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As a teacher, you can add to these organizational strategies by encouraging the development of your own relationships with class members. Your goal, as teacher, is to demonstrate caring and interest in your students not just as students, but as people. The goal also involves behaving as if good relationships between and among class members are not only possible, but ready to develop and perhaps even already developing. A simple tactic, for example, is to speak of “we” and “us” as much as possible, rather than speaking of “you students.” Another tactic is to present cooperative activities and assignments without apology, as if they are in the best interests not just of students, but of “us all” in the classroom, yourself included.

Keeping self-determination in perspective

In certain ways self-determination theory provides a sensible way to think about students’ intrinsic motivation and therefore to think about how to get them to manage their own learning. A particular strength of the theory is that it recognizes degrees of self-determination and bases many ideas on this reality. Most people recognize combinations of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation guiding particular activities in their own lives. We might enjoy teaching, for example, but also do this job partly to receive a paycheck. To its credit, self-determination theory also relies on a list of basic human needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness—that relate comfortably with some of the larger purposes of education. Although these are positive features for understanding and influencing students’ classroom motivation, some educators and psychologists nonetheless have lingering questions about the limitations of self-determination theory. One is whether merely providing choices actually improves students’ learning, or simply improves their satisfaction with learning. There is evidence supporting both possibilities (Flowerday&Schraw, 2003; Deci&Ryan, 2003), and it is likely that there are teachers whose classroom experience supports both possibilities as well.

Another question is whether it is possible to overdo attention to students’ needs—and again there is evidence for both favoring and contradicting this possibility. Too many choices can actually make anyone (not just a student) frustrated and dissatisfied with a choice the person actually does make (Schwartz, 2004). Clearly the number of choices given must be developmentally appropriate: adolescents can handle far more choices than can kindergartners. Furthermore, differentiating activities to students’ competence levels may be challenging if students are functioning at extremely diverse levels within a single class, as sometimes happens. These are serious concerns, though in our opinion not serious enough to give up offering choices to students or to stop differentiating instruction altogether. In “Classroom management and the learning environment,” therefore, we explain the practical basis for this opinion, by describing workable ways for offering choices and recognizing students’ diversity.

Further resources

Fostering Children’s Motivation to Learn: A Guide for Teachers

References

Aronson, E.&Patnoe, S. (1997). The Jigsaw classroom: Building cooperation in the classroom, 2nd edition. New York: Longman.

Cohen, E. (1994). Designing groupwork: Strategies for the heterogeneous classroom, 2nd edition. New York: Teachers’ College Press.

Cohen, E., Brody, C.,&Sapon-Shevin, M. (Eds.). (2004). Teaching cooperative learning: The challenge for teacher education (pp. 217-224). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Deci, E.&Ryan, R. (2003). The paradox of achievement: The harder you push, the worse it gets. In E. Aronson (Ed.), Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors in education (pp. 62-90). Boston: Academic Press.

Elliott, A., McGregor, H.,&Thrash, T. (2004). The need for competence. In E. Deci&R. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 361-388). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Flowerday, T., Shraw, G.,&Stevens, J. (2004). Role of choice and interest in reader engagement. Journal of Educational Research, 97, 93-103.

Koestner, R.&Losier, G. (2004). Distinguishing three ways of being highly motivated: a closer look at introjection, identification, and intrinsic motivation. In E. Deci&R. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 101-122). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Ryan, R. M.,&Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

Ryan, R.&Lynch, M. (2003). Philosophies of motivation and classroom management. In R. Curren (Ed.), Blackwell companion to philosophy: A companion to the philosophy of education (pp. 260-271). New York, NY: Blackwell.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco/Harper Collins.

White-McNulty, L., Patrikakou, E.N.,&Weissberg, R.P. (2005). Fostering children’s motivation to learn: A guide for teachers. (Partnership Series no. 114). Philadelphia: Laboratory for Student Success.

Wigfield, A.&Eccles, J. (2002). The development of achievement motivation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

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Source:  OpenStax, Motivation and the learning environment. OpenStax CNX. Mar 27, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11415/1.2
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