Motivation and speaking skills

The aim of this chapter is to understand how important motivation is in the process of developing the speaking skills in the case of the students. The need to learn a new language came as a result of acknowledging the fact that people always wanted to communicate and interact with others in difficult moments or different situations in their life. Although motivation is not a frequently debated subject, it is actually crucial in the student’s school life. Motivation can affect the way in which students approach and understand school in general, how much effort, interest and time they pay to their studies, the way they develop relationships with their colleagues and teachers, the way they act when it comes to evaluations or when they are supposed to choose their future university or work.
Former Education Secretary Terrel Bell said, “There are three things to remember about education. The first is motivation. The second one is motivation. The third one is motivation.”
The lack of motivation is a real problem nowadays, the students being less and less attracted by studying, less interested in doing extra work for developing, being rather inattentive and bored.
There are different definitions of motivation and many authors have treated this subject as being part of the learning process.
Motivation means “the reasons underlying behavior” or “the attribute that moves us to do or not to do something” (Guay et al., 2010, p. 712).
Maslow was the author who stated that the man has five basic needs. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory the five important aspects are: the needs for self actualization, the need of self-esteem, the need for love and belonging, safety needs and psychological needs. As Maslow pointed out, the student needs to understand first the development and improvement of his self-efficacy or better said the fact that he can accomplish the task easily with any resources he has, meaning that the students’ result depends on the teacher’s methods in the learning process.
Motivation is characterized by willingness and volition and the specific reasons that mark and shape the right attitude and the best behavior of the student. Motivation refers to different passions, perceptions, interests, beliefs and opinions and it predicts future decisions in life.
The teacher must take into account the students’ opinion, leading them to creative and innovative thinking, using positive and calm manners of explaining and developing their skills even if it is about intrinsic or extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to the fact that the student does something because he has a personal interest, a real passion or desire for that thing, seeing its relevance and value, whereas extrinsic motivation means that the student can accomplish something because doing it leads him to a definite result. Even if primary school students seem to be guided at first only by the intrinsic motivation desire, this tendency loses its force while children progress during the years. In other words, to motivate a student means to assess the time, the intensity and the direction of the student in life, to motivate his behavior, pointing the relevance, the value and the result of the activity that the student has to perform.
The best solution to motivate students is to appeal to both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation speculating this intensity that introduces and maintains the process of learning until the planned goals are reached. Intrinsic motivation means the willingness to get involved in an activity because it is pleasant and satisfactory. Extrinsic motivation means that the student is doing something in order to receive an external praise or reward or avoid punishment or bad grades. It appears that intrinsic orientations are more powerful learning stimuli (e.g. Maslow, 1970; Crookes & Schmidt, 1991; Dornyei, 1998). However, in both cases, the degree of motivation that an individual learner possesses is the crucial factor in successful learning (Gardner, 1985).
There are two important factors that the teacher must take into account when he wants to plan a speaking lesson: the fact that the student already has the confidence that he is competent and capable to solve the task and that he has the necessary control to link his ideas, having the autonomy to deliver and share them to the others. In addition, the teacher must point out the value and relevance of the task, in order to raise interest but also to underline the social importance given by the improvement of the team spirit.
When the motivational aspect is discussed, some important points like: topics involved, the relation with the class, self-efficacy, resources, available tools, classmates, demotivational aspects of the class, grammar issues and other external factors shouldn’t be excluded from the initial stage of the lesson planning process. For motivating students, first the teacher must acknowledge what motivation is and then he has to exploit it for becoming a goal. Motivation is different for each student. Some students strongly love good grades, they believe in fulfilling their family’s wishes and demands, in the competition spirit, in the group work, some others believe in the fear of failure, being admitted to a well-known university or having a good career. The teacher’s role is that of pointing the relevance and value of speaking, helping the student to find his inner motivation, his goal and the reason for studying.
Researchers have proved over the years, that in order to raise motivation, the teachers should manipulate it, by speculating the elements of surprise, suspense and curiosity and encouraging the instructional practice through a wide range of strategies to make the students to accomplish various tasks. By adding new topics and ideas throughout the school year, improving and developing attractive tasks or making practice fun would not trigger the two demotivational causes: boredom and fatigue. Relying all the time on routines or repetitions it is no longer effective if performed too long without anything new involved. The teacher also needs to constantly match the subject matter of the lesson with the context, to encourage students to share their ideas in essays, talking points and discussions, to ask the students to express personal thoughts about the topic, to invite to class guests who can share their experiences or even the teacher can bring his contribution by talking about his own travelling and cultural adventures. Another thing that the teacher can do is to rearrange the seating format of the desks or change the pairs or the students in a group or even involve the students in decorating the walls with posters, pictures or their work during classes.
For better results in the case of slow learners, the teacher can come up with some new ways to develop motivation by setting reachable objectives and organizing them into several themes. This way, the teacher is not only simplifying his job but he is also reaching all the objectives and he is also connecting them.
Another solution would be collaboration with the other students. The teacher can ask the students a question, give them time to think about it or even let them write their answers down on paper, and then ask each student to share his ideas with his desk mate and then with the whole class. The teacher can introduce tools like drawings, concept maps, plays, models or role plays by giving the students a starting point for making connections and continuing the task. There are better chances of involvement if the student knows that he can accomplish the task, if he has the necessary tools, resources and methods to do it and if he sees that he has the support of the teacher.

