The ‘M’ Factor – whose responsibility is motivation? (an introduction)

I’ve recently (more deeply) started to reflect on responsibility and language learning. Where it lies. Who is really responsible for it – the teacher or the learner?

For quite a bit now, teachers ( and I am, mainly, focusing on language learning institutes, but I think much may apply to many other educational institutes around the world) have been focusing on getting learners to “learn without feeling they’re learning”.

In part I blame it to the most common understanding of the communicative approach – and that’s understandable.

Once we were told communication was the aim (and it it STILL IS), we did (as teachers) our best to enforce it. Songs and games became part of our lesson plan because they were more fun, had a pedagogical purpose and made students interested and eager to communicate (which was – and IS – our main goal.) These were FUN part of our lessons. Students enjoyed them. But there was learning behind it, and students got it.


As a teacher I’ve become more and more aware of students’ demands of more games and songs, no matter what.

As an academic coordinator I’ve become more and more frightened by the number of parents (of young learners) and adult students coming to me referring to being “unmotivated”. Not wanting to be in the class and “not having enough fun” are the most common complaints.

But hey, I’m not supposed to be ‘fun” (or at least this should not be my main goal when I enter my classroom.) I am a teacher. I’m supposed to teach.

And that got me thinking: Have we (under the CLT umbrella, making language learning fun – as it should be) made it TOO MUCH fun? Have we, in some way, helped students believe that English lessons were just fun? Which for YLs it means just games and whatever they feel it’s fun, and for adults it means “an escape from real life”.) Have we undermined ourselves?

Students these days seem more and more resistant to the idea they have to put some work into it. It seems being enrolled and coming to classes (in some cases) should guarantee learning English.

As the old saying goes: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

And learning isn’t much different. If students don’t commit and put some effort into it, they won’t succeed – at least not in the speed they’d like to.

This is a series of posts where I’m going to share how I’ve been addressing that in the groups I teach.

It’s about time we give back to students the responsibility for their own learning. We (teachers) are guides, not the owners. The students have to own the language. Only then they’ll truly master and become fluent users of the language.

In my next posts I’ll share a few ideas of things we can do to make our learners more aware – and better learners.



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Cecilia Lemos has been working with ELT since 1993 and is an Academic Coach for Educate Bilingual Program. She has worked a teacher trainer, writer, coordinator and teacher, presenting at local, national and international language teaching events. She’s a member of IATEFL’s Teacher Development SIG committee. Her main interests are feedback, correction and lesson observation.

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