Academic motivation

Academic Motivation

The importance of education in humankind has never been an intricate question, since indeed, the future of society lies in it. Its goal is to prepare every single person for life, accumulating the necessary skills for a great performance in a given career, getting ready to face whatever obstacle in life, due to the influences of education. However, if society seeks to develop each person to the fullest, flourishing human potential, then some changes in the present educational system must happen. There should be a change in the system, making students and teachers motivated. Student participation would be emphasized, developing self-responsibility, confidence, and increased self-esteem, preparing each student to leave school better prepared for lifelong and continued learning. The adjustments would be based on the learning process called "Participative Education (Wight 1). In addition, inspiring students to become motivated before presenting the classes' content would be included, through the explanation of how would the subject studied may be helpful, or stories of successful people, especially on the students' majors or fields of study. The adjustments would be essential for students to become motivated and also enhance their level of ambition towards academic and other kinds of goals.

A great part of the students do not have the necessary academic motivation, which causes society to produce much less than it is possible. Also, a major number of students are motivated, but are not aware of the real importance of learning, since they only seek straight rewards from students or professors. Society needs to make its students truly aware of the significance of learning, so that it can develop itself to the fullest, achieving higher goals standards and moving the worlds' knowledge forward.

The motivation and enjoyment of learning can be considered intrinsic motivation, in which Lepper assumes that the student takes an activity "for its own sake, for the enjoyment it provides, the learning it permits, or the feelings of accomplishment it evokes" (qtd Lumdsen). In contrast, extrinsic motivation is the one caused by an outside reward or source. The studies across three fields of study (English, Social Studies, Mathematics) concluded that "an extrinsic goal orientation reflecting a desire to obtain good grades was linked with maladaptive motivational and cognitive outcomes. (Pintrich 89) The change in the educational system would make students to become motivated and willing to learn in and outside of the classroom.

Average classrooms are being filled with students who are there because their parents want to, or because they only understand the importance of having a degree. It eventually makes students to have lower goals and achievements standards, thus becoming helpless and limited. Helpless students start to consider studying as a waste of time, and wonder if the content to be learned matters. "To be motivatedthat is, to be moved to behave or to thinkassumes a supply of energy. Without the power of muscles and the neurons of the brain, motivation is impossible. (Deckers 5)

The main reason for the professors' frustration is that the students often do not have the necessary motivation to learn. Professors start to notice some students' actions that are alarmingly inadequate. Students do not put any effort on school tasks and assignments, just sitting down on class and not being active on class discussions, or even starting to become aggressive towards the teacher when asked to do assignments. The lack of motivation can cause passivity towards school activities and academic goals, thus the student is likely to have an unsuccessful career. In extreme cases, though not unusual, dropouts, violence, drugs and alcohol abuse can be present, especially on the first year of college, when students are on the transition period from high school, and have contact with a different environment, where they can be persuaded for new experiences, decreasing their motivation towards academic ambitions. Studies concluded that "approximately 27% of college freshman will not complete the first year. (qtd Haynes 1)

The students who are truly willing to gain knowledge and interested on learning can be considered exceptions, usually concentrated on high level schools, or spread by other institutions. They have higher achievements standards, and they will gradually improve themselves, until the point they have the necessary skills to share their knowledge with society and rule it somehow. The world changes and improves itself mainly because of these people, who produce more knowledge with the one acquired, and have a better understanding of our surroundings. Bruno Melibeu, a highly motivated student from Ohio Dominican University, states, "It is hard to be motivated most of the times, especially because of all the types of entertainment people have around. However, once you become aware of the importance of learning, it is hard not to study and strive for knowledge.

The traditional methods of teaching fail while preparing students for real life situations, because too much responsibility is retained by the teacher, who determines every goal, decides and present the content to be learned, asks for understanding, and identifies the problems to be solved, which usually have only one straight answer, instead of real life problems with multiple solutions. The approach to be followed and student's performance are also determined by the professor. Since the student almost is not included in these activities, he or she cannot feel much responsibility, thus becoming unmotivated. Students get tired of seeing the teacher in the center of the stage, manipulating, controlling, evaluating, punishing, while they sit passively doing what is demanded. "Our educational system cannot afford to develop citizens who are passive, whose knowledge is settled and closed, whose ways of thinking are rigid, who have no feeling for the process of discovering new knowledge and new answers. (Carl Rogers, 1967)

Professors often complain about little motivation, responsibility, vision, interest in assigned tasks, and creativity in their students, but with the present methods and attitudes they are effecting and perpetuating this condition. The teacher tries to pass his enthusiasm to the students, as well as his love of learning. On the other hand, the rewards consist only in grades, which are achieved from the straight demand from someone other than the student. The student does not have any opportunity for self-expression, causing him or her to become rebel, irresponsible and even dropping out school. If not, the student tries to tolerate the system, or achieve the rewards that are available, through conformity and submission.

