Teach English in Xinchang Zhen - Huaihua Shi

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WHAT IS STUDENT MOTIVATION? Student motivation is a student's desire to participate in the learning process. It is the meaningfulness, value, and benefits that an academic mission has to the learner. It is also defined as a student's drive from within which guides, activates, and continues a behaviour over time. It is simply a student's willingness, need, desire, and compulsion to participate in, and be successful in the learning process. There are two types of motivation. They are intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Due to repeated failures, many learning disabled (LD) students lack intrinsic motivation, which is a student's desire to learn for the sake of learning. Intrinsic motivation is important for the student so that they may gain personal joy in learning new concepts. Since most learning disabled students lack intrinsic motivation, parents, teachers, and schools must provide extrinsic motivation in order for learning disabled students to be successful in school. Extrinsic motivation is an almost tangible, if not, in fact, a truly tangible object that a student works toward. Extrinsic motivation is important for the student to gain parent and/or teacher approval, good grades, and rewards. WHAT FACTORS INFLUENCE THE DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS' MOTIVATION? Children's home environment shapes the initial constellation of attitudes they develop toward learning. When parents nurture their children's natural curiosity about the world by welcoming their questions, encouraging exploration, and familiarizing them with resources that can enlarge their world, they are giving their children the message that learning is worthwhile and frequently fun and satisfying. When children are raised in a home that nurtures a sense of self-worth, competence, autonomy, and self-efficacy, they will be more apt to accept the risks inherent in learning. Conversely, when children do not view themselves as basically competent and able, their freedom to engage in academically challenging pursuits and capacity to tolerate and cope with failure are greatly diminished. The beliefs teachers themselves have about teaching and learning and the nature of the expectations they hold for students also exert a powerful influence School wide goals, policies, and procedures also interact with classroom climate and practices to affirm or alter students' increasingly complex learning-related attitudes and beliefs. And developmental changes comprise one more strand of the motivational network. For example, although young children tend to maintain high expectations for success even in the face of repeated failure, older students do not. And although younger children tend to see effort as uniformly positive, older children view it as a "double-edged sword" (Ames). To them, failure following high effort appears to carry more negative implications--especially for their self-concept of ability--than failure that results from minimal or no effort. HOW CAN MOTIVATION TO LEARN BE ADOPTED IN THE SCHOOL SETTING? Classroom climate is important. If students experience the classroom as a caring, supportive place where there is a sense of belonging and everyone is valued and respected, they will tend to participate more fully in the process of learning. Various task dimensions can also foster motivation to learn. Ideally, tasks should be challenging but achievable. Relevance also promotes motivation, as does "contextualizing" learning that is, helping students to see how skills can be applied in the real world (Lepper). Tasks that involve "a moderate amount of discrepancy or incongruity" are beneficial because they stimulate students' curiosity, an intrinsic motivator (Lepper). In addition, defining tasks in terms of specific, short-term goals can assist students to associate effort with success (Stipek). Verbally noting the purposes of specific tasks when introducing them to students is also beneficial (Brophy 1986). Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, should be used with caution, for they have the potential for decreasing existing intrinsic motivation. What takes place in the classroom is critical, but "the classroom is not an island" (Martin Maehr and Carol Midgley 1991). Depending on their degree of congruence with classroom goals and practices, school wide goals either dilute or enhance classroom efforts. To support motivation to learn, school-level policies and practices should stress "learning, task mastery, and effort" (Maehr and Midgley) rather than relative performance and competition. WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP UNMOTIVATED STUDENTS? A first step is for educators to recognize that even when students use strategies that are ultimately self-defeating (such as withholding effort, cheating, procrastination, and so forth), their goal is actually to protect their sense of self-worth (Raffini). A process called ATTRIBUTION RETRAINING, which involves modelling, socialization, and practice exercises, is sometimes used with discouraged students. The goals of attribution retraining are to help students to (1) concentrate on the tasks rather than becoming distracted by fear of failure; (2) respond to frustration by retracing their steps to find mistakes or figuring out alternative ways of approaching a problem instead of giving up; and (3) attribute their failures to insufficient effort, lack of information, or reliance on ineffective strategies rather than to lack of ability (Brophy 1986). Other potentially useful strategies include the following: portray effort as investment rather than risk, portray skill development as incremental and domain-specific, focus on mastery (Brophy 1986). 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. RESOUCES Raffini, James. WINNERS WITHOUT LOSERS: STRUCTURES AND STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING STUDENT MOTIVATION TO LEARN. Stipek, Deborah. MOTIVATION TO LEARN: FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988. 178 pages. Ames, Carole A. "Motivation: What Teachers Need to Know." TEACHERS COLLEGE RECORD 91, 3 (Spring 1990): 409-21. Brophy, Jere. ON MOTIVATING STUDENTS. Occasional Paper No. 101. East Lansing, Michigan: Institute for Research on Teaching, Michigan State University, October 1986. 73 pages. ED 276 724. Maehr, Martin L., and Carol Midgley. "Enhancing Student Motivation: A Schoolwide Approach." EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST 26, 3 & 4 (1991): 399-427.