Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Motivation is the set of reasons that determines one to engage in a particular behaviour. The term is generally used for human motivation but, theoretically, it can be used to describe the causes for animal behaviour as well. This article refers to human motivation. According to various theories, motivation may be rooted in the basic need to minimize physical pain and maximize pleasure, or it may include specific needs such as eating and resting, or a desired object, hobby, goal, state of being, ideal, or it may be attributed to less-apparent reasons such as altruism, or morality, or overcoming mortality.

by Matthew Weller, Los Angeles Business Journal, March 14, 2005

Basic principles of motivation exist that are applicable to learning in any situation.

1. The environment can be used to focus the student's attention on what needs to be learned.

Teachers who create warm and accepting yet business-like atmospheres will promote persistent effort and favorable attitudes toward learning. This strategy will be successful in children and in adults. Interesting visual aids, such as booklets, posters, or practice equipment, motivate learners by capturing their attention and curiosity.

2. Incentives motivate learning.

Incentives include privileges and receiving praise from the instructor. The instructor determines an incentive that is likely to motivate an individual at a particular time. In a general learning situation, self-motivation without rewards will not succeed. Students must find satisfaction in learning based on the understanding that the goals are useful to them or, less commonly, based on the pure enjoyment of exploring new things.

3. Internal motivation is longer lasting and more self-directive than is external motivation, which must be repeatedly reinforced by praise or concrete rewards.

Some individuals -- particularly children of certain ages and some adults -- have little capacity for internal motivation and must be guided and reinforced constantly. The use of incentives is based on the principle that learning occurs more effectively when the student experiences feelings of satisfaction. Caution should be exercised in using external rewards when they are not absolutely necessary. Their use may be followed by a decline in internal motivation.

4. Learning is most effective when an individual is ready to learn, that is, when one wants to know something.

Sometimes the student's readiness to learn comes with time, and the instructor's role is to encourage its development. If a desired change in behavior is urgent, the instructor may need to supervised directly to ensure that the desired behavior occurs. If a student is not ready to learn, he or she may not be reliable in following instructions and therefore must be supervised and have the instructions repeated again and again.

5. Motivation is enhanced by the way in which the instructional material is organized.

In general, the best organized material makes the information meaningful to the individual. One method of organization includes relating new tasks to those already known. Other ways to relay meaning are to determine whether the persons being taught understand the final outcome desired and instruct them to compare and contrast ideas.

None of the techniques will produce sustained motivation unless the goals are realistic for the learner. The basic learning principle involved is that success is more predictably motivating than is failure. Ordinarily, people will choose activities of intermediate uncertainty rather than those that are difficult (little likelihood of success) or easy (high probability of success). For goals of high value there is less tendency to choose more difficult conditions. Having learners assist in defining goals increases the probability that they will understand them and want to reach them. However, students sometimes have unrealistic notions about what they can accomplish. Possibly they do not understand the precision with which a skill must be carried out or have the depth of knowledge to master some material. To identify realistic goals, instructors must be skilled in assessing a student's readiness or a student's progress toward goals.

1. Because learning requires changed in beliefs and behavior, it normally produces a mild level of anxiety.

This is useful in motivating the individual. However, severe anxiety is incapacitating. A high degree of stress is inherent in some educational situations. If anxiety is severe, the individual's perception of what is going on around him or her is limited. Instructors must be able to identify anxiety and understand its effect on learning. They also have a responsibility to avoid causing severe anxiety in learners by setting ambiguous of unrealistically high goals for them.

2. It is important to help each student set goals and to provide informative feedback regarding progress toward the goals.

Setting a goal demonstrates an intention to achieve and activates learning from one day to the next. It also directs the student's activities toward the goal and offers an opportunity to experience success.

3. Both affiliation and approval are strong motivators.

People seek others with whom to compare their abilities, opinions, and emotions. Affiliation can also result in direct anxiety reduction by the social acceptance and the mere presence of others. However, these motivators can also lead to conformity, competition, and other behaviors that may seem as negative.

4. Many behaviors result from a combination of motives.

It is recognized that no grand theory of motivation exists. However, motivation is so necessary for learning that strategies should be planned to organize a continuous and interactive motivational dynamic for maximum effectiveness. The general principles of motivation are interrelated. A single teaching action can use many of them simultaneously.

