A few thoughts about this very important process and critical job facet of teachers.
Zoltán Dörnyei left us last year. A big loss for all teachers. One of the good guys, a man that put up a good fight and his research and papers as written, are invaluable.
He was very interested in the issue of motivation and learning. Read his papers on this. Here, I highlight his advice for teacher and I add a few thoughts of my own.
One of my mentors in education, Andrew Finch-Park, always emphasized that a teacher was less a deliverer of knowledge and mostly a psychologist, a motivational magician. The teachers primary job was to help students discover their own internal joy of learning - a joy often zapped out of them through schooling and social sluggery. That thought has always held fast. I dug up these old slides from a plenary I gave in Holland years ago - might be worth just checking out the quotes.
For me, motivation revolves around 3 central and key foci:
Learners are involved. They have a stake in what is going on in the classroom and are participants not just in learning but also its planning and course of development. Without this “participation”, the motivational center is very hard to develop.
Learners feel loved. No, not in the usual sense of the word but in the sense that they feel valued, that what they do as members of the classroom and learning community is important and matters. This is why a classroom matters so much - it motivates students to come, show up, online or face-to-face. Why? Because their presence is needed.
Learners see their learning visible and progressing. Too often, we don’t make learning visible for students. We don’t take time to let students see how they’ve come along and progressed, we don’t build this into our curriculum.
Zoltán Dörnyei had his own take. Here, he outlines in simple bullet points, his commandments that teachers should take into account when creating a “motivated” classroom. Download his list as a PDF along with a nice exercise for teachers to do, highlighting how they do each item, in a classroom setting.
1. Set a personal example with your own behavior. An example of this might be when a teacher wants students to read more in their free time, to make sure students see you, the teacher reading in your off-time, during break, when they enter class, etc ...
2. Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom. It's not as easy as you think but a teacher can make this happen by not correcting students too much, planning many activities focused on getting to know each other more and in general, allowing students more freedom of expression in class.
3. Present the tasks properly. When students don't understand what they have to do, they get demotivated. So model tasks clearly, step by step. Even, if needed or possible, explain in the students' own first language.
4. Develop a good relationship with the learners. Share some of your own life with students. I often play 2 truths and a lie. Students guess which statement isn't true about me. Focus on being positive in class and leaving any negativity at the door when you enter and start teaching.
5. Increase the learners’ linguistic self-confidence. "By mistakes we learn." This should be a classroom credo. Students also need a sense of achievement and accomplishment. I often plan very simple, easy quizzes that will give almost all students a sense of achievement.
6. Make the language classes interesting. It seems obvious but harder than you might think. Do a needs analysis and get to know what your students are interested in. Plan some lesson content around that. Harness students' curiosity and passion in other subjects.
7. Promote learner autonomy. The ultimate goal of any teacher is to develop each student into a self-directed learner. Provide students with opportunities to learn, study, research and present on their own, with your guidance and support.
8. Personalize the learning process. Most of the above points encompass this. Make sure that each student can personally connect in some way to the topic you are teaching. If for example, you are learning to give directions, why not have students give directions from their home to school, for example?
9. Increase the learners’ goal-orientedness. The teacher should communicate to the students clear goals he or she wants them to achieve. Rubrics can be helpful. Design one with students, with easy to identify objectives.
10. Familiarize learners with the target language culture. Language is in a large part culture. Make sure your curriculum celebrates and presents aspects of the language's culture. Symbols, customs, holidays, food, mannerisms and more.
We hope these tips to improve your students' motivation have been helpful. Thanks for reading!