Motivating StudentsNearly all of the conscious behaviour of human beings is motivated. It was once held that motivation had to be provided by external influence. Today it is more generally believed that motivation is an individual trait of which certain people possess more than others. However, basic motivational needs and drives vary between individuals, depending on their interest in the work at hand and their current personal situation.
Motivation is an inspiration to work or to achieve and a desire to improve oneself and obtain best results for the task at hand. It is the willingness to work towards the required goals in order to satisfy ones individual needs.
Amongst the most famous motivational theorists is Abraham Maslow who developed his Hierarchy of Needs to explain human behaviour:
This theory, initially proposed in the 1950s, suggests that we are all driven by similar sets of needs, but will only be motivated towards particular needs once others have been satisfied. Other theorists have adapted Maslow’s theory but the original has stood the test of time.
A model for motivational learning theory is supplied by Williams and Burden who identify three motivational stages in the process of learning. The first stage is identifying the reason for engaging in a particular activity, which will vary between individuals. The second are the factors associated with the decision to invest time and energy into a particular activity. The third is the effort required to complete the activity successfully. It is the identification, understanding and fulfilment of these three stages that will encourage student learning.
Further to this Feather (1982) designed an `expectancy – value` theory of motivation in which a learner’s motivation is given by the formula:
Here, value and expectancy of success are multiplied by each other. Therefore if the student gives their course an expectancy score of zero the motivation is zero, regardless of how high the value score may be. Similarly, if a value score of zero is given the motivation will again be zero, irrespective of how high they score their expectancy.
With the english
language being the leading, preferred and accepted means of communication, commercially and politically throughout the world, the value of its proficiency, to career and developmental prospects, should be relatively easily explained to all students. The expectancy of success should be addressed by the teacher through consistency of practice and results.
In some detached cultures, where from experience no advantage has come from education, the education will not be valued or supported. The value of education may need to be `sold` to the students.
Leading students towards Self- Actualisation is a process with potential difficulties and over expectation. The fulfilment of Maslow’s lower hierarchy needs is largely the responsibility of the family and social organisations and not something that the teacher can necessarily influence. The attainment of self actualisation, should circumstances permit, is something that the teacher can very much influence and nurture.
As Chomsky identified in 1988: “About 99% of teaching is making the students feel interested in the material”.
Teachers need to motivate their students and this is achieved through the development of the teachers own behaviours and decisions and designing class activities and materials appropriately to create the correct class atmosphere. Teachers should identify themselves as teaching facilitators and encourage their students to take responsibility for their own learning. Encouraging and nurturing `expectancy`, whilst identifying and explaining `value`, are key to motivating the learner and this is particularly so in the case of students from a background where education is traditionally considered a low priority.
A student needs to be engaged. Understanding the individual, knowing their interests and abilities and capitalising on these when setting work, are all attainable and basic methods of allowing the student to relate to the material presented and to connect to the lesson.
Motivation is a prerequisite for effective learning and the greatest challenge that many teachers face is to make their students want to learn. If students do not want to learn their learning efficiency will be so slow that they may learn virtually nothing. Knowing how to motivate students can hugely increase learning rate. The teacher must understand what makes a student want to learn and provide sufficient stimulus and encouragement to allow the student to achieve success. Importantly, we have to be motivated to motivate - teachers must be motivated themselves.