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Motivation and attitude What´s the attitude of our students towards English? When I started teaching, a long time ago, I remember my students complaining about studying English.They didn´t find it useful and they were not very eager to learn it. "What do we want it for?" They used to tell me. Nowadays, things are different. New technologies and above all, the Internet have revolutionized the whole process of teaching and learning.They have made our students think of another way and now, they can see the importance of English and they feel more motivated to study it. They can communicate with different people from all over the world and they can access different information, videos, songs, art, history,etc..and everything is in English!.

So, if things are like this, why do we have so many problems in our classes? Why don´t our students want to study it? When I ask them about it, they usually answer that it´s a bit boring since they study the same things every year and most of it is grammar and grammar; they would like funnier classes and different activities so that they can use English in a practical way. Traditional classes and English books are always dull and difficult for them (to be honest, more uncomfortable as well!). This is a worrying situation because the teachers do spend a lot of energy in trying our students to learn and get the objectives we would like them to achieve although it happens not only in the English subject but also in the other ones ( it´s a consolation to think that everyone is in the same boat).

If we think about it, we get to the conclusion that in fact, our students are just a reflection of the times we are living, a consumer and a competitive society in which human values are being forgotten and shortterms objectives are replacing to the long-term ones. A society where material things are very important and we want to have them without effort and quickly .Culture and knowledge are not important any longer and our students´ interests are based on immediate needs.They just want to pass the exams. In this context, we have a real challenge as we have to find creative ways to teach the language and increase their motivation to the learning of it. In 1972, Gardner and Lambert already introduced the notions of instrumental and integrative motivation, the first one referred to utilitarian purposes such as employment or travel or exam purposes and the second one related to the desire to learn a language.

Our important task will consist of combining both of them and integrate them successfully. The balance between the immediate needs of examinations and the long-term needs of communicative competence. Here is an example of a very simple questionnaire designed to get information about our students' attitude towards the learning of English. The results are divided into optimistic and pesisimistic opinions with the aim to reinforce the positive ones and work on the negative ones (for example,telling them about how much English there is around them,teaching them strategies etc..) As we know, attitudes and motivation are very related to each other. If you have a positive attitude, you will be motivated to learn but if you are not motivated, your attitude will not be so positive and you will be more reluctant to learn.

That´s why, we must be aware that the construct of motivation is not a single entity but a multifactorial one and there are some factors such as the following ones that play an important role in motivation and should be taken into account if we want to run our classes efficiently : *Positive attitude. We must try to get an atmosphere of cooperation, tolerance and mutual support. We will encourage our students to respect each other and it will be important to ask our students for their opinions, reactions and preferences (to find out about your students' interests). We must also offer them tasks at differents levels related to the same input. This way, the students will be more open to learning. *Positive self-steem. If the learners feel uncomfortable or insecure, they won´t be able to communicate effectively. They must be able to express themselves openly and in a relaxed way.

As in Maslow´s theory, which shows how people are motivated, our basic needs must be satisfied before we can give our attention to higher thinking skills. Although it is easy to take into account factors such as hot or cold,even sometimes it´s a bit difficult to keep students on learning in such circumstances, it´s much more difficult to take into account people ´s emotional needs but if don´t do it the learning will not work successfully. Students feel the necessity of being noticed and valued, so recognising good behaviour, effort and good work will be essential. *Personalisation activities.It´s a good idea to provide students with activities which enable them to talk or write about themselves, about their experiences and feelings.We must give them opportunities to get to know each other in order to create a sense of cohesion within the group.

*Students involvement. Our classes should be designed to get the learners being involved in the language learning process in different ways. They must be conscious of the objetives they want to achieve throughout the course, as NLP says: "Knowing what you want helps you to achieve it". So, the more clearly we know what we want, the more clearly we express the goals to ourselves, the more likely we are to be successful.If we tell our students what we are doing and why, if we make them aware of the things we are studying we will be helping them learn. *Students participation. We must encourage our students to prticipate in the class activities.Tasks, projects.. will be designed having in mind our learners´ different styles and preferences.

We musn´t forget that people learn in different ways and at different speed . By providing them with auditory,visual,sensority, verbal and non-verbal inputs, varied activities relating to different senses and different intelligence types, we will be offering our students more effective learning opportunities. We already know that there is no "magic formula" in getting great things but if we try to "humanize" our classes and be sistematic and coherent about what we do and say , we will be doing our bit to optimize results and get better English students, better students with a more positive attitude and more motivated to learn.

Ana Concejero

motivation and attitude towards English  

Finding out our students' interests

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