Motivation encourages students to study and achieve success.
by Sylwia Lewandowska - Baran
Teachers generally seem to agree that motivation to learn anything is an important aspect of successful learning. However, if asked to explain what is meant by motivation, most teachers would find the concept extremely difficult to define. According to some methodologists “motivation is some kind of ‘internal drive’ that encourages somebody to pursue a course of action” (Harmer). To give an example, working abroad is highly dependent on the level of language skills the person shows what is equal with the payment he or she receives or the position he or she can achieves at the place of work. It is commonly believed that people involved in teaching should create positive feelings towards learning and that students entering the classroom bringing their values, attitudes and goals should receive support and attention to activate their learning process. As Williams and Burden said: “We see motivation as a state of cognitive and emotional arousal, which leads to a period of sustained intellectual and/or physical effort in order to attain a previously set goal (or goals).” Motivation is a complex issue which plays a vital role in most students` success and failure. Thus the role of the teacher is not only to deliver knowledge but also to shape learning experiences through helping learners to find interest in what they are doing. Furthermore, creating supportive conditions to learn remains a crucial factor present in general teachers` understanding.
To begin with, both internal and external factors together with the expectation for success take part in constituting the essence of motivation. The key strategies which teachers can use to elicit students` motivation are thus concerned with building upon intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of students and their need for success. According to Kyriacou “Intrinsic motivation concerns the extent to which learners engage in an activity in order to satisfy their curiosity and interest in the topic area being covered or develop their competence and skills in dealing with the demands made on them, for their own sake”. It is vital to have in mind that intrinsic motivation includes selecting topics that are likely to interest students whereas extrinsic motivation undertakes the significance of external factors influencing learning. “Extrinsic motivation includes linking effort and success to material rewards and privileges, as well as social and emotional support from those who have influence with that student” (Kyriacou). For instance, the culture of target language may constitute a vital factor of extrinsic motivation and when enjoyed it can be a real incentive to acquire the language, whereas when hated it can cause obstacles in the learning process. Apart from intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, the next strategy to analyse is expectation for success. Teachers should introduce new activities explaining how they can benefit and from it and how they can improve their skills. “Making positive statements about upcoming activities is an excellent way to increase motivation” (Niderhouser). By saying ‘I think you are really going to enjoy our next activity’ teachers convey an enthusiasm and willingness to achieve success.
Secondly, in recent times, the focus in the classroom has moved more and more towards learner autonomy, and consequently away from the teacher. As teachers are no longer the fount of all wisdom, their role is to help to arouse and reinforce natural ability to guide themselves. Janet Niderhouser suggests several hints and strategies for teachers to enhance students` motivation. First, students should teachers should take time to get to know their students individually at the start of each year. It will help students to connect learning to their personal goals. In consequence students will find out their personal plans for success. Another important way to influence motivation among students is to present them with learning strategies. For instance, techniques learners use to remember their achievement and reduce failure.
Thirdly, a practical way of enhancing motivation among learners is to build up a supportive learning environment. Williams and Burden defines it as “a context which is supportive and fosters the will to learn and where individuals are encouraged to express themselves to develop their full potential and individually creates powerful motivating conditions.” A wise teacher being aware of motivation sources knows that the atmosphere of safety and favourable environment are the conditions to create a balance between the safety of students and their motivation (McCombs, Pope). Most recent studies show that the behaviouristic approach to teaching and learning involving the authority of a teacher, ‘prize and punishment’ are no longer applicable. Instead, teachers who use less control and give students the opportunity to gain in autonomy create better conditions to study and add to motivation. The research conducted by Ryan and Stiller shows the characteristics of teachers who can evoke internal motivation among students. The most valuable trait found is the ability to know the needs of individuals. Apart from this, teachers described in the research have ‘democratic’ views on learners` autonomy and respect the effort put in to the work of every student. Additionally, teachers in question are rather warm and relaxed, have a sense of humour, encourage students to take risks and most of all have an ability to forgive and forget.
Taking the points into the consideration, motivation is a complex area involving a lot of interrelated factors. Research in the field indicates that there are many ways to foster and empower students` inspiration to learning. The openness of the teacher and positive attitude towards students seem to have a powerful influence on learner motivation. The overall message is that teachers need to be sensitive to the range of issues involved and to take a flexible approach to helping the learner along their route towards autonomy and motivation. If teachers want students to start making decisions about how to do better as learners, telling them to do so is not enough; acting in such a way that the choices of students matter is what will make the message get through.
- Kyriacou, Ch. (1991) Essential Teaching Skills, Blackwell Education
- Harmer, J. (1991) The Practice of English Language Teaching, Longman Group
- McCombs, B., Pope, E. (1997) Motivating Hard- to- Reach students, APA
- Madsen, K.B. (1980) Współczesne teorie motywacji, PWN
- Włodarski, Z. ( 1996) Psychologia uczenia się, Warszawa
- Williams, M. “Motivation In Language Learning”, ETP vol 13, oct 1999
- Moreno,A. “Meet them Half Way” MET vol 7 no 3, 1998
- Robles, A. “Fostering Positive Attitudes” MET vol 7 no 3, 1998
- Niderhouser, J. “Motivating Learners” FORUM vol 35 no 1, 1997