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Keeping the vision alive: Completing the loop

Female student at a desk smilingAccording to Atkinson & Raynor (1974), our decision to do something is influenced by a force which is the product of the value attached to the goal and success expectancy, and these have been the most researched factors in the area of motivation. When one or the other is zero, there is no motivation to perform an action. In my previous posts, I have considered motivation to be a ‘process whereby a certain amount of instigation force arises, initiates action, and persists as long as no other force comes into play to weaken it and thereby terminate action, until the planned outcome has been reached’ (Dörnyei, 1998).

Our learners will value and be more attentive to what happens in the classroom if they can perceive the link between a short-term lesson goal and their long-term goal. With a relevant short- term goal in place, we keep a learner’s vision alive, increase success-expectancy and encourage learners to use appropriate strategies to complete a task. We can then offer informative feedback, acknowledging progress and providing pointers to future action for further improvement. In this way, we encourage learners to persist by actively engaging them in the learning process, we provide them with the means to further success and we drive intrinsic motivation and effective learning. When we consider how we might realise value and success expectancy in the language classroom, it becomes apparent that the whole might be bigger than the sum of the parts.

Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series.

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Keeping the vision alive: Feedback feeds motivation

Man and woman smilingHaving explored two factors that affect motivation in adult learners – the value of success and the expectancy of success – Annie McDonald, co-author of the English Result series, now considers the importance of feedback for learners’ development.


If learners ‘have a go’ at a communicative task, let’s say, explaining how to cook something, we can provide them with informative feedback. We could, for example, comment on the content of their explanation (whether there was sufficient information for a person wanting to cook the dish to be able to do so); coherence (whether the explanation contained sequencing words like first, then, etc.); and, say, vocabulary (whether ‘cooking verbs’ were used appropriately).

The criteria we select for feedback should be traceable to lesson activities and could be given to learners at the beginning of a task. Feedback needs to be informative and positively oriented, focusing on what an individual ‘can do’ in order to protect an individual’s self-esteem.

In the first instance, teacher feedback on the extent to which a learner has achieved an objective is of crucial significance if success-expectancy is to be maintained and effective learning is to continue.

Williams and Burden (1997) point out, however, that we need to exercise caution and be aware of the dangers of an over-reliance on hollow praise. Instead, we need to provide feedback which enables learners to ‘identify specific aspects of their performance that are acceptable and capable of improvement by some specified means, it should be both helpful and motivating to them to move into the zone of next development’. Informative feedback can drive effective learning.

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How I got into ‘drama’ by Ken Wilson

Tragedy and comedy drama masksKen Wilson is a full-time author of ELT materials. He wrote Drama and Improvisation for the Resource Books for Teachers series (OUP). For many years, he was artistic director of the English Teaching Theatre, a company which toured the world doing shows for learners of English.

I’ve been involved with ELT long enough for people to describe me as an ‘expert’. Of course, the word has to be modified by a reference to one’s area of expertise, so I’m a ‘drama expert’.

Despite the fact that my presentations at conferences etc are labelled ‘drama workshops‘, I’m not really sure about the use of the word ‘drama’ in an ELT context. It might add a level of complexity to the kind of things that I and other like-minded educators do, which is to suggest simple classroom ideas that can make learning more interesting and engaging.

I usually tell teachers that I’d prefer not to use the word and that the activities I’m going to talk about in my ‘drama’ workshop are simply designed to animate the language their students know. I actually prefer the word ‘animation’ to describe the activities, but of course in most people’s minds, that would sound as if I was talking about using cartoons.

Anyway, I promised to write about how I got involved in ‘drama in ELT’. So how did it happen?

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