Don't you think it's time you got started?
Have you been telling your son to close the books and get some sleep? Have you had to suggest that enough has been done for the day, and that an hour in the glorious afternoon sun would be good for body and mind? Or have you been nagging and interrogating? ‘Surely you can’t have completed your work for the day?’ Or, ‘Don’t you think it’s time you got started with your work for the lesson?’
Undoubtedly, Wi-Fi frustrations and anxiety might contribute to distraction and a lack of motivation for learning tasks. But what are the other things that determine our levels of motivation, towards learning tasks in particular?
In her book, Cleverlands, teacher and international education consultant, Lucy Crehan, delves into the topic of motivation. Quoting from journals and research, Crehan writes, ‘…three things … have been found to support intrinsic motivation: autonomy, mastery and relatedness. Intrinsic motivation is the motivation to do an activity because you find it inherently enjoyable or interesting and has been associated with all sorts of positive things such as creativity, problem solving, cognitive flexibility and persistence. The ‘opposite’ of intrinsic motivation is extrinsic motivation, which for a long time was defined as the motivation to do an activity in anticipation of an external reward or, to avoid a punishment.’ People researching motivation have identified different types of extrinsic motivation including, introjection, the desire for approval from others and external regulation, which is compliance with external rewards or punishment.
Do these ideas help or guide us as teachers and parents? Almost certainly. While we can encourage and nurture the development of intrinsic motivation (undoubtedly the best kind of motivation), it is important to be aware of external motivation. The relationship between a teacher and a pupil can have a strong bearing on how a student feels about learning and much of the onus of maintaining and nurturing a positive relationship rests with a teacher.
Relevance is not specifically mentioned by Crehan but surely this plays a role in motivation? Plenty of discussion and conversation with adults, from a young age, promotes the desire to question and to seek answers. These things also help children to see the relationships between experiences and concepts, providing inoculation against, ‘Why do we have to learn this?’
Teachers and parents have an interesting challenge where autonomy is concerned and the process of handing the baton to your son or pupil is so very necessary but often painful to manage and to time perfectly. Much of the mystery of motivation remains to be solved. Why is it that one person finds a topic or activity inherently enjoyable while another finds the same topic tedious and unenjoyable? Is this a function of the kind of brain that we have? And, what role do our beliefs about how our brains work and how learning happens play in this regard?
In order to support and guide learning in the best possible way, it is important that we build on our understanding of motivation and that we engage in conversations about motivation and learning with our sons and students. – Mr Graham Stewart-Burger (Deputy Principal)