Exploring English as a Second Language teachers' beliefs about motivation
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English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers’ beliefs about motivation are important but underexplored. Because research on human beliefs indicates that existing beliefs are the filters for new information, a better understanding of teacher beliefs about motivation is necessary in order to provide training on effective motivation strategies for ESL teachers. In order to investigate the beliefs and perspectives of ESL teachers on motivation, 11 teachers at a university intensive English program, from a pool of 32, volunteered to participate in a self-reporting, open-ended interview to share their thoughts and beliefs about motivation. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, divided into comments, and grouped into categories. The transcripts and their coding were checked and approved by each of the participating teachers in the study. The teacher comments were organized around 9 categories of beliefs about motivation. Results of the data analysis indicated that ESL teachers have both specific and varied beliefs about the nature of motivation, and those beliefs correlate consistently with their classroom strategies for motivating students. As a result, teacher training that focuses on motivation strategies without understanding teachers underlying beliefs about the nature of motivation may not be successful. The findings also indicated that the 9 common strategies for motivation (shared by 6 or more teachers) were generally represented in practical guides for motivation which were based on both language learning and general constructs. In addition, as a group, these teachers demonstrated a breadth and depth of beliefs about motivation that could be used as a resource for filling any gaps in individual teacher’s knowledge or beliefs about motivation. Furthermore, these teachers identified group dynamics, student-teacher and student-student interactions, as the most important single factor effecting student motivation. Therefore, any theory of language learning motivation must be able to account for or explain classroom social variables and their effects on motivation. Finally, the ESL teachers’ recollections of the origins of their beliefs focused on early life, language student, and language teaching experiences, which hints that any effective teacher training on motivation should be experiential in nature, whether through language learning, classroom observation, or practice teaching.