Earlier understanding on human motivation was based on early psychological milestones: Freudian Theory of Id, Behaviorist Theory of Watson, Humanistic Theory of Maslow. For example, according to Freud, the basic biological urges, that he called “id” were instinctive by nature and drove human behavior according to uncontrollable urges, i.e, “negative” urges that humans needed to learn how to control.
Freud speculated further that human “ego” was there to “subdue” (i.e. control) those “negative” urges thus rendering the owner more socially adaptable (Pelham, 1997). Under the same umbrella, there are instinct theories of human motivation, so progressively mentioned in the work of Stacey, DeMartino, Stacey, and DeMartino (1958).
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In it, these particular authors take the readers back to what was known Evolutionary Theory (a.k.a. Pawlov’s Theory of Evolution), and yet, so masterfully suggest that human motivation can be viewed through these lenses. In the same arena the readers can place what contemporary psychologists understand under Need Theory of Human Motivation.
Referring back to Maslow, they might recall that he developed that particular milestone under guidance of human needs. In particular, he saw the hierarchy of human needs in the form of the pyramid in which the bottom portion occupied the most primary ones.
According to Pelham, (1997), Watson and his followers maintained that humans are born with a “blank state” which, as the human child grows, his mind is filled with the content influenced by the environmental factors. To extrapolate, their perspective suggested that external stimuli are responsible for the human motivation.
It is curious to inquire further, would the human produce motivational impulses if completely isolated for an extended period of time? If the human motivation is viewed only from behaviorist perspective, the answer to this question can become logical as follows.
If deprived from any external stimuli from his/her birth, the human will be completely and absolutely amotivated in every aspect of his or her life. Such supposition was evidenced as wrong through and with research on stimuli deprived children (Pelham, 1997).
Pelham (1997) also argued that humanistic psychologists discussed human motivation from the self-actualization point of view. He made a case that every one of us has the internal need to learn to naturally develop self be it conditioned or vicarious learning situations.
Maslow and Rogers gave a thrust to a completely new group of psychologists who began considering a combination of cognitive, social-cognitive, and social-behaviorists angles on the human motivation. The names of the motivational theories, as descriptive as they are, imply on important differentiation.
Each framework refers to the specific perspective, as in human consciousness being the great part of the motivational impulse, or human consciousness being influenced by a social structure, or even social structure having a full impact on the human motivation thus his or her behavior.
From this perspective, one would find a great point of interest to consider that humanistic and Gestalt theories tend to view the human being as the whole with implied emphasis on the positive state of mind (i.e. mental health versus mental illness) whereas behaviorist and Freudian theories view human behavior from the point of view on the negative state of mind (i.e. mental illness versus mental health). Obviously, to view human motivation through either lenses would shift the educator’s approach.
According to Stacey et al. (1958), especially, there is an interest in note of the fact that Gestalt psychologists argued in favor of free will as the necessary ingredient of human motivation. Cognitivists defended the position of the necessity of good memory and importance of perception in order for the learner to develop a strong motivational impulse. Theirs gave birth to the Learning Theory of Human Motivation.
With the more insight, cognitivists and humanists alike started considering integration of different theoretical perspectives. For example, Pelham, (1997) wrote in one of his articles that an individual as the wholesome being can be better understood from the point of view of social, cognitive, conative, affective, and biological perspective. The attention here is placed more on emphasis of how mind configure and organize the external and internal experiences.
Learning theory suggests that learning is a need and thus must be met. Usually it is most prevalent through and with vicarious mode. A young child is in the constant learning when observing and trying to copy others. Thus, there is a constant motivation of the said child to be with others, to copy from others, to learn from others.
Naturally, the name of the Learning Theory implies that such is either practiced or observed in the classroom situation. In the above-mentioned work it was upheld that this particular theory is viewed from the perspective of three components, as in a) cognitive function, b) stimulus-response relationship, and c) human interaction. Certainly, it would be naïve to attribute such a complex human activity as learning to one and only domain, as in vicarious learning.
