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From limitation to motivation: fourteen tips on how
to enhance motivation in the EFL class
Glenda Demes da Cruz
- 1

When asked about the characteristics of a motivated teacher, an EFL student answered, “A motivated teacher likes what she does. We can feel this passion in her classes. She makes the language easier, and gives such wonderful classes that time seems to fly, and we can’ wait to attend her next class”.

How many times in our lives do we catch ourselves willing to feel motivated, willing to motivate our students, but then get frustrated when we feel our students are not motivated to come to our classes?

It is not impossible to be that motivated teacher the EFL student described above. The teacher plays a very important role in her students’ motivation. Since there’s no such thing as a “motivation formula”, we, as teachers, should reflect on how we can motivate our students and keep their motivation high.

How to become a motivation factor?

The teacher should get to know her (1)students, to start with. According to Ur (2000), a motivated learner has the following characteristics: he makes an effort to handle tasks and challenges and is confident in his success; he finds success in learning important to promote and keep a positive self-image; he feels the need to overcome difficulties and succeed in what he does; he is ambitious and likes challenging, proficiency tasks and high grades; he is aware of the goals of learning and of specific activities and directs his efforts to succeed in them; he makes strong efforts to learn and is not discouraged by obstacles or apparent lack of progress; he is not disturbed by temporary lack of understanding or confusion and knows his understanding will come later.

If a student does not present any of the characteristics mentioned above, or none that might show motivation, the teacher can, and should, try to motivate him. The point is how to motivate this student, or even groups of students, who the teacher believes would not feel motivated to learn under any circumstances? Unfortunately, as mentioned above, there is no such thing as a “motivation formula”. However, there are some points which can be considered:

1. If you do not know what motivates a student, ask.
There are some ways of making that question indirectly. The teacher could observe the students in activities which involve personal preferences, opinions, concepts, etc. Ice-breaking activities are very helpful in the process of getting to know what subjects your students really enjoy talking about, as well as other preferences.

2. Evaluate your own motivation level, as well as your students.
Close your eyes for a minute and think of the class you are about to give. How do you feel? Motivated? Great! A little unmotivated? Think of your students, think of how well and carefully prepared your class is. Were there any obstacles or lack of interest during class preparation? Think about the reason you are there and how important you are in your students’ learning process. They need you. They need to feel your motivation. Look at your students in your class. Are they motivated? If you feel they are not motivated, try something they might like to do. 5 to 10 minutes of your class dedicated to motivation can make all the difference.

1. For ease of reading the following decision was made: when referring to a teacher ‘she’ and ‘her’ have been used and when referring to a student ‘he’ and ‘his’ have been used.

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