MOTIVATION-’Golden Road to Learning’

Dr. V.K. Maheshwari, Former Principal

K.L.D.A.V(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Motivation plays a vital role in every sphere of human resource .Motivation is said to be the ‘heart of learning,’  and ‘potent factor in learning’, as all learning is motivated learning. Adequate motivation results in promoting reflection, attention, interest and effort in the pupils and hence promotes learning.

Learning cannot be successful, effective or efficient without persistent, purposeful and selective effort. Naturally teacher’s problem is to discover, direct and capitalize upon these motives and develop interest for educational purpose.

Motivation is the combined action of desires and incentives, pushes and pulls. Like a machine, a person must have energy in order to behave. Motive provides the energy. High motivation means high drive.

Definitions of Motivation

Motivation is derived from the  word motus, movere ‘mover’ which means to move’. It is an art of inculcating and stimulating interest in studies and in other such activities in the pupils. It is the process of arousing action, sustaining activity in progress, regulating and directing pattern of activity. Motivation is defined as the act or process of motivating; the condition of being motivating; a motivating force, stimulus, or influence; incentive; drive; something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person or student to act ,and the expenditure of effort to accomplish results .

According to J.W. Atkinson, “The term motivation refers to the arousal of tendency to act to produce one or more effects.”

According to Maslow, “Motivation is the universal characteristic of every organism state of affair. It is constant, never ending, fluctuation and complex phenomenon.”

According to Good, “Motivation is the process of arousing, sustaining and regulating activity.”

According to Woodworth, “A motive is a state of the individual which disposes him of certain behaviour and for seeking certain way.”

According to Crow and Crow, “Motivation is considered with the arousal of the interest in learning which is essential for learning.”

According to Lowell, “Motivation may be defined more formally as a psychological of internal process initiated by some need, which leads to the activity which will satisfy that need.”

The concept of motivation .

Motivation is typically defined as the forces that account for the arousal, selection, direction, and continuation of behaviour. Nevertheless, many teachers have at least two major misconceptions about motivation that prevent them from using this concept with maximum effectiveness. One misconception is that some students are unmotivated. Strictly speaking, that is not an accurate statement. As long as a student chooses goals and expends a certain amount of effort to achieve them, he is, by definition, motivated. What teachers really mean is that students are not motivated to behave in the way teachers would like them to behave. The second misconception is that one person can directly motivate another. This view is inaccurate because motivation comes from within a person. What many teachers can do, with the help of the various motivation theories, is create the circumstances that influence students to do what many teachers want them to do.

Thus motivation is concerned with the inculcation and stimulation of the learner’s interest in the learning activities. It is the force which energizes a man to act and to make constant efforts in order to satisfy his basic motives. In fact motives are the dynamic force that energizes all behaviour. Motives are to two types-Primary motives and secondary motives.

Primary Motives are the biological or psychological motives. These motives ensure the preservation of life. Hunger, thirst, sex, sleep, rest are the examples of these motives. They are inborn and innate. They are found in all organisms.

Secondary Motives are the psychological or social motives. The need for belongingness, need for security, desire of gaining status and recognition, power and achievement ‘motive’ are its examples.

Motives can be divided into two types: external and internal. Internal motives are considered as the needs that every human being experience, while external indicate the presence of specific situations where these needs arise

Approaches  of Motivation

A Humanist Approach to Motivation; Self-Actualisation.

Maslow saw motivation in terms of an individual’s striving for growth; he sought to explain it by reference to a ‘hierarchy of human needs’. People are ‘wanting animals’. He believed that at any given moment a person’s behaviour is dominated by those of his needs which have the greatest potency. As their ‘lower’, physiological needs are adequately satisfied, motives at a ‘higher’ level in the hierarchy come into play

These needs are hierarchical; high-level needs will be attended to only after low-level needs are satisfied. Maslow’s basic needs (physiological, safety and belonging) are termed deficiency because they motivate (lead to behaviour) when the organism has a deficiency with respect to a need (for example, lacks food or water). The meta-needs (esteem and self-actualisation) are termed growth needs because they motivate behaviours that do not result from deficiencies but from a natural human tendency toward growth. The growth needs will be attended to only after the basic needs are reasonably satisfied. The ultimate need is that of self-actualisation. Self-actualization is a difficult concept to explain. It is a process of growth—of becoming—evident in the unfolding and fulfilment of self.

