Learner Motivation

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This essay will discuss learner motivation in relation to planning for teaching. A brief definition will be outlined along with the importance of motivation in relation to planning, teaching and learning. In order to better understand they why’s and the how’s of learner motivation and its importance, discussion will be given to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, it will then move on to examine why each of these are important for teachers to understand. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory will be analysed and its importance highlighted in terms of stimulating and learner centred activities and strategies. Finally, others factors that may influence learner motivation will be identified.

Literature shows that learner motivation is commonly described as flow, drive (Marsh, 2004; Fallows & Ahmet, 1999), direction (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002), persistence and sustainment (Santrock, 2008; Brown, Armstrong & Thompson, 2002). That is, learner motivation is the learner’s willingness and desire to partake in a learning process (Schunk, 1991; Stipek, 2002). Definitions aside, learner motivation is an effective key strategy for classroom teachers to understand and consider when planning for teaching and learning (Marsh, 2004; Westwood, 2004). Importantly, it helps to create a quality teaching and learning environment for all students (Department of Education and Training, 2004), resulting in conducive teaching and learning (Westwood, 2004). In addition to common descriptions of learner motivation, a somewhat exhaustive range of theories and perspectives exist that attempt to define learner motivation, however, as it is a teachers role to maximise student potential and success, (Brophy, 1998) it is more useful to understand the foundations of motivational behaviour (Marsh, 2004).

Motivational behaviour can be examined by comparing two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Marsh, 2004; Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). Incorporated some way or another into other theoretical frameworks of learner motivation (Santrock, 2008), intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are commonly utilised strategies of classroom teachers to maximise student engagement and achievement (Brown et al. 2002; Barry, 2007). Intrinsic motivation refers to the engagement of an activity with no apparent reward (Schunk, 1991) other than the sheer personal joy or satisfaction of engaging in the activity (Westwood, 2004; Marsh, 2004). In contrast, extrinsic motivation is evident when students are motivated by factors that are not inherent within themselves (Howe, 1999; Ormrod, 2006). That is, extrinsic motivation is enhanced by the prospect of a reward; referred to as a positive rein forcer (Marsh, 2004; Ormrod, 2006). The question now arises as to how a teacher decides which type of motivation is most effective.

Marsh (2004) and Howe (1999) state that intrinsic motivation will only exist in certain learners during particular activities (Marsh, 2004. p.37; Howe, 1999). Therefore, teachers need to incorporate extrinsic motivation as part of everyday planning and teaching to ensure that all students are inspired to engage in activities (Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). However, many teachers are unsure of what constitutes an appropriate reward (Marsh, 2004; Brown, 2000). A number of teachers employ the use of free time or reading time (Marsh, 2004; Raffini, 1996), some adopt the use of trophies or book vouchers (Stipek, 2002), whilst others utilise consumables such as sweets or pizza parties (Brophy, 1998). It is important for teachers to analyse their own beliefs along with the needs of students before applying extrinsic motivation to planning and programming (Santrock, 2008; Marsh, 2004).

Although extrinsic motivation is a beneficial tool for both teachers and students it must not be used alone wherever possible (Marsh, 2004; Ormrod, 2006). With the intention of developing and enhancing enjoyment and success in future and lifelong...
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