What’s their motivation?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What’s their motivation? by   Ali Kemp

I have found that I take it personally when students appear to lack motivation in the classroom and I get very frustrated and it has a knock on effect on my motivation.

For my TD session, I wanted to create a forum for colleagues to share ideas on this topic.

Prior to my TD session, I interviewed a number of colleagues by asking these questions:

  • What behaviours do we associate with a lack of motivation?
  • What impact does this have on you and your teaching?
  • How can we manage these circumstances effectively?

Some of their responses are on the 2 following pictures. Click on the picture to see a larger, legible version.



How can we manage these circumstances effectively?

One suggestion:

Look at the circumstances that get in the way of a student engaging and try to do some problem solving?

Case study: a young mid intermediate Korean student who would not speak at all in class. I asked him to email me to tell me how he felt about speaking. During the session we discussed the letter he sent and possible actions I could have taken.

My colleagues suggested:

  • Check the students history in the EDA and find out if it is a case of death by mid intermediate.
  • Write back and acknowledge his concerns.
  • Negotiate – if you speak more in class, I’ll move you up to the next level.
  • Have a chat with him.
  • Do work around cultural engagement and get the class to agree their class rules of engagement.
  • Do some activities on speaking / turn taking / paraphrasing
  • Create task based speaking activities


In response to this student’s letter, I wrote back to him and thanked him for writing to me. I also asked him to consider why he is learning English and to whom he will be speaking in the future (work/travel etc). I was concerned that he might be getting stuck in mid intermediate so I said that I would move him to upper intermediate on the condition that he spoke in every class and that I would check with his new teacher.


How can we manage these circumstances effectively?

In my case study, I decided to try to find out what was getting in the way of the student engaging. Colleagues at the TD session, came up with other ways to manage unmotivated students:

Other suggestions?

  • To find out what the class wants rather than to set your own agenda for the class.
  • To set competitions where the prize can be that they decide what they do on Friday.
  • To remember that we are there to enable learning and we should try to let go of the idea of control.


Do you have any other suggestions? Or do you have an example of your own from your teaching experience? What do you tend to do with students suffering from motivation issues?


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