Self- efficacy is often a critical factor in children’s motivation. Bandura (1982) defines self-efficacy as “judgments of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations” (p. 122). Self-efficacy describes people’s judgment about how well they feel they will perform on a task—that is, whether they perceive themselves as capable or incapable. (Bandura, 1977, 1993). Self efficacy means perseverance, sustained effort and constant work in accomplishing a task or a goal, by giving the student the right autonomy and the necessary control to fulfill his task. Self-efficacy is an important aspect that the teachers should not reject because it affects motivation and the student’s achievement and involvement with the performed task. The student is more likely to adopt a positive attitude and respond when he is taught how to set realistic short-term goals and when he is shown how to make progress toward these goals. The teacher’s job is not to convince the student that he can do well but to show him the right and specific strategies to achieve the goals. The student with high efficacy, passionate by foreign languages, is more likely to engage and perform difficult or challenging tasks. The student with low efficacy, who doesn’t have the proper control of the vocabulary and grammar rules, avoids challenging tasks because he is shy or not sure how to handle the speaking faults he has or he is too afraid to share his ideas in public. High self-efficacy is positively related to higher levels of achievement and effort and increased persistence (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002).
The teacher can come up with a list of written topics, asking the students to reflect about them. The teacher can then ask the students to mention which are the tasks they find least efficacious to deal with or even ask them how a teacher could help them feel efficacious about that topic or task at an appropriate level. In other words, the teacher should create opportunities for students to get involved, to add ideas and offer opinions in order to accomplish and succeed performing the task. The topics should cover gradually their area of interests, from something very easy to something more difficult. If students begin to think that they will fail in performing a task, they may decide not even to try. If the teacher wants to motivate students, he needs to help them understand that abilities can be improved by continuous practice, making mistakes being normal in the learning improvement process. “Students need real evidence that effort will pay off, that setting a higher goal will not lead to failure, that they can improve, and that abilities can be changed” (Woolfolk, 1998, p. 395). Before offering the right answers to a task that the students cannot deal with, the teacher should encourage his students to find the answers by themselves. The teacher must develop in his students the autonomy of treating the subjects by themselves. Offering help means encouraging the students to think, to reflect, to find solutions and share ideas, to get involved, to communicate with others and to interact. “When students are focused on trying to learn and understand the material and trying to improve their performance relative to their own past performance, this orientation will help them maintain their self-efficacy in the face of failure, ward off negative affect such as anxiety, lessen the probability that they will have distracting thoughts, and free up cognitive capacity” (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002, p. 321).
Performance goals can also be really demotivational because students, who pursue performance goals and high grades, can get disappointed. Performance measured in relationship to other students’ performances, is likely to cause and lead to either success or failure as well. In other words, if the student learns only for the grades, without any logic or for competing with one of his classmates, these things can conduct to low self esteem and lack of interest in the subject or the topic discussed. That is why teachers should create lessons that engage students in real life simulations, activities that help the students see how what they learn in school relates to real situations outside the school.
Teachers’ reactions to students’ performance can also influence the attitude and behavior towards speaking. For example, if a teacher pities a student who does poorly, he or she may attribute the failure to low ability (Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). The teacher’s encouragement for small talk is very important. The teacher must assure the student that he can improve and reach his goals. The teacher can’t do that by focusing on only correcting every mistake the student makes and or interrupting all the time to assess what the student says. The teacher should check and focus on individual progress and development, pointing what he did well and not always mentioning what went wrong.
According to the Merriam Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, the Latin root of the word assess is assidere, meaning “to sit beside, to sit alongside a judge.” Although it is not easy to distinguish assessment from evaluation, this root can help. Assessment means to work beside students, facilitate their learning, and plan the next step in the learning process—that is, to tell them what is right, what is wrong, and how to fix it (Lockett, personal communication, February 10, 2008). In contrast, to evaluate means to judge how well a pupil (teacher, school, or educational system) worked, according to some imposed standards or compared to the other students’ performance.
Nancy Lockett describes assessment and evaluation by using metaphors like a coach and a referee. A coach supervises and then helps his players improve by showing them strategies and things to work on. A referee just says his players how well they performed in the game without giving them suggestions or solutions to improve. The teacher can tell the students what is right and wrong and he can give them strategies to fix the problem (assessment), which will allow them to get better. In other words, the teacher’s focus should mean more assessment and a lot less evaluating.
The teacher should definitely understand the difference between progress – how well a student did in comparison to others in the class – and growth – how well a student did compared to his previous work. For example, if a student gets a 7 grade in a speaking task, that tells the teacher something about how he did in comparison to his classmates. If the student got a 4 on a previous test, however, he has made a great improvement and progress. Motivating students requires measuring both progress and growth.

