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The Secrets of Encouraging and Motivating ESL Students

The Secrets of Encouraging and Motivating ESL Students | ITTT | TEFL Blog

This is a subject that many have spoken of at length before however new perspectives are put forward all the time which can and do have positive outcomes. This can happen even in an area such as “student motivation”. This is an area that has been under the academic microscope as far back as we can remember. I will now put forward my perspectives and hopefully add something new to the equation.

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

What affects students’ motivation?

I would like to complete an assignment encompassing all areas that affect student motivation which may include but not exclusively: genetics (nature), parenting (nurture), economics, sleeping patterns, health, and schooling. I am limited however to between 500 and 1000 words and as I was taught in my TEFL course that teachers cannot control things that happen outside of the classroom. So, I will stick to schooling.

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Firstly, I will look at the phenomenon of giving praise in public and remanding in private. I was once a child and I can remember teachers who swore by this philosophy. It happened to me on many occasions and I happen to agree with this approach. Looking back on time and class where the teacher gave me praise in front of the class for winning a spelling competition. It made me feel special like I was a smart kid and part of a community. It certainly raised my confidence which in turn helped me to express my leadership ability and allowed me to help others which also improved my learning. It is akin to the “butterfly effect”.

Now let us look at being remanded in private. It is generally looked at as a negative occurrence however I would beg to differ. Thinking back there was this occasion where I was in class. I was somewhere in the region of eight years old. I remember being in a disruptive and energetic mood as most kids are at that age. I threw a pencil sharpener across to the other side of the classroom. I can still visualize the flight path of the sharpener as it flew through the air but not on the exact flight path in which I attempted! It hit another unsuspecting student. The teacher immediately spoke aloud saying “PADRAIG STAY BEHIND AFTER CLASS”. This put the fear in me. When the time came, I had to write ten pages of “I will not throw objects in class”. As intimidating as it was to me at the time it did have an overall positive effect as it thought me discipline and respect for other students which in turn motivated me to be a better person/ student.

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Secondly, let's have a brief look at how less teacher talk time and more student talk time can be a useful tool in achieving learning objectives. I read in the TEFL units that in the past teaching was more teacher-centered and less student-centered. In recent times though the process has become inverted as the benefits of a little more student talk time have been tried and tested. It does make sense to me that more student talk time has the effect of learning more. This is called student discovery. From my perspective, it is clear to see why. Learners are much more likely to want to learn if they feel like they are in control of what they are learning. For me, this could not be any truer. I feel that I learn best when I volunteer myself to a task rather than feeling like I am being forced. The feeling of openness adds to the ability to soak up information and in turn, has the desired effect of motivation due to being able to easily see progress being made.

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