Salami (1999) defines motivation as the ways of encouraging the children to learn. He opines that motivation is defined as the total internal processes that impel an individual to satisfy a need. Alternatively, motivation can be referred to as the factors that energize, reinforce or direct behaviour towards the attainment of certain goals and satisfaction of need. By referring to the learning situation, motivation means all factors that increase the students’ activity towards learning.

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In respect to learning, there are two classes of motivation, the intrinsic motivation and the extrinsic motivation. When we have intrinsic motivation, we carry out certain task without instruction from anybody. The goal of such a task is sufficiently rewarding to make us do it without any compelling us to do it. When we have extrinsic motivation, the task is not attractive or rewarding in itself and incentive to promote leaning in the pupils. In intrinsic motivation, the relationship between such task and the goal is a natural or inevitable. But it extrinsic motivation, the relationship between the task and the goal is arbitrary or artificial.

Samuel and Sindiku (2000) define that motivation can be said to be those desires, needs and interests that activate an individual and direct him towards a specific goal. According to them, motivation can be likely to a drive which is a persistent stimulus, usually physiological in orgin that urges an individual to satisfy his\her basic needs. Drives are usually experienced in feelings such as hunger, thirst, tirelessness and anxiety. Thus the behaviour of a motivated organism would be expected to defer sharply from that of an organism without any motivation.

Motivation can have internal or external origins. The internal source of motivation or intrinsic motivation implies a self-originated motivation. This type of motivation is brought about by factors that are native to the individual. Emotion and interest are good examples of intrinsic motivation. The desire for food and water, for example are physiological needs. One who is working purely for his daily bread is therefore intrinsically motivated. Intrinsic motivation is most useful in learning, particularly in English Language because most often learners tend to have a feeling of satisfaction with what they are doing and are thus encouraged to continue for personal satisfaction and pride in achievement in English Language.

          The external motivation or extrinsic motivation is the type of motivation that is externally imposed independence of the learner. In school, for example, extrinsic motivation may take the forms of reward like offering sweet or good grade for a good work. If properly applied, the extrinsic motivation helps in stimulating attention and achievement in learning, particular English Language.

          Blair, et al (2001) refers motivation as the goal – oriented control and direction of human energy. According to him, so great is the role played by motivation in learning that even in the face of poor teaching methods and badly chosen instructional material, the student who is aroused and interested may still learn a great deal.

          Adeniyi (1999) describes motivation as the needs, desires, interests, or a consideration of reason that arouses a person and directs him towards a specific goal. According to him, the behaviour of a motivated person is expected to differ from that of an unmotivated person. For example, an SSS 3 student who had already won a scholarship to further study abroad would want to pass his Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE), and would study harder than an individual with a casual interest in reading just to attempt the examination before getting married. So, for a learner to have a complete achievement in English Language, he needs motivation. Motivation can be intrinsic and extrinsic:

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When students enter a classroom, they have different levels of intrinsic motivation to submit and learn under the auspices of the teacher. With intrinsic motivation, a student has a feeling of satisfaction, feelings of success, and pride in achievement. Intrinsic reward is an integral part of learning activity itself. Extrinsic motivation is a way of providing satisfaction, independence of the learning activity itself. For instance, offerings, money, grades, promotions or pleasant words to motivate students to study harder.

Extrinsic motivation is often applied by the teacher. It serves to increase attention and achievement. Whichever way a teacher chooses to motivate his students, psychologists have discovered that student’s motivation to achieve would be greatest in a situation in which both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are present and are made use of such that, one does not interfere with the other.

The teacher should encourage intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in all students when teaching English Language.Ogunsanya (2006) also defines motivation as an individual’s urge, desires, tendency or striving to achieve a goal or fulfill certain needs. In general, motivation serves as a directing force which determines the level of activity towards goal attainment or satisfaction of needs or desires. Motivation increases the strength and vigour of an individual’s activities.

Motivation is important, as he describes, in commercial, industrial and educational settings. A successful achievement of a goal in each of these settings leads to the setting of higher goals, while failure may lead to setting of a less difficult goal. The classroom teacher is actively concerned with ways of motivating students to learn Language better and to achieve their goals in aspects of English Language.


There are many theories of motivation but only those are relevant to learning will be discussed here:

2.2.1  The Instinct Theory: Salami (1999) postulates that the actions of man and animals are the result of innate, inherited or unlearned behaviour patterns which are in response to certain biological or social needs. In other words, the instinct theory says that man is born with complex inherited tendencies which compels him to behave the way he does.