A Cognitive Approach to Motivation; Self-efficacy.

Bandura informs  that self-efficacy has to do with our own estimates of our personal effectiveness. “Perceived self-efficacy,” he writes, “refers to beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments” .The most efficacious people are those who are most competent. Accordingly, self-efficacy has two related components: The first has to do with the skills—the actual competencies—required for successful performance; the second concerns the individual’s personal estimates of competence.

Students with a high sense of academic efficacy display greater persistence, effort, and intrinsic interest n their academic learning and performance In fact, academic self-concept he to be a better predictor of future course selections than actual grades in various subjects.

A Behaviourist Approach to Motivation; Reinforcement.

Skinner demonstrated how positive reinforcement increases the probability of a behavior when it follows as a consequence of the behavior. Negative reinforcement also increases the probability of a response, but it does so as a function of being removed as a consequence of behaviour

Positive and negative reinforcement are used in virtually all classrooms; teachers praise and admonish students, they give high and low grades, they smile and frown. These and a thousand other indicators of approval or disapproval are examples of reinforcement. When reinforcement is used judiciously and systematically, it can have profound effects on behaviour.

Types of motivation.

Some psychologists concerned with understanding learning have attempted to formulate ‘categories of motivation’, i.e. groupings of students’ motives for learning.

Instrumental motivation: This type of motivation, which is purely extrinsic, is in evidence where students perform tasks solely because of the consequences likely to ensue

Social motivation: Students influenced by this type of motivation tend to perform tasks so as to please those they respect, admire, or whose opinions are of some importance to them.

Achievement motivation: This is involved where students learn ‘in the hope of success’. Ausubel suggests that there are three elements in motivation of this type:

(a) Cognitive drive—the learner is attempting to satisfy a perceived ‘need to know’;

(b) Self enhancement—the learner is satisfying the need for self-esteem;

(c) Affiliation—the learner is seeking the approval of others.

Intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation arises from a desire to learn a topic due to its inherent interests, for self-fulfilment, enjoyment and to achieve a mastery of the subject. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is motivation to perform and succeed for the sake of accomplishing a specific result or outcome. Students who are very grade-oriented are extrinsically motivated, whereas students who seem to truly embrace their work and take a genuine interest in it are intrinsically motivated.

Basic Elements of Motivation

Motivation is probably the most important factor that educators can target in order to improve learning.  Numerous cross-disciplinary theories have been postulated to explain motivation.  While each of these theories has some truth, no single theory seems to adequately explain all human motivation.  The fact is that human beings in general and students in particular are complex creatures with complex needs and desires.  With regard to students, very little if any learning can occur unless students are motivated on a consistent basis.  The five key basic elements impacting student motivation are:  student, teacher, content, method/process, and environment.

A-The Student

“You cannot push anyone up the ladder unless he is willing to climb himself.” – Robert Schuller

The student’s role in education is crucial and should go beyond the traditional view of student as customer or recipient of knowledge.  In addition to the roles of buyer and recipient, Research in Higher Education Journal   “students are the raw materials for education and the primary products of educational transformations; and most important…students are key members of the labour force involved in  creating education”

That is, student motivation is enhanced when these factors pertinent to students are present:

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:  Typical students bring varying degrees of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to the learning arena.  Intrinsic motivational factors found to be at work with most students include involvement Extrinsic motivational factors include compliance,  recognition ; competition; and work avoidance

Various individual and social factors: Overall academic motivation is affected by various individual and social factors

• Hierarchy of needs and perceived well-being:  Students’ perceptions may be clouded by their perceived wellbeing,

Efficient use of energy and focus: Students should be taught how to produce results while maintaining focus and energy.  Hence, educators need to train students to “stalk” efficient and effective results.

Purposeful connection with work: Emergent motivation results from connecting with work as a source of self-expression, exploration, and sustained creativity

Conscientiousness and achievement: Conscientiousness and achievement motivation are positively correlated with GPA.

Public speaking competence: Student motivation has been positively related to public speaking competence, make students more confident and motivated.

