The derivation of the word tells us that motivation refers to getting someone moving. When we motivate ourselves or someone else, we develop incentives - we set up conditions that start or stop behavior. In education motivation deals with the problem of setting up conditions so that learners will perform to the best of their abilities in academic settings. We often motivate learners by helping them develop an expectancy that a benefit will occur as a result of their participation in an instructional experience. In short, motivation is concerned with the factors that stimulate or inhibit the desire to engage in a behavior.4


When we look for ways to motivate students, we often look at people who have motivated us ourselves or who are famous for motivating other people. This is often a mistake: the people who have gained fame as motivators have often worked with special audiences who are not at all typical of the students who show up in our classrooms. While what these motivators do is effective with their selective audiences, it is possible that we ourselves deal with people who require entirely different motivational techniques. It is not even remotely reasonable to assume that the tactics that will make a group of football players eager to "win one for the Gipper" or a brigade of soldiers willing to march into the valley of death will have a similar impact on uninterested non-readers in the third grade.

Motivation is an extremely important but sometimes mundane topic. Motivation influences learners in complex ways. For example, in a single situation there may be numerous factors motivating learners to engage in a behavior and an even greater number of factors motivating them to avoid that behavior. A thorough understanding of the principles of motivation will enable you to get students moving - to want to participate and do their share in the instructional process.

It is an axiom of most motivational theories that motivation is strongest when the urge to engage in a behavior arises from within the learner rather than from outside pressures. Bruner (1966) has stated the relationship between motivation and learning in the following way:

  • The will to learn is an intrinsic motive, one that finds both its source and its reward in its own exercise. The will to learn becomes a "problem" only under specialized circumstances like those of a school, where a curriculum is set, students are confined, and a path fixed. The problems exist not so much in learning itself, but in the fact that what the school imposes often fails to enlist the natural energies that sustain spontaneous learning... (p. 127)



    This chapter will deal with the problem of helping students develop and use the energies that sustain spontaneous learning. It will examine several approaches to motivation, but each approach has the same goal: to make learners more willing to channel their energies into the productive activities offered by an activity or by a unit of instruction.


    Review Quiz 1


    Which of the following teachers is primarily concerned with motivation? (Mark each item Yes or No.}

    1. _____ Miss Peters is looking for ways to make Tommy want to study long division more industriously.

    2. _____ Professor Vockell is trying to figure out how to make his book more practical, so that readers will want to apply the principles of educational psychology to their daily practice.

    3. _____ Mr. Howell is trying to organize his lesson plan in such a way as to make it easier for students to make associations with previous material and thereby remember the information longer.

    4. _____ Mr. Jorden is presenting information that will show the connection between his unit on geometry and the practical problems of living in an urban setting. His belief is that if students see this connection, they will be more eager to learn from the unit. _____ Mrs. Jeffries has developed a set of instructional objectives, so that students will know exactly what they need to learn in order to do well on the exam.
  • {Answers are at the end of the chapter.}

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    Motivation <<You are here>>
    Intrinsic Motivation
    Interpersonal Motivation
    Summary of Intrinsic Motivation
    Motivating Through Curriculum
    Reinforcement and Punishment
    Affective Aspects of Motivation
    Physiological Aspects of Motivation
    Cognitive Aspects of Motivation
    Needs and Motivation
    Attribution Theory
    Development and Motivation
    Motivation as a Personality Characteristic
    Teacher Expectancy
    Social Aspects of Motivation: Classroom Structure
    What Teachers Can Do About Motivation
    What Parents Can Do About Motivation
    What Students Can Do About Motivation
    Chapter Summary
    Annotated Bibliography
    Answers to Quizzes