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Promoting Motivation in the Foreign Language Classroom

The following is an excerpt from this issue of the CLEAR newsletter.  Please click the link below to read the full article.

Motivated students are every teacher’s dream — they are willing to work hard, add their own goals to those of the classroom, focus their attention on the tasks at hand, persevere through challenges, don’t need continuous encouragement, and may even stimulate others in the classroom, promoting collaborative learning. However, we all know that the motivation behind our students’ learning varies widely, ebbs and flows over the course of the year (or even during a single classroom activity), and stems from various sources, internal to the learner, external, or both. As teachers we can generally see who is motivated and who is not, and often we may wonder how or even if we can harness the motivation of some and spread it out to others. Tapping into motivation is crucial for language teachers because we know that motivation is one of the key factors driving language learning success (Dörnyei, 2001; Ellis, 1994). In fact, teachers often see it as their job to motivate students by creating classroom tasks that are interesting and engaging and by using authentic materials to stimulate further interest in the language and the people who speak it. Over the last twenty years, research on motivation for foreign language learning has evolved considerably from focusing on describing what composes student motivation to a detailed list of suggestions that help teachers initiate, sustain, and further promote student motivation. This fall, as many of us are embarking on a new academic year with bright, shiny, motivated students, we would like to highlight learner motivation as a variable that not only students bring to the classroom, but also as one that teachers can implement, cultivate and promote throughout the year to enhance learning. I will first begin with a brief review of the concept of learner motivation. Secondly, I will discuss a select group of three different publications that deal with motivating language learners, and third, I will review some particulars that may be involved in promoting the motivation of heritage language learners and learners of less-commonly taught languages.

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