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Lisa Clark

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Goal Setting to Advance Student Motivation
By Lisa Clark   
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Last edited: Sunday, March 20, 2011
Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2011

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There are many reasons why students have trouble being a full participant in school. Many of these cognitive problems can be negatively looked at as students being defiant, incapable, or just plain lazy. Despite patterns in what may seem like obvious character deficits, most students actually do want to succeed but are unsure how to do so. With proper assistance from the teacher, children can learn how to become better students and achieve academic success.

 

There are many reasons why students have trouble being a full participant in school. Many of these cognitive problems can be negatively looked at as students being defiant, incapable, or just plain lazy. Despite patterns in what may seem like obvious character deficits, most students actually do want to succeed but are unsure how to do so. “When we encounter resistance to learning, we need to identify whether cognitive structures are lacking and, if necessary, intervene to help students develop them” (Garner, pg.1) With proper assistance from the teacher, children can learn how to become better students and achieve academic success.
 
To help motivate students to achieve success in the classroom, one of the most important things to do is to make sure the assignments you give them are authentic. “Success means gradual mastery of appropriately challenging objectives, not application of over learned skills to overly familiar tasks” (Brophy, pg.54). If students perceive a project as “busy work,” they are less apt to put effort into any learning that may come from such work. Authentic learning has proven to be one way to combat against loosing student interest in many different problem areas facing classroom motivation.. If, for example, you give students a word search in order to learn vocabulary for history, the students will do it solely to get it done and will have learned nothing.
 
One reason motivation can be effected is a student’s self-efficacy perception. If a student believes they are unable to produce a good outcome on an assignment, they may become less motivated to try. Teachers must be careful not to diminish a student’s self-efficacy perception. A student who might have once liked many aspects of a subject may start to doubt their abilities with one utterance from a teacher. In “The Wounded Student” by Kristin Olson, Marie is a student who once was an engaged student starts to shut down when a math teacher tells her she “wasn’t well equipped” and couldn’t keep up with her peers. The perception the teacher has about Marie stopped the student from trying in the classroom. Teachers can help students obtain confidence in the classroom by telling students that they are very capable people and how not everyone learns all things in the same manner. It is important to choose our words wisely as not to harm students confidence in their abilities.
 
One way to build student confidence is to have them constantly succeeding on assignments. This can be accomplished by allowing time to adjust to each step in the process without frustration or confusion. The teachers planning can assure success by making sure each part of a whole assignment is taught as to scaffold students learning. This process must take into account all students abilities and differentiate instruction as needed. If a student has a learning disorder, “identify the most essential objectives of each curriculum unit and make sure that low achievers master them” (Brophy, pg.106). Goal setting is one way to keep the steps outlined for individual students.
 
Students should set learning goals so they are able to see constant accomplishments and stay motivated. “Setting goals and committing to trying to reach these goals increase performance levels” (Brophy, pg.55). For goal setting to be an effective tool for a teacher, she must make sure the goal is specific and one that is to be accomplished in the present. Another aspect of goal setting that is important is that the goal is challenging yet not too difficult. Teachers need to monitor students goals regularly and provide feedback. Students, with the help of the teacher, can set individual goals that will help them succeed in steps. This will allow me to assess students continuously and will be helpful when instructing in a group setting.
 
To help students understand what they need to provide more focus on, teachers need to monitor and evaluate students work. “Unless monitoring leads to needed feedback, some learners may fail to accomplish key goals even if highly motivated to do so” (Brophy, pg. 56). The feedback should focus on informative feedback. This will help the student identify areas they need to improve on. Again, the teacher needs to be careful not to diminish students self-efficacy. If the teacher focuses on too much on the “problem areas,” students who are obsessed with their self-worth may focus on performance goals instead of learning goals. I believe that not only should the teacher inform the student as to what they need to improve on, but that the teacher should also inform the student as to what they are doing that is right. If the teacher is constantly focusing on what is wrong, the student may start to feel as though they are incapable of completing assignments. When the teacher provides feedback on strengths, the student can learn to use these to accomplish more challenging work. 
 
When students are afraid of failure, they become more focused on others perceptions of their work and less on the learning. If a student has “failure syndrome,” a teacher can provide steps within the classroom that will help the student obtain the confidence to focus more on learning. Students with failure syndrome approach their assignments with low expectations and may give up when difficulty arises. Using learning goals, the teacher can give praise for work that the student showed reasonable effort in accomplishing instead of focusing on the grade. Another way for the teacher to assure success is by having students use their best abilities in a group setting. This will allow the student to receive recognition and praise from their peers.
 
Teachers want a classroom full of motivated students. However, many of their students do not enter their classroom ready to learn for many reasons including; learning disabilities, low self-esteem or even thinking that there is no reason for them to be in school as they are not learning anything important. Keeping assignments authentic, giving informative feedback, and building up self-efficacy perception are some ways in which the teacher can start to help students become lifelong learners. If these motivational goals are achieved, motivation in the classroom and in the rest of the students’ career will follow.
 
 
Works Cited
Brophy, Jere E. Motivating Students to Learn. New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Garner, Betty K. "When Students Seem Stalled." Educational Leadership 65.6 (2008): 32-38. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.
Olson, Kirsten. "The Wounded Student." Educational Leadership 65.6 (2008): 46-49. Professional Development Collection. EBSCO. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.
 

 



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