Factors playing a crucial role in motivating students
Motivation plays a significant role in learning a language. Below I have listed some of the factors that I think motivates the learners.
Environment: If the room is too dark, too hot, or the furniture is broken it will demotivate the students. In general, students prefer neat, bright and equipped rooms, with attractive posters.
External/internal motivation: If the students are made to study the language, for instance from work, they are usually less motivated. Learning English because you like the British culture or you like Taylor Swift can be a good motivation for students to study English.
Teacher’s qualifications/or knowledge: Motivation of students can depend on the professional qualities of the teacher. The teacher who makes good lesson plans, manages the class well (has good management skills), knows the subject, can play a significant role in the student’s motivation.
Large, mixed ability classes: Sometimes when the class is too big students may not reach the teacher. Some students can be timid to answer or ask questions when there are a lot of students in the class. This can play a demotivating role in student learning. In mixed ability classes teachers may find hard to keep balance in teaching students. The teacher can be literally torn between weak and strong students. Even experienced and qualified teachers can find it hard to handle it.
Usage of visual aids in the classroom: Students learn best when visual aids such as videos, photos, posters, maps, and diagrams exist/are used. The visual aids a kind of makes the lesson alive and give the lesson a context or a background.
Authentic materials: Authentic materials are the materials that are merely done outside the classroom, mostly by native speakers. Listening or watching how native speakers speak or reading authentic materials can be motivating for students as they will try to speak like the native speakers. These materials can be demotivating for low level students as they will find very hard to understand the listening or reading the authentic materials (native speakers speak fast for them, lots of unknown words and idioms) and they may think they will never reach that level as it seems too far from them. If the teacher can change the tasks, make these materials easy, then it can be solved (semi authentic).
Setting high goals for the short time at the beginning of the course: In general, people like setting high goals, have high expectations to achieve in a short period of time. Learning language takes time and it needs a lot of patience and commitment. So students start with high motivation and in a month or two they lose it as they can’t achieve the desired level.
Personal characters of the teacher: Teacher must find the golden level between being strict and friendly. If the teacher is too strict students may fear the teacher or hate her. Fear can be motivating but hatred not. Being too kind and friendly can also prevent students from learning, as they may not feel the need to learn because they know the teacher won’t be strict and will forgive them.
Assessment: Assessment can motivate or demotivate learners. Of course, if learners get low marks they can be demotivated. To prevent this from happening (when the test result is low or do not match the expectations) a feedback must follow the test and it must be positive. For example, the teacher can say “You are at _ level what you can do to move to the next level.” Assessment must be learner oriented. It means it should motivate the test takers to learn.
Feedback: When we think of giving feedback, the first thing comes to our mind is giving feedback to the productive skills. i.e to the writing and speaking activities of students. Studies on feedback shows that feedback plays a significant role in student motivation. So if teacher checks or corrects every mistake that a student does in a piece of writing will not take the student anywhere but instead demotivates him. Teachers are usually recommended to only check the errors that occur frequently, only then student can learn from it. I remember once reading Sandy Millin’s feedback on her learners’ writing. She only commented on frequent errors and gave positive feedback on the storyline.