Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom

Title: Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom
Author: Zoltan Donyei
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Consists of: Teachers' resource book
Summary: Learn some useful techniques to help motivate your students to study.
Reviewed by: Mark Limb
Review date: December 2004

Motivational Strategies in the Language ClassroomThere is no doubt that motivation is one of the most important factors in determining success or failure in any learning situation. All teachers, especially those who have taught teenagers, will appreciate that motivating students is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the profession. This is especially true teaching a second language, as learning a second language is a long and often daunting prospect for many students. Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom is a book that provides second or foreign language teachers some relief on this somewhat enigmatic topic of motivation.

The book is true to its title in that it provides practical strategies that teachers can use to help motivate language learners. Although it is broken down into five sequential chapters (Background Knowledge, Creating the Basic Motivational Conditions, Generating Initial Motivation, Maintaining and Protecting Motivation, and Rounding off the Learning Experience: Encouraging Positive Self-Evaluation) the book need not be used as a step-by-step guide to motivating your students. Alternatively, the author encourages the reader to take a selective approach, and choose a few of the thirty-five strategies that seem of interest before attempting other strategies.

I'm going to come straight to the point. I really like this book. For starters, the book does something unique in educational motivation literature - it supplies not only theoretical concepts of motivational psychology in education and why these concepts are important, but it also gives practical suggestions on how we can implement these theories into our classes. It does this with concise, easy-to-read, well-organised chapters. When I say concise, I mean really concise! It gives a fairly comprehensive synopsis of current motivational research and ideas on how to implement this research into your classes, all packed into a measly 138 pages. With a title of Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom, you are certainly not expecting to get an enjoyable read. However, Donyei does a remarkable job of presenting his strategies in an interesting and entertaining fashion. This is partly a result of being a highly organised book with material presented clearly and logically. After each strategy there is a boxed summary. Tables and diagrams are used extensively throughout the book as well as Interest boxes - featuring quotes, suggested readings and other points of significance relevant to the strategy. Donyei's writing style, and continuous references to his and other teachers' experiences, also help in making the material more interesting to the reader.

This brings us to the big question. Do the motivational strategies presented in this book actually work? Firstly, this depends on your expectations. If you are considering purchasing this book to get a 'quick fix' for a troublesome class, then you should definitely think again. All of the strategies presented require a teacher to be not only dedicated to improving class motivation, but to be willing to work quite hard towards this goal. You definitely cannot expect to suddenly stimulate a class of unmotivated students in days just by using this book. It is worth noting that it is highly unlikely that every strategy will work. The book is written for an extremely wide variety of second language teachers without regard to the specific cultural circumstances of the students. You can therefore expect that some of the strategies will not be of use to you. However it is certain that some of the strategies are bound to succeed, provided they are consistently applied. The challenge for the reader is to select the appropriate strategy for their particular teaching situation. As the author affirms, it is a matter of quality over quantity and that even two or three well chosen strategies can make a large impact on a class's motivation to learn.

As I mentioned earlier, this book has been written for an extremely broad audience of second language teachers - that is, it is written for all second language teachers, be it a non-native Spanish teacher working in a Canadian high school, or native English speaker teaching English in a cram school in Taiwan. The book would be most useful for a second language teacher who is proficient in their students' mother tongue simply because it would be possible for a teacher in this situation to choose from almost any of the strategies. For teachers who are not in this situation (like myself) your choice of strategies is somewhat restricted (unless you are teaching advanced classes) due to your inability to communicate fluently with the students. Having said that, I still found the book to be useful and I've since utilised several strategies which, so far, appear to be making some progress. What is most important is that this book has now motivated me to motivate, and what teacher couldn't use some additional motivation for themselves? ESL Reviews & ArticlesMark Limb is an English Teacher with obviously far too much spare time on his hands.