A Contemporary Challenge: Developing Intrinsic Motivation in the EFL Classroom

Redesigning our strategies according to the latest tendencies and approaches in language teaching can be a great challenge, but the real puzzling element may be stimulating learners’ motivation to become the subject of their own development and learning process. Being a key factor in making learners to react and be active in the classroom, it has become a priority which should be tactfully dealt with as the success or failure of a lesson depends on the level of our students’ engagement. Therefore, it is mandatory to use the most efficient and reliable techniques which can boost intrinsic motivation.

After years of research, it has been demonstrated that the outcomes of the intrinsic motivation are the most desirable ones in the learning process as it involves superior cognitive processes if compared to extrinsic motivation. This article focuses on some of the most used techniques in the EFL classroom in order to maintain students motivated and involved in the lesson.

Obviously, the content of the input material which is brought in class influences the level at which they get interested in the topic. When teaching present simple, for example, students are more likely to enjoy talking or reading about one of their favourite pop stars or sports people’s routine rather than our own choice. Even better, the students may be given the free choice of bringing photos and information about their favourite famous people to present to the class and the motivation would be higher. In a similar way, choosing texts for the reading lesson should cater for the students’ needs and interests and they should be supplied with as much authentic materials as possible if we want to turn it into an enjoyable and motivating personal experience.

Another useful technique to get students intrinsically motivated is relying on their previously acquired skills and talents. As a result of the cross-curricular approach in teaching foreign languages, students who possess artistic skills can take part in a lesson actively by asking them to draw sketches of a story or cartoons or even play an instrument as a way of creating background atmosphere during a reading or presentation sequence. In this way, not only does their self-esteem increase but it also gives them a sense of achievement and feel motivated for both learning the language and developing the artistic skill.

Moreover, contrary to general belief, bringing realia to class has never been more appreciated and enjoyed by students, even at intermediate levels. The digital bombarding of the education system that has occurred recently has made students rediscover the need for keeping the contact with the real physical world. Therefore, by using maps, cut-outs or other materials which require students’ manipulation and use increases the chances of them being captivated and stimulated to engage in the lesson not only mentally, but kinaesthetically as well.

By and large, making the students our partners in the process of their own formation and learning may lead to long-term satisfaction for both parts. Understanding the fact that teaching and learning are based on interaction and active participation of the students, teachers should incorporate in the lessons the activities meant to help them attain their teaching aims, but activate motivational mechanisms in students’ minds at the same time.

1. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
2. H. Douglas Brown-Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy (2nd ed.), Longman.


prof. Elena-Irina Teodorescu

Profil iTeach: iteach.ro/profesor/elena.teodorescu1

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