Q & A from Chaz Pugliese’s webinar on creating motivation

On 18th March 2017, Chaz Pugliese presented the following IATEFL webinar:

Creating Motivation, Creating Learning

I believe in local research, so a few years ago I conducted interviews with over a hundred of my students in Paris, where I’m based. The main purpose of the interviews was to find out from the students what practices/activities they found motivating. It turns out these students’ motivation is boosted when they feel they’ve been accepted by the group, when they are primed for learning, and when they’re engaged in activities that are stimulating, surprising and fun.

In this webinar I will focus on the multifaceted roles of the teacher in promoting motivation, and I will highlight the importance of creative pedagogy.

Thank you to the 250+ people who attended, and those listed below who asked questions. If you would like to watch the recording, you need to be a member of IATEFL (find out how to join), but even if you’re not a member, you can read Chaz’s answers to some of the Q&A questions below.


Chaz Pugliese is a teacher, teacher trainer, writer and presenter in the ELT field. He also conducts workshops on Creativity as well as Intercultural matters. He’s written Being Creative (2010, Delta) and co-written The Principled Communicative Approach (Helbling, 2015). Creating Motivation, his latest book, has just been published by Helbling.

In 2013, Chaz founded The Creativity Group with Alan Maley.

A keen guitarist, Chaz likes any music that’s genuine, real, and raw.

Chaz Pugliese

Wouldn’t the basis of motivation be determining whether their motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic?

In truth, I don’t really care to know what kind of motivation my students may have: if it’s intrinsic or extrinsic, or if it’s both, or if they have the kind of motivation Dörnyei talks about (the ideal-self, the ought to- self, etc). My job is to provide them with an environment that might tap into that, to help them focus, to surprise them and to stimulate them beyond the language learning per se. If I do that, then whatever motivation they may have, it will be tapped into and that’s what I want in the first place.

How does motivation relate to perseverance? Surely, no learning can be done without initial intrinsic motivation, but what about helping students build grit? Any ideas on that?

There isn’t a cookbook for helping the students build grit. However, there are strategies that may lead students to develop self-esteem and perseverance. I think the way we communicate with our classes can have a very significant impact. We’re all familiar with the Pygmalion study, for example.

Think about the way we give them feedback: helping the students use their own past work (as opposed to his/her peers’) as a benchmark for progress, which is all beneficial in the long run.

How can you motivate big classrooms (e.g. 200 students or more)?

Doable: I wouldn’t change anything but obviously with 200 bodies in one room, we need great classroom management skills. We need groups, students as teaching assistants, work stations. But, granted, not easy.

How do you motivate students when they are anxious and waiting to start a class test?

Anxiety can be debilitating. So, at the start of class, it would be a good idea to do a few exercises that don’t require language use, just to make people relax. Jokes are good in this respect.

Fun plays an important role, but not all students want fun in the classroom. They stay indifferent.

Yes, it may happen. The question is: why? And there might be several reasons, some may be linked to the context, some may have to do with their past learning history.

For my part, I don’t use the word ‘game’ and I never talk about ‘fun’ with my students, either. I’ve found time and again that if I say to my class ‘OK, let’s play a game’, or ‘Let’s do something fun,’ some may conclude I’m giving them license to goof off and they lose focus. And I don’t want that to happen.

I think what might help is explaining to your classes the rationale behind an exercise that is ‘fun’. For a lot of my students here in Paris (but also in other countries where I’ve taught), learning = no pain, no gain. So that’s what they expect to do. And if their teacher does something that is more light-hearted, they’re thrown because it doesn’t fit with their mental representation of what learning is supposed to be all about. So, they remain indifferent, or worse, they become hostile.

Does it mean that the teacher should always be in the state of creating something?

Ideally, yes. But this needn’t be a daunting task, you’re not out to revolutionize the teaching field as we know it… Being creative is a frame of mind, a decision one takes. If you want to know more about this, please see my own book Being Creative (2010, Delta).

In your opinion what do you think about teachers who are not motivated, do you think they will be able to motivate their students? How? ‘Cause it seems impossible.

I don’t know about it being impossible. One thing is certain: if it’s true that we can’t motivate anyone to do anything for us, there’s so much we can do to demotivate them… Being taught by someone who doesn’t believe in what they do, who’s not feeling passionate about their job, who doesn’t want to be with us, is clearly demotivating. Have you ever been taught or can you imagine being taught by a demotivated (or amotivated) teacher? Or worse off, by a teacher who shows clear symptoms of burn-out?

Sadly, many of the teachers I work with are on the verge of burn-out, and often they don’t even realize it… This is serious and something must be done about it. My impression is that teachers just want to teach, but in reality many feel their own spark has been put out by the powers that be…Teachers need to be better paid, and rewarded for what they chose to do, which is teach and help people grow, not fill out forms and check off boxes.

How can you convince administrations that want fixed curriculums and predictable and quantifiable results that you’re not just wasting time?

Well, when we’re introducing changes, we need to tread carefully. We need to show leadership and ‘sell’ our approach right.  Sometimes we need to convince our colleagues, our students, their parents, and not just admin! But we need to welcome skepticism, criticism, even, and find a way to win them over. The bottom line is: believe in what you do, and if you know it works with your classes, if your classes appear more motivated in the long run, what’ll have happened is that the students will achieve better results.

Is listening to you and chatting at the same time like chasing two rabbits?

Yes, to an extent, even though the fact that you’re chatting about something relevant may make it easier. My guess is if you were listening to me talk about motivation and you were chatting about something completely different, it would much harder to follow both equally well. Try it out in the next webinar see what happens… 😉

Thank you to Chaz for agreeing to answer these questions for the IATEFL blog.

If you’d like to write a blog post or present a webinar for us, please contact blog (at) iatefl (dot) org.

You can find out more about upcoming webinars on the IATEFL website. If you are an IATEFL member, you can access the recordings and slides from all of our webinars in the members’ area. If you’re not, you can join here.

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