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Motivation is what makes individuals act and behave in a certain way. It is a combination of intellectual, psychological and physiological processes which decide in what direction one's energy and efforts should be led.
In learning, motivation primarily depends on learner's needs and impulses as these elements foster learner's will to learn, therefore we can see that motivation is a voluntary act.
When students find themselves in a nice environment where they are seen as people who feel, think and wish, then they will lead their energy towards learning.
There are two types of motivation: Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation.
First one refers to self-satisfaction which means having achieved tasks successfully. Second one, extrinsic motivation is that which depends on what other people say or do about learner's conduct or on what learner achieves concretely of his learning (i.e. his marks).
These two types often mix up and they are hard to separate as self-esteem also plays a main role.
Learner aims at successfully concluding his Studies, as well as at being valued and also at being awarded for them. However, when he does not manage to achieve that, he suffers from embarrassment and humiliation, giving way to emotional problems such as desperation and defencelessness.
Defencelessness is when student attributes his school success to external causes, out of his reach as well as to steady internal causes and non-controllable.
Desperation is when student's conduct is orientated towards mainly avoiding school failure. He thinks there is no point in doing anything as he will be failing again. He does not want to participate in class as his ideas will be wrong. Before start of any activities or tasks knows they will be wrong. His self-esteem is very low and he is pessimistic.
The role of teacher is vital as depending on his performance and leader skills, his students' behaviour and his class running will either motivate or demotivate students in their learning.
Motivation should be present not only at the start of learning process but also during it as well as at the end of it.
a) Motivation Management "at the learning process start":
Keep a positive attitude. Teacher should show a positive attitude because students will perceive that as soon as teacher gets into classroom.
Generate a relaxed work environment. This should be kind and respectful. Situations were student is humiliated must be avoided.
Check students' previous knowledge. This will let teacher find a starting point in order to plan and organise activities and to detect what level of complexity these should have. Furthermore, this will allow getting to know students' context and their language.
Prepare contents and activities for each session. Teacher who does not prepare well in advance and starts improvising during the lesson is soon detected by students, thus giving way to demotivation and loose of credibility.
Keep mind opened and flexible to knowledge and changes. There should be considered that knowledge is built and rebuilt day by day, as well as that there are different perspectives to work on them as they are not finished and unchangeable knowledge.
Foster cognitive conflicts in classroom. Set out problems so that students have to get involved and to activate their interest and curiosity. Present new information, surprising or incongruous with their previous knowledge so as to make them investigate and reorganise their mental outlines.
Orientate students' attention towards task. Try make students be more interested and focused on the learning process rather than on their marks or possible awards.
Keep an eye on which messages are given. Do not demotivate students telling them it is something very difficult and that they will not be able to carry it out, etc. On the contrary: encourage them to make their best and also to congratulate them for that.
b) Motivation Management "during the learning process":
Use examples and a familiar language to student. Once teacher gets to know more his student, teacher is able to know his way of talking and thinking. Teacher should benefit from this by making student connect his context, experiences and values in the learning process.
Vary elements in the task in order to keep student's attention. If teacher follows the same procedures and activities in every session, student will get bored and disconnect as it will be monotonous. So, teacher should have different learning strategies and variety of activities so as to motivate student in his learning.
Show students applications of contents. Point out importance of contents in daily life so as to make them see their applicability in their real contexts. When possible, lead them to make them find themselves sense and applicability of contents.
Organize cooperative activities in groups. These could be debates, presentations, research, etc. This kind of group work will allow them to have different points of view or opinions about same material, this way their mates will be helpful for their own knowledge build up.
Give maximum options to student in order to participate as individual as well. Even when he is part of a group, he is autonomous; therefore he deserves to be considered as such, so he should not be treated as a mass. His individuality should be respected letting him think and act by himself.
Orientate them for research and for finding themselves resources or means to go over difficulties. "If you give a fish to someone hungry, he will eat that day. If you teach him to fish, he will eat always".
c) Motivation Management "after the learning process":
Design assessment criteria in a way that it not only gives information about their level of cognitive knowledge but also about reasons of failure, in case of existing. Assessment should allow detecting what has been failure in the process of teaching-learning so that both teacher and student are able to deepen in them and to correct them.