Finally, it should be said that an enormous gap exists between knowing that learning must be motivated and identifying the specific motivational components of any particular act. Instructors must focus on learning patterns of motivation for an individual or group, with the realization that errors will be common.



BEGINNING: When learner enters and starts learning


ATTITUDES: Toward the environment, teacher, subject matter, and self

NEEDS: The basic need within the learner at the time of learning


-- Make the conditions that surround the subject positive.

-- Positively confront the possibly erroneous beliefs, expectations, and assumptions that may underlie a negative learner attitude.

-- Reduce or remove components of the learning environment that lead to failure or fear.

-- Plan activities to allow learners to meet esteem needs.


During: When learner is involved in the body or main content of the learning process.


STIMULATION: The stimulation processes affecting learner during the learning experience.

AFFECT: The emotional experience of the learner while learning.


-- Change style and content of the learning activity.

-- Make learner reaction and involvement essential parts of the learning process, that is, problem solving, role playing, stimulation.

-- Use learner concerns to organize content and to develop themes and teaching procedures.

-- Use a group cooperation goal to maximize learner involvement and sharing.


ENDING: When learner is completing the learning process.


COMPETENCE: The competence value for the learner that is a result of the learning behaviors.

REINFORCEMENT: The reinforcement value attached to the learning experience, for the learner.


-- Provide consistent feedback regarding mastery of learning.

-- Acknowledge and affirm the learners' responsibility in completing the learning task.

-- When learning has natural consequences, allow them to be congruently evident.

-- Provide artificial reinforcement when it contributes to successful learning, and provide closure with a positive ending.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Employee Motivation: Theory and practice

The job of a manager in the workplace is to get things done through employees. To do this the manager should be able to motivate employees. But that's easier said than done! Motivation practice and theory are difficult subjects, touching on several disciplines.

In spite of enormous research, basic as well as applied, the subject of motivation is not clearly understood and more often than not poorly practiced. To understand motivation one must understand human nature itself. And there lies the problem!

Human nature can be very simple, yet very complex too. An understanding and appreciation of this is a prerequisite to effective employee motivation in the workplace and therefore effective management and leadership.

These articles on motivation theory and practice concentrate on various theories regarding human nature in general and motivation in particular. Included are articles on the practical aspects of motivation in the workplace and the research that has been undertaken in this field, notably by Douglas McGregor (theory y), Frederick Herzberg (two factor motivation hygiene theory,) Abraham Maslow (theory z, hierarchy of needs), Elton Mayo (Hawthorne Experiments) Chris Argyris Rensis Likert and David McClelland (achievement motivation.)
Why study and apply employee motivation principles?

Quite apart from the benefit and moral value of an altruistic approach to treating colleagues as human beings and respecting human dignity in all its forms, research and observations show that well motivated employees are more productive and creative. The inverse also holds true. The schematic below indicates the potential contribution the practical application of the principles this paper has on reducing work content in the organization.

Motivation is the key to performance improvement

There is an old saying you can take a horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink; it will drink only if it's thirsty - so with people. They will do what they want to do or otherwise motivated to do. Whether it is to excel on the workshop floor or in the 'ivory tower' they must be motivated or driven to it, either by themselves or through external stimulus.

Are they born with the self-motivation or drive? Yes and no. If no, they can be motivated, for motivation is a skill which can and must be learnt. This is essential for any business to survive and succeed.

Performance is considered to be a function of ability and motivation, thus:

* Job performance =f(ability)(motivation)

Ability in turn depends on education, experience and training and its improvement is a slow and long process. On the other hand motivation can be improved quickly. There are many options and an uninitiated manager may not even know where to start. As a guideline, there are broadly seven strategies for motivation.

* Positive reinforcement / high expectations
* Effective discipline and punishment
* Treating people fairly
* Satisfying employees needs
* Setting work related goals
* Restructuring jobs
* Base rewards on job performance

These are the basic strategies, though the mix in the final 'recipe' will vary from workplace situation to situation. Essentially, there is a gap between an individuals actual state and some desired state and the manager tries to reduce this gap.

Motivation is, in effect, a means to reduce and manipulate this gap. It is inducing others in a specific way towards goals specifically stated by the motivator. Naturally, these goals as also the motivation system must conform to the corporate policy of the organization. The motivational system must be tailored to the situation and to the organization.

