"Effective learning in the classroom depends on the teacher's abilityâ€¦to maintain the interest that brought students to the course in the first place" (Ericksen, 1978, p. 3)
From my pedagogical research over the last few weeks, I believe that motivation one of the primary sources that enhances student learning. Kyriacou (1998) states that one of the most important things in teaching is to make sure that the students are encouraged and supported in their learning. There are three major influences on pupil motivation: Intrinsic motivation refers to the extent that students are motivated to learn for self-achievement. Extrinsic motivation is concerned with the ways in which students learn for some purpose outside of the original task. Expectations for success involve the ways in which students feel they are likely to flourish in the task (Kyricaou 1998). Throughout this paper, I will individually discuss the primary factors that influence learning, relationships and communication based on the ways that each of the areas contributes to pupil motivation.
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Cognitive ability is a factor that influences learning. A classroom will consist of a number of students with different abilities. Those students of lower ability tend to struggle and this will have a negative impact on their motivation to learn. Intelligence has been described as the "ability or abilities to acquire and use knowledge for solving problems and adapting to the world" (Woolfolk et al. 2008 p.131). Intelligence is used with the aim of identifying the cognitive ability of a student. While a teacher cannot change the biological traits that we are born with, such as abilities or intelligence, they can try to accommodate them. A teacher must identify the various abilities in the room and create tasks to cater for this.
Piaget and Vygotsky have both produced similar theories on cognitive development. However, there were disagreements in terms of how it progresses. Piaget believed that pupils develop their cognitive ability more effectively through their peers. Vygotsky disagreed with this and suggested that students needed guidance from more experienced personnel, such as teachers (Woolfolk et al 2008). He implied that the activities and teaching styles that a teacher uses in the classroom influence learning. Vygotsky promotes "scaffolding" as a primary tool in cognitive development. He defined it as the "role of teachers and others in supporting the learner's development and providing support structures to get to that next stage or level" (Raymond 2000 p.176). Scaffolding can be done through questioning and visual aids amongst many other methods. By providing students with the support that they need to move on to the next level, it can motivate them to learn as the targets now appear more attainable.
Active learning is a method that has proved to influence learning. Kyricaou (1991 p.42) promotes it as a way of "eliciting and sustaining pupil motivation and interest in the activities". Activities that involve collaborative learning, cooperative learning and problem based learning are all examples of active learning. By contributing to the activity and learning along the way, it can motivate students to further participate. Furthermore, students can be influenced to learn through discovery. Discovery learning has been defined as "the self-attained grasp of a phenomenon through building and testing concepts as a result of the enquiry of the phenomenon" (Zachos et al. 2000 p.942). It allows students to explore and problem-solve which will ultimately create and integrate their knowledge (Bicknell-Homes & Hoffman 2000). In searching for the answer of one thing, a student may discover the answer to another. Self-creation of knowledge can act as a motivator for the student.
The emotions of the students have a profound influence on their learning. Boekaerts (1993) claims that the success rate of the class is much higher when students are happy or excited about the material/activities. Alternatively, students who are not interested in the material are likely to produce defective results. Similarly, over-excitement can cause students to be careless with their work and this can have a negative effect. In a classroom environment, a teacher will be faced a variety of emotions for a number of reasons, for example, the time of day. Morning and evening classes will have different ambiances in terms of emotions and feelings. Therefore, a teacher must be careful in their methods and match the mood to the learning activity (Regan Morrissey 2012).
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Another factor that can influence learning is a pupils' self-esteem. Lloyd & Sullivan (2003) state that low self-esteem has a negative impact on students in terms of attainment and participation. Alternatively, those with high self-esteem are more likely to be motivated to learn and contribute to the activities. Ways in which a teacher can boost a students' self-esteem include constructive feedback and encouragement. Crocker and Wolfe (2001) have stated that the self-esteem of a person can be affected by the outcome of a task. Failure in a particular task may damage a students' self-esteem. However, through encouragement and effective feedback, a teacher can point them in the right direction, motivating them in the process. Hattie (1999 p.9) also promotes feedback as "the most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement".
A very important part of the learning process involves a good student-teacher relationship. Tubbs et al. (2012 p.159) states that "supportiveness, trust and understanding, sharing of information, and several other factors play a part in all relationships". It is argued that by developing a good relationship with their pupils, a teacher can create a positive classroom climate. Students feel more relaxed in such an environment and this adds to their level of motivation. Kyricaou (1991 p.66) states that this particular climate "enables pupils to develop curiosity and interest in the learning activities".