It is integration and combination of different modes, that is different ways to absorb, relate, and react to the external stimuli. The cognitive theory provides a window into a conjecture that the human has a need to develop cognitively. Thus, these theories might explain why people have such a strong motivation to read, to discuss what they read, to apply what they read.
The intrinsic motivation to learn in children differs from that in adult learners. It is propelled by curiosity, fantasy, and flight of imagination. The skilled teachers long noticed that they get the best results in teaching young students when they integrate the element of story telling into their instructional input. The young students most often respond with increased interest, desire, and motivation (Pajares, 2001).
Adult learners are driven by pragmatism. Their presence in the classrooms are more defined of the present or future need of the information they are receiving. Alderman (1999) looked at motivation as the educator’s tool to develop the learners’ potentials.
Obviously, such motivation (any degree of it) must be recognized first and then manipulated to higher levels. The knowledgeable and intuitive educator must be able to tell when the students amotivated and through the personal research to identify the causes for such. The causes of motivation can vary but specific identification of them can mean the whole difference for the students.
Alderman divided various causes of amotivation into the specific frameworks. For example, Effort and Ability Framework groups the causes that are personal by nature. Students with such causes created a construct of self, being unable to achieve and unable to break the certain level of standard. As the result, their self-efficacy is low and their self-perception is that of a person who cannot achieve. When students are in the classroom situation, they cannot avoid comparing themselves (their personal achievement) to that of others.
If the classroom climate was set for competition there are always going to be students who create low effort, low ability self-construct. Understanding this, the effective instructor must change the class climate transforming it into the mutual supportive, no inter-student-competing, and focus-on-personal achievements milieu.
Those students who already have a low efficacy construct must be dealt with individually. The instructor’s duty in this case is to pay more attention on the student’s inner construct giving him/her tasks broken down into smaller increments.
Such increments become easier to master and when mastered, the personal sense of achievement becomes the only mechanism to change the low-efficacy construct into the high-efficacy construct. The student will feel that his ability improved, and his/her approach to the whole of educational experience will start transforming. With that, the motivation will jump to the new higher levels that, in turn, will manifest with more participation in class.
Alderman (1999) separated lack of effort into another content for the framework, but if to look analytically for the causes of the lack of effort one might discover the cause behind it – low motivational drive. When the student experiences high-efficacy construct, the higher motivational drive will transform lack of effort into the strong effort for he or she will start feeling able to achieve.
It is worthy to notice the comparison between American and Chinese (or Japanese) students (Alderman, 1999). While American students operate from the inner sense of personal ability, their Asian counterparts view the personal success from the perspective of applying more effort. In the former case, the students are difficult to motivate if they have a low-ability construct of themselves.
The Asian students know that all they have to do to achieve higher results is to apply more effort. Such difference in perception of self as a student can be as well cultural. The higher-effort perspective is practiced in Japanese/Chinese families from within of their micro-culture with children growing up believing that all they need is more effort.
Another obstacle that is mentioned by this researcher is the student disengagement. Certainly and logically, such should be noted more often among the high school students than their post-secondary counterparts. The pragmatism on the post-secondary education levels should act as an effective deterrent to students’ disengagement from their studies.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, even higher-level university students loose their pragmatic goals and become trapped by non-educative elements of campus life. In such a case, it is the job of their instructors to identify the outside interests and redirect their attention to the initial goal of them being in a class.
Covington (2000) focused his readers’ attention on the motivating properties of set academic and pragmatic goals. He pointed out that motivation is rather a criterion for academic success and thus has to be in the center of any education establishment.
From this perspective, this researcher viewed the dynamics behind identifying and working with the students’ motivation as three causal effects: 1) students’ personal perception as far as their own attitudes toward their own social and academic goals, 2) how strong these goals motivate them toward their academic success, 3) what is available (set up by the instructor) as the reward structure to influence the students’ personal achievement.
These three criteria can be viewed as the circle-oriented continuum in which the reward structure promotes students’ personal perception on his or her academic success.