According to this theory, the inherited tendencies compel individuals to pay attention to certain objects, events, or person to become excited pleasurably and unpleasurably about certain things, and to act in ways that will preserve the individual’s existence. The instinct theory is seen at work in the classroom situation when students decide to study certain interesting subjects because of the pleasure they derive from doing so. Adeniyi (1999) believes that instinct theory has it that all motives are derived from inherited tendencies. These are often triggered off by certain stimuli. Thus, a sign of Stimuli in the environment arouses an innate releasing mechanism. For instance, when crawling child discovers an object on the floor, he sits up and puts the object in the mouth. This behaviour is genetically predetermined.

One of the earliest proponents of instinct theory was MC. Dougall. This psychologist believes that human thought and behaviour were the result of inherited instinct. He also believes that these instincts are modifiable in the course of development through individual experiences.

Ibikunle (2000) mentions some examples of instinctive tendencies in instinct theory. The tendencies include: parental instinct, escape, pugnacity, repulsion, gregariousness, self-assertion and submission, mating and acquisition tendency.

2.2.2  Learning or Behaviourist’s Theory: Salami (1999) explains learning theory that all human actions or behaviours are rooted in an attempt to satisfy organic needs such as food, water, air, physical comfort etc. By this theory, learning is established or enhanced when the individual’s needs are satisfied. In short, when behaviour leads to satisfaction of certain needs, a relationship is established between the behaviors and the satisfaction of the needs which then give rise to learning.

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When behaviour does not lead to the meeting of needs, no learning will occur. This is because the responses are not associated with meeting the needs. However, some limitations to the learning theory abound. A student, for instance, who is interested in a subject may work all day long to complete an exercise without taking his lunch yet not feeling hungry. This shows that the need to complete the exercise was more important than going for lunch at the appropriate time. Secondly, a student who mistakenly puts his or her finger into flame may feel burnt and he/she will learn from this even though action is followed by negative reward.

Hull (1996) emphasizes the behaviourist’s theory on the concept of reinforcement as a determinant of the strength and persistence of behaviour. They believe that when behaviour is reinforced, it tends to be repeated. But when it is not reinforced, it tends to be discontinued. Reinforcement can be seen in terms of rewards which can come in form of feedback or a test result, praise and encouragement, grade and gifts. From such rewards, the individual begins to associate the responses he made with rewards and thus the responses will continue and will increase.

2.2.3  Maslow’s Theory of Motivation: Abraham Maslow (1970) proposes that motivational acquisition is essentially a matter of need gratification. He develops a theory of motivation showing that human needs exist in certain hierarchies, the most basics being the psychological need as in hunger and thirst. Above that, there come the need for physical safety, good health and a satisfactory environment, followed by the need and receiving and giving affection which was rather inherent and compels human being to search for association with other; then the need for self-esteem, and at the top of the list is the need for self-actualization? The lower order needs (basic needs) are said to be satisfied first before the satisfaction of higher order needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Self Actualization Needs
Needs for self-esteem
Needs for Love, Affection and Belonging
Physiological Needs
Safety Needs

Maslow was of the view that motivation lead to the growth and the development and that satisfaction of needs is a basic factor in motivation. Maslow believes that human needs become more complex as the individual matures with the basic needs developing first. He comes up with a hierarchy of needs that the individual strives to meet. According to him, individuals want to meet a higher level need once the lower need is achieved. The physiological needs are at the bottom followed by safety needs, belongingness and love need, self-esteem needs, need for self-actualization, desire for knowledge and understanding while at the top is aesthetics needs. This desire for individuals to meet a higher level needs, once a lower level need is satisfied can promote learning. For instance, if the child is fed adequately and is secured, and is loved by his parents and he feels the sense of belonging both at home and among his peers at school, he will feel more confident, strong and adequate. He will then have high self-esteem. With high self-esteem, he will strive for self-esteem. With high self-esteem, he will strive for self-actualization i.e desire to display his full potential. To do this, he will acquire more knowledge and understanding.

When he acquires the necessary knowledge, skills and understanding, he will then look for aesthetic things to match his taste. 

The Maslow’s model has implications for learning and teaching in that students’ learning can be promoted when their lower level needs are satisfied. The provision of love, safety, material needs, comfort, and adequate social control can also promote learning language (English) in the students.

Samuel and Sindiku (2000) view the hierarchy of needs as proposed by Maslow that it has implications to the class teacher. In the first instance, it provides a framework for understanding students’behaviour in the classroom. For example, late coming or truancy behaviour exhibited by some students in schools might be as a result of the teacher’s unfriendly attitude towards the students or low disciplinary tone of the school. To prevent this, the student needs love and security, if these needs are provided by the school, the student may likely exhibit normal behaviour. Another example is that of a student who sleeps in the classroom during lesson in spite of the teacher’s effort at making the learning environment lively. The student might possibly be hungry or tired. Such a student needs food and rest. It is important that these basic needs be satisfied before such a student engaged in meaningful learning activities. Maslow’s theory therefore implies that it will be essential for teachers to find out what the needs of the students are in order to be appropriately motivated. Besides, learning experiences are better acquired if the materials are orderly structured.

