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Motivation As A Key Factor In Learning

"Drive is a key element in successful learning. A less able student who is highly motivated can perform higher success than the more intelligent student who is not well determined" (Reece I and Walker S, Teaching, training and learning - a useful guide, web page 78, Fifth edition(2003), Publisher: Business Education Publishers Ltd. ) All teachers know that no two students are as well! In a school room you have students with different expertise, learning styles and goals. This variability is also mirrored in their class room behavior where each learner responds diversely to the given activity. The primary factor behind these reactions is 'Inspiration'.

So what is 'determination'? In terms of education "it refers to someone's aroused desire for involvement in a learning process" (Curzon, L. B. Teaching in Further Education- An outline of key points and practice, Webpage 224, Sixth release, (2006), Publisher: Continuum) Within a classroom, we educators face a range of stimulated students, some highly encouraged while some have no motivation whatsoever. Our job is to develop and maximise their drive. For this we need to understand the "motivation cycle". (Reece I and Walker S, Teaching, training and learning - a practical guide, web page 78, Fifth edition(2003), Publisher: Business Education Publishers Ltd. ) This cycle is dependant on four factors : Interest - Need - Attitude - Dreams. Students are enthusiastic about the subject these are learning plus they feel need to achieve the qualification. Their attitude is good because they're learning the topic they enjoy and therefore they would like to achieve more, may be another goal/ qualification. This is the level where you have students who are 'Intrinsically Motivated' and are prepared to learn. "Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that comes from within themselves. Those who find themselves intrinsically motivated are more likely to engage actively using their learning, also to become lifelong learners. "(Wallace, S. Controlling Behaviour in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Web page 30, Second edition, (2007), Publisher: Learning Matters)

When we speak of motivating our students, we could talking about this 'intrinsic drive' where they have the urge or should try to learn. To make this possible we have to build the self confidence and sense of achievements of our learners by motivating and encouraging them in the school. Corresponding to Maslow (1962) "this will increase their self-esteem and they'll start learning more effectively. This will likely eventually lead to self-actualisation and they'll engage in learning. "(Maslow, (1962), cited by Curzon, L. B. Coaching in Further Education- An overview of ideas and practice, Web page 114, Sixth model, (2006), Publisher: Continuum). So professors should encourage and support the learners to attain their goals. The learners will be encouraged by their first success and will make an effort to achieve further. This is the stage where they'll be 'intrinsically determined'. The success provides in more success and as we realize "Learning feeds on success" (Saunders and Walstad, (1990), cited by Curzon, L. B. Coaching in Further Education- An outline of guidelines and practice, Site 230, Sixth release, (2006), Publisher: Continuum)

'Motivation' is the biggest issue in a class room, when the topic you are teaching is Maths. The problem was more prominent in my own Hairdressing Level 1 school than other classes I trained. There were 14 students in this class - all woman between the get older of 16 - 19. To effectively complete the course they had to attain Level 1 qualification in basic skills such as Numeracy and Literacy. That they had no GCSE qualification in these subject matter. In their First Diagnosis for maths almost all of the learners arrived at Entry level 3 (11 learners) with Entry level 2 (1 learner) and Basic level 1 (2 learners). All the learners acquired achieved at least one certification in FE sector before they were enrolled because of this course.

Most of these learners disliked Maths from their school days. They were there in the classroom because 'Numeracy' as a basic skill was a compulsory subject and they were required to endure it! Therefore there was no purpose to learn. Only few students, who have been keen to attain the numeracy qualification, worked well in the class. The low determination, in case there is some students, was channelled in behaviour problems. They were noisy, disruptive, confrontational, lacked awareness and got no interest in learning. One learner actually said to me " I've received more important things in my life to package than this stupid Maths!" Others would just sit down in the school and had taken no real involvement in the work they were doing. So even if indeed they did the task, I had not been sure if they had learned it or not. By the end of first month I realised that no effective learning was occurring and the few encouraged students had started out losing their fascination with learning.

