Teach English in Fenbi Zhen - Bazhong Shi

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Student motivation is a key aspect in successful EFL learning, as without it, there is little to no drive in continuing the education, therefore it is very important that it is maintained at a high standard within classrooms. However, there are many factors that have an impact on a student’s motivation, such as the individual’s L2 goals and visions, teaching methods applied within their education and student-to-teacher interaction within the classroom. This essay will discuss if the role of the teacher has an impact on student motivation in an EFL classroom, and if ultimately, it is the most important factor in developing a successful, positive motivation towards EFL learning. Firstly, it is important to consider the individual, personal motivation factors, which contribute to how students perform in class. If a student is doing an EFL course, it is assumed that this is a personal choice, as it is not a compulsory course, as in a school syllabus for example. Students who must complete compulsory foreign language courses within schools have very different sources of motivation, such as a requirement to pass an exam. In contrast, EFL course students usually independently choose to do the course, and therefore, will have their own individual factors that motivate them. For example, the student may be moving to an English-speaking country, therefore need to learn the language, perhaps for their education or career. Consequently, these students will have a natural motivation in classrooms as it is vital that their L2 learning is successful. This notion of necessity, which creates motivation, is the idea of having goals and visions. For example, EFL students have a ‘goal’ of learning English fluently, and this is because of their ‘vision’ of living or working in an English-speaking country without language barriers. This idea can be further demonstrated using Dörnyei’s (2006) Motivational Self-system, which consists of three elements; The ideal L2 self, which is the learner’s desire to become an effective L2 user, the ought-to L2 self, which are the social pressures coming from the learner’s environment and the L2 learning experience, which is the experience in the classroom. (1) There is a strong correlation between an ideal L2 self and a corresponding vision, which consequently becomes a strong motivational tool in the language classroom. This is because, if the student has a strong, vivid, ideal L2 self, they will be more motivated in class to succeed to achieve their goal. However, as demonstrated in Dörnyei’s model, teachers also have a key role in this personal motivation, as they determine the result of the L2 learning experience. There are several ways in which teachers can create a positive L2 learning experience, resulting in a high level of classroom motivation. Firstly, the teaching methods applied can affect the classroom motivation, as some methods can discourage students if they do not feel comfortable with them. For example, a ‘lockstep’ teaching method is when teachers apply the same pace and content to each student, without consideration that students in the class may progress at different levels (Flanders, 1970) (2). This results in lower level students feeling unmotivated within the classroom, as they will lose confidence in their abilities. Secondly, the classroom dynamics and rapport between student and teacher can also have an impact on classroom motivation. For example, orally, classroom dynamics can affect the way learners will acquire the L2, as, if there is a lack of realistic communication, there will be insufficient oral development, and thus a negative motivation to speak in the classroom. (Long, Michael H, Porter, 1985. p. 208) (3) Teachers therefore, improve motivation in this case by ensuring that students have realistic communication. For example, in an ESA style lesson, teachers in a highly-motivated classroom will include adequate engage and activate sections that allow for both student-to-student and teacher-to-student talk time. Furthermore, the way teachers interact with students establishes a rapport and thus increases classroom motivation. Successful teachers utilise eye contact, to show students that they are all involved and encourage contributions, as well as gestures to add visual interest and engage the students. A clear voice also plays an important factor, as it must be clear and change naturally according to circumstances, to be effective. Teachers also must consider how much individual attention to give to the students as they can’t teach exclusively strong or weak students, but must also give attention to individual students when they need extra help, without making them feel patronised. If a teacher is successful in all these areas, students will feel comfortable and confident in classes and therefore will be highly motivated. To conclude, ultimately, I feel the teacher plays the most important role in creating positive classroom motivation, as it is the factor that, depending on how teaching is implemented, can enhance individual motivation, or be what breaks it down. Although it is important for students to have their initial ideal L2 self-motivation, without teachers, it is unlikely that this motivation would be maintained. Furthermore, teachers can initially train students to create their own effective L2 ideal selves by implementing activities within their classes, such as creating visual tasks into their teaching routines and helping students to solidify their visions in terms of realistic expectations, through guidance and action plans. References: (1) - Dörnyei, z. (2006). 'Individual differences in Second Language Acquisition.' Alia review 19. Pp.42-68. (2) - Flanders, 1970. Analysing teaching behaviour. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. (3) - Long, Michael H, Patricia A porter. “Group Work, Interlanguage Talk, and SLA’, TESOL Quarterly, vol. 19, no. 2, 1985. Pp-207-228.