Examining carefully this continuum, the instructor can notice what specific types of the external reward system are more influential in its affect of the personal student perception. Basically, it can be rephrased into what elements of the reward system affect the student’s perception of self-worth.
It is logical than to assume that students of all ages will benefit from the correct set up and implementation of the reward system: one just have to know how to individualize its elements to achieve highest possible affect with each student in his or her classroom. For example, certain students’ self-worth will scientifically improve if the instructor will design successful experiences.
Smaller increments of comprehensive input without significant gaps in between the complexity steps with frequent opportunity to practice and self-correct of the practical applications of the subject matter will do wonders to the personal self-worth. Insensitive instructors, however, undermine the students’ development of self-worth when try rushing with the content and do not give the students an opportunity to clarify their confusion.
Nuckles (2000) called such teaching as student-centered approach. From its name, this approach is centered on the students, driven by the students, and modified by the students. His pro-humanistic values make it obvious his views on who is responsible for the students’ motivation bringing into the central focus the skills and aptitude of the instructor.
The implication here directs the attention on the instructor’s ability to
- identify the students’ motivation level,
- if low with individual students, identify the causes (discussed earlier in this paper) which practically means to view and approach each student as an individual,
- devise a plan of intervention to raise each student’s motivational drive by eliminating the obstacles (the causes) one-by-one,
- evaluate the class climate and decide whether there are counterproductive elements,
- transform the class climate into more of each-student-driven success mode by celebrating and talking about each student’s achievement,
- the latter can be practiced in cognizant fashion by purposely comparing the yesterday’s achievement with the today’s achievement of the same student thus diverting the students’ attention from inter-student competition a
- set up time to personally meet and have an individual discourse with each and every student of the class.
The above elements and actions of the student-driven classroom render their instructor to become skilled and knowledgeable in cognitive and inter-personal psychology. It cannot be otherwise; the times passed when an instructor was perceived as a mere medium to transfer knowledge on to his or her students.
One might argue that there seem to be no need for such intense and time-consuming practice in the societies of China, Japan, and other alike. This discourse is not contradictive or suggestive to other than Western cultures. It is of the opinion of this writer that such approach will serve as the “corrective” measure to produce results similar in the Asian education establishments.
There, the teachers do not have to find the ways to manipulate with the students’ motivation drives – the students have been brought up skilled in that themselves. If they feel the fall of their motivational impulse or social diversion taking their attention away from their purpose, they self compensate by deliberately increasing amount of effort.
Their American (and Western?) counterparts cannot do that due to the fact that their internal perception is tied up with the self-evaluation of their own ability level. In other words, they come into the education milieu with already preset self-concept or psychological construct of their own self judged by their own ability.
They are far away from mere “turning on” the engine of their effort to produce more man-hours at the specific task. They simply believe that their ability level is set to the certain level and nothing will change it. Returning to Alderman (1999), such believe simply manifests itself as the set construct of their own ability: “Why to try (produce more effort) if this is what I am capable of?”
Such attitude is self-defeatist and thus needs the external mechanism in order for it to be manipulated with. Such an external mechanism is the instructor who performs with the double duty of a psychologist. That leads to the more careful review of type of instructors Western teacher preparation programs produce.
The number and quality of psychology content in their course work is simply inadequate. No wonder, why only experienced and seasoned professionals come up with the logical outcome (that is they continually searching for self-improvement) that such an external mechanism is the way they set up the class climate and retrain their students to look at themselves from a different perspective. Such external mechanism becomes a motivation faucet in the hands of the skilled instructor.
The practical application of such approach can lead to a variety of strategies. One thing to remember, however, that the instructor always must act as the facilitator, not necessarily as the source of knowledge. Only when the students will discover the knowledge through their own effort because they felt motivated to do so, that knowledge becomes relevant to their purposes and important/practical in their lives.
The variety of strategies can be as simple as small group instructional regime (Brewer, Klein, and Mann, 2003) or paired work – it does not have a particular significance or preference. What is important is the perspective of the instructional design that is that external mechanism needed to manipulate the students’ motivational drive.
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