner students are as follows; the absolute beginner, students who have absolutely no English knowledge. The false beginner, students who may have previously studied English but have not retained much of what they studied. The adult beginner, adults who have made their own decision to study English for their reasons. The young beginner, young students who are taking English lessons at the request of someone else. And finally, the beginner without the Roman alphabet, or beginners who have an understanding of how to speak English but not how to write it.

a group of adult students

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Reasons to Learn

Many beginners may have their own, different motivations for wanting to learn English. As stated above, adult beginners will usually have decided to learn English on their own accord and will, therefore, most likely be more motivated to learn. However, this is not always the case. Some adults wishing to learn English for business purposes will likely be doing so because their industry or job requires it. This can mean that they are required by their employer to learn English, which could result in a lack of motivation. Or it can mean that the adult student wants to have an advantage in their industry, resulting in higher motivation levels. The individual’s level of motivation affects the overall flow of the classroom, especially in a one to one setting, so the teacher needs to have a good understanding of each of their student’s motivations.

Also Read: Who will my students be when teaching English abroad?

Personal Interest and Desire

It has been found that students who choose to learn something, entirely on their own volition, will perform better academically in that subject. Adult learners will usually enroll in English classes and will have their reasons for doing so. In contrast to adults, young learners will typically be put in an English class by someone else, usually their parents or school. This can result in them having little to no motivation to learn English as it is not their idea to do so. Adults will also usually have a history of learning experiences that have shaped their classroom expectations that young learners simply don’t have. These exterior forces can affect each student’s, whether young or adult, motivation to learn.

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The individual motivation of the students is not up to the teacher to decide, but it is up to the teacher to encourage. Regardless of the students learning level, or reasons for learning English, it is the teacher’s job to make sure the students get the most out of the class as they can. To do so, having a good understanding of their student's reasons for taking English, and desired outcomes are a great place to start. Most important is knowing what level the class is at, to not overwhelm to class with lessons that are way above their ability. Doing both will help ensure that you may teach the class in the most effective way possible.

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