Creating a positive classroom climate essentially comes down to the personality of the teacher. The National Association of School Psychologists (1997) conducted a survey of the best and worst teachers. The best teachers were said to be those with a sense of humour, make the class interesting and explain things clearly (Ibid). These teachers possess the same characteristics as those said to be high in immediacy. A teacher who is interested in their work is more inclined to develop a good relationship with their students and motivate them towards learning. Those teachers show interest in the class are also those who will go to the trouble of learning their students' names which has also proved to be effective in developing the relationship. When conducting a survey with students, Kenny (1994) found that most students preferred when teachers used their names. Again, building this rapport with students enhances their motivation.
Encouragement also plays a part in influencing relationships. Teachers should encourage those "shy" students to participate in the class. Kyricaou (1991, p.38) states that, "pupils need to be involved and helped to contribute to the lesson". Some students may disguise themselves in the classroom to avoid being exposed. Encouragement towards students suggests to them that you have expectations of them, motivating them to learn (Kyricaou 1991).
Kyricaou (1991 p.56) states that "constructive and helpful feedback also needs to be given to pupils to support and encourage further progress". By providing them with constructive feedback, it suggests to students that the teacher is concerned about their level of achievement and expectations for success. Again, this is used to develop a strong relationship in the class, motivating students along the way. However, like most things, too much feedback can be seen to have a negative impact on the students. It is, therefore, up to the teacher to "construct, resource, scaffold and provide appropriate feedback" (Alton-Lee 2003 p.7).
Tubbs et al. (2012 p.7) defines communication as "the sharing of experience" and is an integral aspect of everyday life both inside and outside of the classroom. They argue that your average individual spends 75% of their day communicating in some shape or form. It is important for teachers to highlight the importance of effective communication to their students as it requires cooperation from both sides. Both the sender and receiver must do their part to ensure the message is delivered. Effective communication and understanding in the classroom assists in the development of student-teacher relationships.
There are various ways in which a teacher can communicate with his/her students. Messages can be sent verbally or non-verbally, intentionally or unintentionally (Tubbs & Moss 2008). Teachers send out messages through their words and writing but also through their gestures and facial expressions. Kachur (1977) highlights the need for teachers to become aware of their non-verbal communication by stating that students react to these messages. With regards to communication, Anderson (1979) defines "immediacy" as the extent in which teachers show a sense of interest and attention. This is because they are said to be open and sincere (Anderson 1979). In contrast, those teachers who do not show a great deal of interest are said to have a negative effect on their students. Kyriacou (1997) states that by asking a question or making a statement with a sense of enthusiasm in your tone makes a big difference. Thus, by displaying interest in the classroom, teachers make students feel comfortable and influence them to communicate. Communication is integral in the learning process.
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Questioning has been portrayed as a tool that influences communication in the classroom. Questioning has a number of objectives from encouraging students' thought to gaining the attention of students (Brown and Edmondson 1984). Effective questioning can also highlight to teachers, the area in which some students are struggling. Kyricaou (1986 p.50) promotes questioning as an effective tool by "correcting misunderstanding and because of its reinforcement and motivational value". Questioning is also required from the students, however, it is not as frequent. Students are more inclined to ask questions in a classroom that they feel "safe". Again, this highlights the need for teachers to be high in "immediacy". Questioning, however, requires a combination of both lower-order and higher order questions to cater for the different abilities in the room. Directing lower-order questions at weaker students encourages them to answer and boosting their self-esteem. In addition, a higher order question encourages stronger students to analyse and evaluate (Kyricaou 1991). This has a positive impact on pupil motivation.
Feedback also plays a role in the communication process. In order to communicate effectively, there should be feedback from both sides to ensure that messages were not misunderstood. Communication is a two-way process where both "communicator and recipient take turns to express and interpret messages" (Tubbs et al. 2012 p.10). Feedback from the teachers is needed for those questions answered incorrectly. Feedback is also required from the students about the methods of communication being used.
As we can see, there is a close connection between learning, relationships and communication. Effective learning stems from the relationship between a teacher and their students. Furthermore, this relationship is built on the extent of communication in the classroom. All three areas play a vital role in motivating students which is required for academic attainment. There are many things that a teacher can do to promote this such as being open, friendly and providing constructive feedback. A classroom that consists of teachers that are high in immediacy and who are motivated creates a positive atmosphere and enhances student learning.