The transition to a new educational system, which would make most of the students motivated, can be really difficult, since many problems can be appointed by all of those who experience the current and traditional approach. The instructor can face not only lack of comprehension and acceptance, but resentment and opposition from some students, faculty, administration, and people who are not member of the system. A change of this significance can be extremely threatening to several individuals.

It can be difficult for students and professors to adapt themselves to the new system, because they have formed a manner of conditioned responses in what refers to activities in the classroom and every other one related to education. This behavior is hard to change, because many of the members will resist and try to force it back to the traditional and familiar role, in which a great part of the students and even teachers are not motivated enough to gain and share knowledge. Also, students are much more accustomed and comfortable with the traditional modes, which consist in memorizing from lectures and reading assignments, doing quiz exercises and taking tests appointed by the instructor, with most of the students in the classroom. A reform in the way of learning is necessary, and more effort, investment, and responsibility would be required, for students and teachers to adapt themselves behaviorally and emotionally.

A new approach in the educational system would focus on the student participation. This would consist in active involvement when determining goals, identifying educational needs, solution of problems, and other analysis and evaluations, assuming the responsibility for their own learning, and finding intrinsic motivation to learn more and more, which would be a true willing to learn, not only aiming rewards or privileges from outside sources. Several aspects of the traditional education would have to change. One of the main ones is the role of the professor, which would serve as a facilitator and powerful resource, emphasizing cooperation and teamwork, focusing on group discussions and activities conducted by the students themselves. However, the professor would still focus on individual achievements while working with each student, exploring alternatives to accomplish his needs and goals. "After performing a task, students experience an emotional reaction about the result obtained (happiness about success, sadness about failure, etc.) which constitutes the affective component of motivation. (Ellsworth 15)

Moreover, approaches such as lectures, demonstrations and other traditional ones would not be forgotten, but less used, since the student would have to have considerable guidance before acting on his own. He would receive the necessary information before producing his own ideas, questions and thus knowledge. According to Albert Wight:

The instructor does have information and understanding that should be passed on to the students. Very often, however, the instructor is so pleased with his discoveries and insights that he wants to pass these on to his students, without realizing that he is denying the students the same joy of discovery or achievement by asking them to perform the relatively dull task of learning or memorizing what he has discovered through a long and difficult process. (24)

A usual tactic to improve motivation is to mix the student performance and his participation with rewards, gifts, or privileges. They can work really well when creating intrinsic motivation. However, when it only increases extrinsic motivation it can become a vicious cycle, making the students not to learn, but only to get rid of the task, and focusing only on the rewards. Abe Saunders admits that "[r]ewards can be really helpful, but at the same time it can ruin the students' learning process. Teachers should be able to use it effectively, making students to become motivated towards the subject at the same time they worry about their rewards. Also, "[i]f a teacher hands out rewards randomly, with little consistency, then rewards are likely to have no effect. (Anderman 46)

Usually, in the traditional education method, a student gets his or her degree, seek to find a job which would pay enough money and usually forget about school. This would not happen in the new education approach, because degrees would no longer be a reward for staying a determined time in school, instead, licenses would be required for each profession, making a person to study until completing the requirements for a particular job, and continuing improvement would be encouraged. Also, grades would no longer be totally controlled by the instructor, since the students would scrutinize their own works and evaluate it together with the professor, discussing and analyzing positive and negative points, concluding their own grades wisely, always seeking for improvement. "One analysis of 39 studies concluded that there was no relationship between GPA and adult accomplishments in many settings (Roth). Also, "employers use grades because they have nothing else. Records of performance kept against meaningful objectives would provide much better information for placement, both on the job and in school. (Wight 27)

Since the proposed method gives a lot of freedom for the students, who would be the main element of their own learning, choosing what to study and participating in the grading process, they can become lazy to do so. Students can choose to put little effort in class, and at the same time getting A's in all the subjects. Nevertheless, because of the new requirements of the job system, which instead of focusing on grades, would focus on reported personal accomplishments, the students would become aware of the importance of school and learning, giving him or her reasons to work hard on their own goals and objectives, while having the guidance of the professor.

The use of small groups is another characteristic of this new approach in the educational system, because it allows much more involvement and participation on the part of the individual. With a high student per teacher ratio, the personal contact between the instructor and the student becomes difficult. The teacher remains a stranger to the student. Small groups would support individuality over conformity. Individual expression would be encouraged when participating in a select group, resulting in learning. Therefore, such interaction must be provided by institutions.

