Motivation is simply the desire to do things…be it to exercise, play, create or learn, motivation is what drives us to do the things we do. Student motivation is a critical ingredient in learning. Students need to want to actively participate and engage in their learning in order for it to occur. Without motivation even the strongest students can fail to learn. It is often easy to put the full responsibility for motivation on the student…after all it lives within them. However, students are not the only ones who have responsibility for motivation within our classrooms. Teachers NEED to accept some of the responsibility as well. Sir Ken Robinson compares teachers to gardeners in a way that is not only eloquent but also thought-provoking. Gardeners add elements such as water, fertilizer, sun or shade to encourage plants to grow. They do not make the plant grow…the plant does that itself. Gardeners creates the conditions that can allow the plant to flourish. Teachers also add ingredients through both content and process that create conditions for students to feel motivated and where learning can flourish. Given the right conditions any learner can and will grow.
Great teachers inspire motivation and learning. They create environments where learners feel empowered, impassioned, and engaged. They know their students, they know their content and they know how to motivate. Up until a few years ago I thought motivation came exclusively from the content of my curriculum. My learners were always motivated when it was time to learn about dinosaurs or study the oceans. They were much less motivated when we were learning about adding or subtracting. I had adopted and shared with my students attitude of “this too shall pass” and “grin and bear it”. But what if I had thought like a gardener? What if I would have said this the “soil” I have so what ingredients can I add to make my plants flourish?
I believe that John Keller’s ARCS Model holds valuable insight into creating an environment that can inspire student motivation to learn. Keller identifies four essential conditions:
A- Attention What will grab students’ attention, arouse their curiosity and peak their interest? This may come from the content but it can also come from the processes we use to teach. Inquiry, problem solving, collaborative learning and choice can be very effective in motivating students to want to engage in learning.
R- Relevance What is the link between the learning and the learners’ needs, interests, and motives? Why would they want or need to learn this? Just like in attention, relevance can come from the content and/or the processes we use. Students may see a direct link between what we are teaching and their lives outside of the school. They might also see relevance in opportunities that allow them to engage with others and socially construct their learning.
C-Confidence What can be put in place to help the learner feel like they can succeed in the task? What can make them feel like they have something to contribute? This is where the teacher really needs to know the students. Know their strengths and capitalize on them. Know their weaknesses and support them. Create an environment where “I think I can” is the motto.
S- Satisfaction How can we celebrate the learning? the learner? the contributions that created success? Sometimes this celebration can simply happen inside of the learner as they acknowledge a job well done. Sometimes we as teacher need to create the conditions where this celebration can happen out loud. Either way we need make time to honor the learning and the accomplishments of the learner.
Growth is possible at anytime if the conditions are right.