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Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
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In grappling with the subject of motivation in the foreign language classroom, we will eschew a discussion of its various types, as they have been researched and talked about to death. In this paper, we will briefly examine a variety of techniques, strategies and macrostrategies which teachers can employ in order to motivate their students. As Dornyei (2001: 116) notes, 'teacher skills in motivating learners should be seen as central to teaching effectiveness'. Even though there have been a lot of education-oriented publications providing taxonomies of classroom-specific motives, they fall short of offering an efficient guide to practitioners. Thus, our main goal is to familiarise any putative "practitioners" with a set of techniques and strategies (henceforward, "motivational strategies") for motivating foreign language students.

Power in the classroom

Prior to presenting some of these motivational strategies, it would be of relevance to say a few things about the teacher / learner relationship. Whichever way we look at it, this relationship is riddled with power and status. For many, power plays a large part in the relationship (see "Language and Power in Education" for further details). The rights and duties of teachers and learners are related to power. For example, many teachers might assert that they have the right to punish those learners who misbehave. In any social encounter involving two or more people, there are certain power relationships 'which are almost always asymmetrical' (Wright, 1987: 17). Social psychologists distinguish between three different types of power-coercive, reward-based, and referent (ibid.). The basis of coercive power is punishment. Some individuals or institutions have the authority to punish others. The basis of the second type of power is reward. Some individuals or institutions have the power to reward what they deem appropriate behaviour. For example, business organisations reward employees with a salary, a bonus etc. The basis of the third type of power is motivation. In this case, individuals or institutions appeal to the commitment and interest of others. In view of this three-fold paradigm, it is of importance to concern ourselves with the fostering of learner motivation, as it is considered to be the most effective and proactive, so to speak, power relationship.

Group processes and motivation

A discussion of motivation and motivational strategies would not be complete without a consideration of group processes, inasmuch as there is usually a group of people that we as teachers are called on to motivate. Tuckman (1969, quoted in Argyle, 1969) established that a group went through four stages from its formation, which has important implications for the study of the classroom and the use of group activities during teaching.

Stage 1 Forming: At first, there is some anxiety among the members of the group, as they are dependent on the leader (that is, the teacher) and they have to find out what behaviour is acceptable.

Stage 2 Storming: There is conflict between sub-groups and rebellion against the leader. Members of the group resist their leader and the role relations attending the function of the group are questioned.

Stage 3 Norming: The group begins to develop a sort of cohesion. Members of the group begin to support each other. At this stage, there is co-operation and open exchange of views and feelings about their roles and each other.

Stage 4 Performing: Most problems are resolved and there is a great deal of interpersonal activity. Everyone is devoted to completing the tasks they have been assigned.
Experience shows that almost every group goes through these four (or even more) stages until it reaches equilibrium and, thus, taps into its potential. In reality, this process may go on forever, since student lethargy and underachievement norms in the classroom are considered to be basic hindrances to effective teaching and learning (Daniels, 1994). Against this background, we will try to design a framework for motivational strategies.

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