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Understanding Human Motivation
Transcript of Understanding Human Motivation
Last update 2-3-11 NO!!! The students' heads must be spinning around in circles with all these rules, but they help them learn so they must be necessary, right? Unraveling Human Motivation Matthew Johnson This prezi took its format inspiration from a presentation titled “Scaling information,” created by Jakob Jochmann. You can find it here: http://prezi.com/hl_x5pk6g8ea/scaling-information/ How do we create an environment that supports motivation? What Motivates My Students? Building meaningful relationships in your classroom will help you understand what motivates your students Collaboration, student choice and relevant content are Kohn’s “3 C’s” and they provide educators an answer to how to create an environment of learning. What Kohn is saying about our education system is controversial and counterintuitive to what many people believe. His ideas may seem unsupported but they actually fit right in with what other scientists and researchers have found out about learning and motivation. We know from Zull how the biology of the human brain influences learning and how motivation is the desire to fulfill basic needs from Maslow. Now it is our task as future educators to use what we know about motivation to create an environment that nurtures it. Kohn claims that we cannot motivate other people, but this does not mean teachers should give up on their students. It means we need to create an environment where students motivate themselves. Kohn goes on to say that many of the things teachers do now in their classrooms to reward students are actually hurting the students motivation for learning (Kohn, 1999). If we remove the extrinsic motivators and change the environment of our classrooms we can create a place where students are intrinsically interested in learning the material. Changing the environment of the classroom to support a community of collaboration gives students some choice in their learning. This can happen through simple changes like letting them choose discussion groups (Kohn, 1999). Classroom Environment Choice Love Collaboration Active Learning Safety Rewards Content Self-Esteem Intrinsic motivation Extrinsic motivators Excessive Praise A note on the medium Prezi is completely free web based presentation tool that anyone can use as long as they have access to the internet and a computer. Prezi supports learning and motivation in ways that power point falls short. I remember in middle school or high school gathering together with group members to discuss how to present our topic to the class. Powerpoint was usually the choice because it was easy to use; jot down a few ideas and paste in a few pictures and bam, you have presentation. The truth is we didn’t actually learn anything doing those assignments, other than how to search the web quickly and efficiently. Prezi on the other hand is different because it is a blank canvas as opposed to a linear progression of slides. This means students have to order there information by size and orientation with other information. It can become an interactive concept web and it gives students choice in how they want to express their understanding of a topic. It forces the person making the prezi to think about how concepts relate to each other. Another interesting part of prezi is that anything that you create is open for the public to view and you have the choice to let others copy your prezi for their own use. This is great example of how learning should be a shared and collaborative activity! At first using prezi in the classroom worried me because students might be tempted to plagiarize other peoples work. If a student did attempt to plagiarize another prezi the teacher could very easily find the original they copied by searching prezi. Students would have to be told this by the teacher before beginning the assignment. Now, I do not believe that in all circumstances copying someone else’s prezi is considered plagiarism. For example I took the inspiration for the layout of my prezi from one already created on a different topic. All of the writing, content, pictures and most of the layout is completely different than the original which was purely used as a scaffold or template. The point of having everything be open source is so we can collaborate with one another so we can all learn/teach/ or sell better, not to plagiarize! During the first month of my freshman year of college I took an Americorps internship at Washburn-Edison Middle School on a whim. My aunt, a language arts teacher at Washburn, told me that there was a tutoring position available and that I should apply for it I was interested. I looked into the Americorps program and decided to take the position. To be frank, my motivation to take the job at the start was the extrinsic benefits that Americorps provided, such as a living stipend, grant money for tuition and loan deferment. At the time I had no idea that taking that internship would change my view of education and what I wanted to do with my life after college. When the emotional part of the brain recognizes a stimulus as being positive or pleasurable it causes the release of dopamine in the frontal cortex. Dopamine can stimulate the goal-oriented frontal cortex to action which is the reward. Zull states that because of the action, or thought of action, related with pleasurable emotions we must orient our teaching style so it engages the learner in active learning (2002). Under certain situations Zull tells us that the Amygdala becomes less active when a student is performing cognitive tasks, like solving a puzzle (2002). When teaching we must then incorporate cognitive, or puzzle like activities, into what we are teaching because it will help create a safe environment The Amygdala gets its information