In an attempt to further understand motivation and drive, several people have turned to games to build a deeper understanding. As a working definition, I am going to accept that motivation:
“refer[s] to the process whereby goal-directed behaviour is instigated and sustained.” Dale Schunk
In past posts I have briefly mentioned that student motivation is crucial but I think that in many cases we look at student motivation in a narrow sense. In a learning context, we look at motivation as a means to establish a desire to learn, we look at motivation as a means to ensure that learning persists through a learning task, and we look at motivation as a means of ensuring the successful completion of a learning task. What we don’t do is pay a huge amount of attention to sustained motivation beyond learning tasks. When we talk about real life-long learning we are talking about a monumental task that will have it’s ups and downs. There are going to be a plethora of influences that will either thrust or dissuade a learner’s motivation.
So going back to Schunk’s definition, what is it that sustains motivation? Keep in mind that I am interested in long-term motivation not a short burst, or a flash in the pan.
Is success the only way to motivate learners? In a past post, @tangoedtech said:
Success begets success.
Since reading this statement I have been thinking a lot about success as a major source of motivation. Can continuous success enable a learner to arrive at that long-lasting motivation that could sustain meaningful life-long learning? What about failure? Should learners always be successful? It’s an interesting thought. I enjoyed reading Dean’s ideas and thoughts this morning on the subject. From his initial post I really like these ideas:
“I’m not suggesting we simply create a smorgasbord of learning and then watch them sink or swim but I’ve witnessed educators spending countless hours hand holding and walking students through painful exercises designed to help them ‘get through” the curriculum. Reminds me of parents who do their child’s homework.” Dean Shareski
In the context Dean has presented, could failure be a motivator for sustained life-long learning? I don’t have the answer but I do wonder what impact sustained self-reflection could have for kids especially when it is kept in a portfolio so that they can look back on the successes and the failures that have gotten them to where they are. This would be a journalling/blogging context where students really reflect on their lived experiences through a metacognitive process. The second idea that I found really interesting is the “get through” the curriculum. As I think Dean is pointing out, what is the impact on motivation when students are dragged through the process with or without their interest.
Dean’s post generated a lot of conversation. The comments and reflections were rich and I really liked Dean’s response to one of his readers.
I think we’re afraid as schools and parents to see what would happen if a child didn’t succeed. Having lived with a first year teacher for a few months, ( you may know who I mean ) I got first hand insights on frustrations of students who lacked interest or motivation to succeed. Teachers and schools seemed to be making lots of efforts and creating environments necessary but for a many reasons, it seemed many students just weren’t interested and indeed had other things on their minds. Thus the battle begins between trying to get students to see things our way and forcing them through a system, largely as unwilling participants. If we are able by whatever means to have the “pass”, we feel relief as having done our job. But the experience was largely awful for both the teacher and student. That’s a great example where failure or simply suggesting “this isn’t working for us” might be a good option.
The other thing is I think we have to stop seeing failure as punitive. It’s simply a natural consequence. As you state, we need to be diligent in offering second chances and opportunities for students to succeed when they are ready. I just think there are a large number who aren’t ready and yet we try and force the issue and in the end, no one is happy.
Now taking long-term motivation and keeping our focus beyond the learning task, and thinking about Dean’s comment to a reader, does success beget success? If success begets success, and failure begets failure, what does partial success and partial failure beget? I think much as the failure to failure context it begets a hatred for school and learning. Truth be told, it may be the case for constant success. Failure is important but how do we properly use it in our lives?
I have been in the place where Dean describes working with a student on basic math skills that weren’t in place, trying everything possible to get them to “pass”. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t but in the end I didn’t have the relief that I had done my job. Sometimes I felt as if I had destroyed the loved of learning and the learner’s motivation to learn because of the huge amount of time we had spent on something that they didn’t enjoy and that was very difficult for them. Do we only focus on strengths or forget about weaknesses? I think not but how could and what role would failure play to motivate someone to be a life-long learner?
Failure is a pejorative word in our society. People just don’t like it. My friends band in Calgary used to be called The Failure. Even their mom’s didn’t like the band name because it made the band sound worse then they were. Now they have changed their name to The Evidence and still play hard. (Do check out both link as the youtube songs are about failure!) I think it’s time to change our view of failure…