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Motivating StudentsWhat is meant by motivation, and why should students put effort into classroom activities? Having an understanding of what motivates students, and being able to apply that understanding to create a classroom dynamic and relationship with the students that fosters sound and sustainable motivation, is vital to being a successful teacher. Having motivated and cooperative students makes the teachers job easier and thus helps the teacher help the students to get the most out of the classroom environment. Behavioral problems can often be traced to lack of motivation. Appropriate placement of priorities, responsible behavior and respect in class, and creating a fun and dynamic learning environment, where students feel that they have some control in the process, and where it is safe to make mistakes, to try and fail, can create an optimum environment for long term achievement. With good motivation even less bright students can outperform intelligent students, and enjoy the process more! There are two broad categories of motivation, intrinsic, and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person. It is the sort of motive a child (or adult) has for exploring and playing with things in their environment. Because they are curious, new things are naturally interesting, they have a natural desire to experiment and see "what happens if.." Since this sort of motivation is innate in everyone, it is always available to be tapped into given the right circumstances, in the case of teaching, the right classroom environment. An atmosphere where "mistakes" are taken in stride, and a sense of curiosity, excitement, and fun are encouraged will naturally encourage this sort of motive. Intrinsic motivation leads to a sense of personal accomplishment which is its own reward, and this kind of motive and reward can last a lifetime. Extrinsic motivation, in contrast, relies on some external reward in exchange for some effort. This is the motive for working in exchange for a paycheck, for instance. In the case of a student, extrinsic motivation might be to graduate, pass a test, avoid penalty (failing grade) get into a good college, or even on a smaller scale: gold stars on homework, winning a prize, and teacher approval. Extrinsic motivation is tied to a particular reward, and since the tangible reward is the focus, the actual process and material being learned is secondary, and once the reward is achieved the learning process has served its purpose. This tends to lead to short term effort and short term gains, and students may tend to put forth minimum effort to achieve the reward they are after. Still, extrinsic motivation does have a useful place in the classroom. Verbal expressions of appreciation for correct answers or even good effort are important feedback to let students know they are on the right track. Short term extrinsic rewards such as gold stars or small prizes like a box of crayons can create a positive and dynamic classroom environment that creates good feelings about the class, and will likely lead to the more durable intrinsic motivation. It is useful to examine the differing motivational characteristics of different types of students. In general, young children still have a great natural curiosity and sense of fun and play. The opportunity to channel their natural curiosity and playfulness into intrinsic motivation to learn is not to be missed. Games, songs, and a tolerance for a bit of raucous behavior will help create a fertile environment in this sort of class. The attention span of this age group is shorter than older students, and the teacher needs to be attuned to this, and keep activities interesting and varied. Teens may be compelled to attend class, and at first may not see the fun and benefit their studies. They may also have competing priorities for their attention in class in the form of social dynamics and concern for how they appear to their peers. On the plus side they have a greater attention span than younger students, and once their attention is captured they can contribute much creativity to the class. Extrinsic motivation is a natural and necessary element in this sort of class ( as in adult life) but a good teacher will be aware that this sort of motive is limited, and more can be gained by tapping into the natural curiosity and joy of discovery in these students. Star stickers are never out of place, nor is a word of approval and recognition, but the best long term motive is intrinsic. Adult learners will likely have a good attention span, and if attending class on their own initiative will likely be pretty well motivated, at least in terms of external reward. A challenge with adults may be that they are reluctant to make mistakes, and it is important to create a classroom environment where it is comfortable to try, even if success is not certain. As with other groups, extrinsic rewards are good feedback for successful behavior, and can lead to an intrinsic sense of joy in learning. How can the teacher provide the best classroom environment to keep students motivated? Teacher behavior is a powerful motivational tool. The key element is to establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect with students by talking with them on a personal level. This will tend to lead to enthusiasm for participation in class. Enthusiastic teachers foster interest and enthusiasm in the students. Anxious or alienated students are unlikely to develop a good motivation to learn. Learning happens best in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. Some important words for the teacher to keep in mind: EXPLAIN ; Explain why we teach what we do. Why the topic is important, worthwhile, and interesting. Part of being a good leader is being a good salesman. The teachers challenge is to show the students why they should want to learn the material. REWARD; Students without intrinsic motivation can be motivated over the short term by extrinsic rewards. These should be used often, but they should not be overly lavish or they will lose value and credibility. Praise should be sincere and appropriate to the level of the class. In the case of mistakes, the type of feedback is equally important. Mistakes should be taken in stride, invite the student to self correct, invite peer correction or the teacher may correct at the appropriate time, and offer a word of encouragement for a 'good try". RELATE; A teacher who relates to students on a human level, rather than being an all business authority figure will be a better motivator and will accomplish more as a teacher in the long run. Relating stories of ones own mistakes and fallibility will help students relate to the teacher as a person, and make them feel more at ease with their own mistakes is class. Take time to know the students on a personal level. What are their concerns and goals, their likes and dislikes? This level of rapport helps to build trust in the classroom, and students will be more willing to take risks and get the most out of class. PARTICIPATE; Students who are actively involved in their own learning have more of a sense of control and discovery in the classroom, and will be well on the way to being intrinsically motivated. A teacher who is aware of the great benefits of this kind of motivation will look for opportunities for students to play an active role in class, from small things like handing out material, moving chairs etc, to offering feedback and taking an active part in discussions and activities. A teachers demeanor in class, and his rapport with the students is an important factor in motivating students to be fully engaged in learning activities. Intrinsic motivation, for the joy and curiosity of learning, and being part of a dynamic, challenging, and fun class is the kind of motivation to be strived for because it is more sustainable over time, and by its nature engages students more fully in the learning process, rather than simply applying the minimum effort necessary for the maximum reward, as is the case with extrinsic motivation. However, sometimes the teacher needs all the tricks at his disposal, and in the short term simple extrinsic rewards can be useful in setting a tone in class that success is noticed and appreciated, and this can lead to enthusiastic learners and eventual intrinsic motivation. In addition to reward for success, a safe and relaxed atmosphere that allows for easy acceptance when a student makes a mistake is also vital to ensure that students will continue to be willing to take chances, and try. Letting students know that you are glad that they tried, and that a mistake isnt a big problem, is just as important as rewarding success.