directly from the sensory cortex instead of from the cerebral cortex. This means that it is constantly monitoring what we are experiencing in the physical world without us be consciously aware that it is doing so (Zull, 2002). When the amygdala senses a threat it sends out unconscious signals to the body responsible for body language or jumping reflexes. This is a good thing to have active in our brains for survival but not effective for learning. As a teacher, we have to be careful not to make our students feel threatened in school because they will not learn effectively when the emotional brain feels under attack. In other words, when students do not feel like they are in a safe environment they will not be able to learn as well or even at all (Maslow, 1943). Things that are perceived as threatening vary widely from student to student which means that we must know our students on a individual level to be a truly great teacher. Fear vs. Pleasure The Emotional Brain The emotional brain, also known as the limbic cortex, is evolutionarily much older than cerebral cortex which is responsible for thinking and analyzing information. As educators, it is easy to forget about the connection between emotions and learning but understanding this part of the brain is key to choosing content and designing a learning environment that is inclusive to all students. When the emotional brain experiences pleasure or fear it sends this information to the cognitive part of the brain which processes and analyzes it. Through this process we learn what causes us pleasure and fear (Zull, 2002). At the heart of the fear drive is a powerful brain structure called the Amygdala. Maslow tells us that a behavior is motivated by the desire to meet basic needs. This means learning occurs when the brain recognizes the connection between a certain behavior and a met need (Maslow, 1943). Human needs are organized into a hierarchy with the most fundamental being physiological needs such as food and
reproduction. Each need must be met for the
next one to start effecting behavior and
motivation. If a student is truly starving or
homeless he or she will be unable to focus
on anything else (Maslow, 1943). This is
important to remember as a teacher
because these basic needs must be
met for higher order learning to take
place. We must get to know our
students well enough to know if
they are coming from a home
where they may not be fed
enough. The desire to meet basic needs Above basic physiological needs are the higher needs. Maslow tells us that we are motivated by the desire to have these needs met which means as teachers we should strive for our students to be at
the level of self-actualization where
learning happens for the sake of
learning (Maslow, 1943). But how
do we help our students get
there? Maslow's hierarchy of
needs is a starting point
checklist for new teachers
trying to design the best
for all learners. How do we help our students get there even though we may not be at that level ourselves? How do we help our students become life-long learners? Alfie Kohn has taken on these difficult questions as his life's work and his ideas are the next step for a new teacher designing their classroom environment. Physiological Self-Esteem Love Saftey Self-Actualization The title of my position was an in-class tutor so my project supervisor decided that it would be best for me to work with the same group of students for the entire year instead of working with one teacher. The group of about twelve students that I was chosen to work with were 7th grade students who were in the same reading group. Two of the students were receiving some special education support, but spent most of the day in general education classes, and all twelve of them had reading difficulties of varying degrees. I would join the group after lunch each day and follow them in the rest of their classes. Being with the same group of kids each was also benificial for the students relationships with one another. As the year progressed and the group of twelve got to know each other better we had less disipline problems and a better overall classroom environment. Her decision to put me with the same group contributed positively to the students' motivation and learning. I was able to build relationships with each student which made them feel comfortable and safe around me which is essential for a learning environment that supports motivation. The positive relationships also create an environment of love and understanding, which like safety, is necessary for higher order learning and motivation to occur (Maslow, 1943). The building of relationships between teachers/ or tutors and students does not just happen by being together in the classroom each day. It takes time and requires a great deal of effort by the teacher and by the students. My role was flexible so how I helped would change depending on what the students or a particular student needed that day. This is another important characteristic of how to help our students motivate themselves because what motivates us is different for each person. A teacher needs to accept that when real learning takes place it may not follow the lesson plan they had for the day and be comfortable individualizing their teaching to meet the needs of all types of students. If a teacher does not ever deviate from the plan students have no input on their learning. When teachers adapt their lessons to the students they are teaching, it allows the students to have some choice in their learning which leads to them being intrinsically motivated in the content (Kohn, 1995). Allowing our students to have choices in what they learn/ how they learn/ or how they choose to have their learning assessed is vital to both motivation and the feeling of control. When students do not feel in control the amygdala becomes more active causing the person to go into