Turning Students Into Self Motivated Learners Education Essay

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I teach in a post-secondary school. When people hear these words, they immediately thing that I teach bright, educated, good level of education students and that these students are already motivated to continue to progress in their career. In my case, this is the opposite. At our institute for most of the courses students do not need entry requirements. It is also the policy of MCAST to accept all students no matter what their level is to be inducted into the learning system. These are students that have spent at least thirteen years in primary and secondary schools without progressing further. After the age of sixteen they taught that they can start work to earn money. So they went to subscribe for a job with various job centres found in Malta. After waiting to find a job they found out that they need qualifications to work nowadays. So, in a way they were forced to find a school that accept their low level of education, and from there, try to obtain some qualifications. All these students are already demotivated as they have not succeeded in achieving any accreditations and that the only thing that interests them is money. In fact some of these students just come to school for stipends and grants. This is one of the barriers the lecturer is faced with at the beginning of the course. The teacher has to find ways and means how to motivate his students before actually starting to work.

According to Alderman, teachers have two roles for supporting and cultivating motivation in the classroom. These are;

"establishing the classroom structure and instruction that provides the environment for optimal motivation in the classroom"

and

"helping students develop the tools that will enable them to be self-regulated learners."

(Alderman, 2004, p. xv)

These two roles can support motivation in many ways. First, if a student finds a warm welcome when he enters the class for the first time, he will immediately adapt to the new changes. Classroom structure makes a difference if it is well decorated with related charts and the seating structure to fit the requirements of the lesson plan. The use of different teaching styles and tools such as intelligent white boards, computers, graphics etc., can motivate students in starting to realise that things are not so difficult to accomplish if one actually sees things being solved rather than only listening and try to believe what the lecturer is saying. The introduction and use of new equipment fills students with curiosity to heighten their motivation.

One of the advantages at MCAST is that students study vocational units. As a mathematics teacher, I find it difficult to teach something if I don't illustrate my point with something contextualised to their particular trade. As a teacher, I have the responsibility to take interest in what their goals are in order to adapt my teaching. Only in this way, I can aim to develop the tools that can support the students on work.

"Showing a genuine interest in young people and their learning is the most important thing we can do. This involves talking with them about what they are learning and how; what interests them and what they are finding difficult. It is also important to discuss why they are learning, what their goals are and what they need to do to achieve them."

(Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007)

There exist two key elements of motivation. These are intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation reflects on teaching things that interest the student, techniques that he is using them in everyday life without knowing, tools that he is using throughout the course or on work. To teach such skills the lecturer must involve curiosity, interest in the subject to elicit pupils to pose questions. A project can increase motivation if the topic is left open for debates. Moreover, if the lecturer provides regular feedback while teaching, he will help the student to increase his efforts to accomplish tasks.

"The first rule of learning is that people learn what they need to learn, not what someone else thinks they need to learn. Peter Senge"

(Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007)

This concept is reinforced with the following quote.

"A person is motivated by past experiences where he or she was rewarded by certain behaviour"

(Skinner, 1985, p. 292)

According to Skinner, experiments done on animals and people showed that to obtain food one has to learn that food only comes if you work for it. In the case of animals, food is gained only if the animal learns that he has to push a button in order to eat. This can be seen also on babies. Babies tend to cry to show to their mother that they need attention. If the baby is not satisfied with the treatment he will continue to cry, because he has learned that with a cry he can obtain everything. In order to implement motivation in our classroom we need to find ways how to reward students for their presented work.

"Psychologists are increasingly inclined to the view that we are all born with intrinsic motivation to learn."

(Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007)

Extrinsic motivation is based on unconditional positive praise and constructive educative feedback. In order to apply these, the teacher must be well prepared to use positive language. During my lessons I tend to praise many students positively to motivate them to do better. I tend to use negative feedback during the class as a joke whenever possible, so that the message arrives to those in need and at the same time students laugh, such as; "Come on students, I don't know why you hate so much algebra. It is really easy, if you imagine the unknown number to be a cow".

"Well judged, consistent, frequent and targeted use of praise that identifies the individual or group's specific behaviour or attributes and celebrates them with positive unconditional language is very powerful"

( Highland Council Education, Culture and Sport Service, 2009)

This means that it is very important to train yourself to use praising correctly with the students. One has to take in account certain issues while praising, such as frequent use of praising. One has to administer how many positive or negative feedback gives, because exaggerating will diminish the importance of praising. According to B.F. Skinner, the rewards are much more effective when they do not occur regularly. Specific praising is very effective while general praise is not. It is better to say "Peter, well done, all your homework was correct", rather than saying, "Good work class, but there are few of you that still need to grasp this knowledge".

"Verbal persuasion is most effective when people already have some degree of evidence that they are capable."

(Alderman, 2004, p. 73)

If a student is trying to answer a question, but has some problems to solve it, first praise him for the correct part and then help him to finish out the last part. It is important to show the student that he has the right tools to answer the problem. Finally, do not praise the same persons, because this will lead to speculations such as favouritism and preference.

Teachers' expectations can influence students' motivation if the activities are worthwhile and of interest. In order to motivate them one has to challenge them with problems that can be solved throughout ability and previous learning. If, on the other hand, the question given is offering a good challenge but, they lack in solving it, the lecturer can use the opportunity to give small hints that can lead the student to the correct answer, without actually explaining the answer. In order to get confident with a particular subject one must practice the same theory from different perceptions. One of the laws indicated by E. Thorndike states that;

"connections become strengthened with practice and weakened when practice is discontinued "

(Thorndike)

This means that one has to orient the lesson to induce practice and if it is possible, one has to try to connect previous lessons, in order to strengthen knowledge. Thorndike also emphasise the importance of trial and error. While teaching, I always emphasise the importance of past lessons, because each lesson can direct you into another lesson and on the other way, if a student missed that previous lesson, he can still gain confidence with the current lesson if reference of past lesson is always mentioned throughout the current lesson. Feedback is an important asset if used properly especially while helping students answering a particular question.

"Success is the magic ingredient for motivation but it cannot be supplied by the teacher. Teachers can only build strengths that allow students to create their own successes.' Robert Martin"

(Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2007)

Encouraging students to compete with each other can lead to a higher success, but as stated by Robert Martin, teachers can only build the strengths needed to compete with others and finally succeeding in what they are doing. On the other way, one has to pay attention not to demotivate slow learner students, with this attitude.

Finally, motivation can grow if lecturers collaborate with each other to design the appropriate course adapted for the current student. The lecturers have to ensure that such course is not stressful and at the same time, the course offers wide opportunities to progress. The lecturers are responsible to orient the students in the right path. On the other hand, the lecturer has to show motivation in order to implement motivation.

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