An effective teacher is the one who develops beliefs, values, relevant goals and attitudes in students that will guarantee a long term involvement in the learning process. The teacher must make the student aware of the value and relevance of the learning process and the need to develop and apply the required knowledge in real life.
One of the best things that the teacher can do is to influence his students in a good way, helping them to enjoy school and teach them how to learn. That means that the teacher must use the best methods to make his students enjoy learning, developing their social and intellectual work. The teacher does not have to go out with his students or bring them gifts but he can show them that he cares, that they truly matter, supporting them in the process of learning. A good relationship can work out a lot of misunderstandings and can create a peaceful and enjoying atmosphere into the classroom. One of the most common problems in a student-teacher relationship is fear. The fear of the teacher – the teacher’s fear of not being well prepared, of not making mistakes or not making himself understood but also the fear of the student – the student’s fear of not being humiliated, of not being made fun by his colleagues, getting bad grades or being punished by his parents.
A relationship based on mutual respect is definitely the right choice. Therefore, those teachers who show respect towards students will automatically earn the students’ respect. Respect is something that should be daily gained and maintained, a sarcastic, arrogant and offensive teacher will lose control over the children. On the other hand, every teacher experienced a situation where there were students who felt bored or wanted to disrupt the classes because they lacked the interest for the learning process. If the teacher allows this type of behavior, the student will not show respect and he will understand that this type of attitude is permitted. Sooner or later the student will draw out from the learning process. Learning should be enjoyable and comfortable but some authoritarian control is sometimes needed. Children in primary school feel the urge to unexpectedly give their opinion about everything: what their parents did, what they saw at the circus, what they heard on the street. It’s not only about sharing what they know; it’s about being listened to as well. Students are proud when the teacher asks questions and is interested in finding their opinion. This doesn’t mean that the teacher is the laissez-faire type, it means that there is a supervised control, the teacher encouraging interaction but by respecting some terms.
The key is that the teacher continuously monitors the student in order to be aware of any difficulties that the student is having. Understanding the child’s confusion and fears will offer the teacher a better understanding of the student’s learning difficulties. Once the difficulties discovered, the teacher will have a better competence in dealing patiently with the problem, making the child feel secure. A better communication serves as a connection between the two, providing a better atmosphere. The teacher will probably not understand every problem of every pupil in his class, but will acquire enough information about them. As a result, he will be more able to develop higher levels of learning and accomplishing tasks in the case of those students who are struggling to solve different exercises. That is why a good teacher is the one who gets every student involved in the task, who helps them understand by offering more explanations and clarifications, who cares about their needs, who gives them choices and respects any opinions, who helps them see the purpose of what they do, who creates a pleasant and calm atmosphere and guides them in the pursuit of knowledge.

Tasks and Topics
To help the students perform the tasks and get them involved in the activity the teacher must create topics that are proper for the students’ age and their field of interest. Choice is a great motivator in teaching speaking skills. If the student is interested in the topic and the topic is part of his real life, he is more likely to share his ideas about it. There might be tasks and topics that some students like to work with and some that they don’t. The teacher can ask the students to make a list with their favorite topics and to specify the tasks or topics that they like or are motivated to do and to justify some that they really hate to do.
On the other hand, if a student does not feel efficacious about a topic or task, he may show later in the learning process, behaviors that signal motivational issues. “If students perceive themselves incapable of performing well (low self-efficacy), they may become motivated to protect perceptions of competency, for if they can convince themselves and others they could do well, they will be able to maintain some sense of worth or dignity” (Seifert, 2004, p. 144). In other words, if a student feels he or she will do well on a task, he or she may not work, study or try to do his or her best. When students don’t give much effort to a task, it is easy to explain poor performance. Students would rather not work and feel guilty than work hard and fail, which may cause them shame (Covington, 1984; Seifert & O’Keefe, 2001).
Content is vitally important as well. If the student finds little challenge, stimulation, satisfaction, relevance or meaning in the work, he might avoid the task or he might do only the minimum because he is not interested anymore or because he knows everything about it. If a student already knows how to treat the subject, he will lose his interest if there isn’t anything new or challenging to do. Students must have opportunities to develop what they already know. How? The teacher should be part of students’ world by having a Facebook or a Twitter account for example. Technology, games and music, all help motivate students because they help children understand in engaging ways.
Diversity in choosing the topics should be the first thing to decide when planning an activity, together with students’ prior knowledge and competency levels. Then, the teacher needs to identify what the best strategies to engage all students are. If the teacher knows his students well, he will talk about their favorite actors or musicians, he will treat a serious story using funny methods or he will share his own experience in order to help the student to open up. The choice of the topic should be a connection between what the students know, what subject will catch their attention and what they care about. The student may vaguely know a topic and the teacher can guide him in finding out more. It’s not about making the student an expert but about bringing new information that will make the student care more by seeing the value and relevance of the topic.
When bringing up into discussion a new topic or a new task, the teacher must see if the topic is appropriate for the students‘age, if the occasion is proper or if there is a purpose.

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