In one of the most elaborate studies on employee motivation, involving 31,000 men and 13,000 women, the Minneapolis Gas Company sought to determine what their potential employees desire most from a job. This study was carried out during a 20 year period from 1945 to 1965 and was quite revealing. The ratings for the various factors differed only slightly between men and women, but both groups considered security as the highest rated factor. The next three factors were;

* advancement
* type of work
* company - proud to work for

Surprisingly, factors such as pay, benefits and working conditions were given a low rating by both groups. So after all, and contrary to common belief, money is not the prime motivator. (Though this should not be regarded as a signal to reward employees poorly or unfairly.)

Next | The theorists and their theories (1 of 2)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Interpersonal Motivation

In addition to individual factors in motivation, there are other factors that arise from interactions with other people.

Competition is one of these interpersonal factors. Competition motivates behavior because people can enhance their own self-esteem when they are able to make comparisons of their own performance to that of others. While all learners appear to be motivated to some extent by competition, the importance of competition is greater for some learners than for others. These differences are often related to the person's previous experience or to the importance that cultures or subcultures place on competition versus cooperation. A detailed discussion of the role of competition in education can be found in Rich & DeVitis (1992). An argument against the use of competition in schools can be found in Kohn (1986).Examples of ways to use competition to stimulate intrinsic motivation:
"Yours was one of the best papers in this class."
A student graduates with a high enough class rank to get into the college of his choice.
A student wins the Jeopardy-style game based on the information her class was required to study.

Note: The competition doesn't have to be a formal competition. All that is required is that the person compare his/her performance to that of others.
Note: Not all competitions are examples of intrinsic motivation. If students are required to compete over things that they don't care about, this would be an example of a very extrinsic form of motivation.

A second interpersonal factor in motivation is cooperation, in which learners derive satisfaction from working toward group goals. As was the case with competition, the motivating force of cooperation is stronger for some persons than others, and these differences are often related to the person's previous experience or to the importance that cultures or subcultures place on cooperation. The motivating effects of competition and cooperation are discussed in greater detail in the Classroom Atmosphere section of this chapter.Examples of ways to use cooperation to stimulate intrinsic motivation:
"Because each of us contributed, our group project received a high grade."
"If we all do our part, we'll make lots of money."
A team of student wins a College-Bowl-style game. The teacher assigned all the members of the class to groups of five students. In order for the team to succeed, each individual had to do well. Therefore, all the team members helped the others on the team. {This is an example of a combination of competition and cooperation. It may also involve a challenge.}

Note: The cooperation doesn't have to be based on formal cooperative learning. All that is required is that the person derive satisfaction from contributing to the success of others.

A third interpersonal factor in motivation is recognition. Most people enjoy having their efforts and accomplishments recognized and appreciated by others. In order to obtain recognition, the activity of the learner must be visible to others. There are three ways to achieve visibility: (1) the process of performing an activity may be visible, (2) the product of the activity may be visible, or (3) some other result of the activity may be visible (for example, an article may appear in the newspaper listing the names of people who participated in a science fair).Examples of ways to use recognition to stimulate intrinsic motivation:
"Son, that's a really good paper." {The same comment could be directed to Mary, Bubba, or anyone else.}
"The following students did outstanding work…."
"Because of your contribution, our group project received a high grade." {This is a combination of recognition and cooperation.}
"Here's an award for finishing first in your class." {This is a combination of recognition and competition.}

Note: The differences between recognition and competition are that (1) recognition does not require a comparison to someone else's performance and (2) competition does not require the approval of an outsider.

Review Quiz 6
Indicate whether each of the following teachers is emphasizing competition, cooperation, or recognition as a motivational strategy. (The answer could be one of these, a combination of these, or none of these.) Also identify any of the individual motivational factors that are present.
Mr. Walters lets his students play NUMBER MUNCHERS, an arcade-style game in which students practice their math skills. When a student's game score is among the ten best, that student's name goes into the Hall of Fame, which other students can view when they play the game.
Miss Monroe gives her weekly ten-minute quiz. Then she lets the students retake the test together and study together for a half hour. They get points toward their grade based on the performance of the group on the retake. Then they take a different form of the test at the end of the class. The higher of the two individual test scores counts for each student.
Coach Wilkes gives outstanding performance rewards to all members of the track team who improved their weight-lifting performance by at least 20%.


