Thursday, November 27, 2008

8 Reasons You Get Stuck with Unmotivated EFL Learners

Motivation and Rapport are Key English Language Teaching Elements

No matter what English as a foreign language level you teach. No matter what EFL learner profile your students are. No matter what your educational level and teaching background are. And no matter what teaching environment you might have, if you lack a genuine rapport with your EFL learners, they’re going to be unmotivated. Unmotivated learners do amazingly poorly at learning – anything. Motivation and rapport are key elements in teaching English as a foreign language. We’ll even take a couple of lessons from U.S. President Elect Barack Obama.

Here are Eight Reasons You Get Stuck with Unmotivated EFL Learners

1. Lack of Self-esteem

In all probability, you learners lack a good level of self-esteem. When English language teaching and learning expectations are low or highly limited, both sides can be negatively impacted. If everything in English class is simple and easy, requiring no thought, little effort and minimal application on the part of the learners, their – and your self-esteem can go south – fast.

2. Not Trying Alternatives

If what you’re presently doing in the EFL classroom isn’t working the way you’d like and your English language learners aren’t responding, then you need to do things differently. Try some alternative strategies. Change up methodologies and inject a string of new activities and didactics into your English as a foreign language teaching. There are a ton of free-to-use EFL teaching and learning websites out there on the world wide web. Check out a few to get new ideas, lesson plans, and activities to inject some new life into your teaching.

3. Not Having Distinct Teaching and Learning Goals

If you’re working for an established educational institution, likely you’ve been provided with extensive outlines of course curriculum and structure. But if you don’t have enough details to successfully “fill-in” the day-to-day English language teaching activities for your needs, you can get bogged down quickly. Ways to pull out of the quicksand are to:

• Talk with other teachers for some ideas
• Attend EFL teacher focused workshops, seminars and conferences
• Read technical publications on English Language Teaching techniques
• Participate in online EFL teaching forums and subscribe to ELT information blogs and websites
• Try out as many new ideas, suggestions, activities and didactic techniques as you can possibly manage. Then stick with those that work.

4. Defending the Status Quo

Oh, but it’s all too easy to just sit back and say, “This is the way we have to do it”. Or, “We’ve always done it this way”. How about the dreaded, “This is what my EFL learners expect”. Remember the axiom, “Nothing happens until something moves”? No matter what the status quo, if it’s not working, then it’s time for a change. Like U.S. President Elect Barack Obama, just say, “It’s change we need” when asked for your reasons. (Hey, if it worked for him. It surely could work for you too, right?)

5. Fear

Are you a “but” person? Do you find yourself often saying, “I’d like to try this, but ...”? This is a direct manisfestation of fear. You’re afraid to be different. You’re afraid to “muddy up” the waters. You’re afraid your EFL learners won’t do what you want. You’re afraid of this, you’re afraid of that. You’re afraid to fail. Get over it. Sure, some new things may bomb. Some however, are going to be successful. You won’t know which is which though, until you try them out. So just get to it. Plan your EFL teaching work, then work your EFL teaching plan. It could well be as simple as that.

6. Lack of a Cooperative Attitude

“My EFL learners won’t work with me on anything”, you say? Whiner. Who’s the teacher in the classroom, you or them? Who’s in charge of the situation, you or them? Who’s ultimately responsible for what happens – success or failure – in your English as a foreign language classroom, you or them? Now that we’ve settled that. Get to work and take charge. When your EFL learners truly see that you’re personally invested in their learning and developing English language communicative skills, they WILL “get with the program”, I promise you.

7. Perfectionism

Are you one of those English language teachers who says, “Oh, I want everything to be just perfect for my classes”? Okay, so nobody wants to bomb a class, but let’s face it – things happen that you don’t expect. True, I’m somewhat of a recovered perfectionist myself, but once you realize that it’s not really necessary to be “perfect”, worlds open up to you. You can face your English as a foreign language learners and enjoy them and your EFL teaching. Besides, who wants to continue in a job in which they’re stressed-out seeking constant perfection? Not me, and I hope not you either.

8. Lack of Will-Power

You’ve heard it before, now you’ll hear it again, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. It’s not just idle banter. If you truly want something to happen, only you can make it so. Put a plan of action together: based on help, contributuions and feedback from your peers, administration and your EFL learners too. Then put that plan into action. Yes, there WILL be results. What kind of results? Well, you’ll just have to try it and see. I think, that’s what Barack Obama is going to do. How about you?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One more thing I can think of is setting too big of a goal. Sometimes students make a goal like 'I want to watch English movies without subtitles.' This goal is too big. A teacher should try to set up a series of mini goals so that students can feel progress. This can even be done over the course of a semester. Reminding students what they have learned will help them be more confident.