*Can’t Be Arsed/Bothered
Ever had to teach an individual (or group) who sat there, slack-jawed when you bounced around them trying to get them fired-up to work? “C’mon, c’mon. Let’s go… okay… brill, shake a leg… …what’s up? Why aren’t you working?” “CBA sir.” Same project, different group can be wholly different result – so what motivates some people but not others?
There is a wider question about motivation and young people today and plenty of psychological discourse. The most burning question for most would be “Why are young people so disenfranchised by politics?” judging by the 10m plus viewers of Russell Brand vs Paxo on Newsnight (see here if not already). Even Brand is cashing in with his recently released book that mixes the 12 steps AA programme with political anarchism and St Francis (according to The Guardian, I ain’t read it Russell…CBA…).
More specifically, why can’t some be bothered to attempt, perform, achieve and others’ can? Motivation can be described as having the willingness to do something. Theories of motivation often focus on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is when we are compelled to do something or act a certain way because of external factors. These might include incentives and rewards or even punishments. Someone else usually determines the goals or expectations.
Intrinsic motivation is when we attempt to satisfy a desire, expectation, or goal without being influenced to do so by another person, or by an external incentive or reward. We determine our own goals and expectations, not someone else. Intrinsic motivation is sometimes referred to as self-motivation.
Implied by these in the context of education is that extrinsic motivation is based on our reward systems – money, badges, stickers, praise, class display, award ceremonies etc. and that punishment/shame follows as consequence of non-compliance. However, many schools have come to recognise that intrinsic, or self-motivation is a much more powerful driver of learning and achievement. If we are to move away from exam-factory models of learning, how do we encourage intrinsically motivated students?
- Give regular positive spoken and written feedback that supports students’ beliefs that they can do well or can improve. Gee them up a bit but bear in mind they can see through false positives.
- Help students to find personal meaning and values by ‘keeping it real’ – relevant to your students’ lives. Some strategies include using local examples, teaching with events in the news, using pop culture and technology (pop music, smart phones, tablet computers or online videos) to teach or connect the subject with your students’ culture, outside interests or social lives.
- Ensure opportunities for students’ success by assigning suitably challenging tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult. Additionally, account for different learners’ orientation toward achievement, process or social activity – include a variety of collaborative learning tasks.
- Create a relatively autonomous learning community; students who feel they ‘belong’ are fostered by a teacher that demonstrates warmth and openness, encourages student participation, is enthusiastic, friendly and helpful.
- Create a classroom environment that is engaging, stimulating, positive and fosters curiosity. An obvious one but perhaps take into account emotional nature of failure and success based on stimuli provided; if x can achieve this result, can I?
It is only when we see our students in other educational contexts (outside of the classroom) that the link between social inequality and motivation become apparent. School trips, evening events, plays and productions give us an insight into the cultural relevance of the learning community. Fashion, technology, experiences and even vocabulary within conversation are laden with ‘cultural capital’ (Bourdieu, 1973). Bourdieu’s idea of social inequality is not just simply based on economics. He identified the basis of cultural competition – a competition which is usually played out through consumption practices. Social recognition can come from knowledge, skills and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Parents provide their children with cultural capital by transmitting the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed in the current educational system. Henceforth, the student who feels excluded from a discussion on current ‘YouTubers’ may be seen by others in the group as socially inferior wherein they may not just have access to the Internet and latest technology. The reply to this is for schools to provide access to the means of production (cameras, video, multimedia, social media) and inculcate frequent extra-curricular participation for all.
Short of this, we could always erect a sign in our classrooms saying: “Be Arsed” or words to that effect.