How best to motivate learners?

How best to motivate learners?

Many participants remembered their teachers who inspired them and made a difference in their lives and said they would still like to listen to them. Those teachers who are enthusiastic and passionate about teaching can make an everlasting influence on their students.

A teacher can do a lot to motivate his/ her learners. Motivation can work wonders in the classroom. However, motivation includes many components that are internal or external. There are internal factors such as the individual’s drive, perceived relevance or value of the learning activity, feelings of competence in a chosen area, personal definitions and judgements of success and failure, attitude towards the learning situation, confidence level, and so on.

Some of the external factors are the roles played by parents, teachers and peers, the nature of classroom interaction, the learning environment, and societal expectations and attitudes. These factors play an important role in every kind of learning situation.

Motivation is generally regarded as an essential element in the teaching-learning process. However, it is not a one time affair. Motivation is dynamic and continuous. It should be viewed as a process consisting of several distinct phases. First, motivation needs to be generated. A child has to be motivated to pursue a task or choose a goal.

Second, the generated motivation needs to be actively maintained and protected. A student may be motivated initially to do a task but he/ she may not be able to sustain the motivation until the completion of the task. Therefore, students need teacher’s support in maintaining their motivation. Finally, there is a third phase called motivational retrospection. This is concerned with the learners’ retrospective evaluation of how things went. Encouraging learners to reflect on past experiences will help them in determining the kind of activities they will be motivated to pursue in future.
Motivational strategies

There are studies that suggest that all students are motivated to learn under the right conditions. However, not all teachers are skilled at creating the right conditions in their classrooms. Many teachers have rewards and punishments as the only tools to work on their students’ motivation. There are several effective motivational strategies that will work in the classrooms.

According to a well-known Hungarian motivational theorist named Zoltán Dörnyei, there are a number of strategies to create a positive motivational climate in the classroom.

Some of them are given below:

* Take the students’ learning very seriously: Students should never get the feeling that the teacher does not care about their progress in learning. If they feel so, even the most dedicated learners are likely to be affected and become demoralised. Therefore, offering concrete assistance, offering to meet students individually to explain things, correcting assignments, test papers and other student works promptly, etc., become important in showing your students that their learning matters to you.

* Develop a personal relationship with your students: Students should feel at ease in the classroom and like their teachers. Having a positive relationship with students on a personal, and not just on an academic level, is important for a motivating teacher.

* Create a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom: Accept mistakes as a natural part of learning, encourage risk-taking among students, use humour, and involve students in personalising the physical environment of the classroom. Seating arrangements in the classroom will also determine the dynamics of the lesson. Hence, students sitting in groups around small tables or a horseshoe arrangement may be better options.

* Promote the development of group cohesiveness: Interaction, co-operation and the sharing of genuine personal information among learners are important in creating a cohesive learner group. Small-group tasks where students mix with each other, co-curricular activities and outings, and whole-group projects help in building group cohesiveness.

* Make the curriculum and teaching materials relevant to students: Teachers who are obsessed with ‘covering’ the curriculum and those who teach for the test are not found to be motivating teachers. Personalising the curriculum, relating subjects to everyday experiences and backgrounds of the students, and supplementing materials where necessary are some techniques to motivate learners.

* Make learning stimulating and enjoyable for the learner by making the tasks more interesting: Tasks that are challenging, have interesting and relevant content, engage the learner’s fantasy and yield tangible, finished products are likely to inspire learners.

* Use goal-setting methods in your classroom: Establishing group goals and class goals is crucial in learning. Teachers can show students how to break down tasks and assignments into small steps, how to set a timeline for reaching the goal and how to monitor/ evaluate their own progress.

* Provide learners with regular experiences of success: Building self-esteem and self-confidence is an important aspect of classroom motivation. Creating multiple opportunities for students to experience success is also vital for academic achievement.

* Remove or reduce anxiety-provoking elements in the learning environment: One of the main conditions for successful learning is ‘low affective filter’ as suggested by Stephen Krashen. Hence, teachers must avoid comparing successful and unsuccessful learners. Co-operation, instead of competition, should be encouraged. Tests and assessments should be made less threatening. We must avoid labelling learners as ‘slow’, ‘weak’ or ‘better than others’.

* Use rewards and grades in a motivating manner: Although rewards and grades can do a great deal of damage, teachers can reduce their demotivating impact as much as possible by using them sparingly. Grades should reflect learner effort and improvement and not just achievement levels. Continuous assessment and self and peer evaluation procedures should be encouraged. Motivation is one of the key issues in education. Teachers need to equip themselves with diverse strategies and techniques to generate and sustain motivation in the classroom.

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