So why 'inspiration', the traveling factor behind all the learning, was lower in this class? The reason for this is bit complicated. Most of the learners who come to FE have low levels of GCSE qualification. In some cases they come to FE colleges without any GCSE qualification. These students are typical examples of "Vicious group of inability" (Geoff Petty, Teaching Today, Page 48, Fourth Model, (2009)Publisher : Nelson Thornes Ltd) First they experience inability. Then because there is Criticism or no encouragement, their Personal- notion/ confidence goes down. As a result their desire fails and their work gets influenced. This again causes failure plus they get stuck in the group. So many students, when they enrol in FE universities, have no self-assurance in themselves. They don't really think that they might have the ability to achieve any goal in their life. They favor not to work than to handle the failing again. Often this 'lack of drive' is real cause of other problems in class room such as disruptive behaviour, lack of focus, inability to complete given work etc. This demotivates other students who wish to learn and makes their improvement difficult. Thus no effective learning can occur in such classroom. A lot of the students in course were stuck in this 'vicious circle'.

So the challenge I confronted was motivating these students to learn Maths. The enforcement of 'carrot and stick' rule could have had a restricted effect. In fact that's that which was going on for first few weeks in the class. "Extrinsic determination, - getting learners to learn by using risks of punishment or offers of incentive - might achieve a brief term behavioural change, but leave untouched the learner's basic attitude towards learning. " (Wallace, S. Handling Behaviour in the Lifelong Learning Sector, Webpage 30, Second model, (2007), Publisher: Learning Matters) What I needed was 'the aspire to learn' (the intrinsic motivation) should result from the learners themselves. For this to happen I had a need to know my learners and understand their problems and obstacles to learning.

During the discussions, I realised that the main problem was their learning experience in university was not very positive - in simple fact the majority of them hated school. Content like Maths where they had to learn same basic things every year made them feel ridiculous, in particular when others in school were way before them. Many thought their instructors were unapproachable and overlooked them or what these were doing in class. They didn't treat them with admiration and there was no encouragement. Each one of these factors experienced made them resistant to learning.

In subject matter like Maths you have the right answer or wrong - there is no middle method for it. Many students hated getting incorrect answer after working so difficult and would weary. On the top of that, that they had to do the work again to get right answer! If you spend quarter-hour on long section and then got the incorrect answer how much enthusiasm will there be to try again? Many experienced no clear knowledge of basic functions in maths such as multiplication, department etc. This low 'Scholar entry behavior' level was another reason learners hated Maths.

In many cases the learners were also worried that their incapability or ignorance of Maths would be revealed and they will be laughed at. So they took refuge in confrontational behavior'. Their whole body language would scream 'don't come near me'! They would be on a regular basis competitive in the category. Usually these were very reluctant to do their work and needed no curiosity about their learning. Fear of exam was another hurdle. As we discussed previously these learners were captured in the 'group of inability'. So their thinking was why should they trouble learning it when they were going to fail anyways.

Another strong factor was why they need to study Maths when they have enrolled for Hairdressing course? They thought it was completely irrelevant with their NVQ subject and observed no utilization in learning it. "Where in fact the content of instruction is looked upon by students as irrelevant, that is, outside their self-constructed restrictions marking away and separating the useful from the non-useful, you will see little motivation to participate in the procedure of instructions" (Curzon, L. B. Coaching in Further Education- An outline of rules and practice, Web page 228, Sixth edition, (2006), Publisher: Continuum).

All these learners experienced a totally different picture of college or university in their mind. Discovering that that they had to learn Maths again was a great disappointment. Now these were learning same things, same way - the only real difference was they were in university and the teacher was new! They were sick and tired of this repetition. As we realize repetition creates boredom, which, destroys inspiration.

