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Motivation to Learn 1

Motivation To Learn
Kristy Staples
EDU 615
University of New England

Motivation to Learn 2

I: Student Narrative
I teach a wide range of students (6-12th grade) and Im able to have them for four
years. This allows me to see motivational struggles or successes over the years.

The first student, John, is in the 7th grade. He comes from a very poor and unstable
family. He and his siblings have a history of behavior problems in school. He is an
extremely active young man, who does not like to sit still. He prefers learning that is
hands on. In fact his favorite class is his alternative education class where they cook
food. John seems to be extremely needy of attention, whether he is getting it in a
positive or negative way.

The second student is Jim, a sophomore in high school whom I have taught since he
was in the 6th grade. Jim comes from a middle class family, dad is a retired military man
and mom graduated from college with an education degree. She is not currently working
in that field. Dad now works at our high school and is a coach of multiple sports that Jim
participates in. Jims dad has always been tough on him and makes him feel like hes
never good enough. He excels in athletics but has never been successful in the
classroom. There is so much potential, but not a lot of belief that he can do it. In fact,
Jim tells me constantly that his dad always calls him stupid. He too is someone who
learns best with hands on activities.

Next is Jane, she is another 7th grader. She comes from a middle class family, with a
father who is degrading. She is in the special education program at our school because

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she struggles with her reading and writing. She has a disorder with her hair that makes
her miss a lot of school. When she is in school she is not interested in doing anything,
she is very rude, disrespectful and the other kids find her scary because of her
aggressive behavior. Her sister is an exceptional student, and I honestly think this is
part of Janes issue.

Another student that Ive had who had motivational issues is Bob. He is a senior this
year and has always struggled to get good grades. His mother was extremely young
when she had him and his real dad is no part of his life. His mom recently married and
the new guy has been a wonderful role model for Bob. He has always been in survival
mode by doing the bare minimum to get by. He is one of the best athletes in our school,
but has struggled to stay eligible for that. He is definitely a bodily-kinesthetic learner.

Finally, there is Chris who is currently a freshmen. Chris has always struggled with all
academic tasks because he has a hard time focusing. Just this past week he was given
a 504 plan. He was diagnosed with ADHD, low reading levels and trouble staying
organized. He comes from a middle class family, his father is a correctional officer and
his mother is a substitute in our school. He and his parents are some of the nicest
people I know. Chris wants to do well, but struggles to find the ways to do it.

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II Observable Behaviors

John: When observing him it is obvious that his lack of motivation comes from his
interest in the topic or activity. He usually is more interested in walking around the room,
playing with anything he can get his hands on, and talking to the people around him. As
I stated earlier, he will do anything for attention, good or bad. The 7th grade is a huge
class so our class sizes are large which means less one on one attention and John
does not like this. If you sit right beside him and constantly refocus him, he will do the
work and do a wonderful job. This obviously cant happen every minute and there is no
self-motivation on his part to do it alone. He will also constantly state how he HATES
SCHOOL and that hes here because his parents make him.

Jim: If you were to observe him in a classroom you would find an aloof kid. He is never
a behavior problem, hes just not interested in doing anything. He always looks tired and
unengaged. His lack of motivation I believe comes from him not wanting to fail. Hed
rather do nothing, than to try something and not be up to par. He does struggle with his
reading and writing which I think is due to his avoidance of work. When made to do it or
done with guidance, he will produce average work.

Jane: In the classroom Jane is a difficult student. There is nothing that you can do in
class that she is going to put forth any effort with. She is continuously rude to staff &

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students. She clearly does not feel like she can do anything so instead of trying, she
does nothing. Her IEP modifications give her reduced work and no homework, so alls
shed have to do is participate in class. She reads and writes below grade level, so
adjustments to her assignments are made, yet nothing is done. If you try to help her,
she gets mad at you. She enjoys drawing, but if its for an assignment, she wont do it.
She only wants to do what she wants, when she wants to.

Bob: What you see in the classroom can be very different from what is done outside of
it. When asked to work or participate in class, he will. It is the homework, studying and
project work outside of class that is never completed on his part. With someone
constantly engaging him, he does a great job. The minute he leaves the classroom,
there is no plan to continue with his work. That is why hes hard to keep on track
because there is only so much time in a day to deal with him. Once he leaves, the
motivation is gone.

