Describe how the teacher and/or school motivate students. Give specific examples of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. Include vocabulary from specific motivational theories and be sure to include a reference in your response.
I observed this week a 10th and 12th grade English class at a local high school, taught by the marvelous Mrs. G.
Mrs. G. uses a wide variety of extrinsic motivation in both of her classes—some obvious, like a quiz, and others less obvious.
I’ve observed more than one reading comprehension quiz in Mrs. G.’s classes. These quizzes are the extrinsic motivation for students to complete the homework reading assignments. In addition, these quizzes provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their competence, one of the three key components of self-determination theory. As students have the chance to show they are competent in the reading, their motivation to continue reading the novel will hopefully increase and they will be more successful. The chance that they might not be competent also serves as an extrinsic motivator to drive students to read.
On Wednesday, Mrs. G. had a substitute in her 10th grade class. The class did a group activity based on the novel they’re currently reading. The activity demonstrated the self-efficacy theory of motivation in several ways. First, the instructions for the activity were initially unclear. I observed students asking, “What are we supposed to do?” and “What’s the point of this?” Since they did not know what to do, they seemed doubtful that they’d be able to complete the assignment—their self-efficacy, and motivation, was low. Once the assignment had been clearly explained with both written and verbal instructions, the students were much more comfortable. Once they knew what they were doing, they had a high belief in their ability to complete the assignment—their self-efficacy increased, along with their motivation. The assignment also provided students the chance to work in groups, which let students see social modeling and experience mastery. When one student successfully completed part of the assignment, they were experiencing mastery and providing social modeling for the other members of their group. The students’ sense of self-efficacy—stemming from clear instructions, working in groups, and having successfully completed the reading assignment—contributed to their engagement throughout the class. The students had about 40 minutes to work independently, and for the duration of the class period I observed almost all the students engaged in the assignment. Many had seemed to reach a state of flow; while the assignment was challenging, they were finding success, and so were motivated to continue working.
Mrs. G. also uses bell ringers in each of the classes I have observed. I believe this activity serves as both an intrinsic and extrinsic motivator. On the surface, the bell ringer functions as an extrinsic motivator to get students to class on time. It also functions as an intrinsic motivator because it piques students’ interest in the lesson and primes their brains to learn—it helps them achieve an optimal state of cognitive arousal early in the lesson, where they will be more apt to continue learning throughout the class.
The in-class group assignment I observed also functions as part of the self-determination theory. This activity lets students feel a sense of belonging to the group as they worked together to complete the task; it also provides a sense of autonomy as students were able to choose their groups, how to divide up the work, and within the assignment they were able to choose which labels and quotes they attributed to various characters. These characteristics of the group assignment contributed to intrinsic motivation because students were able to be autonomous and feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.
Last week, Mrs. G. used Expectancy X Value theory to help motivate students to re-do their failed assignments. Mrs. G. clearly communicated that students would be able to be successful on the re-submitted assignment by re-teaching the concepts students had not understood and providing examples of correct assignments. From this mini-lesson, students hopefully formed the expectation that they would be successful on the assignment. Mrs. G. also clearly communicated the reasons why she was requiring them to re-submit the assignment, and provided personal, relevant examples of why it was important. She used relevance to them to help them gain a sense of value about completing the assignment correctly. Both of these were intended to increase students’ intrinsic motivation.
This lesson also demonstrated Carol Dweck’s Mindset Theory. Mrs. G. has a growth mindset, and she tries to communicate that growth mindset to her students. As Jo Baoler stated in her book, Mathematical Mindsets, “Teachers can communicate positive expectations by using encouraging words . . . it is even more important to communicate positive beliefs and expectations to students who are slow.” Mrs. G. put this astute advise into practice when she expressed confidence in the students who had failed and her belief that they would be able to do the assignment correctly if they were willing to put in the time and ask for help if they needed it.
Mrs. G. also used relevance and fun in her mini-lesson last week on mood and purpose. She showed funny, relevant video clips and movie trailer mashups to provide interest and relevance to her lesson. These clips caught students’ interest and helped them make connections to their own lives, which was more motivating than a lecture on mood and purpose. Because of the relevance and fun of this lesson, students will hopefully be more intrinsically motivated to look for mood and purpose in the novels they’re reading for class.
Initially, I thought that Mrs. G. was using only extrinsic motivation in her classroom. There are many assessments, both formative and summative, and these seemed to be the main source of motivation.
However, as I looked more closely, I realized that Mrs. G. is doing so much to cultivate intrinsic motivation in her students. She gives them the chance to feel autonomous, to belong, to be competent; she helps them set mastery goals instead of ego goals; she communicates her belief in them as learner. All of these are things I can do in my future classroom to help students increase their own intrinsic motivation.