Motivating the Unmotivated - By Meryl Divya Joseph
All students go through stages of learning. They also must go through stages of motivation. What the teacher must try to persuade students’ is that motivation lies within themselves first and foremost. We cannot give motivation to others. But perhaps as teachers we can instill qualities and skills in our students that will teach them how to motivate themselves without really telling them what to do. There is a happy medium of learning what is taught and learning to learn. As a teacher one must instill the value of learning to learn in the student in order to start motivating the student.
The teacher must have a basic understanding of the student. In order to be effective the teacher must have positive expectations for student success. Classroom management plays a key role in improving student efficiency effectively.
According to The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong, “People who do things right are EFFICIENT. And people who do things right over and over again, consistently, are EFFECTIVE.” Therefore efficiency or doing things right is at the heart of effectiveness. So in motivational theory we can hypothesize:
Students who plan to achieve = Achievers
Students who achieve consistently = Motivated.
Therefore, at the heart of motivation lies achievement. We build on our achievements in order to increase our motivation. Understanding the student then encompasses grasping of sense of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, finding out what challenges the student is willing to take on, and most importantly, bringing out feelings of previous success from past experiences academically.
When analyzing what factors lead to student success, we are bound to say a key element is motivation. If motivation revolves around achievement and the student cannot recall any major successes academically, we must implement a plan for the plan. A plan for the plan is what I like to call pre-assessing the situation, previewing the outcomes of various enhancements implemented and processing the actual plan. In this case of motivation, I would start by addressing ways we can make the student feel like an achiever. This is similar to the concept a therapist might use, of pretending you are happy when you are actually not. The longer you pretend you are an actual achiever the easier it is for you to “fake it till you make it”.
In the text, Becoming a Teacher (Parkay & Stanford, 2007), they pose the question “How can teachers help motivate students?” They provide four insights:
Motivating Unmotivated Students
1. Child centered teaching and high expectations for all promote learning.
2. Students’ perceptions of themselves as learners impact their learning.
3. Students working in noncompetitive, cooperative groups worry less about “how smart they are relative to others and focus on learning for its own sake”
4. Service learning is a powerful instructional strategy that can engage students and produce significant academic and social growth.
I am of the frame of mind that history does indeed repeat itself, and having high expectations should revolve around the student’s thinking that I have achieved before and I will achieve again. Reward students during the course of their study, providing constant and consistent positive feedback, and engaging them in the material are a few ways an educator can create goals and plan to meet or even exceed the student’s expectations of their output. In the text Comprehensive Classroom Management – Creating Communities of Support and Solving Problems (Jones & Jones, 2007), they illustrate motivation with the equation:
Motivation = Expectation x Value x Climate.
Therefore if we increase any one of these variable that contribute to motivation, we will see an overall increase in motivation. High expectations, finding meaning in the assignment and how it relates to the students values, and a supportive environment where those values are nourished play an important role in forming motivation. However I will alter this formula to fit my thesis:
Motivation = Expectation x Value x Climate x Planning Unstructured atmosphere x negative thinking
This brings us back to having a plan for the plan. Planning involves having certain models in place to stimulate production. A plan can be a simple as I will start my essay today. It can become more complex as the elements of the essay are analyzed and pre-written. However, note that an unstructured atmosphere and negative thinking can decrease motivation. If you are not prepared, or do not have the skills to start your essay it will not get done. If you think negatively it can hinder your chances of completion and the sense of accomplishment will never prevail. That brings us to how the teacher can combat these hindrances of motivation.
As educators we must provide the key tools to the student’s academic success. Structure, organization, and pre-planning are not inherent skills, rather they are teachable skills. It is necessary to teach the structure, some vocabulary, grammar rules, and format for the traditional five-paragraph essay. It is indeed valuable to deter students from inherent negative thinking. Educators must stress in this case opposites do not attract. By thinking negatively the student gains nothing. However by thinking in a positive tone the student exponentially reaps the benefits of positive attitude, positive sense of worth, and self-motivation.
The text, Including Students with Special Needs (Friend & Bursuck, 2006), implements the INCLUDE strategy for accommodating students with special need sin the general education classroom:
I: Identify classroom environmental, curricular, and instructional demands
N: Note student learning strengths and needs
C: Check for potential areas of student success
L: Look for potential problem areas
U: Use information gathered to brainstorm instructional adaptations
D: Decide which adaptations to implement
E: Evaluate student progress
The include strategy is much like having a plan for the plan. Planning-on-how-to-plan to motivate students is essential in order to make motivation an actual teachable skill. As discussed earlier motivation is inherent and cannot be taught. However we can provide the skills and mindset for the students to develop their own motivational strategies. As the text Teaching Performance Expectations for Educating English Learners (Balderrama & Diaz-Rico, 2006) suggests, “Three areas of learner autonomy are particularly important: students’ belief in themselves as agents of their own learning, control over topics (goals), and freedom of choice in activity (means).”
In summation let us look at the bigger picture: Students must have a sense of achievement in order to self-motivate themselves. There must be a plan implemented to gain understanding of the methods and criteria laid out for student success. This leads us to the actually planning of the activity the student is about to undertake. Hopefully we can increase the factors of a supportive environment, meaningful and engaging topics, as well as a nurturing climate, while reducing the factors of and unstructured atmosphere and negative thinking by providing organizational skills and positive feedback. The student’s ability of learning to learn will be clear in the motivated student. Perhaps we can instill the value of motivating to motivate as well.
Balderrama, Maria & Diaz-Rico, Lynne T. (2006). Teaching Performance Expectations for Educating English Language Learners. San Francisco: Pearson Education Inc.
Friend, Marilyn & Bursuck, William D. (2006). Including Students with Special Needs. San Francisco: A Pearson Education Company
Jones, Vern & Jones, Louise (2007). Comprehensive Classroom Management. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc.
Parkay, Forrest W. & Stanford, Beverly Hardcastle. (2007). Becoming a Teacher. San Francisco: Pearson Education, Inc.
Wong, Harry K. & Wong, Rosemary T. (2004). The First Days of School. California: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.