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Focus On Effectiveness

Current Education Challenges



Related Classroom Examples

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Middle school science students commit to goals through learning contracts.

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Planning for videoconferencing with scientists, middle school students learn to ask good questions.

Investigating Hypotheses

High school students use technology to help frame science investigations.

Recording Romeo

Music recording software allows students to 'podcast' their study of Shakespeare.

Student Motivation

Student motivation is influenced by both internal and external factors that can start, sustain, intensify, or discourage behavior (Reeve, 1996).

Internal factors include the individual characteristics or dispositions that students bring to their learning, such as their interests, responsibility for learning, effort, values and perceived ability (Ainley, 2004). For example, are students confident or fearful when they approach new learning tasks? Do they attribute success to luck, or do they appreciate the effort required? Do they feel in control of the factors that lead to success?

It is also important to understand the external factors, which schools can affect--the variables in learning conditions and environment that trigger, support, or change student motivation. Certain types of schooling practices may promote or hinder motivation, such as features of the classrooms, peer groups, tasks, and instructional practices (Ainley, 2004). For example, challenging, relevant instruction helps to engage students. Another way to increase motivation is through positive connections to others, such as mentors and role models.

Students' beliefs about their ability to learn are shaped by messages and experiences at home, at school, and in the larger society. Low expectations can be subtly communicated by parents and teachers, and through school practices such as tracking, ability grouping, or curriculum that is not challenging. Conversely, high but achievable expectations convey the message that all students are capable of achieving.

Schools can positively influence student motivation through:

  • Varied and integrated instructional strategies and resources
  • An open and caring school environment
  • A wide range of student supports
  • Sharing information and responsibilities for student learning among the staff

These techniques all promote student motivation for educational success (Einspruch, Grover, Hahn, Guy, & Deck, 2001; Shore, 1998; Yair, 2000).

Key Research Findings

  • High motivation in students is linked to reduced dropout rates and increased levels of student success (Dev, 1997; Blank, 1997; Ames, 1992; Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka, 2001).
  • Students are more engaged in learning when they are active and have some choice and control over the learning process, and the curriculum is individualized, authentic, and related to their interests (Anderman & Midgley, 1998).
  • Intrinsically motivated students retain information and concepts longer, and are less likely to need remedial courses and review (Dev, 1997).
  • Intrinsically motivated students are more likely to be lifelong learners, continuing to educate themselves outside the formal school setting long after external motivators such as grades and diplomas are removed (Kohn, 1993).

Implementation

  1. Engage students in setting learning goals. Make sure that goals are challenging, but achievable. Encourage students to take ownership for their learning, and to reflect on what they have learned and accomplished.
  2. Make real-world connections. Help students see how skills they are learning can be applied to the real world. Use technologies for learning that students are already choosing to use outside of class.
  3. Recognize individual differences. Not every student will be motivated by the same thing. Give students individual feedback. Remind them that success often requires persistence and a willingness to overcome obstacles.
  4. Reward with care. Students who are motivated only to avoid failure or to earn a certain grade rarely exert more than the minimum effort to meet their goal. Give prompt feedback and praise good work to help build students' self-confidence.
  5. Foster collaboration rather than competition among students. Encourage students to master skills at their own rate, for their own benefit, rather than competing with classmates.
  6. Recognize developmental differences. Student engagement in school tends to decline as students get older (Anderman & Midgley, 1998). By middle school, peer influences have an increasing effect on motivation.

Additional Resources

Student Motivation to Learn is a product of the ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) Clearinghouse on Educational Management at the College of Education, University of Oregon http://eric.uoregon.edu/pdf/digests/digest092.pdf

The University of Guelph has compiled a list of online resources on student motivation. http://www.tss.uoguelph.ca/onlineres/student_motivation.htm

Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation: From Time-on-Task to Homework is a publication of the Northwest Regional Education Laboratory. http://www.nwrel.org/request/oct00/textonly.html