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Why Students Lack Motivation and How to Motivate Them

Why Students Lack Motivation and How to Motivate Them | ITTT | TEFL Blog

There are a variety of reasons why students may or may not be motivated to learn English. For many teachers, especially teachers who are just beginning their English teaching careers, a lack of motivation in their students is one of the biggest obstacles that they face [1]. Luckily, there are many methods for cultivating motivation in English language students.

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

Giving up early

One of the reasons a student might have a lack of motivation is that they are daunted by how far they seem to be from ever achieving fluency. This may cause them to want to give up before they ever start. The key to turning this around for students is to provide them with activities that they are certainly capable of accomplishing [1]. These can be homework assignments, quizzes, conversational exercises, and more. For higher-level students, this might also include providing authentic materials that are easy for them to comprehend. When the students succeed in these activities, they can get a sense of their progress, their proficiency, and a renewed confidence in their ability to learn.

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Student-teacher relationship

Students might also have lower motivation because the relationship between them and their teacher is underdeveloped or unpleasant. In this case, the teacher needs to build rapport with the students. This can be done in a variety of ways: getting to know the students personally, showing genuine concern for the students, showing them that you have a sincere interest in their learning [1], and supporting their natural interests by including them in English learning activities are a few examples.

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Student-student relationship

A similar reason for low motivation arises when there is poor relationship development between the students themselves. The students’ relationships with their peers can be a great motivating factor, generating a sense of belonging and comradery in their learning, especially if they do not share a native language in which they can communicate. Students might also feel less pressure learning language points from their peers than from the teacher [2]. Using plenty of pair and group work is a good way to support peer rapport, especially activities that help them to get to know one another.

teacher and students

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Unclear goals

For young learners, there can be a lack of understanding of why the English language is important to learn. This can be because they are too young to grasp the concept of the long-term implications of learning English. It is not necessarily the most helpful technique, depending on the age of the students, to try to teach them why English is important. With young children, it may be better to focus on other ways to motivate them to learn. Using praise, fun activities and games, a great variety of teaching methods and activities, the teacher's enthusiasm for what they are teaching, and perhaps even a reward system are all great ways to motivate children [3]. Older students can be motivated by these techniques and will likely benefit even more from learning some of how English can be used practically in their lives. Seeing how English proficiency can open up new opportunities for them is a great doorway to motivation.

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Teacher’s correction work

Another reason that students might become de-motivated is that the teacher is over correcting them or correcting them at the wrong time. If a teacher leaves no room for mistakes to happen without correction, then the students may develop a reluctance to speak due to a fear of being wrong. Depending on the culture, it might also be embarrassing to be corrected in front of peers. If the timing isn’t right, for example correcting someone in the middle of their sentences or during an activity that is meant to support fluency, the entire classroom may become frustrated by the lack of fluidity. To prevent this kind of de-motivation, the teacher must allow room for errors to take place, to make corrections at the appropriate times (such as in the study phase and after a student has finished speaking), and to offer corrections in a way that supports the students learning without putting them down. It is also important to give students who make errors a chance to correct themselves, as well as to give their peers a chance to help them.

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Teacher’s style

One last reason why motivation may be low in a classroom is that the pace and style of the teaching are boring for the students. This can result from the teacher using the same pace and tone of voice throughout all their lessons. It can also come from a series of lessons that have the same types of activities in the same order. The lack of motivation resulting from students being bored from such predictability can be improved by the teacher. The teacher should cultivate enthusiasm about the subjects as well as vary the pace and tone of the teaching methods. Bringing greater variety into the lesson activities by including games, audio materials, videos, realia, as well as both authentic and created materials can keep the students guessing as to what will come next, therefore piquing their interest.

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This essay highlights only a portion of the problems and possible solutions surrounding motivation in the English learning classroom. Motivation is one of the most necessities for student learning. With it, students can progress quickly. Without it, students may fail to progress or even quit trying to learn altogether. Thankfully, there are a large variety of ways for teachers to help create, maintain, and increase the motivation of their students. The teacher’s creativity can go a long way in filling in the gaps, especially if they have cultivated their motivation.

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