Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Motivating students – A new approach

There are about as many theories on student motivation in ESL as there are blank faced students sitting in class rooms right this moment. Here’s a very informative and question posing post by Adam Simpson summing them up. I honestly did try to read them all but I kinda, well, lost motivation somewhere around number 5. It doesn’t particularly matter why, it’s the result that matters: Article unread, knowledge unabsorbed. What can we do? (other than asking ourselves endless questions about students who come to class without the motivation necessary to actually improve or making academic model after model to give MA students more to cram into essays.)


Here’s my Behaviourist type solution.

I’m going to call this system English Bank.

Instead of paying the teacher or school for the course. The student will hand over an agreed sum of money at the beginning to be held by the English Manager. Let’s say for 500 Euros for a ten lesson course. Each week the student will have to demonstrate learning of the set objectives. Yes, yes, how are we going to set and judge them? There are a million courses claiming to be doing just that so this is not in itself a new problem.

If the student achieves the objective, they get 45 Euros back, the Manager makes 5 Euros commission. They’re effectively paying themselves to learn. If they haven’t met the objective, they lose their money.

Without self study most people would be unable to meet the target and the teacher/school will make money hand over fist for no real results. Terrible!

Except that’s pretty much what’s happening anyway.

Presumably a school on the English Bank system that made lots of money would look bad and soon go out of business. Students would find another provider and hand over their money, again not do much more than attend class, get no real result but this time get moved up to the next class anyway. They’d sign up willingly, the school wouldn’t go out of business.

You want to say “This is unethical. It is an incentive to the bad teacher to carry on being bad.” The current system doesn’t preclude there being bad teachers but it makes it easier for the student to sit back and blame someone else.To a good student it’s even more reason to take some of the responsibility for themselves. Successful language learners will learn despite the teacher, whether good or bad.

We either need to come up with a method that makes use of class time only for constant recycling, lessening the need for study outside of class or give students a better reason for learning English than…learning English. With my English Bank system perhaps students would really want to earn their money back and would also get the feeling of being rewarded. Let’s face it, most things we do in life are associated with a monetary reward. Salary, getting a bonus, winning the lottery, keeping a scholarship. Even how we give ourselves “treats” usually boils down to spending money on something.

I’m using this system to lose 3kg at the moment. A friend is holding 300 Euros and every week my target is 0.5 kg. This week, despite dieting strictly I have lost my stake rather than the weight. So rather than give up, I’m double determined for next week, having hastily introduced a one off double or nothing clause. I know I have to do more than just diet, I’ll have to exercise too. It’s increased my motivation far more than getting some certificate that says I’m now thinner when actually I’m no different. Plus, I’ve immediately come up with a strategy for achieving my target.


2 comments on “Motivating students – A new approach

  1. Adam Simpson
    January 24, 2013

    If you think you had a hard job reading it, imagine how tough it was trying to stay motivated enough to write the bloody thing!

    Seriously, though, thanks for the mention.

    • Nicola
      January 24, 2013

      It brought back many MA memories, or more precisely a hole where they used to be located! Sympathies to you and commendations for your efforts for the cause

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2013 by in Learning English, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , .
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