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.

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:

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 pleasurably 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.

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

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.


If for instance 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.


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.


Education Researcher

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like