Study time and study habits:  Students lead very busy lives.  Having a good set of notes is important, but it still depends on how study time is used

Lecture attendance: Lectures are viewed as positively associated with academic performance. They also are perceived as valuable and interesting learning experiences for students

Comprehensive, long-range educational plan: The development of a long-range educational plan will help students to value education and to make the most of their time in school.  This plan also should contribute to their confidence and reduce the fear of the unknown

B- The Teacher

“…the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” – Mark Twain

Students display more motivational benefits from teachers they like over teachers they dislike

.  The following suggestions are offered regarding  teacher contributions to student motivation:

Subject knowledge and motivational level:  The professor’s knowledge of the subject matter and the motivational level of the professor are most important to motivate college students to do well in college.

Teacher qualifications: Qualifications of the teacher employed in universities should be questioned and improved.  Educators need to acquire new qualities and continue to grow and evolve as they are role models for the students

Test giving: Teachers need to know how to give tests that are motivating to the students.  Tests need to have thematic relevance, that is, they need to aim at checking what students have learned and whether they can apply it to real-life tasks

Scientific management and human relations:  The educator must consider whether to approach students from the viewpoint of scientific management, human relations, or both

Conscious of small details:

Consequently, small details do make all the difference.  Greet each student at the door by his or her first name.  Make eye contact and smile.  Actively listen to each student.  Avoid giving advice.  Be genuine.  Be clear in approval and disapproval.  Let students know you do not carry a grudge.  Avoid sarcasm and criticism.

Reach out to students: Student engagement is a key to academic motivation, persistence, and degree completion.  Teachers are competing for the students’ attention, that is, jobs, family, personal activities and interests, surfing the Web, instant-messaging, social media, cell phones and apps, text-messaging, video games, and so forth

Value and build relationship: “Relationships are at the heart of teaching since it is an activity based on communication” .  Some of the necessary elements that build and maintain constructive relationship include trust.  Empathy can help to build a trusting relationship.

Enthusiasm: When the teacher is more enthusiastic about a topic, then the students will be more inclined to believe that the topic has value for them.  That is, teacher enthusiasm can motivate students

C- The Content

What the mind of man conceives and he believes, he can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill

At the least, content must be accurate and timely.  However, content also should be relevant and useful to the student in his or her life

Students experience success and achievement: Ensuring that students experience success is an extremely important strategy for motivation.  Success creates selfconfidence which in turn makes students more inclined to engage in learning.

Student ownership:  Students feel some ownership of a decision if they agree to it.  Whenever possible, students should be allowed to determine class rules and procedures, set learning goals, select learning activities and assignments, and decide whether to work in groups or independently

Student choices: Human beings are naturally curious and self-directed, that is, they want to learn, make choices, and achieve .  As a result, students will be more motivated when they are given choices.  Doing something one chooses rather than what one has been told to do, can be very motivating

Build competency: Content that builds students’ competency requires assignments that challenge students’ beliefs, actions, and imaginations.

Creativity and critical thinking: Competence also is learned from experiences that involve both creative and critical thinking.  Creative and critical thinking requires the student to define the task, set goals, establish criteria, research and gather information, activate prior knowledge, generate additional ideas and questions, organize, analyze, and integrate all the information.

• Students feel connected: Content that contributes to the student feeling connected may include advisory programs, cooperative learning, peer mentoring, peer counselling, and community service.

Novelty: Novel content can introduce a surprising or unusual experience creating a discrepancy in the student’s mind, and this can cause a short-term arousal of interest in order to resolve the discrepancy

Variety: Variety is very relevant to student motivation.  Variety can be brought into the class by including activities wherein the students are physically active with a thinking component.  Other forms of variety can be added into the content via dramatizations, model making, and out-of-classroom activities.

Technology and information from the Internet such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and phone apps: Students love the Internet, so give them examples, videos, or demonstrations of topics from Internet sites that are interesting to them.  At the very least, this incorporation of technology, the Internet, and phone apps involves using more of the students’ language and experience base.  Also, the Internet is a great way to keep up-to-date and to show important current trends and ideas.