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

Intrinsic Motivation

Some theorists (e.g., Combs, 1982; Purkey & Schmidt, 1987; Purkey & Stanley, 1991) maintain that there is only a single kind of intrinsic motivation, which can be described as a motivation to engage in activities that enhance or maintain a person's self-concept. Most theorists (e.g., Malone and Lepper, 1987) define the term more broadly.
Note that even though the following pages will describe intrinsic motivation ashighly desirable, most of the activities in which teachers, students, and other human beings engage are most directly influenced by extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation (Csikszentmihalyi & Nakamura, 1989). For example, most people use a knife and a fork in a certain way or follow conventions in a restaurant not because they find knife and fork use to be intrinsically motivating, but because the correct use of these utensils leads to such intrinsic benefits as a good meal or the respect of people we care about. This is not a serious problem, unless the person feels coerced or in some other way alienated by having to use the utensils.
However, as the discussion of artificial reinforcement in Chapter 10 will further clarify, extrinsic motivators may lead to merely short-range activity while actually reducing long-range interest in a topic. Therefore, it is essential that extrinsic motivators be backed up by intrinsic motivators or that the extrinsic motivation become internalized through processes described later in this chapter. If this does not happen, the result is likely to be a reduction in the very behavior we want to promote.
One of the most frequent failures in education is that students rarely say that they find studying to be intrinsically rewarding (Csikszentmihalyi & Larson, 1984). This is a critical problem. One of the most straightforward conclusions of research from the past two decades is that extrinsic motivation alone is likely to have precisely the opposite impact that we want it to have on student achievement (Lepper & Hodell, 1989).
Malone and Lepper (1987) have defined intrinsic motivation more simply in terms of what people will do without external inducement. Intrinsically motivating activities are those in which people will engage for no reward other than the interest and enjoyment that accompanies them. Malone and Lepper have integrated a large amount of research on motivational theory into a synthesis of ways to design environments that are intrinsically motivating. This synthesis is summarized in Table 5.1. As that table shows, they subdivide factors that enhance motivation into individual factors and interpersonal factors. Individual factors are individual in the sense that they operate even when a student is working alone. Interpersonal factors, on the other hand, play a role only when someone else interacts with the learner. These are discussed in detail on the following pages.

Table 5.1. The Factors That Promote Intrinsic Motivation.



Related Guidelines


People are best motivated when they are working toward personally meaningful goals whose attainment requires activity at a continuously optimal (intermediate) level of difficulty.
Set personally meaningful goals.
Make attainment of goals probable but uncertain.
Give enroute performance feedback.
Relate goals to learners' self esteem.


Something in the physical environment attracts the learner's attention or there is an optimal level of discrepancy between present knowledge or skills and what these could be if the learner engaged in some activity.
Stimulate sensory curiosity by making abrupt changes that will be perceived by the senses.
Stimulate cognitive curiosity by making a person wonder about something (i.e., stimulate the learner's interest).


People have a basic tendency to want to control what happens to them.
Make clear the cause-and-effect relationships between what students are doing and things that happen in real life.
Enable the learners to believe that their work will lead to powerful effects.
Allow learners to freely choose what they want to learn and how they will learn it.


Learners use mental images of things and situations that are not actually present to stimulate their behavior.
Make a game out of learning.
Help learners imagine themselves using the learned information in real- life settings.
Make the fantasies intrinsic rather than extrinsic.


Learners feel satisfaction by comparing their performance favorably to that of others.
Competition occurs naturally as well as artificially.
Competition is more important for some people than for others.
People who lose at competition often suffer more than the winners profit.
Competition sometimes reduces the urge to be helpful to other learners.


Learners feel satisfaction by helping others achieve their goals.
Cooperation occurs naturally as well as artificially.
Cooperation is more important for some people than for others.
Cooperation is a useful real-life skill.
Cooperation requires and develops interpersonal skills.


Learners feel satisfaction when others recognize and appreciate their accomplishments.
Recognition requires that the process or product or some other result of the learning activity be visible.
Recognition differs from competition in that it does not involve a comparison with the performance of someone else.

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