Chris: This year youd see a very different student than in the past. In the past, Chris
did very little in class unless he was allowed to work with a partner or group. In that
case, he completed his part. Ive found this year that hes more willing to try work on his
own, but it never gets completed, or its not done the way its supposed to be. He will
always try something, but if he feels he cant succeed at it, he will just stop and turn in
what he has done. In his 504 plan, we have been asked not to reduce his assignments

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but rather to give him more time to complete it. We have found that the time limits on
the work cause him extreme anxiety.

III. Theory of Application

John: I believe that the self-determination theory would help John with his motivation.
Dr. Sharon Field who has directed many self-determination projects uses this strategy to
offer ways to deal with students with ADHD. Although John has not officially been
diagnosed, he definitely shows signs. Field defines self-determination as, the ability to
identify and achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing oneself. She
further explains how schools must provide opportunities for self-determination and I
believe we need to do this for John (Field & Hoffman, 2002, pg 113). He likes to cook
and is good at it, we need to provide more opportunities for this. We also need to help
him see that although hes hyper and has trouble focusing, it does not make him any
less of a student than the rest. In Classroom Motivation, the Andermans discuss how
the need for relatedness is important with self-determination (2014, pg 5). I feel this is
why it could work for John because he is always concerned about what others think of
him. If we can get him to realize that his behavior is not appealing to them, and show
him how better behavior may give him this connection, than he may be more

Jim: For Jim, he needs to know the value of what hes doing. His father creates a
situation where Jim feels under valued at home and thus, he brings that into the

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classroom. If we can use the expectancy-value theory to show Jim why everything we
do in school is important to him and that he can do it, then I think we would see great
success from him. He performs well in athletics because he knows his father values his
athletic ability. This same value needs to be shown to Jim with all school related tasks.
We also need to find ways to make these tasks more engaging and interesting to him.
When Jim knows you care for him and want him to succeed, there is no doubt that he
will do all that he can.

Jane: I believe the attribution theory would help motivate Jane. The Andermans explain
how the process of attribution mainly deals with answering the question WHY? Why are
these things happening, why are the results the way they are? (2014). If we can give
Jane answers to these questions, then I think she may be more motivated in class. I
think she feels a lack of control and stability in her life, due to her hair disease and her
father who is tough on her. Providing her with reasons why school is important, why all
people are not created the same and why its important for her to maintain positive
behaviors then I think she would be more inclined to engage at school. Also, it seems as
though Jane senses a lack of control in her life, so she has decided that the one thing
she has control over is what she does and does not learn. Giving her this control, in a
positive way, can hopefully help her succeed in the classroom.

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Chris: The social cognitive theory would definitely help Chris. Weve already found that
when working in a group he will do much better work. Albert Bandura, explains how with
social cognitive theory, students will tend to do the behaviors they see in other students,
especially those similar to the student (Anderman & Anderman, 2014). Chris has many
friends who excel in the classroom, thus, they would be perfect role models for him. He
is in a difficult class of mine and he has asked to switch classes to be with kids who are
more on task. This is how I know the social cognitive theory would help motivate him.
He is not intimidated by these kids, he wants to be like them. Finding someone similar
to his ability with more motivation and allowing them to work together will definitely be
beneficial to Chris education success.

Bob: Educational Research Quarterly produced an article that explains how goalorientation is when students have a belief about the goals set for them and why theyre
important to their well being (Kajs & McCollum, 2007). I believe this theory would be
wonderful for Bob because he clearly enjoys athletics so if we can show how setting
positive goals in the classroom will allow him to participate and even excel in athletics
then I think we can get him to perform. I think we would focus on the goal of
demonstrating ones ability at the task (Anderman & Anderman, 2014, pg 8). He knows
he is capable of doing great things, we need to bring this out in him. The performanceapproach goal would be best for him because like Chris, his friend base is some of the
top students in our school. If we can set goals relative to him friends, then he should be
able to accomplish great things.

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Anderman, E. M., & Anderman, L. H. (2014). Classroom motivation.
(2nd ed.). Columbus : Pearson.

Field, S., & Hoffman, A. (2002). Preparing youth to exercise selfdetermination. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 13(2),
113-119. Retrieved from

Kajs, L., & McCollum, D. (2007). Applying goal-orientation theory in an explanation of student
motivations in the domain of educational leadership. Educational Research Quarterly,
31(1), 45-59. Retrieved from