Why has teaching adults reduced problems relating to motivation and classroom management?

Diary submitted by Julia A, Erasmus+ internship in Valencia

   Although I came into the internship expecting the same time of motivation from adults compared to the younger students I taught a couple years ago at a camp, I did notice that adult students show greater motivation than children. This may be for a variety of reasons, of which I identified 3 main ones in my students: needing to learn English for job opportunities or current career paths, to be able to move to and live in England, and the awareness of the importance of knowing English for communication in general, while travelling or studying, which is definitely becoming increasingly important. 

   Firstly, it is important to distinguish intrinsic from extrinsic motivation, which is the point of focus in this reflective diary. Intrinsic motivation encompasses any type of motivation that comes from within: to accept ourselves, to follow personal beliefs, to reach independence, and so on. This is the best type of motivation for a student, but can often be lacking particularly in teenagers. Extrinsic motivation is the opposite; any type of motivation coming from the outside. This can consist of things such as grades, recognition from others and money. For children, extrinsic motivation in schools is often stimulated through stickers and prizes for good behaviour. What is important is to balance out as a teacher between encouraging intrinsic motivation as well as acknowledging when it is not present in the student and therefore stimulating them through some form of extrinsic motivation. 

    In the case of my students during the internship, which were all adults, I noticed that a leading cause for high motivation was that the English certificate was often a requirement for a job that they really wanted to pursue. This is a form of extrinsic motivation which is very valuable for adult students as it can really benefit their lives enormously. Another very important reason for high motivation was that many of them wanted to move out of Spain and go to English speaking countries. Lastly, most of my students had experienced travelling and have noticed the growing importance of knowing the English language, which is considered the most international one. The latter is in my opinion an example of intrinsic motivation: wanting to travel and communicate with others was part of their personality. 

What I think was most important while I was teaching to keep their motivation levels high was showing interest in their knowledge and interests. Adults have a lot of knowledge and skills which they have acquired through their studies and through life in general and, as a teacher, showing them that I can learn from them just as much as they can learn from me was crucial in establishing a great relationship with the students by putting myself on their same level. I think this has had an impact and has helped with their motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, and has taught me a lot about what it means to be a teacher. 


-“Types of Motivation – Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation.” Leadership,


– Admin. “Breaking the Code: What Motivates Adult Learners?” Breaking the Code: What

Motivates Adult Learners?, www.shiftelearning.com/blog/what-motivates-adult-learners.

Add Comment