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All teachers want students to put their best foot forward. Teachers want students be motivated and see the importance of their class. Motivation "refers to a student's willingness, need, desire and compulsion to participate in, and be successful in, the learning process" (Bomia, 1997, p. 1). Getting students to participate in classroom discussions is a vital part in students learning the information and seeing the importance of participating in these class discussions. As a result of students being human, there is more than just one way to motivate them, including intrinsic and extrinsic (Bornia, 1997). Participation in classroom discussions can be improved by using both of these types of motivators including: positive teacher attitudes, classroom atmosphere, offering rewards, and creating lesson plans that reach more students learning styles.
Motivating students to participate in class has a lot to do with the way the lesson plans are designed. Students are more willing to participate with they are interested in not only what is being taught but how it is being presented as well. Teachers need to create lesson plans that interest the students. This is done by using differentiated and cooperative learning in the classroom (Davis, 1993). "Differentiated instruction should be a major focus because it allows for teachers to give more positive feedback so students see what they do well. This in turn will build better student-teacher relationships" (Flaherty, 2010, p. 28). These lesson plans need to have many different types of learning styles incorporated into them in order to maximize the audience's attention and participation. Creating activities that students are able to choose from can also be a great intrinsic motivator (Brewster, 2002).
Sue Flaherty and Rhonda Hackler (2010) conducted research on middle school aged students in order to figure out what type of intrinsic motivators worked best in the classroom. They created a very strict 6 month timeline for incorporating cooperative and differentiated learning into the classroom. The research included them monitoring student's classroom participation and behavior as well as their grades to see if they had increased their intrinsic motivation in a particular class. Throughout the report their objectives and procedures were very clear and well thought out. Flaherty and Hackler's research was supported by multiple items. The research was first gathered from a variety of qualitative and quantitative ways including: student and parent surveys, homework completion data, teacher observation of students in groups, and entire class and individual activities. They also monitored the students before and compared results after with a series of well designed charts. In the end these charts and other information showed that classroom participation aw well as homework completion increased significantly. It also concluded that using cooperative and differentiated learning helped get parents involved and it also decreased the amount of students that were distracted or off task.
Garcia and Pintrich (1995) also conducted research on college adult learners in order to evaluate the level of student motivation based on different learning styles in a given class. They took many years to develop a self-report type of questionnaire. They titled it Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire. It was given to college aged students in a class and it took about 20-30 minutes to complete. This questionnaire was given to 280 different college classes. Within these classes 14 different courses were covered. From their results they concluded good learning strategies that can be used in the classroom. These strategies consisted of rehearsal, elaboration, organization, critical thinking, metacognitive self-regulation, time and study management, effort regulation, peer learning, and help- seeking. Six general students' motivators were also defined from this study which included intrinsic goal orientation, control of learning beliefs, extrinsic goal orientation, task value, test anxiety, and self efficiency for learning and performance. Based on the questionnaire, Garcia and Pintrich gave students and their instructors examples and definitions of the different types of motivations and how they can help the students in their studies. This feedback was deemed helpful by the students.
"Many students are viewed as naturally enthusiastic about learning, but some need or even expect their instructors to inspire, challenge, and stimulate them" (Flaherty, 2010, p. 24). Rewards can be another useful tool in doing all three of these things listed above if done correctly. The use of extrinsic rewards such as candy or bonus points can motivate students. However these types of rewards are only effective if they are used in moderation. They also must be directly related to the assignment/activity the teacher wants the student to accomplish. The teacher should use rewards truly as rewards. Students should not be rewarded for an effortless job or even completing an activity with minimum effort (Brewster, 2002). Extrinsic rewards can lead to intrinsic rewards, which tend to last longer (Amerine, 2009). Extrinsic rewards makes students feel good about themselves and therefore it motivate that student to continue to be self-motivated in many different areas (Jalongo, 2007).
Amerine, Pender, and Schuler (2009) completed an action research in order for student to increase motivation to complete and turn in homework. This would allow to better participation in class. They took 10 months to collect data from 75 students and 100 parents. Research was done on the backgrounds of the students, student's families, communities, and overall school statistics. A pre and post-survey was given to the students as well as their parents. Teacher's journals and observations were also used when compiling the data. Some techniques that were decided to be used were extrinsic rewards, using last 15 minutes of class to start homework, and assignment checks. From these techniques they found that extrinsic motivators yielded the most improvement. They chose to use tickets as a reward. Students would get a ticket every time they completed their homework. They then could enter this in a drawing to win a prize at the end of each week. All three techniques seemed to help a little, but there was overwhelming improvement with the rewards.
It is also the teacher's responsibility to create a safe learning environment. An atmosphere where students can feel comfortable yet motivated to share their opinions and answer questions from the lessons. Providing student's motivation in the classroom is important to their achievement and helps them become well-rounded students. When students have a feeling of self-worth they are more likely to get involved in the discussion. Teacher's can enhance they way students feel by providing positive feed back when the student does answer a question in the class (Flaherty, 2010). "Honest, fair, and positive statements from a teacher serve as powerful motivators to raise intrinsic motivation, so teachers need to be consciously aware of not only verbal comments, but also their own body language" (Adams, 2000). Part of creating an honest and fair learning environment includes giving the students clear instructions of what is expected of them. In class discussions, students should be given clear examples of what is considered a quality answer. They should be given examples of poor, good, and excellent examples (Brewster, 2002). Teachers should also let them know it is okay to be wrong. They will not be judged. As long as they are trying to meaningfully contribute to the class discussion.
Gary Anderson (1970) examined the effects of the classroom atmosphere on students. In this study divided 800 students from 113 different classes into four different groups based on four learning criteria. The four groups were divided into same sex groups for 8 groups total. Three social climate properties were research. These included intimacy, friction, and cliqueness. Students were given an initial climate score based on an inventory survey. They also linked a students IQ with these factors. Their results showed that females with high IQ respond well to intimacy where as females with low IQ don't respond as well. When friction was used in the classroom as competition is received as positive and increased classroom participation. On the other hand, high levels of friction discouraged classroom competitions greatly with both sexes. Cliques were deemed negative for the males but somewhat positive for female learning and participation in the classroom.
Teachers need to combine methods in order for students to participate more in class. They must also understand that many other things such as homework are also linked to class participation. Teachers as researchers "must try to understand, control, and harness their full potential" (Anderson, 1970, p. 138). Student's often times need that extra push of motivation in order to reach that full potential.