Monday, October 11, 2010

Reader Question: Student Motivation

This one from Maisha: 

"My question is, are the students motivated at all at University level?  I deal with middle schoolers who are burnt out on school, so I wonder if the students are more burnt out by college or if they suddenly become interested critical thinking proactive learners!"

I can only speak from my experience at my uni, which is a middle of the road kind of one.  There are unis that are a lot lower in terms of academic standards and admission criteria so they probably have much less motivated students.  There are also the top unis (like SKY) that have the best students in Korea, so I'm sure you'd find very motivated students there.  

The students that I teach are for the most part, unmotivated unless they have some sort of reason for studying English.  For example, nursing students want to go to North America to get jobs so they are excellent students to teach.  And fashion students want to keep up with the fashion industry outside of Korea so realize the value of my class for them.  Same with fashion and robotics students.  Some of the sports students want to go pro and know they need to speak English if they have any hope of making it outside of Korea.  And there are some students who are quite ambitious and want to work at one of the big Chaebols (Samsung, Kia, Hyundai, etc) or a global company and realize that they NEED to know English in order to get these jobs so they are quite motivated as well.

However, the vast majority of my students just want to get an average job in Korea at an average kind of company so don't really care.  And they never want to leave Korea.  And if they do, they'll probably go on some package vacation tour with a Korean tour guide.  And they are not that interested in foreign culture or having foreign friends.  So, motivation is quite low, understandably so.  

Most first year students at uni in Korea are completely burnt out from their 3 year nightmare of studying for the big high school test.  And all the boys, after their first year will have to deal with the 2 year nightmare that is army conscription so they view their first year of uni as kind of a break time.  Critical thinking is in short supply and expectations are low.  It's quite frustrating as a teacher and as the years pass is actually the only thing that would make me want to leave my job for another country or another industry altogether.


eMCee said...

Wow. This confirms my concerns are valid. Thanks for your candor. I will continue to research opportunities (I did notice the S and Y of SKY are hiring). I will see what unfolds! Great point about the impending army service being a buzz kill for motivation as well. Perhaps businessmen are the best target group if a teacher is looking for motivated subjects.

Jackie Bolen said...

If you're looking for motivated students, Korea is maybe not the place. My suggestion is try one of the 2/3's world countries where learning English in a NECESSITY for a better job and a life without poverty. Here, learning English is just a kind of luxury that can be easily thrown away.