Student Motivation

12 Oct

What makes us tick has always been something that has fascinated me. How to motivate students, staff and creating positive team culture is something which I am always revisiting. Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2008) says  that while (mental and/or emotional) learning environment affects students’ motivational  beliefs, their own motivational characteristics should be taken into account  while planning the instruction. Teaching intrinsically motivated students is very different from teaching students with strong extrinsic motivation.

This is not black and white.  We all employ both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation during our learning.  The balance is what matters. Well balanced motivation helps students to be successful in their studies.

Defining success is not easy, and sometimes we get scrambled in details and want to define students’ success as mastery of a single subject or unit, or course. In contemporary education converting meaning is more important than ever before, just to be sure that we are talking about the same concept/word/idea – and the word “success” certainly has several different connotations. We must be very careful, though, not to kill the intrinsic learning motivation by applying unnecessary power over students, and forcing them into performing according to expectations that don’t contribute to their learning (i.e. practices that benefit school more than students). Often the use of power is disguised as success – but do students really need to perform according to minor details, or should we emphasize understanding the concepts and entities, so that the learned skill is transferable and students are motivated to learn and not just pass?

To me student success means simply making myself unnecessary as a teacher by empowering my students become autonomous learners, who can work independently and who know where to find the information and guidance they need. This requires handing over the tools for learning to students, and trusting in their motivation and drive to get their learning done, but having open and honest interactions with students to be able to help when needed. This is a challenge for staff but it is not new.

Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). The role of achievement goal orientations in students’ perceptions of and preferences for classroom environment. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78(2), 291-312

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