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We all like to see students motivated and inspired to learn. We've all worked with students when they truly seem to be in the 'zone', craving to increasing their knowledge and skills. They are a pleasure to work with when they're taking initiative, asking great questions and diving deeper into their learning. Unfortunately, the reality is students aren't always in the 'zone' and we find ourselves asking what we need to do to motivate our students. Undoubtedly we play a significant role in student motivation, but the question is...what role? As adults, is it our responsibility to motivate and inspire our students? Or, is it our responsibility to help students develop their own motivation and inspiration?
On the surface, these may sound like subtle differences in language but when you think about this distinction a little more, you start to realize that they speak to different philosophies. The educator who believes it is his/her responsibility to motivate students often falls back on 'carrots and sticks' in an attempt to motivate. (S)he views motivation as something that is done to kids. Dangling the reward of marks and threatening to punish with late marks and zeros are two of the more common strategies. Both strategies focus on extrinsic motivators, where the teacher assumes the role of the motivator who initiates the process of motivating a student who is passively waiting to be motivated.
And then there are others who believe in the power of intrinsic motivation and help their students fuel their own motivation. They believe that enduring motivation comes from within oneself. These teachers lead students to explore answers to real-life questions, create solutions to authentic problems in the world and help students uncover areas of interest. They want students to see purpose and develop passion towards their learning. They create the conditions where student learning is personalized, meaningful and seamlessly connected to their experiences outside of school. They want students to drive their learning, own their learning and be inspired to make a difference.
The interviews below feature students sharing their thoughts on learning opportunities fuelled by purpose and passion. The first student discusses how her desire to help others led her to voluntarily initiate a shoe drive through Soles 4 Soles.
These students describe how their participation in Composition and Technology has enabled them to further explore their passion for music.
One point that's made clear by these three students is that 'marks' and 'grades' are not contributing to their motivation. They are clearly inspired by purpose and motivated by passion!