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The Principles of Encouraging Students for a Better ESL Performance

The Principles of Encouraging Students for a Better ESL Performance | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Any action performed by living beings is supported by a motive. In humans, we are driven by motivators unique to each one of us; without this motivation, our goals and desires remain unaccomplished. There are different types of motivators both internal and external that of which directly impact second language acquisition in the classroom. In this setting both parents and teachers alike play a pivotal role in motivating students, thus enabling their success in second language learning. This essay will outline how motivation, both intrinsic and extrinsic, affects students in the language learning classroom and how a teacher may establish motivation in students.

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

What is Motivation?

Cambridge online dictionary states that motivation is simply “willingness to do something, or something that causes such willingness” however motivation is much more than that. Motivation incorporates emotion and the needs that drive behavior. Many different factors affect our motivation to do something but one thing known for sure as an unchanging element in motivation is the need for a goal. Without a goal in mind, there is no need for motivation. A person needs just enough motivation to take the first step toward their goal, persist through it and concentrate on said goal; each stage needing both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

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Internal Will

Intrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that comes from the inner person. It comes from personal gratification after a task has been completed. This type of motivation occurs when students possess an interest in their tasks. A sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction with themselves at the end of completing a said task is both their reward and source of motivation. Leena Shrivastava states in her journal, “Student’s Motivation: A Teacher’s Role” that humans gain pleasure when they do things well. For example, in the second language learning classroom, a student who is genuinely curious and interested in learning a new language will put more effort and attention to their studies. During the learning process, they will be easily motivated to work hard to complete their desired task, and in the end, they will feel inherently good about themselves while also knowing they have gained new knowledge on a language they enjoy.

External Will

The second type of motivation we will be looking at is extrinsic motivation which arises from external rewards and not necessarily from within the individual. In the language learning classroom, this type of student learns for the sake of rewards and recognition. Their motivation stems from knowing that if they do well they may get a certificate, praise, credit or positive feedback. The drawback of being extrinsically motivated however, is that these students also possess a small measure of intrinsic motivation and without external praise and reward (that extrinsic students desire) their intrinsic motivation decreases. At this stage, it is then up to the teacher to notice and encourage the student to be more intrinsically motivated rather than depending on external motivators to learn.

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Teachers’ Responsibilities

Teachers are facilitators of education and knowledge. They are counselors, models, parents, mentors, and leaders but just as equally important, they are also motivators. Outside our homes where we would hopefully have supportive, motivating parents, teachers assume that role in the classroom. The teacher must first have a love for their career and their students. They must most importantly learn the needs, interests, strengths, and weaknesses of their students to facilitate a better learning environment. The teacher must stimulate the interest of the student and encourage continuous learning. In learning the aforementioned factors that all teachers must know of their students, they can properly create lesson plans that will incorporate exciting activities and topics that their students will enjoy talking about. When the student enjoys the topic at hand, they will be more willing to incorporate language learning into the process as it provides a means of communicating with a different audience. This then further enables their intrinsic motivation to increase.

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Shrivastava outlines in her journal ways in which the teacher can make classes more motivating. She mentions that the teacher must be confident and enthusiastic, topics must be relevant and to the level of the students’ understanding. She goes on to say that a good rapport must be made between the student and teacher, and the students must be actively involved in all activities. Avoid unnecessary competition between students, and always ensure that students know that learning is not for the grade but it is for continuous improvement and the grade should be second to that; the better the student performs, the better the grade will be. Other methods include the use of pop culture once the age of the students can relate to it. This makes topics fun and exciting. Also exploiting the talents of students can not only make learning fun but allows for inclusion. For example, a student who is musically inclined may play a song in the second language for the class to sing along.

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Although both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is important, the success of a student in the second language learning classroom is highly dependent on the student’s work and determination. A student with more intrinsic motivation is more likely to succeed as the external rewards of an extrinsically motivated student may not be achieved. The intrinsically motivated student does not need praise and physical rewards, their reward is in knowing that they are accomplishing their goal. In the language learning classroom, more teachers should use their methods of motivating their students in this way as it brings about greater rewards, than that one may get from external praise. The classroom should be more about improvement and personal progress rather than grades alone.

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