Part 2. Motivating Students
Definition of Motivation
Sandra teaches mathematics in a comprehensive school. She spends years trying to teach elementary arithmetic to Terry, a slow learning pupil. She claimed very little success, and the boy left school without even a minute qualification in mathematics. Two years later Sandra came across Terry doing calculations such as 501-(17+11+[2×19 )in his head. Terry had no difficulty with this; he could complete such a calculation accurately. He could complete such a calculation accurately in seconds. Sandra could barely keep up with him. She asked him how he had learned to do in his head, in two years, what he was unable to learn how to do on paper in five years.
Comments on the introductory Task
Judging from the previous example we could argue that Terry was not motivated enough to learn in Sandra’s classroom. He really had the capacity to learn but he did not have the incentive to develop his cognitive ability. It was only his interest for playing darts that gave him the opportunity to become motivated in learning mathematics. This example lead us to consider the elements that constitute motivation as well as the factors that encourage students to become self-motivated, thus active learners.
According to Ericksen’s argumentation ‘effective learning in the classroom depends on the teacher’s ability to maintain the interest that brought student to the course in the first place. Beyond the type of motivation that a person acquires, some basic principles of motivation exist that are applicable to learning in any situation. Before analyzing these strategies it is worth mentioning the basic reasons that enforce students to want to learn.
Reasons for wanting to learn:
Ø What I am learning is useful to me
Following Geoffrey Petty’s argumentation, many students are motivated to learn things that are considered to be useful to them. Thus, someone can be motivated to learn French since he wants to study in France. In addition, some students obtain a long-term aim, such as getting qualifications for a successful career, which is powerful implement that keeps them motivated.
Ø The anxiety and the fear of an implementing failure
Needless to say, someone does not remain motivated under the pressure of a persistent failure. It is true that the anxiety and the fear of an implementing failure is another factor that keeps student motivated. Indeed, the fear of failure is an equal and sometimes more motivating force than the desire to succeed. Students often lose confidence due to continuous failures and therefore their performance is deteriorated.
Ø Success and self-esteem
Furthermore, in the circle of learning process: target-success-reinforcement-new target etc. the desire to obtain success, particularly, high grades, is the motivator for setting a new target and thus confirming the sustained interest in the learning process. It is worth mentioning this point’s relation to Maslow’s theory, where self-esteem is a necessary condition for an achievement.
Ø Advancing self-esteem through teacher’s and peers’ acceptance
Moreover, the desire to maintain a high level of self-esteem towards the teacher and the peers often reinforces students to participate in classroom effectively, even though the task does not inspire their interest. Following Maslow’s theory it is true that recognition and respect from the teacher and the peers can lead the student to a higher level of self-esteem.
Ø Learning activities are just fun
The students can also be willing to participate effectively in the classroom, even though they are not particularly interested in the task, if the learning activities animate great creativity and enjoyment. The completion of various tasks ‘is just fun’ and this is an adequate incentive for them to participate essentially.
Ø Satisfying curiosity through interesting learning
Last but not least, our curiocity is often satisfied through learning. Various questions that draw our
interest can be answered during the sessions. Consequently, this is a further reason for us to want to
Director of Studies & School Owner
BA in English Culture and Language Studies
MA in Organisation Planning and Management In Education
Scrivener, J.( 1994), Learning Teaching, Oxford, United Kingdom, Macmillan Ltd.
Petty, G. (1998), Teaching Today; 2nd Edition, United Kingdom, Stanley Thornes Ltd.
Ericksen,C.L. (1978), “The Lecture”;Memo to the Faculty,no.60.University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: Center for Research on Teaching and Learning.
Skehan,P.(1989), Individual Differences in Second-Language Learning, London, Edward Arnord.