We all come into the world with a natural curiosity and a motivation to learn, yet some lose those abilities as they grow older. Many factors shape our individual inclinations toward the process of learning, and education is a critical context that can influence our later attitudes toward the acquisition of knowledge and growth.
True learning is a lifelong process. But to continuously achieve, our children must find it enjoyable and rewarding to learn so they can develop a sustained level of motivation necessary for long-term achievement.
Curiosity and motivation to learn are the forces that enable students to seek out intellectual and experiential novelty and encourage students to approach unfamiliar and often challenging circumstances with anticipation of growth and expectation to succeed.
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”
In the context of education, students’ levels of motivation are reflected in their engagement and contribution to the learning environment.
Highly motivated students are usually actively and spontaneously involved in activities and find the process of learning enjoyable without expecting any external rewards (Skinner & Belmont, 1993). On the other hand, students who exhibit low levels of motivation to learn will often depend on the rewards to encourage them to participate in activities they may not find enjoyable.
Many of these are present in games, but more on that later. Current trends in educational psychology draw attention not only to cognitive development, but also the students’ motivation and preference as the fundamental factors in fostering effective learning and achievement.
Lack of motivation, a significant barrier to academic success that exhibits itself through feelings of frustration and annoyance, hinders productivity and wellbeing in the long run.
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
Motivation and Learning
If our kids are motivated, they learn better and retain more of what they learned. Although this sounds obvious, the reality is more nuanced, and the research shows that not all motivations are created equal.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Motivation and Creativity
Our students’ ability to generate novel and useful ideas and solutions to everyday problems is a crucial competence in today’s world and requires high levels of motivation and a good dose of creativity.
Although creativity is to some extent tied to personality traits, it is also influenced by the supportive aspects of the student’s environment, sense of mastery of the domain or medium the student is working in (which may or may not influence self-efficacy), and finally by levels of motivation and their intrinsic versus extrinsic characteristics.
“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
A Take-Home Message
One reason why the study of motivation matters is because researchers have been able to design and implement successful interventions to improve lives, for students as well as their teachers and parents.
That students who sensed more teacher support for autonomy felt more competent and less anxious, reported more interest and enjoyment in their work, and produced higher quality work.
By providing lessons that offer choice, are connected to students’ goals, and provide both challenges and opportunities for success that are appropriate to students’ level of skill, teachers were able to foster a positive learning environment and positive teacher–student relationships.
“I am still learning.”