When teaching English in Japan, motivating Japanese students is always a challenge but rewarding too! Using a diary to keep track of what works and what doesn`t with particular groups of Japanese students will be helpful.

One expert on motivation said that if you are asking how to motivate someone, you are asking the wrong question. I tend to agree. I feel you have to somehow show someone that learning English is important and can be fun. Whether that works as motivation, depends on the student. Motivation tends to happen of course, when someone realizes they want or need that. How am I going to get that? Or be able to do that? From there, comes the motivation.

I have sometimes joked with myself that if you put a group of blond Scandinavian female models with a group of Japanese male university students, and told them to mingle and have conversations, that would be motivation enough. Sometimes it is as simple as attraction, and admittedly, I often mix the boys and girls in my classes, because I think they often want to get to know each other, and in this case,of course, the language used is English. I do whatever I can in other words, to get them to use their English.

I try to get into their head, about what their wants and needs are. It is needless to say, a challenge!

“We may not be aware of it, but motivational issues take up a surprisingly large proportion of our everyday talk…Our hopes, our dreams, our goals, and what we like and dislike, are some of the things researchers have felt are the main motivational determinants of human behaviour.”

–Zoltan Dornyei, “Teaching and Researching Motivation,” p. 1

It is a tragedy that more teachers and teacher training programs fail to address the problem of motivating students.

It is a problem that is especially acute in Japan, where I teach. In my twenty year career of teaching English, motivating my students has been perhaps my biggest challenge.

In a general way, I had felt that I knew how to motivate them. Recently though, I have come to the realization that there is a lot I need to learn. I have chosen to keep a diary as a research project into what motivates and demotivates my students.

By keeping a diary of which strategies work for which class, we will gain a record over time of what works and what doesn`t.

Indeed the key phrase seems to be “over time.” The diary must be kept for an extended period of time to benefit from it.

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About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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  1. Pingback: Motivation to Learn | How to teach English in Japan

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