MOTIVATION AND THE LEARNING
Folk wisdom says that “unmotivated students just won’t learn”,
that “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”. This proverb
comes to mind when we see how different are various students’ attitudes to foreign
languages. For one student, learning language is personally significant, he is motivated
to language learning (though motives may differ: self-actualisation, high achievement
motivation, goal orientation, avoidance of failure); for another student, language is a
heavy burden which he has to carry, and he doesn’t hide his boredom, yawning and just
waiting for the end of the class. Every teacher faces such situations and in truth is
often inclined to blame a student for “misbehaviour” or their inability to learn the
language. But this situation can be understood differently by a teacher who can think
critically: it is mostly a sign which reveals whether the teaching methods and approaches
are effective and relevant to a students’ needs.
All standard books on educational psychology have chapters on
motivation and its effect on the learning process. Most studies report a high correlation
between motivation and achievement; this is evidence that a highly motivated student will
do well in school.
It goes without saying that the ability to motivate students to learn
is a key skill of every teacher. Although everyone agrees that motivation is important, it
is difficult to find a clear definition of the concept. Motives are inner psychological
drives that impel people to action. If a student is motivated to language learning then
his learning process is conscious and may be influenced, and the greater the value is that
an individual attaches to this or that activity the more highly motivated he will be. It
is difficult to predict what kind of activity any particular individual will find
worthwhile for its own sake, but we can identify the activities that individuals consider
important to them personally.
So, when people are involved in any activity which could be described
as highly motivated, the following conditions are likely to apply:
All of their minds and bodies are completely involved.
Their concentration is very deep.
They know what they want to do.
They know how well they are doing.
They do not worry about failing
- Time passes very quickly.
What can be done about motivating students to learn?
- Courses must be relevant to the needs and interests of the students.
- Analysis of needs and interests should be done cooperatively.
- Students must be involved in the decision-making process about what to learn and how to
learn, and they must be encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning.
So, one fundamental principal of motivation is that people work harder
for goals they themselves set than for goals set for them by others. They must be
concrete, attainable, attractive, and must be set for rather short period of time.
At the beginning of the term (week, month) students should answer
the following questions in written form:
1. What new skills would you like to develop by the end of the term
2. What language difficulties would you like to overcome?
3. What material is of special interest to you now?
At the end of the term (week, month) students must analyse the progress
they made, the positive and negative sides of their experience; and if they still make the
same mistakes, they must try to explain the reasons that prevented them from succeeding in
this or that sphere. It is vitally important to praise students for setting and then
achieving their goals.
How can we find out students’ ideas and impressions about the course
they are studying? Creative teachers ask such questions. But isn’t it interesting for
everyone to know how students evaluate him or her, whether they approve or disapprove of
the methods applied and the goals set, and how they feel about the class.
One of the ways to do it is to ask students to fill in a questionnaire.
The purpose of this questionnaire is to find out your ideas and
impressions about your English course. How strongly do you feel about the following
aspects of your course? Put X in the spaces provided.
If the word meaningful very strongly describes your feelings
towards the course
meaningful X – – – – – – meaningless
If the word meaningful somewhat describes your feelings towards
meaningful – X – – – – – meaningless
If the word meaningful only slightly describes your feelings
towards the course
meaningful – – X – – – – meaningless
If the word meaningful at either end of the scale doesn’t seem
to be at all related to your ideas about the course
meaningful – – – X – – – meaningless
If the word meaningless only slightly describes your feelings
towards the course
meaningful – – – – X – – meaningless
If the word meaningless somewhat describes your feelings towards
meaningful – – – – – X – meaningless
If the word meaningless strongly describes your feelings towards
meaningful – – – – – – X meaningless
meaningful – – – – – – – meaningless
enjoyable – – – – – – – unenjoyable
monotonous – – – – – – – absorbing
effortless – – – – – – – hard
awful – – – – – – – nice
interesting – – – – – – – boring
good – – – – – – – bad
simple – – – – – – – complicated
agreeable – – – – – – – disagreeable
fascinating – – – – – – – tedious
worthless – – – – – – – valuable
necessary – – – – – – – unnecessary
appealing – – – – – – – unappealing
useful – – – – – – – useless
elementary – – – – – – – complex
pleasurable – – – – – – – painful
educational – – – – – – – noneducational
rewarding – – – – – – – unrewarding
difficult – – – – – – – easy
satisfying – – – – – – – unsatisfying
important – – – – – – – unimportant
exciting – – – – – – – dull
clear – – – – – – – confusing
colourful – – – – – – – uncolourful
We find it very important for teachers to analyse their own approach to
teaching. Most of us do know things theoretically; but how often do we think of effective
language teaching? Let’s start with ourselves and answer the questions suggested by
Marion Williams and Robert L. Burden in their questionnaire. Let’s ponder over whether
we do everything we can to promote motivationally oriented teaching!
Please circle the number that best describes your views.
Please circle the number.
In our practical work we’ve used materials worked out by
psychologists while conducting socio-psychological training. Our experience showed that
training being conducted at English language teaching classes make them emotionally
colourful. And the main aim, learning language, becomes closely interrelated with other
to know more about yourself,
to communicate more closely with the members of the group,
to learn to communicate.
For teenagers as well as adolescents these are very important
In this issue we’ll give only some examples of such tasks.
This vocabulary exercise involves adjectives that describe people. Used creatively, with
appropriate mediation, this exercise becomes rich with possibilities, some of which extend
way beyond the language aims of the activity.
Complete the grid with suitable opposites and then check your answers
with your teacher or groupmates. Where would you put yourself on each line of the grid?
Put a circle a round one X on each line and then compare your answers in groups and with
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
X X X X X
Do we always hear what another person intends to say? Let’s
Ask one person to talk about how he feels today, about the most interesting event which
happened yesterday to another member of the group. After he finishes a monologue, ask his
interlocutor to reproduce what he’s heard.
Was the first speaker understood correctly?
Were there any distortions in interpretation?
Were the distortions significant?
Was the message rendered clearly?
Let the group analyse the same questions. What caused misunderstanding?
What could be done to avoid it? What are effective means of communication?
We invite all teachers of English who are interested in effective and highly motivated
teaching to share their experience in using psychologically-oriented exercises.
N.V. Klueva, Yaroslavl State University,
N.N. Kasatkina, Yaroslavl State
1. Psychology for Language Teachers, A Social Constructivist
Approach, Marrion Williams &Robert L. Burden. Cambridge University Press.
2. The Self-directed Teacher, David Nunan, Clarice Lamb, Cambridge, 1996
3. Second Language Learning and Language Teaching, Second Edition, Vivian Cook,
4. И.В Вачков. Основы технологии группового
тренинга. М., “Ось” 2001.
5. Н.В. Клюева, М.А. Свистун. Программа
Руководство для ведущего, Ярославль, ЯрГУ.1987.
6. Игры – обучение, тренинг, досуг. (под ред.
В.В. Петрусинского), М., “Новая школа”. 1994.