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Ready or not: A study of student perspective on motivation in the classroom

10 February 2005


This study examined students' perspectives on their own motivation in my seventh grade life science classroom. My research and data collection led me to believe that the greatest factor that influences student motivation in my classroom was my relationship with my students. They felt - according to interviews and surveys-that a teacher's personality had a large impact on their motivation to learn. I also discovered the activities that are more motivating to students than others. The literature review examines the problem of motivation and the problems associated with the many factors that affect each student on any given day. Previous research suggests that certain activities are more motivating to most students, but it is limited in the sense that it does not always address certain grade levels, achievement levels, or subjects. I used the research I found to help frame questions that would help me understand the students I see on a day to day basis. The methodologies included an anonymous written survey which included both short-answer and ranking systems for students to comment on classroom activities as well as my own personality traits that they found - or didn't find - motivating. This information allowed for both a qualitative and a quantitative investigation of my students' attitudes at Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon. The analysis implies that the majority of students felt motivated by basically any classroom activity or strategy that allowed them to be social; this included group work, partner activities, and labs. Students also described their dislike for bookwork, lectures, and most often listed - the worksheet as least desirable. Even more eye-opening were the data that showed a student's strong need for a personal connection with the teacher, and that a teacher needs to be "fun" to seem motivating to a student. This was an almost universally mentioned trait on the surveys and in the interviews. The implications of this study are that I will be able to change the way I plan and deliver curriculum in my classroom. I also will make a point to give this survey out every year at the beginning of the year to help me understand what each new group of incoming students considers motivating. Most importantly, I have realized that it is more important for me to develop a positive relationship quickly so that my students will feel as motivated to learn as possible from the beginning of the year. I will continue to talk with my students to figure out what makes them tick. Having students tell me several times a month how things are going - in a mini-reflection - will allow me to respond individually and keep tabs on the other events that are happening in their lives. My students will help remind me and them that I should care more about just the science concepts I teach. In teaching, it is important for teachers to be teaching the child rather than the subject.


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