From Delinquent to Star Student

When I was in university, I was a lackluster student. But when I went to grad school (and afterward), I became a high achiever – even so far as receiving the top award in my graduating class (like “valedictorian”). So what changed between then and now? This presentation breaks down my own journey from boredom to motivation – and focuses on how to apply those things to second language learning.

My journey toward second-language learning motivation

Abstract

How do you teach students English? What if you didn’t have to teach them? What if they were motivated to learn on their own? This presentation will consider the psychology of motivation as it relates to second language learning. There are many elements that combine to give us (or our students) success in second language learning. We will look at:

  1. The difference between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
  2. Breaking out of your Comfort Zone and finding your Passion
  3. Neurological Cravings, Habit Loops, and Behavior Reinforcing Rewards
  4. The difference between Progress and Perfection
  5. How to stick to your Schedule by reducing your Scope
  6. How to be a better Teacher by being Taught

I hope to be able to give much good food for thought as well as some practical tips and suggestions to put into practice TODAY. Some of these suggestions may appear to be quite radical, but other suggestions will give very actionable steps for creating Habits, increasing Passion, and sticking to a Schedule.


Overview

I hope this talk will be helpful for 3 areas of your life:

  1. Your teaching
  2. Your professional life
  3. Your personal life

Personally, I’m incredibly interested in the following, and have incorporated much of what I’ve learned into this talk.

  1. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation
  2. Your Comfort Zone vs. your Passion
  3. Neurological Cravings & Habit Loops
  4. Progress over Perfection
  5. Schedule over Scope
  6. The fact that Good Teachers are Good Learners

I’ll go over 3 things:

  1. My story
  2. How I got here
  3. What you can do

My Story

In 2012, I created a Korean language learning blog with two motivations:

  1. (External motivation) To supplement my wife’s Korean tutoring classes
  2. (Internal motivation) To motivate myself to become fluent in Korean

For the first year, there was no growth at all. But in Year Two, I changed my habits and began writing a new Post every single day (now over 400 Posts). After that point, the site saw steady growth, and has been viewed more than 100,000 total times.

But let me now paint you a different picture.

University of Wyoming

As an undergrad at the University of Wyoming, I was a lackluster student at best, earning less than a 2.5 GPA and losing my scholarship in my second semester. I went from a 4.0 in high school, to a 2.3 my second semester, back up to a 3.186 by the end of my university life. I had 3 Fs (retakes) and 1 D in a major class.

Full Sail University

But when I went to grad school at Full Sail, 4 years after my lackluster undergrad career, things were very different. 

  • Change of Motivation =
  • Change of Attitude = 
  • Change of Behavior

I was newly married, with a baby on the way, and suddenly had to provide for more than just myself. That proved to be a real kick in the pants for me – and I worked hard enough to take home the Top Achiever award (valedictorian) in my graduating class.

How I Got Here

I’ve found that Success = Motivation + Habits – like two sides of the same coin – and without both, you don’t get the prize.

On Motivation

Daniel Pink’s book Drive dives deeply into motivation:

  1. Motivation 1.0 = primal / survival instincts
  2. Motivation 2.0 = carrots (rewards) & sticks (punishments)
  3. Motivation 3.0 = intrinsic vs. extrinsic (and this is the one we’re interested in)

Intrinsic Motivation examples

  • Learning an instrument
  • Open source software
  • Online forums
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Learning a language (for joy, for yourself)

Extrinsic Motivation examples

  • A “day job”
  • Bonuses & Commissions
  • $$$
  • Standardized testing
  • Learning a language (being forced to)

Difference in motivation

  • Extrinsic motivation focuses on:
    • Reward 
    • Punishment
  • Intrinsic motivation provides:
    • Autonomy
    • Mastery
    • Purpose

Here are some good books that discuss each:

  1. Autonomy
    1. Results Only Work Environment – focusing on the Task, Time, Team, and Technique is more important than just coming in to the office every day and “putting in the hours”
  2. Mastery
    1. Outliers hits on many examples
    2. Flow details the state of mind high-performers get in when “mastering” something, or performing at their highest level
  3. Purpose
    1. The Purpose Economy – one quote states ““What brings meaning to a job is not the job itself, but what we bring to it.

Personally, I never really started changing my attitude until I “read” Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA. In it, he discusses a getting out of your Comfort Zone:

  • Reference Levels (getting out of our Comfort Zones)
    • What’s your “acceptable range”?
    • What’s your “minimum set point”?
    • What’s your “maximum set / pain point”?
    • Are you experiencing any Errors in your mind?
    • If so, “something has to change.”