There are various ways of increase determination in students. Pursuing two are most effective for me. The first is 'presenting them goals or focuses on that happen to be 'SMART' i. e. systematic, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound'. It is very important for the self-confidence of this students that they achieve their goals. Their sense of success is the only path of breaking the 'vicious circle of inability' and getting them began on the path of success. The pattern of 'success - reinforcement - self-belief - determination' is called the learning engine. "This is the engine that drives all the learning. Even though other motivators will work flat out, failure to understand this engine going will mean that the learner is going nowhere. "(Geoff Petty, Coaching Today, Webpage 48, Fourth Edition, (2009)Publisher : Nelson Thornes Ltd).

The strategy of preparing several short-term goals to attain a long-term purpose is much far better. But educator should properly clarify to their learners relation between your two. Together with the achievement of each goal the learners will feel well informed about their capability. This will increase their self-esteem, which in turn, will make them try harder and can bring more success. So they'll be 'intrinsically encouraged' making them involved with their work and taking responsibility for his or her own learning. Thus what you have is a unbiased and effective learner!

While setting up the goals, there should be an excellent balance between difficulty and attainability. "Goals that are too hard or too easy to achieve are neither motivating nor reinforcing when attained" (Bower and Hilgard (1981), cited by Curzon L. B, Teaching in Further Education, site 230, Sixth Edition, 2006, Publisher : Continuum). To start with, the goals should be brief and easy, accompanied by others with increasing degree of difficulty. The achievements of goals or goals will not only ensure the learner's success at the required level but will also help them to go to an increased level of learning.

There is an element of 'extrinsic determination' here - compliment. When the goal is achieved, the teacher should give tons of compliment and identification in feedback. This is called 'positive support'. (Skinner, (1938), http://psychology. about. com )This compensation (praise) from the educator will make them continue doing this behaviour and they'll try again and again to attain more goals.

As teachers, we have to keep in brain that sometimes there's a chance that learners will obtain some problem because of failing. This might make them feel demotivated. So we have to make them see it as a non permanent period and assist them to overcome difficulties. Teachers have to be extra careful in such situation because of the vulnerability of these learners.

Second strategy is 'to use a wide range of learning resources and activities that will link various Maths issues to the vocational subject area and establish the relevance of Maths with the subject matter'. As we reviewed before 'irrelevance' was a major factor in charge of 'lack of drive. '

First, it is vital that the learners should comprehend why they may be learning maths. "There has to be a full explanation to students of the significance of the 'unacceptable' subject matter area in terms of content, its hyperlink with the topic as a whole, and its own contribution to understanding of that subject" (Curzon L. B, Teaching in Further Education, webpage 229, Sixth Edition, 2006, Publisher : Continuum).

The second step in this strategy will be to identify the areas in the vocational subject where they will be using maths. Chatting with their subject tutors gives an idea about various activities regarding maths. A debate in the school can help the students to connect maths with the vocational subject. Every subject matter in maths should be associated with vocational things and later students should be encouraged to establish these links themselves.

Even though there is certainly a wide range of resources available, my personal experience is, you have to modify those to the vocational subject area of the students. In some cases, you might have to generate new resources such as worksheets, brands etc. based on the useful activity the students do. For e. g. if you plan a 'stock taking activity' for the lessons, you need to generate different product labels of stocks and options and prices to provide to your students. This will help them link maths within the region of vocational subject.

The next step is to plan the activities which will set up the relevance of maths to the topic area more strongly. Activities are essential area of the lessons. They break the monotonousness of the time and bring lively contribution from the learners. They make learners apply their learning, helping to reinforce it.

Every vocational subject matter includes 'sensible and training' consultations where students get some good hands-on experience. The strategy is to find the activities from this area. For e. g. Mixing of hair shades and bleach to teach 'Proportion' or managing the reception to instruct 'Money' or 'Time'. We all know that 'one activity can be more effective than thousand words. ' Where students may not listen to the explanation, the actions will establish the relevance of maths more clearly and effectively in their head. Once learners percept the relevance, they will start taking curiosity about their learning. This will subsequently start the 'drive routine', leading them on the path of success.

Care should be studied while planning the actions. They should appeal to all learning styles and boost the interest of the students. They must be appropriate to the goals and abilities of the students.

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