Have you ever wondered what kind of impact a teacher’s communication style has on an English Language Learner (ELL) to master the English language? Research has shown the impact of a teacher’s communication style on a student’s intrinsic motivation and academic success. But how does it impact learning a second language?
This post will focus on how a teacher’s communication style can help or hinder the fulfillment of “needs,” as that term is understood in Self-Determination Theory, and how extent to which those needs are fulfilled affects the type of motivation a student experiences in the pursuit of mastering the English language.
Self-Determination Theory explains how meeting the innate needs of our students can promote student motivation. These needs include:
- The need to feel competent in a subject—students need to feel capable of mastering the English language.
- The need to connect with others—students must see how gaining knowledge of a subject will contribute to their overall relatedness to the new culture/community.
- The need to feel a sense of autonomy—students need to have some control in their learning environment.
The type of motivation experienced by students depends on how many of their “needs”, as understood in Self-Determination Theory, are met. If all three needs are met, students are more likely to experience intrinsic motivation—making them more likely to succeed in gaining proficiency in the English language. When two out of the three needs are met students are likely to experience extrinsic motivation—making them more likely to achieve whatever external goal they’ve set for themselves before achieving proficiency in the English language. If only one out of the three needs is met students are likely to be amotivated—making them unlikely to achieve or even set academic goals.
Intrinsic motivation is an inherent drive to accomplish goals for the fun of it. For an English Language Learner, intrinsic motivation may take on a different form than that of the average student, such as feeling excited to learn a new way to express an idea in the English language.
Extrinsic motivation is driven by and strengthened through external rewards. ELLs might be motivated by “getting the grade” or making their parents proud. The problem with this kind of motivation is that once the reward is removed and or achieved, the likelihood of the student to make continued gains toward proficiency in the English language decreases.
Amotivated students believe that the outcomes of their studies are out of their control. They are in a state of “learned helplessness.” These ELLs are likely to drop out of English language courses all together.
Teacher Communication Style:
According to a recent study observing the effect of teacher communication style on student motivation in a second language course, teachers who encouraged students to be more autonomous and gave useful feedback to their students were more likely to have students with higher forms of motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic). This isn’t to say that a student’s level of motivation rests solely on the teacher’s performance but rather to point out a correlation between the two. Therefore, teachers who wish to address a student’s need to feel competent should provide good and useful feedback. This empowers students by providing clear direction in what they need to accomplish to move forward. Next, to address the need for relatedness, teachers should explain that mastering the English language will enable students to connect and communicate with a new peer group. And finally, for teachers to provide a sense of autonomy for their students they should strive to motivate students in a positive way instead of threatening them into compliance.
With the three components of Self-Determination Theory met, students are more likely to choose to be/stay motivated, which will in turn enable them to utlimately succeed in learning the English language.
Share Your Story:
What can teachers do to help ELLs be motivated? How have you seen motivation positively contribute to grades or other student outcomes? Post your thoughts under the comments section. We’d love to hear from you! Who knows—your ideas might help motivate a classroom in need.
Pinterest Reference Guide:
The following image depicts the effect of teacher communication style on the success of their English Language Learners:
- Fulfillment of Needs: whether the teacher fulfills or denies the needs of students (according to Self-Determination Theory) determines the type of motivation experienced by the ELLs.
- Type of Motivation: the type of motivation experienced (intrinsic, extrinsic, or amotivation) determines how much students will persevere in (or drop out of) English language courses.
- Perseverance: the level of perseverance exhibited by students contributes to the successful acquisition (or lack thereof) of fluency in the English language.
- ELL Success: the acquisition of English language mastery. This also contributes to inherently fulfilling the need of students to be competent in a subject.