Seven Ways To Motivate Your Learners


How do you motivate your learners? In 1999 Zoltan Dörnyei & Kata Csizer published research suggesting the ten most effective ways to motivate EFL learners. Here are the top seven – do they match your list?

1. Set a personal example with your own behaviour

This may seem obvious but how can we expect our learners to be motivated and interested in learning if we do not display the same enthusiasm and motivation for out teaching.

2. Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom

Learners are more likely to be motivated when they are in an environment that promotes a positive, non-threatening attitude to learning and reduces the learners chance s of becoming stressed.

3. Present the tasks properly

Not one we may immediately think of as important but in my opinion it justifies its position. What does properly mean here? Amongst other things it means – ensuring the learners know exactly what the task entails and they are expected to do, setting up tasks positively with an expectation of achievement, ensuring learners understand the relevance of the task to their learning…

4. Develop a good relationship with the learners

A good rapport between teachers and learners can provide learners with the motivation to trust in and work for their teacher – sometimes called affiliate motivation. The world of communicative language teaching is based around the relationship between the classroom participants and their wishes to share ideas feelings and information. This cannot happen effectively  without good relationships between all the classroom participants.

5. Increase the learners’ linguistic self-confidence

Interestingly this does not refer to actual linguistic competence in using the language but the learner’ own perception of what they can do with the language and the goals they feel they can achieve. (This is the gateway to the fascinating area of goal-directed learning and ideas such as  attribution theory.) As teachers we need to give learners plenty of opportunities to use they language they have in communicative situations and recognise successful communication. We should also help learners in setting realistic goals to improve their competence – recognising and praising this achievement as it occurs.

6. Make the language classes interesting

It is important to remember that fun and games does not necessarily equate to learning (although it may). Interesting is also not necessarily a synonym for fun and games either. However,  learners who are engaged by the lessons are more likely to be motivated to learn. Sometimes it is worth asking ourselves this question such as this –  “On a cold winter morning what will make the learners get out of their warm bed to come to my lesson?”

7. Promote learner autonomy

This is, of course, easier said than done. But encouraging learners (often in small steps) to take control and responsibility for their own learning is taking steps towards autonomy. Once a learner has taken control and responsibility for their learning they are “by definition motivated” according to Emma Ushioda.

Over to you

So what do you think of this list of seven? Do you agree with the order? Would you add anything to the list? What is your experience of motivating your learners?  I’d love to hear.

And for the sake of completion –  here are suggestions eight to ten.

8. Personalize the learning process. 
9. Increase the learners’ goal-orientation.
10. Familiarize learners with the target language culture.



Dorneyi, Z & Csizér, K 1998, ‘Ten commandments for motivating language learners: results of an empirical study’, Language Teaching Research, vol.2 no.3, pp.203–229.


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