When students do not achieve their best, they are often labeled as lazy or unmotivated; but the problem may be that the students have not developed a proper interest in learning, explains Dr Edward Roy Krishnan
Since many of my students present similar symptoms, I motivated myself to find the cause of this phenomenon and to, hopefully, devise a cure. The results of my research were surprising.
Motivation affects all the bio-physiological, social-psychological, and mental-spiritual drives that govern the human condition. Motivation is a mechanism that empowers a person to fulfill a goal, immediate or future. It affects and is affected by one's internal needs and external stimuli.
The internal and external processes interact to form our experiences. Our collective experiences make us what we are and thus, in turn, motivate each of us differently. They become part of our behavior, our personality. They even determine, in part, what goals we aspire to and how we choose to achieve them. Motivation can be triggered by physical, mental, spiritual or emotional stimuli. But in each case the end product is goal-fulfillment, in the form of need satisfaction. The diagram illustrates one cycle of motivation.
Motivation to learn
Let's now return to our students who were allegedly ``unmotivated'' to achieve their academic best. Many would simply label these students as lazy, but the problem is not that simple. After all, the students get up early each morning, get dressed, travel to school, attend and endure classes. Therefore, they are anything but lazy.
Research suggests that humans never lack motivation. Even when sleeping we are demonstrating an innate drive to achieve a goal, even though we may not be consciously behaving, thinking, and feeling. Sleep may properly reflect our motivation to become rested or replenished. The diagram may be easily modified to read: I am tired/I need rest/I am sleeping/I am rested.
Since we now know our children aren't lazy, the question for parents and teachers is, ``How can we motivate our children and students to learn?''
When students display lethargy and indifference towards learning, they are actually telling their parents and teachers that their object of desire _ their ``thing of interest'' _ is not the same as their parents' and teachers'. Perhaps, then, it is not a lack of motivation to learn so much as it is a lack of interest.
The clash of interests
For example, twelve-year-old When the two interests collide, his parents might conclude that Chai lacks motivation to study. From the parents' view, Chai's poor score on the science exam is evidence of his ``lack of motivation'' to learn. The parents are now displeased with him and his performance on the exam.
Chai studied, but his heart just wasn't in it. His heart was into playing with his new Transformers, so he was unable to concentrate on learning the science materials. So now the child is equally displeased with his parents for not allowing him to pursue his interest: playing with his new toys. Chai is clearly motivated, just not motivated to prepare for his exam.
The above represents the classic conflict of interests scenario, and demonstrates that while we humans are constantly motivated, we are not always motivated to pursue the same goals that others (parents, teachers, society) want us to achieve, and that sometimes the goals may be in direct conflict.
'Cure': Nurture a primary desire to learn
Learning problems in the classroom occur, then, when students' interests or objects-of-desire significantly differ from those of their teachers. Most students are highly motivated, but it is rare to find students who are highly motivated to learn.
As such, the greatest challenge of parents and teachers is to inculcate into students, as a primary desire, an interest to learn.
Once students develop an intense interest in learning, they will be motivated to devour the learning process and they will achieve their best in school. When students achieve this propensity to pursue knowledge they are said to have an internally driven desire to learn. While some needs are biological and demand attention (hunger, sleep), the desire to succeed at school is a matter of choice.
It is not hard to motivate children to eat, sleep, play or watch cartoons. The key for parents and teachers is they must instill in children the desire to learn, and the earlier and younger, the better. Ideally, the desire to learn is instilled early and nurtured for a lifetime. However, an intense interest in anything can be achieved at any age _ take the octogenarian who suddenly becomes an avid parachutist!
By exposing our children and students to the rewards of learning and the lifelong satisfaction it brings, they will become convinced that making learning their number one object-of-desire in life is worth it!
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Last modified: July 23, 2007