How Motivated Are You?
Teachers and classroom researchers have for a long time been obsessed with the subject of student motivation—often described as ‘the intensity and direction of effort’. Learners who display low motivation are deemed to need some treatment, and those who exhibit high motivation are held aloft as achievement models.
Those interested in the topic talk about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Why are we studying this stuff? If you ‘source the force’ that compels you to do something, you can begin to understand what makes you do what you do. In a nutshell, EFL learners are driven by outside forces (like getting a good grade or a promotion at work), or internal forces (like wanting to understand Modern Family or chatting up that cutie at the coffee shop). In both cases, the extent of effort applied in obtaining a skill typically correlates with the size of the incentive. A lot has been made, for example, about dangling cash rewards in front of students in order to boost academic performance and manufacture positive study habits.
Most teachers have, to say the very least, an imperfect understanding of learner motivation.
In order to nurture a culture of persistent forward-leaning curiosity in my classroom, I like to be very up-front with students. I regularly pull back the curtain to reveal hidden processes and agendas at work in service of their learning needs. I talk openly about grading policies and the sausage-making of exam design and preparation. I also frequently give learners a glimpse into the esoteric world of metalanguage and jargon that dominates language acquisition theory and involve them in critiquing its assumptions and methods.
I always clarify the broad intentions of a course and the specific purposes of each unit of study and invite learners to co-construct the ways in which their learning outcomes are achieved.
Students who have a say in the what and how of the learning process are more likely to display lasting signs of involvement, and as a result, develop a clearer understanding of why they are climbing out of bed each morning.
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