Week Two: Learners

What was this week’s module about?

This week was focused on Learners, specifically focused on motivation, differentiation, learning strategies, and learner autonomy.

Nice and short, then!

Indeed. These are major issues for us to consider when planning and teaching our classes, and I’m fully aware that what I’ve read and written in these past few days barely scratches the surface. That said, I am feeling inspired to follow up some of the concepts. I remember a time in the 2019-20 academic year when I was telling my boss about a student (son of one her friends, incidentally), who wasn’t achieving his potential. Well, motivate him was the response. When I said I was trying, she said “please” and walked away. I think all too often we say that teachers need to motivate students, but we don’t say what motivation is or how it works.

So, how does motivation work?

There are lots of issues, and I suspect there will be a blog post on this in November. The route I took was based on Zoltan Dornyei’s work, starting with his three-phase model of motivation. When I was a child, we had a piano. My mum played, and I decided I wanted to as well. My parents found me an excellent teacher, and I started attending weekly classes and sitting exams (I think I got to grade 4). It was a hard slog, and the longer it went on and more difficult the pieces became, I lost interest. Eventually, seeing that it was too difficult and I wasn’t enjoying, I gave up.

Dornyei’s first phase is choice – that time when you have decided to do something, and you’re motivated by the idea of doing it. New things are exciting. But as the reality of doing the task sets in – in my case the hard work needed to actually learn to play – the excited fades and a new type of motivation is needed, related to perseverance. This is the executive phase. Finally, the motivation retrospection phase involves reflecting on your achievements and reacting to it (in my case, giving up).

What does this mean for teaching?

Well, I think it means that as teachers we need to accept an ongoing role as coaches and motivators. I think we are probably all very good at focusing students on the goal: this year is serious, it’s your B2 year! What we are not so good at is keeping that motivation going and supporting students as they try to achieve their goals. My assignment this week addressed how to do this.

What was your main takeaway from this week?

The next time my boss tells me that a student needs motivation, I will know exactly what to do. The rather annoying YouTube advert for my course keeps popping up asking me if I’m ready to take a transformational course in ELT. When I had signed up, I’d think yeah yeah, I AM taking it. Now I’m thinking, shh, I’m already being transformed.

Were there any lows?

Jeez I’m bad at time management! It’s time to revisit Covey and figure out my study timetable!

What about highlights?

Two from this week. The first is the YL strand of the course (which, somewhat confusingly, refers to all learners who are not adults), and learning about metacognitive sills. The second is an upcoming live event I’m doing for BRAZ-TESOL. Check out the blog for November 27th!

What’s next?

Next week is methods and second language acquisition. I am very happy I bought this book.