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Classroom Factors That Affect Motivation

by Jana Sosnowski, studioD

Motivating students is one of the most difficult tasks a teacher faces. With a variety of students who all have a variety of home lives and personal interests, the teacher must design a learning experience that engages all students and motivates each to do her best. Design of the classroom experience, teacher behavior and types of assignments can all affect student motivation.

Classroom Structure

According to a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, motivation is fostered through a structured classroom environment that meets the basic needs of the student, particularly in establishing a feeling of safety. Teachers create structure in the classroom by clearly communicating expectations and reacting consistently to student behavior. Additionally, a well-organized course with pre-determined materials and procedures for assessment give students a sense of security in taking responsibility for their own learning.

Teacher Behavior

Teacher behavior in the classroom influences the student's ability to connect with the educator, which increases motivation to succeed. Teacher attitudes, including enjoying interactions with their students and expressing kindness toward students, fulfill student needs for inclusion in the classroom community. To create this type of environment, teachers should focus on providing frequent and positive feedback and creating an open classroom environment. Teachers should also have a supportive style of teaching, which includes listening, giving encouragement and responding to student questions.

Teaching Strategies

Student motivation increases when the student feels that the subject material is relevant to his life. Relevance comes from choosing topics that relate to current news, students' cultural backgrounds and daily lives or technology, for example. Another way to increase student motivation during the learning process is to allow students to make some choices in their learning process. Choices might include the type of assignment or assessment that a student can do or the classmate a student works with. Motivation is also increased through the use of varying teaching methods so students do not become bored with a teacher's style.

Assignments and Grading Strategies

The degree of difficulty of graded assignments affects student motivation. Assignments that are too difficult can undermine student motivation as students begin to feel they will never succeed, while assignments that are too easy also undermine student motivation as she may feel the teacher does not believe she can complete more difficult work. It is important to provide students with feedback about their work so there is no confusion about expectations. Motivation may also be increased through public praise and through display or presentation of exceptional work.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Jana Sosnowski holds Master of Science in educational psychology and instructional technology, She has spent the past 11 years in education, primarily in the secondary classroom teaching English and journalism. Sosnowski has also worked as a curriculum writer for a math remediation program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from the University of Southern California.

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