Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version

Summer 7-14-2022


Walton, J. Motivating Students to Participate in the German as a Foreign Language Classroom. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. July 2022.


Copyright Joanna Walton 2022.


This details how to motivate students in the German as a foreign language class to participate and engage in the learning process. Increasing motivation in students is a struggle with which all teachers are familiar, but teachers of foreign languages have a particular challenge because of the intimidation students feel when faced with producing assignments and content in a new language. This topic is also of interest to foreign language educators because student retention is becoming a serious problem, leading many school districts to cut smaller language programs like French and German. Maintaining an engaging classroom environment, where students participate and want to take higher levels of the language is critical in advocating for the existence of language programs. In this paper, I examine various theories of motivation and how most literature on the subject of motivation in the foreign language classroom can be categorized into the three basic needs outlined in Deci & Ryan’s (1985) self-determination-theory – autonomy, relatedness, and competency. I analyze the results of five semi-structured interviews carried out with students in a German I classroom in a Nebraska high school and present a miniature unit plan based on the research in the literature review and the findings of the interviews. Results suggest that students in a German as a foreign language class are most likely to be motivated to participate when the needs outlined by self-determination-theory are considered, specific, time-bound, and measurable goals are set, and students are given ample opportunity for peer interaction through class activities.