survival mode which is not supportive of higher order learning (Zull, 2002). One of the things that I found successful for some of my students was giving them choices on how they would like to be assessed. For example, I would give students in my group the option of taking tests outside of the classroom in the quiet hallway or school library. Most of the twelve would choose to stay in the classroom with the other students but usually 2-3 would choose to take the exam somewhere else. For some kids just getting out of a classroom with 30 other students and taking the test in a quiet area was all they needed to help them do better. I also gave a few of the students the choice of taking the tests orally if the teacher found it acceptable. A few of my students were failing almost all their tests because the reading and writing involved in taking an exam was overwhelming. When I read the test to them they were able to better understand the questions and do better on the exam. I started doing this with one student who was turning in his exams almost completely blank and was failing 3 classes because of it. By the end of the year this student had passing grades in all of his classes expect for language arts. I think his story reiterates the fact that all subjects need to incorporate reading and writing skills into their content because without adequate reading/ writing skills our students are doomed to fail. The Problem With Rewards Control Grades The use of extrinsic motivators in the classroom needs to be reduced or completely removed. They do not support learning because they only accomplish the goal of getting students to do what they are told. The reason they do not work is because the brain sees the reward as the goal instead of the learning that happens along the way (Zull, 2002). Once the reward is achieved the motivation is gone. This is why students can take a mid-term and receive an A, but two weeks later not remember any of the material that was on the exam. An example of how to start removing extrinsic rewards is to provide rubrics for assignments and then giving feedback to the students on how well they met the requirements of the rubric, instead of simply giving out points. Creating an environment that emphasizes the importance of collaboration is essential to learning for many reasons. Research shows that having classrooms that incorporate student discussion and getting involved with the material helps create a learning environment that is based on real motivation (Kohn, 1999). Collaboration gets students talking and asking questions about the material which is considered active learning. During this type of learning the basal structures in the brain associated with pleasure are more active and pleasure has a direct connection with real learning (Zull, 2002). In the past, choice has been completely removed from our education system because teachers felt that if students where given too many choices the classroom would be out of control. Incorporating choice into the classroom environment does not mean letting the students do what ever they please. Instead we should think of how we can provide opportunities for student choice as much as possible because when people choose what they want to learn they will be intrinsically motivated to learn it (Kohn, 1999). Choice also gives the student control which is important because when control is lost the emotional brain takes over and the ability to learn new things disappears (Zull, 2002). In the science classroom choice can be incorporated by allowing the students to investigate any topic they are interested in, as long as they think like a scientist. For example if a student is interested in computers they could take one apart and explain what is happening inside. Collaboration in the classroom also can help our students meet their human needs for safety, love, and self-esteem. A classroom that allows for open discussion can also lead to students feeling like they are in a safe environment where they will not be judged by their peers or teacher. Collaboration makes the classroom feel more like a community that works together instead of one that competes with each other. As students become more comfortable with themselves and their peers, they will form real, loving relationships and hopefully gain confidence in themselves. In a collaborative learning environment the teacher becomes less important than in a traditional setting because the learning happens in the discussion between peers instead of the teacher lecturing. As a teacher we must carefully examine the content we choose to incorporate. We should ask ourselves: “Is this material relevant to my students? And why is it relevant.” If we struggle to answer those questions we probably should not be teaching that particular topic. In a world where every content area has standards that have to be met each year it would be irresponsible to throw out content that we are supposed to teach. We must find how a topic is relevant to our students and if we can answer that question our job as a teacher becomes much easier. They will be intrinsically motivated to learn the topic if they care about it. For each student the answer to the question will be a little different so the way to understand what motivates them is to build relationships with our students! References Brant, R. (1995). Punished by rewards? A conversation with Alfie Kohn. Educational Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/pbracwak.htm.
Kohn, A. (1993). Punished by rewards: The trouble with gold stars, incentive plans praise and other bribes. New York: Houghton.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Zull, J. E. (2002). The art of changing the brain: Enriching the practice of teaching by exploring the biology of learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus. Image links http://www.blnotary.com/?p=1046