Student Motivation

There’s been talk, dark talk, the kind of talk that sounds like the right thing to do but actually on closer inspection it’s of the inky black, dark kind! How is motivation applied in a learning environment when it’s already stressful and intensive? I refer to pressure applied to higher educators under the ‘need’ to pass students and not fail them.


This pressure is felt by front-line academic staff, say middle of the semester (every year it’s the same), and talk of discipline begins to buzz in the faculty.

I’m talking about those students that fail to turn up, take part or even engage. We all have them, at least one. The easy road is to take the meeting approach, sit down and find a solution to becoming more committed- often lands on the students shoulders. Step two means letters home, red pen, strong, formal wording you get the picture – step thee often results in student withdrawal by their own actions.

We as educators will always have those students – they’re a constant, they’re our ‘sure-fire’, they’re our guarantee. Accommodating them is a method of procedure with tailored allowances for individual circumstances.

The dark talk comes from ideas of how prevent this from happening in the first place. One idea is to begin the class (day one) with emphasis on terms and conditions, another is pushing the ownership and responsibility on to the student with an open carelessness “I don’t care if you don’t turn up, do the work, or submit assignments on time, I still get paid at the end of the day” I’ve heard teachers say, followed by “it’s your responsibility to learn”.

So let’s analyse that – what we’re saying is “I don’t give a fuck about you or your questions – I’m just here for the money” and “it’s your job to ask the questions”. Well shit! Actually, it’s the job of the teacher to ask the questions and promote problem solving, it’s the job of the teacher to care about everything and everyone in that class, and guarantee learning will take place. If problems occur, then a strategy will be put in place to accommodate – that’s student differentiation, to quote Pink Floyd, “all in all it’s just another brick in the wall” is what we’re making if we don’t differentiate, teaching 101 adapt teaching styles to accommodate your groups level of learning.

Environments also do not need to be “industry ready” and adopt a working, pressured environment in order to simulate the pressures of employment. In no way should a negative motivation be used at the beginning of a course – students need security and an allowance within an environment to make mistakes, and venture new grounds.

“Education is learning to grow, learning what to grow toward, learning what is good and bad, learning what is desirable and undesirable, learning what to choose and what not to choose.”Abraham Maslow – The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971)