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English Language Teaching Global Blog


Keeping the vision alive: Maintaining motivation and promoting effective learning

Young adult male learner smilingIn this series of articles, Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series, considers two key factors which affect motivation: expectancy of success and the value attached to success.

I suggest that if the connection between classroom activities and an overall language learning goal is evident, then learners will be more likely to value and hence be motivated in a lesson. They will be able to answer the question ‘Why am I doing this?’ With value ascribed to classroom activities, it will also be easier for learners to experience success on a more regular basis, a key to both increasing motivation and promoting effective learning.


The value an adult language learner attaches to a course depends upon the circumstances under which they are studying. If their aspirations concern, say, passing a university degree in which a language course is a component, then tapping into this kind of extrinsic motivation might prove difficult, in the first instance. Perhaps a more promising approach would be to tap into learners’ natural desire to communicate. We live in a world in which communication between people in different places is facilitated by technology and educational and professional mobility is a reality, and many language learners envision themselves being able to use the language in various ‘real’ situations.

It goes without saying that the greater the apparent relationship between a language course and an adult learner’s goals, the greater the value attached to the course. So, what type of course will suit learners who are aiming to be effective users of a language? From my teaching experiences, learners whose aim is to use language in the real world will be motivated by a course which reflects an ‘action-oriented approach’ to language and learning as described in the Common European Framework of Reference (2001). Such a course not only deals with the nuts and bolts of the language of study, the grammar, vocabulary and so on, but also offers learners opportunities to draw on what they know and to have a go at carrying out real world communicative tasks. The main thrust will be on doing rather than knowing.

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