In order to get students to have interest on the subject, and enhance their ambition towards their goals and dreams, teachers and every school faculty would present the students material that would make them able to understand the reason the subject they are going to learn is useful, instead of presenting the content of the classes straight forward and only worrying about getting tasks done rather than learning.

Stories of successful people would be presented to students, who would become motivated to follow other people steps, achieving higher grounds on his or her career and life as a constant learner. The school would present biographies and studies on the lives of successful people, especially on the specific majors or fields of study. Bruno Melibeu, a Psychology Major, admits that every time he gets to know stories of successful writers or scholars in the Psychology field, he is encouraged to strive for more knowledge, finding the intrinsic motivation necessary to accomplish his dreams.

In addition, cooperation would be encouraged, rather than competitive environments, in which roughly ten percent of the class is considered a winner. The ASCD Yearbook Committee stated "Not only do we need to know where competition serves as a useful purpose and where it does not, but we need to know its limitations. "There are many half-truths when competition is increased. Little do we realize the high cost we pay in human discouragement as a result of the many losers and few winners in competitive classrooms (qtd Wight 33) If teachers develop classroom environments which are encouraging and supportive students can more easily participate in classroom activities. A great part of the students do not participate in class because they are afraid of making mistakes and other students would make fun of them. "Teachers who work at establishing an environment where students' efforts will not be laughed at or ridiculed can facilitate student participation. (Lee 263)

Taking into account some problems that the new educational system can engender, such as the difficulty to find enough teachers and instructors with the necessary characteristics to flourish and make the system work, a brief training would be provided for all those who attempt to start, teaching the philosophy and methodology of the new method. Therefore, the right manner with the students will develop responsible learners, who would interact with the teacher in an attempt to gain knowledge and thus sharing with their peers, who would also contribute with the process, creating an excellent learning environment, with motivated teachers and students.

Therefore, the main goal of this education process is to engage the student in meaningful and substantial experiences to his future, providing him or her necessary skills to face the several obstacles present in the world, making students motivated to work hard towards their ambitions. Individual growth would be much more focused than in traditional education, since students would not be dependent upon the professor, developing confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem, being prepared for the life course. Little changes in the students' attitude would be required when leaving school and "embarking on the real world. According to Lumsden, "Because the potential payoff--having students who value learning for its own sake--is priceless, it is crucial for parents, teachers, and school leaders to devote themselves fully to engendering, maintaining, and rekindling students' motivation to learn.

In conclusion, a complete change to the new approach is difficult, demanding a lot of energy and effort. However, the results of this method can be extraordinary, making humankind to enhance their knowledge and education, building a better environment for every single person, since the impact of the students on the world would make it a better place to live.

Works Cited

  • Anderman, Eric and Linley. Classroom Motivation. Upper Saddle River: Merrill, 2010.
  • Deckers, Lambert. Motivation : Biological, Psychological, and Environmental. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2010.
  • Desmond, Elsworth. Motivation in Education. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009.
  • Lumsden, Linda S.. "Student Motivation To Learn". ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. Dec 9 2009 <>
  • Haynes, Tara L., et al. "The Effect of Attributional Retraining on Mastery and Performance Motivation Among First-Year College Students." Basic & Applied Social Psychology 30.3 (2008): 198-207. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCOHOST. Web. 30 Nov. 2009 Ohio Dominican U. Lib. Columbus, OH.
  • Melibeu, Bruno. Personal Interview. 12 Nov. 2009.
  • Morganett, Lee "Good teacher-student relationships: A key element in classroom motivation and management." Education 112.2 (1991): 260. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCOHOST. Web. 3 Nov. 2009.Ohio Dominican U. Lib. Columbus, OH.
  • Pintrich, Paul "A Conceptual Framework for Assessing Motivation and Self-Regulated Learning in College Students." Educational Psychology Review 16.4 (2004): 385-407. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCOHOST. Web. 30 Nov 2009 Ohio Dominican U. Lib. Columbus, OH.
  • Roth , Phillip L.. "Meta-Analyzing the Relationship Between Grades and Job Performance". Journal of Applied Psychology. Dec 9 2009 <>
  • Sass, Edmund J. "Motivation in the College Classroom: What Students Tell Us." Teaching of Psychology 16.2 (1989): 86. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. EBSCOHOST. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. Ohio Dominican U. Lib. Columbus, OH.
  • Saunders, Abe. Personal Interview. 12 Nov. 2009.
  • Wight, Albert R. Participative Education and the Inevitable Revolution, Estes Park, Colo. 1969.

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