Student Motivation

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Motivation in Schools
The topic I originally planned to look into for my Action Research Paper was the affect of reward systems on a student's academic performance. My idea was that a student's performance could be influenced by the presence of a reward system. I was interested in seeing if certain subject areas were more likely to use such systems than other subject areas. I strived to see if a student's academic performance could mean more than just their exam scores and ability to complete assignments. I wished to see if a reward system could change the way a student was motivated in the classroom; to see if their overall attitude could be changed. I also thought to look into their attendance in classes where motivation was present. I wanted to see if they were less frequently absent and if they participated more. And lastly, I thought it would be interesting to see if students felt they could in turn change their "destiny" in education, or if they simply believed they are predestined for something else.

As I was looking further into my topic at hand, I decided to go a different way with my paper. I got away from the "reward system" and decided to look into student motivation as my topic, focusing on the teacher-student relationship. In high school, I can remember one teacher that changed the way I saw science and it affected me greatly. Before this teacher, although I was always in advanced science classes, I never achieved high grades. I always struggled to keep up with other students, and when I performed poorly on exams, my previous teachers never thought to why I had done so. She approached science in a way I had never seen before, and she offered recognition and praise. She set up the classroom in such a way that I never felt I was being left behind, and she encouraged us always to work up to our potential, and then some. I was motivated to do well and in a way I had never cared for before.

I chose to look from the student's point of view, instead of talking only to teachers. I thought it would be more useful to see what the students thought, as I am pursuing my graduate education in Secondary Education. My ultimate goal, to be a teacher, could only benefit from the research I was setting out to collect. I wanted to know what circumstances student's felt most comfortable working in. Also, I wanted to see what made them "tick" inside the classroom.

I had the opportunity to use some of the readings I had to complete for my SED 213 class for this paper. In that class, we used two textbooks which I felt fit my topics needs. The chapters on motivation proved useful to my paper, and even gave me ideas to look further into. In the chapter, it discussed a student's need for affiliation and approval. By wanting to be a part of a group, a student might be motivated to perform in a certain way, in order to gain entrance to that group and in turn gain their approval. The idea of achievement motivation was also brought up, in which students need to excel only for their own sake without external rewards.

I found that Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards and many other books on education, feels that achievement motivation is most important to a student truly learning. He feels that authentic experiences in the classroom can only occur when the teacher leaves out all words of praise and punishment. He feels that praise can often be empty in nature, and in turn could actually do more damage to a student than good. Punishments are also damaging, because students could be turned off to learning because they constantly feel threatened by the teacher. He feels that if we want students to take responsibility for their learning, it is up to us to give them responsibilities. They will in turn learn to make good decisions by having the opportunity to decide what happens to them every day, and not by following someone else's directions.

Kohn also feels that traditional grades turns...
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