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Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom
by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
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A framework for motivational strategies

As we have already said, skill in motivating students to learn is of paramount importance. Until recently, however, teachers were forced to rely on "bag-of-tricks" approaches in their attempt to manage their classroom and motivate their learners. Good and Brophy (1994: 212) hold that these approaches have been influenced by two contradictory views: a) that learning should be fun and that any motivation problems that may appear should be ascribed to the teacher's attempt to convert an enjoyable activity to drudgery; and b) that school activities are inherently boring and unrewarding, so that we must rely on extrinsic rewards and punishment with a view to forcing students to engage in these unpleasant tasks.
Rewards and punishments may be a mainstay of the teaching-learning process, but they are not the only tools in teachers' arsenal. Dornyei (2001: 119) believes that 'the spectrum of other potentially more effective motivational strategies is so broad that it is hard to imagine that none of them would work'.
The central question in designing a framework of motivational strategies is to decide how to organise them into separate themes. The following taxonomy, around which our main discussion will revolve, is based on the process-oriented model by Dornyei and Otto (1998). The key units in this taxonomy are as follows:

• Creating the basic motivational conditions, which involves setting the scene for the use of motivational strategies;
• Generating student motivation, which roughly corresponds to the preactional phase in the model;
• Maintaining and protecting motivation, which corresponds to the actional phase;
• Encouraging positive self-evaluation, which corresponds to the postactional phase

Creating the basic motivational conditions

Motivational strategies cannot work in a vacuum, nor are they set in stone. There are certain preconditions to be met before any attempts to generate motivation can be effective. Some of these conditions are the following:

a) appropriate teacher behaviour and good teacher-student rapport;

b) a pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere;

c) a cohesive learner group characterised by appropriate group norms

Appropriate teacher behaviour and good teacher-student rapport

Whatever is done by a teacher has a motivational, formative, influence on students. In other words, teacher behaviour is a powerful 'motivational tool' (Dornyei, 2001: 120). Teacher influences are manifold, ranging from the rapport with the students to teacher behaviours which "prevail upon" and / or "attract" students to engage in tasks. For Alison (1993), a key element is to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the learners, by means of talking with them on a personal level. This mutual trust could lead to enthusiasm. At any rate, enthusiastic teachers impart a sense of commitment to, and interest in, the subject matter, not only verbally but also non-verbally-cues that students take from them about how to behave.

A pleasant and supportive classroom atmosphere

It stands to reason that a tense classroom climate can undermine learning and demotivate learners (see MacIntyre, 1999 and Young, 1999 for further details). On the other hand, learner motivation will reach its peak in a safe classroom climate in which students can express their opinions and feel that they do not run the risk of being ridiculed.

To be motivated to learn, students need both ample opportunites to learn and steady encouragement and support of their learning efforts. Because such motivation is unlikely to develop in a chaotic classroom, it is important that the teacher organise and manage the classroom as an effective learning environment. Furthermore, because anxious or alienated students are unlikely to develop motivation to learn, it is important that learning occurs within a relaxed and supportive atmosphere (Good and Brophy, 1994: 215).

A cohesive learner group characterised by appropriate group norms

As was hinted at above, fragmented groups, characterised by lack of cooperativeness, can easily become ineffective, thus putting paid to the individual members' commitment to learn. There are several factors that promote group cohesiveness, such as the time spent together and shared group history, learning about each other, interaction, intergroup competition, common threat, active presence of the leader […] (see Ehrman and Dornyei, 1998: 142).
As for group norms, they should be discussed and adopted by members, in order to be constructive and long-lasting. If a norm mandated by a teacher fails to be accepted as proper by the majority of the class members, it will not become a group norm.

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