Motivation and EFL learning
Feb 19, 2011 English as a Foreign Language (EFL) 5938 Views
Successful language learning depends on different factors that go beyond the cognitive realm. Affect is one of the factors that can greatly influence student success and within affective factors there is no doubt motivation is one of the most important ones. Research has shown motivation can be affected by effective teaching. To become effective, teachers need to reflect on a number of things such as their behaviours, decisions, activity design, class materials and class atmosphere. Considering these points, two Chilean language teachers designed an activity that combined language learning and the development of reflecting skills. The experience was carried out with first year Chilean English pedagogy students and was part of a language class in which learners were dealing with leisure topics.
AFFECT AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNING
Undoubtedly, stimulating different positive emotional factors such as motivation, self-esteem, or empathy can help language learners become successful and self confident, but according to Goleman focusing on affect has another important benefit. He points that ‘these are times when selfishness, violence, and a meanness of spirit seem to be rotting the goodness of our common lives’ (1995: xii) and he suggests schools educate the whole student, bringing together mind and heart in the classroom.
Motivation and second- foreign language learning
What is the importance of motivation?
Motivations is among the affective factors that can greatly influence students’ attitudes. Chomsky clearly identifies the importance of motivation: ‘the truth of the matter is that about 99 percent of teaching is making the students feel interested in the material’ (Chomsky 1988: 181). Research has shown language learning is a long process in which the whole person is involved , and without enough motivation students are unlikely to persist in a given task.
Williams and Burden’s model (1997) distinguishes three stages. First, the reasons for engaging in a particular activity which may vary from person to person and involve both internal and external factors. Second, the factors that are associated with the decisions to invest time and energy in a particular activity. Third, the sustained effort needed to complete the activity successfully. The authors also consider the context and culture in which these stages take place, and state these factors influence the choices a language learner takes.
Zoltan Dörnyei’s model (1994) is considered an ‘educational approach’ because it views motivation from a classroom perspective. Dörnyei sees L2 motivation in three levels: the language level, the learner level and the learner situation level. The language level represents the integrative and instrumental subsystems of motivation. The learner level involves individual characteristics of the learner. Finally, the learning situation level is associated with specific motives within the classroom: course specific motivational components, teacher- specific motivational components, group specific motivational components.
THE EXPERIENCE WITH FIRST YEAR PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS
The objective of the activity was to develop the ability to reflect and to raise awareness of the importance f motivation in language learning.
The experience was carried out with a group of twenty first year English Pedagogy students and was part of a language class in which students were dealing the unit “Leisure”. The reading material used in the experience was the material students had to study as part of their course.
The class was divided into four groups of five. Two groups were given a text about requirements for hotel recognition and two groups were given the text about procedures at an airport. Both texts were part of the material students were supposed to study in their course. Groups were asked to read and answer some questions about their texts. The goal of this activity was to check comprehension. The teacher monitored the groups and answered questions students had. The following class, the teacher worked with the whole class and brainstormed ideas about what students considered a motivating class. After that, each group received a set of which consisted of coloured pens, markers, coloured pieces of papers, scissors and glue. Students were asked to teach the content of the text they had read to a group which had read a different text. All members of the group were asked to teach one part. Each group had a maximum of 15 minutes to teach. At the end of the fifteen minutes students received and completed a score chart (see score chart below) . Then, students discussed the questions within their groups.
In a scale from 1 to 5, being 1 not good and 5 excellent I would say:
1. My classmate could motivate me to follow her/his performance ________
2. He/she showed enthusiasm in what he/she did ________
3. He/she prepared the presentation very well ________
4. Materials helped me understand the topic ________
5. The topic was interesting ________
6. I enjoyed the presentation ________
Write any comments you may consider important to mention: _________________________________________________________________
The following class, groups were given some time to think about the following questions:
What do you think about the way your group worked?
Did group work make things easier?
Do you have any comments about the activity?
After answering questions in the small groups, they convened as a whole group and with the help of the teacher discussed the questions.
While students were discussing the points in the score chart, the teacher monitored and helped them with the language. All students were able to complete it, however, only a few of them wrote comments. This could be because they did not have the sufficient language or because they could not think of other points to consider. Some of the comments were the following:
· The material was clear to understand with pictures.
· The material made learning easier.
· Pictures were clear enough and pretty.
· She was nervous but the preparation was good.
· The problem is that he is static in one place.
· He has a good capacity to be in front of the class.
In the second part of the activity, groups wrote down their answers and again the teacher helped them. Again, only some of the students were able to write comments. Some of the comments were the following:
· It was a lot of fun and interesting , as a group we helped each other and we worked very well.
· We had the opportunity to take different responsibilities and share our opinions.
· It was easier to work in groups.
· We feel good with the activities, this help us to practice the speaking of English with an obligation.
· We all had a chance to speak, and we were very respectful with each other.
· The activity was good and creative. But the most important thing is that we speak English all the time.
· The activity was difficult, we don’t have the fluency necessary, we needed more time.
This type of activity offers students both an opportunity to practice language and to become aware of the importance some affective factors such as motivation have in successful language learning. Undoubtedly, this type of exercises will help them as future language teachers.
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