Try to increase their self-confidence. Teacher should give them positive messages so that they keep on working hard (within their own possibilities).
Give them feed back privately. Teacher should not tell their marks in front of everyone; he should give them feedback about their learning process individually.
Avoid to only providing students with marks. Students should be provided with information about their failure, about what they need to amend and to learn.
Educational current context
Our present World shows we are in a very different society and thus in a very different educational situation as compared to previous centuries. There are different lifestyles, intergenerational relationships, typologies of adults' responses, different criteria on functional aspects, values, etc. therefore this a rather wide and complex arena.
All these changes have not taken place because of adolescents as consumers or active agents of our society but because of adults, as they are who produce TV programs, set up fashions, create entertainment for adolescents, etc.
This way, comparisons linking adolescents' behaviour from our current days to those adolescents' behaviour of other ages (centuries) should be avoided as well as generalizations or inappropriate alarmism should also be.
Instead we should look into what needs adolescents might have and their links to social changes.
On the other hand, we could also consider (previous to any analysis) the fact that certain radical changes have occurred in reference to the consideration of childhood and adolescence- particularly in Western societies- with a developed world where some decisions have been taken in relation to: compulsory nature of education, work banning before age of 16, importance of formation, and improvement of life quality.
As a consequence of these decisions, society keeps the period of family and social protection beyond the moment in which individuals due to their biological changes could be considered as adults thus teaching them to acquire bigger autonomy, decision making capability and responsibility assumption.
On the other hand, legal decisions have not always been accompanied by appropriate social and educational actions, therefore these decisions turned to be inefficient in order to achieve planned aims and this resulted in generating dysfunction and multiple reactions from adults world against these young people.
It is because of this reason that adults talk about adolescents as an unmotivated generation who challenge adults and who do not take advance of all those possibilities offered to them "when there are so many young people who do not have those possibilities you have and who would take advantage from them unlike you".
Different Stages of Discipline:
Yet, teachers set up discipline systems that treat all students exactly the same but each student is different. Students work in different levels for each subject, but the same way they function at different levels of discipline.
"It is possible to set up a consistent system for classroom discipline that will be appropriate for students functioning a t all stages and at the same time encourage them to work their way up to higher stages"(Budd Churchward)
Stage 1 (5 to 7 years old)
Students studying at Stage 1 are very uncooperative in their behaviour, or in other words, they are reluctant to follow teacher's directions. They require great attention and often defiant to adults. Students at this stage are very young and they have few rules of their own but they may follow the rules of others if there is no reprisal. They go over this when they are 4 or 5 years old, but some of them will keep on functioning this way. They will challenge authority constantly, but teachers who manage to be assertive are able to keep them in line. If teacher turned his back on them, these kids would get out of control.
Students at this stage are between 7 and 11 years old. They are slightly easier to manage than kids from Stage 1, but these students will be focusing on "what will be my reward?" They can be very self-centred as well. These youngsters will work or not depending on their rewards (time to watch TV, sweets, etc.) and on avoiding punishments (as they do not want to suffer their consequences obviously).
They will not have much self-discipline so teachers will need to supervise them constantly.
Stage 3 (11 to 14 years old)
At these ages students start to develop certain sense of discipline; teacher asks to them and they behave, they start caring about what others think or say about them and they need people to like them.
They understand what teacher asks them to do. They also start developing their interpersonal relationships with other classmates and people. It would be good if teacher could let these students know that it is very important not only behave in their classes but also in other classes with other teachers too. It is a stage where teacher should nurture his students rather than being excessively assertive, as it has been proved to work more effectively.
Stage 4 (from 14 to 16)
This is when students develop their self-discipline, they do not want to be in trouble, and they know well what is right and what is wrong. Teacher can leave them working on their own for a few minutes while he goes somewhere else and back, and they will be working on their task when he returns. They have a strong sense of "what is the right thing to do".
Thus they do not need an assertive teacher whatsoever. They may even get annoyed when teacher has to deal too much class time with discipline problems because of other classmates.
"Cooperative Learning activities encourage students to function at this level. The teacher who sets up several groups within the classroom gives students a chance to practice working at this level while he waits close by, ready to step in when needed."(Budd Churchward)