Saturday, February 13, 2016


Each semester there are students who don’t do well in our classes, no matter how hard we try to reach everyone.  Are these underperforming students, in your view, unable to learn the content or unmotivated to learn it (or some combination of both)? The following three articles address the motivation issue from different perspectives.
The first uses Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory, which says that three basic psychological needs affect motivation: 
  • autonomy, 
  • competence, and 
  • relatedness. 
In it, Kelly gives suggestions for how to encourage autonomy, such as giving students choices over topics, content, or weight of grades for various projects.
In the second, Orlando focuses on the potential hazards of praising a student, arguing that praise can undermine rather than enhance performance and self-esteem because it leads the student recipients to believe that their intelligence is fixed, and thus not something that they can influence through action or effort (Carol Dweck’s concept of fixed vs. growth mindsets with respect to intelligence.) He argues that we need to praise students for their effort (“you have clearly put a lot of time and thought into this project and it shows”) and for their process (“I was impressed with your choice of research articles”)  and that we should focus on giving positive feedback (“here’s what you did well”) not praise (“this is a great paper.”)
The third discusses intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, offering nine strategies to move students from working to earn a passing grade to working because of love of subject, reminding us that students don’t move to higher-level thinking until lower-level needs are met.  In addition to creating a safe and supportive environment in our classrooms so as to meet students’ basic needs, Battista and Ruble remind us of the importance of  building activities into our courses that require students to draw on past experiences, share their learning expectations and goals, and reflect frequently on their performance to date and what they need to do to improve it.  They argue, “It is through the student's sense of accomplishment and vision for the future that intrinsic motivation is born. An approachable instructor can be the inspiration for this change in the student's mindset.”

How important do you see your role as motivator?  What has worked, or not worked, for you in this area?

No comments:

Post a Comment