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2.2.4  Gestalt-field Theory:Hulse (2002) proposes the Gestalt-field theory that motivation is a product of disequilibrium within a life space. Motivation derives from a dynamic situation characterized by a person’s desire to do something. Human being bodies function in the state of home estates. So, he adapts to changes in the environment to maintain a stable life. Generally, man is constantly in a state of disequilibrium (imbalance) when they set new goals for themselves continually. In achieving some set goals, obstacles may be met on the way, and to overcome the obstacles or avoid the obstacles, tensions are created. The urge is regarded as motivation. The implication of this theory for learning is that once students know why they should learn certain things, learning will be easier because they will feel committed and will have the urge to learn. Secondly, when students have goals for learning some subjects, they will also easily acquire certain aspects in English Language. 


          Ezeani and Sindiku (2000) define reinforcement as anything that increases the probability of occurrence of a response. It is a process whereby a particular response is maintained or strengthened by a stimulus contingent upon a response. According to Ezeani (2000) Reinforcement increases the probability of the response occurring again. A teacher, for instance, can influence the behaviour of a student, by reinforcing or rewarding any elements in the student’s behaviour that the teacher wishes to strengthen. For an event to be regarded as reinforcement therefore there has to be a desirable response which is followed by a desirable stimulus (e.g a reward) to ensure that the earlier response is maintained or repeated. If the desired response or rather a better one is repeated after the stimulus has been applied, it can be concluded that the repeated response is due to the stimulus. The stimulus is known as reinforce.

          Skinner and other psychologists have showed that when an Animal makes any response involving some sorts of behaviour, if this behaviour is rewarded in some ways, the animal tends to repeat it. Similarly, in Pavlov’s classical conditioning, the reinforce is the stimulus, that is the unconditional stimulus (US), food, which elicited the unconditional response (UR), salivation. In Skinner’s operant conditioning, the reinforce is contingent upon the occurrence of the response. The reward conditions the animal to behave in a certain way. This same principle applies to people.

          Reinforcement therefore implies the judicious use of desirable stimulus to improve the quality of or sustain a response or behaviour. This stimulus could be in form of gifts, praises, commendation, clapping, a word like very good or good student” from the teacher etc.


          Ezeani (2000) describes how Skinner through his experiments provides the basis for distinguishing two types of reinforcement. These are positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement.

  1. Positive Reinforcement: A positive reinforcer is any stimulus whose presentation increases the probability that behaviour will occur. The use of positive reinforcement to guide human behaviour is quite prevalent. In general, a response reinforce is a stimulus which is capable of eliciting a response that is desirable. It is like a gift or food that is provided when a behaviour, we want an individual to learn, has been produced.
  2. Negative Reinforcement: A negative reinforcement is a stimulus whose removal increases the probability that behaviour will occur. It is not same thing as punishment; rather, it involves removal of an annoying or offending stimulus leading to an increase in a particular desired behaviour.

          Both negative and positive reinforcement increase the occurrence of behaviours. With positive reinforcemet, the organism emits a behaviour to obtain a reward, with negative reinforcement however, the organism emits a behaviour to secure relief from an aversive stimulus. Salami (1999) also adds social and continuous reinforcement in aforementioned reinforcements.

  1. Social Reinforcements:These are social events such as nearness, smiles, praise, thanking, touching, shaking hand, hugging, laughing, saying good, that’s clever of you to the students etc.
  2. Continuous Reinforcement: Under continuous reinforcement, every appropriate response is followed by reinforcement. Learning can be rapid with this type of schedule but when reinforcement ceases, extinction will follow.  Keep your computer busy


          According to Sindinku (2000), reinforcement is crucial to learning English Language. Hence, teachers should try to reinforce those behaviours that are desirable in their students. An effective application of reinforcement also ensures the mastery of language. Effective use of reinforcement by the teacher results in increased rate of learning English by students. It can also be used as a classroom control device during teaching English subjects by the teacher. There are also processes of and the rational for motivating or reinforcing learners in an ESL situation as Sadrock (2007) describes them:

  1. Motivation helps students pay more attention in the class. Whenever the teacher is teaching a topic in English Language, he can try as much as possible to promise gifts or rewards that can make students pay attention in the class. E.g a teacher who teaches a difficult topic in English can tell students that if any students can answer the questions I want to ask at the end of the lesson, I will give such a student N1000.00 everybody will listen and pay serious attention because everybody will want to collect a prize.
  2. The use of motivation leads to self-discovery and independent enquiry. If the lesson is motivated, students will discover certain rules in English themselves. Even, they will be curious of how sentences are constructed. E.g a teacher may enter the classroom and deliberately speak “bad English” as “I wented to Lagos” or “I have go home”. If student hear these wrong sentences, they will sense that something is wrong with the sentences. We can find students that can stand and correct the sentences themselves without being taught by teachers.
  3. It stimulates students to higher achievements. In the teaching of English, if a teacher can reinforce students, there will be a higher achievement. E.g a teacher who uses appropriate teaching methods/instructional materials will have a great achievement on the subjects he teaches. A teacher, for example, who wants to teach preposition “Under, on, inside” etc can adopt demonstration methods. Teacher will carry a locker in front of students in the classroom, and he will take a book and place it in the locker and say that “the book is on the locker, and the preposition on will be underlined in the sentence. The teacher will also put a book under the locker and say again “the book is under the locker, and the preposition under will be underlined in the sentence. Again, the teacher will open a locker and put a book I it and say “the book is inside the locker and the preposition inside will be underlined in the sentence. By doing all these, students will understand better what the word preposition means and they will be able to use them correctly in sentences. Therefore, learning will be highly achieved.
  4. It helps in establishing cordial relationship between teachers and students, especially students find learning less boring and confusing. As a language teacher, for example, you must try to apply motivational techniques that will sustain the interest of learners while teaching a topic in English Language. Teacher-learners relationship, clapping, commendation, humouretc is important e.g if a teacher asks a question. What is concord? Provided a student answers it correctly. A teacher must ask other members of the class to clap for such student. Besides, on no account must a language teacher be severely harsh. This can instill fears in students. A good English Language teacher must be friendly and generous so that his learners can show interest in his teaching, and learning can be enhanced and achieved.
  5. More learning outcomes are achieved. A language teacher must try as much as possible to use evaluative techniques during and after the lesson. This will assure him whether the objectives of the lesson are achieved or not. The learners that are reinforced often in the classroom will be always eager to learn more. By doing these, the teacher, at the end, will discover that learning outcomes have been achieved after he has evaluated his lessons. But if all these are not done, the objectives cannot be achieved.

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          Ibukunle (2000) points out that motivation is central to learning and achievement in the classroom. Teaches concerned with achievement in the classroom must be knowledgeable in the techniques of motivating pupil’s behaviour in English Language. Ezeani (2000) mentions:

  1. The learning materials should be meaningful and related to the goals of students. This can be done if the teacher can make the students realize what the lesson will help them achieve in life. For example, an English Language teacher must remind his students of the benefits that they can derive in the course, or tell them the world of work, such as teaching, the mass media, public relation industry with politicians and industrialists as targets, publishing industry as editors, proof-readers and public letter writers etc. By doing these, students will have keen interest the course/subject.
  2. The teacher should provide students with specific tasks. This may be in form of project work, reading assignment, practical, demonstration etc. They are expected to provide solutions to specific problems. For example, a teacher can deliberately give students a difficult topic in English as group assignment, or projects which will make them find solutions to it themselves. This will prevent lazy habits among them.
  3. The teacher should provide the students with immediate feedback which will enable students to know their performance in the class and thus motivating their interests for learning. For instance, if a teacher has conducted a test or has given an assignment on any topics in English, he should, after finishing marking, give their scripts back for the purpose of motivation.
  4. The teacher should also recognize the concept of individual differences in learning. He should therefore design his lesson bearing in mind the individual differences. In the teaching of English Language, for example, a teacher should know that students are different in assimilation, so, a teacher should start from known to unknown and from simple to complex so that students will be able to achieve their goals on the aspects of English Language.
  5. The judicious use of reinforcement e.g praise helps in motivating learners. In the classroom, a language teacher should try as much as possible to reinforce his learners so that they can achieve their goals. For instance, clapping, praise, reward, commendation, saying Good or very Good of you can motivate learners in the classroom to achieve their goals in English Language.
  6. Positive relationship should be developed and sustained between the learners and the teachers. For example, if a teacher wants his students to master the aspects of language and to achieve their goals in English Language, he should advise, motivate, help and sustain the interest of students in the course. On no account should a teacher be harsh or unfriendly with students he is teaching.
  7. Co-curricular activities like school debates, club activities, games, should be organized frequently for students to demonstrate their hidden talents. They derive satisfaction and self-confidence by so doing.
  8. Support and encouragement should be given to high anxious students. For instance, when a teacher is teaching any aspects in English Language, take home assignments and open book exams, teacher’s supervision and feedback are useful. These methods will make them discover their weaknesses in many areas of English Language.

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