Trying to teach a lesson or subject to a student who is unmotivated by the content is likely every teacher and parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, there are many things we are unmotivated by, but which need still to be completed. For example, I am generally unmotivated to do the dishes or vacuum the mass amount of husky fur off our carpet. If I don’t wash the dishes or vacuum however, all kinds of hygienic problems will surely ensue. In this case the aversion to impending mold filled plates and fur tumbleweeds motivate me to do the chores.
Young students however have less motivation to do an uninteresting task because they often to not see the point for various reasons. There is a lot of research on brain development which I could write an entire paper on, so I’ll just tell you to look up brain development and motivation if you’re interested. Simply put, motivation has everything to do with learning. No motivation=less learning potential. That’s why relevance is so important. You can’t force a learner to be magically interested in a subject they don’t like or feel they are bad at, but you can try to work in something of interest to them.
So what makes a student motivated to learn? Remember last week’s post on “Imposter Syndrome”? In that post I explained that I thought I didn’t have anything to say so I wasn’t motivated to write. This illustrates that perceived success is either very motivating or very demotivating. Both external and internal reinforcement are big motivators, connection to past learning, rewards (to a certain extent), goal achievement, and energy levels are other important factors. Don’t get me started on social learning theory, but social influences make a difference too. Look it up, alright?
If you’re interested in this topic and want to learn more about motivation and learning I suggest reading this excerpt from “Educational Psychology Developing Learners” at education.com. Look up social learning theory, and brain development while you’re at it…if you’re motivated to do so.
The joy of learning. Together.