On Habits

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg covers the three (4) steps in habit loops and formation and how to break a bad habit:

  1. Trigger (cue)
  2. Routine (behavior)
  3. Reward (satisfaction)
  4. Craving (underlying motivation)

Remake a habit:

  1. Determine your Craving
  2. Identify your Trigger
  3. Change the Routine
  4. Maintain the Reward

Form a new habit:

  1. Determine your Passion (Start with Why)
  2. Create a Trigger
  3. Decide upon a Routine
  4. Reward yourself

In creating new habits or breaking old ones, we should remember the following:

  1. Strive for Progress not Perfection
  2. Reduce Scope in favor of Schedule (don’t break the chain)
  3. Habits compound

“The truth about success is as simple as this:
Not 5,000 things
A half-dozen things done 5,000 times.”

Darren Hardy in The Compound Effect

What you can do

Motivation in the classroom

9 ideas from Dan Pink’s Drive:

  1. Apply the 3-Part Type-I Test
    1. Am I offering students AUTONOMY over the when and how of this work?
    2. Does this task promote MASTERY by offering something novel and engaging (as opposed to rote reformulation)?
    3. Do my students understand the PURPOSE? The “Big Picture” of this assignment in the class?
  2. Have a “FedEx Day” – overnight delivery
  3. Try DIY Report Cards
    1. Students write down learning goals at the beginning of the semester
    2. Students write their own report cards and a 1-2 paragraph assessment of their progress at the end
    3. Then, show the teacher’s report card and discuss how they are doing on their path toward MASTERY
  4. Stop offering “If-Then” Rewards – make them “Now-That”
  5. Offer Praise…The Right Way
    1. Praise effort and strategy, not intelligence
    2. Make praise specific (no generalities)
    3. Praise in private (no award ceremonies)
    4. Offer praise only when there’s good reason (be sincere)
  6. Help the see the “Big Picture”
    1. Kids think: Why am I learning this? How is it relevant to my world?
      1. Reading
      2. Writing
      3. Arithmetic
      4. Relevance
  7. Investigate Type-I Schools
    1. Big Picture Learning
    2. Sudbury Valley School
    3. The Tinkering School
    4. Puget Sound Community School
    5. Montessori Schools
      (Children have natural curiosity & innate desire to learn)
  8. Learn from the “Unschoolers”
    1. They promote autonomy by allowing youngsters to decide what they learn and how they learn it. They encourage mastery by allowing children to spend as long as they’d like and to go as deep as they desire on the topics that interest them.
  9. Turn Students into Teachers – that’s what I’ve done with Key to Korean (Want to learn something? Teach it!)

Habits in the classroom

  1. The truth about Grading
    1. Let students know that their Habits are a big determiner in their Final grades.
    2. “I never saw a student on a smartphone get an A in my class.”
  2. Help Them Create Good Study Habits
  3. Teach them the Power of:
    1. Daily Habits
    2. Consistency
    3. Momentum
    4. The Compound Effect

Educate yourself

I’ve presented numerous resources throughout this talk. And I’ve asserted that the best teachers are good learners. Here are some tips for you to become better learners yourselves:

  1. Want to read more?
    1. Listen to podcasts
    2. “Read” books with Audible.com
  2. Learn some Korean
    1. Empathize with your students
    2. Understand WHY students continually make the same kinds of mistakes
    3. Anticipate student mistakes before them make them (and address them)
    4. Being a student makes you a better teacher
    5. Check student understanding of vocab & grammar
    6. It will increase their interest in YOUR language

Thank you!


Resources mentioned in this talk

The links out to books I mentioned in this talk are Amazon affiliate links, so I will get a small commission if you click them and purchase something. That being said, here is everything I mentioned above:

Bio

Aaron Snowberger is an English professor at Jeonju University and the creator of keytokorean.com, a Korean language learning blog that focuses primarily on Motivation. He has lived and worked in Korea since 2006, and has taught TOEFL, Debate, Computer Literacy, and Website Programming along with the usual blend of Conversational English classes.

Aaron earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Wyoming (USA) in 2006, and a Master of Fine Arts in Media Design from Full Sail University (USA) in 2011. His primary interests include web programming, Internet business and marketing, branding, print design, leadership, psychology, and the Korean language.


Author: Aaron

Aaron Snowberger is an experienced web developer, graphic designer, and educator in ESL and computer technology. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Master's degree in Media Design, and professional certifications for React (JavaScript) development, and as a Google Certified Educator and Trainer. Aaron is passionate about helping new learners discover the joys of technology, and has presented across the country at multiple local, national, and international conferences in both the ESL and web development fields. His most recent talk was given at the 2019 JSConf (JavaScript Conference) in Seoul on September 3, 2019. (https://2019.jsconfkorea.com/en/tutorials)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.