Motivation in TEFL

August 29th, 20116:31 am


Motivation in TEFL

Motivation in TEFL

Most students study English because they believe it will benefit them in one way or another. They see English as a means to communicate, to fulfil certain education requirements, to travel abroad, to gain access to the culture of English-speaking nations, or simply to meet more people. But even though students’ initial motivation may be quite strong, under the strain of learning a new language with all its complexities of pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary, motivation may vane.

A primary responsibility of the teacher is to revive motivation. Without strong motivation students will fail in their attempt to bridge the gap between the manipulative and the communicative phase of language learning, receptive and reproductive skills and their hopes of speaking English fluently will never be realised.

The teacher’s personality and outlook may provide students with fresh motivation. If the teacher has a genuine interest in the students and their welfare, if he smiles often and gives praise where deserved, if he is responsive to students’ difficulties, and shows faith in their abilities, they will try harder to succeed in speaking English.

Other sources of motivation that are important are those that the teacher builds into an English course to reinforce the students’ original desire to learn the language. Earl Stevick pointed out that there are four major classroom sources of motivation:

1. The joy of discovery. Students find it thrilling to discover something about a new language by themselves. If the teacher directs the students to the point where they make a discovery about English rather than having it all explained to them, the benefit is more lasting. Not only they are apt to remember the point better, but also they are stimulated to make further discoveries.

2. The satisfaction of control. Mastering new language material provides students with the feeling of confidence and accomplishment that is of paramount importance in sustaining their enthusiasm.

3. The joy of remembrance. When the teacher occasionally has students return to material from an earlier stage of their language program, he gives them a chance to do something they already know well with its resultant psychological rewards. In addition, they have a dramatic illustration of how much progress they have made.

4. The elation of use. If the teacher can provide some way for students to use English outside the classroom whether through contact with native speakers or writing to pen friends in English, he will provide them with the best source of motivation of all – the elation that comes from truly communicating with native speakers.

Certainly motivation is crucial to the success of directed conversation practice where the students venture into true communication. Motivation is what makes the students want to converse.

In her article “Talking off the tops of their heads”, Wilga Rivers sums up this aspect of motivation: “students cannot be set down in groups, or set off in pairs, and told to interact in foreign language. Motivation to communicate must be aroused, the student’s interest sustained. Occasionally some fortuitous incident or combination of personalities will cause a desire to communicate something in the foreign language… but mostly it will need to be fostered by the intrinsic interest of the task proposed for the students. Such interest will make the interaction which follows autonomous, a genuine communication from one person to another; not just another imposed act of pseudo-communication”.

It is quite an endeavour to take a number of students, many of whom may not be acquainted with each other and mould them into a group of people motivated to speak English. Yet, a good conversation leader thrives on this kind of challenge. He knows he must show his own interest in the students and make them truly interested in each other in order to transform the loosely knit class into a cohesive group, animated and eager to communicate.

One device that always helps in building a group spirit is to make each student feel that you are a member of group too. Arrange chairs (if possible) in a congenial form such as a circle or semi-circle. Be part of the circle, not the teacher who is always up front. And try not to let students get attached to one chair or one part of the room. Move them around so that they sit next to new neighbours and can get to know each other better.

Once the students develop a strong group identity, the teacher will find that they are more motivated to express themselves in English, to become real participants in the activities planned for them, and ultimately to function as confident English speakers in the world outside the classroom.

Motivation is fostered by initiative participation of learners in communication at the lesson and outside classroom activities. It is based on interaction between the teacher and learners, on the one side, and among the learners, on the other.

Student’s motivation includes curiosity and interest, positive self-concept and self-confidence, learning valued for its own sake, and the purpose of learning. Students will be motivated to learn if the learning activity is meaningful, and if the knowledge is useful and provides a means of achieving a desired goal. Such learning activities provide a stimulus to reflective inquiry and continuing intellectual development.


1) focus attention on themes that relate to student’s daily life (relevance);

2) structure the programme so that all students achieve success (gradation);

3) set sizeable goals; language learning and behaviour should be clear to students (accessibility);

4) vary the activities that promote learning and hold students’ interest, keenness (variety);

5) praise students for good performance, progress and behaviour (incentives);

6) treat students with respect and dignity; be fair (fair treatment).

Близнюк М.І. Курс лекцій з методики викладання англійської мови. – Чернівці: ЧДУ, 1999 – с.