D- The Instructional Methodology

“If you tell me I will listen.  If you show me I will see.  If you let me experience, I will learn.” -Lao-Tzu

The method or process is the way in which content is presented, that is, the approach used for instruction.  Some specific ideas or tips for are:

Incentives: In general, rewards and punishments work at controlling the students’ immediate classroom behaviour, but they do not foster an intrinsic, long-term desire or commitment to learning.

Mutual goals or objectives: Students need to see the point of it all and know what they personally will get out of the educational process

Verbal conformity: One method to use to support students in accomplishing their goals is verbal conformity wherein the student repeats all or part of the goal in his or her own words.

Flexible and stimulating just-in-time training and interactivity: One way to support students in seeking out responsibility and working toward goals to which they are committed is to use flexible and stimulating just-in-time training which allows the student to train at his or her own pace and time

• Objective criteria: Objective criteria should be clearly communicated and employed in testing and evaluating student success.  The clarity of knowing exactly what is needed can be very motivating.

Encouragement and praise: Positive verbal statements of encouragement and praise can strongly influence student motivation.  Praise for effort and for improvement can build a student’s self-confidence.  Esteem can be boosted by emphasizing his or her performance relative to personal goals

Guided discussion: Discussion seems to be a viable strategy for motivating students.  Through guided discussion, students can demonstrate reading comprehension with integration of multiple and different texts and critical thinking using analysis and synthesis of information

Positive social interactions: When students have positive social interactions with their peers or teacher, they will become more engaged in learning.  Social interaction can occur when students work in groups, have group discussions, group projects, and group presentations

.• Enhanced lecture: While the lecture method is an academic staple, students do not pay attention continuously.  Teachers need to be aware of attention cycles and strive to improve student attention by using student-centred enhanced lecture techniques That is, lectures can be enhanced to make the class stimulating, entertaining, and interactive.

E- The Environment

“To stay motivated you must fight self-doubt, poor discipline, fear, and any other ghost” – Dr. Zonnya

Environment is the fifth key ingredient of student motivation.  First of all, an environment must be available and accessible.

Suggestions for creating an environment conducive to student motivation are as follow:

• Create an effective environment: The learning environment should take into consideration the intrinsic and extrinsic student motivations and the opinions of students and teachers in arranging the environment

Teamwork: An environment of teamwork can contribute to learning.  All teams need four competencies:  generate and refine ideas, organize and integrate work, sustain group spirit, and manage boundaries

Structures: Teachers, administrators, and counsellors contribute to a positive teaching and learning environment by putting in place structures that provide an optimal learning environment for learners

Emotionally literate environment: The more comfortable individuals feel in themselves and with others, the easier it is to concentrate and achieve.

Factors Effecting  Motivation


A form of motivation that involves rewards, both monetary and nonmonetary is often called incentive motivation.


Fear motivation involves consequences. Punishment or negative consequences are a form of fear motivation. This type of motivation is commonly used to motivate students in the education system


Achievement motivation is also commonly referred to as the drive for competency generally, this feeling of accomplishment and achievement is intrinsic in nature.


The need for self-improvement is truly an internal motivation. A burning desire to increase our knowledge of ourselves and of the outside world can be a very strong form of motivation.


The motivation of power can either take the form of a desire for autonomy or other desire to control others around us. We also often aspire to control others around us


Many people are motivated by social factors. This may be a desire to belong and to be accepted by a specific peer group or a desire to relate to the people in our sphere or in the larger world.


Characteristics of Motivated Behaviour

The analysis of place of motive in experience and behaviour as given above, clarifies the general characteristics of motivated behaviour.

1. Energy mobilization

Even the most peaceful animal becomes frightening in times of emergency. This is due to the mobilisation of energy. This process of the mobilisation of energy is chemical as well as physical.

3. Variability

Motive has a goal; hence it continuously changes with the view of attainment of goals. In fact, the motivated person goes on changing his ways till he arrives at the way successful for the achievement of the aim.

4. Persistence

Sometimes some motivated actions go on for years A young man in search of a job goes on laboring for several years till he gets a suitable one.  An animal cannot leave its work without achieving the goal of its motive

5. Restlessness for the Attainment of the Goal

The motivated behaviour is goal-directed. The restlessness observed in such behaviour persists so long as the goal is not achieved. For example, the goal of hunger is food. Till the food is taken the restlessness disappears. The goal can be conscious or unconscious.

6. Extinction of Restlessness

After the Attainment of the Goal the restlessness of the motivated behaviour exhibits itself in following ways of the fulfilment of some internal want or desire and extinguishes as soon as that want or desire is fulfilled.
Motivational Techniques

Getting students motivated to learn can be hard no matter what grade level one teach. Sometimes it’s because students find the material boring or useless, or sometimes because they are simply there because they are required to be and not because they have any interest in the subject matter at hand. There are some things many teachers can do, however, to help boost your students’ interest in whatever it is that many teachers are teaching


Here are some basic ideas to consider when motivating your students

Encourage internal motivation. Prepare students to learn

Create realistic goals. .Ensure students are aware of their responsibility.

Change the style and content

Make student reaction and involvement essential parts of the learning process

Use group cooperative goals to maximize student involvement and sharing

Plan assignments and exercises that are neither too easy nor too difficult

Explain the purpose behind assignments. Explore the connections between lessons.

Make sure students know what to expect

Don’t over teach. Present material logically.Summarize. Lead by example

Be aware of students’ needs

Enhance the attractions and minimize the dangers of learning.

Downplay setbacks .Encourage additional study.

Keep things positive. Spark Interest

The first step to motivating students is to spark their interest in the subject. Here are some ways you can make any topic seem more interesting.

ü  Focus on the importance of the subject

ü  Use impressive or startling statistics.

ü  Ask rhetorical questions.  Use quotes.

ü  Ask questions to engage the class

ü  Tell a story. Make it funny. .

ü  Incorporate student experiences. Get students involved.

ü    Respond to student interest.

ü  Use visual aids.

Learning Environment

Creating a great learning environment is key to motivating students. Here are some ways you can make your classroom more learning-friendly.

Make the classroom inviting.

Create an environment where students want to learn.  Organize. .

Show interest in students as individuals.

Supporting students in their efforts to learn. .

Promote open communication and discussion. .

Make your classroom learning oriented. Avoid negativity. .

Allow students to help decorate. Create familiarity

Give students jobs around the classroom.

Create special traditions for your classroom.


How you react to your students can have a big impact on their motivation to learn. Here are a few things to consider trying.

Give praise. .Help relieve student anxiety.

Confront the beliefs, expectations and assumptions underlying negative attitudes. Provide closure with a positive ending

Build students’ confidence and self-esteem.

Encourage curiosity. Point out areas that need improvement. .

Recognize achievement.

Encourage student response. Arrange learning experiences so that all students can gain at least a degree of esteem. .

Emphasize the positive. Guide students. .

Focus on the behaviour not the student.

Learning Opportunities

Use these special learning opportunities to motivate students.

  • Show students ways that material is useful.
  • Help students set goals.
  • Take field trips
  • Do labs and experiments
  • Make learning more interactive
  • Encourage students to participate. Promote teamwork. .
  • Make concepts real. .
  • Play games.
  • Use computers
  • Allow students to study in groups.


Here are some ideas on how to use rewards to motivate your students.

Offer special privileges. Tailor rewards to the individual.

Make learning the reward. Give small rewards.

Make sure all students feel included.

Allow students to display good work

Reward milestones.  Use praise as reward.

Recognize achievements in all students.Don’t make it all about grades.

Work with parents.

Online Learners

Teaching online students can come with its own set of challenges. Here are some ideas on facing them.

  • Remind students that online learning is real learning
  • Get to know your class.
  • Publish requirements and set expectations ahead of time
  • Establish relevance
  • Provide continuous encouragement. Use assessments
  • Get supervisor and peer support
  • Offer rewards and recognition. Ensure success.
  • Connect with students. Encourage students to get to know one another
  • Self-Motivation

Sometimes teachers become the students and can use a little motivation themselves. Here are some ideas on boosting your own learning potential.

  • Imagine yourself in the future. Give yourself rewards.
  • Remember that you cannot know everything.  Find a friend
  • Stop making excuses
  • Plan out your learning. Use the right tools.
  • Tackle things you don’t understand in parts. Focus on the why.


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