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Op-Ed

Motivation: The Key to Academic Success

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By EMN Updated: Aug 19, 2013 10:30 pm
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Fr. Joe Mariadhas

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]veryone wants to achieve something and anything that one wants to achieve requires motivation. The results were out a few months ago and most of the students have taken admission in different educational institutions and colleges to pursue their academic carrier. I interviewed a few students and asked them this question, ‘what do you want most from life?’ and the answer was ‘to be successful’. I too feel that all of us want to be successful in everything we do. In order to be successful, we need wisdom to know what to do, the knowledge of how to do it, and the self motivation to do it. Success happens when preparation meets opportunity. We have entered into a new academic session and it seems to me that self motivation and the desire to seek sincere knowledge is lacking in our young generation who really need to equip themselves with the best of everything. It is not only my observation but also the most common problem that teachers and parents face is lack of student motivation.
What makes students study? This question, usually expressed with frustration, is heard over and over again whenever college faculty assembles. These are some of the observations made by faculty members who teach students in different colleges. “Students are motivated by fear,” some faculty members’ are of the opinion, “Give them tough classes and they’ll pull through.” Other faculty members might plea the opposite case, arguing that students thrive on positive feedback. Still other teaching faculty might argue that students work to satisfy their own personal achievement goals, or that students work when they believe that there will be direct payback – in future pay or opportunities – for the efforts expended today. Whatever it is we do find motivation lacking in student communities towards academic success. The disagreement about the sources of student motivation makes the question of academic motivation sound a great deal like that of workplace motivation.
There are many theories of motivation and also different kinds of motivation. The internal motivation propels an individual to actualization and success while external motivation is measured in terms of outcome or success of an individual after a task. Management theory abounds with contradictory theories about what makes employees work. Maslow (1968) argued that needs drive behavior, and that workplace (and, presumably, academic) motivation is determined by the level of the needs hierarchy at which the individual is operating. McClelland (1966) claimed instead that motivation is driven by an innate need to achieve, and Herzberg (1959) proposed that the content of the jobs themselves was the source of the elusive employee motivation. Motivation can either come from within the student (intrinsic) or from outside (extrinsic). A student who is intrinsically motivated performs a task because of the joy that comes from learning new materials. An individual who performs in colleges to gain parent approval, grades, or rewards is externally motivated and feels great in achieving them. While researches show that those individuals with internal motivation may achieve greater success, teachers and parents often find that many children seek external reinforces. Motivation, as parents and teachers know, often varies depending on the setting, the people involved, the task and the situation. The key for each learner is to find that which motivates. Be it internal or external, motivation is the key to academic success.
A research conducted among the college students about their academic success state that college students’ explanations of their success and failure in challenging activities and how it relates to students’ efficacy, value, and engagement is the thriving force behind their academic success. The results suggest most students hold one primary reason for success during the challenging activity, including grade/extrinsic, mastery/intrinsic, a motivation/working, social, and performance. In order to motivate the students towards academic success, the teaching materials are to be challenging, relevant and it should have the application towards life situations. It is not just academic learning but actual learning for life. As John Dewey said, ‘Education is not preparation for life; but education is life itself’. These task reasons for success, if assumed to be goals were more numerous than those suggested by goal theory. Task reason for success was important for engagement, intrinsic value, difficulty compared to others, and effort. As expected, engagement and intrinsic value were highest for those with mastery reasons but lowest for those in a motivation or those who succeeded because they made the grade. Unexpectedly, success was more important for motivation and experience of the activity. These results suggest that it is important to examine not only student goals, but also whether or not students reach their goals.
Strong study habits are essential to student academic success, yet an understanding of the underlying motivations for student studying eludes most faculty members. One of the students said, “I am motivated to study because I want to graduate with honors, and another student told that he doesn’t like to study because he is forced by parents and teachers to study”. But we know that studying plays an integral role in the success of college students. Faculty members, however, are limited in their abilities to compel students to study. The motivation to study ultimately the responsibility for success or failure must rest with the students. As Davis and Murrell (1993) summarized, “While faculty members can serve as academic helmsmen, the collective energy of all students at the oars actually moves the boat through the water” .Nevertheless, teaching faculty measure their successes or failures in terms of student learning – and student learning is closely connected to student study behavior.
We know that belief is an attitude, a point of view, the way we think about something. Students often make the mistake of believing that a person is either motivated or not and are not able to discern in a realistic manner. Our attitudes are formed through our knowledge and experience. In reality, people who appear to be motivated in everything they do have just been successful in understanding how to motivate themselves in a variety of settings and tasks. Two things contribute to motivation for any task: what one expects from oneself and what value one has for achieving a goal. The key to motivation is that understanding that all of us have the power to change both your expectations of ourselves and the value placed on a task. Motivated students persist at tasks and are more cognitively engaged in the material, which makes it easier to learn. People generally believe that a person is either motivated or they are not. In reality, motivation can change and those people who appear to be motivated in everything they do have just been successful in understanding how to motivate themselves in a variety of settings and tasks.
Students who effectively motivate themselves exhibit a variety of behaviors that lead to success. Motivated students will make choices that help them achieve their desired outcome. They will work hard to put forth the necessary effort and maintain that effort long enough to complete the task. Motivated students will think for more deeply about course material and engage in more elaborate processing in order to truly learn. Motivated students can be recognized by their success in achieving their goals. Everyone can become a student who displays these characteristics; it just takes more effort for some than others. When you learn the skills of motivation and recognize the obstacles to motivation you might be amazed at how quickly you can achieve your goals.
Taking into consideration that our educational system demands text book oriented education at lower levels, students often have to work harder in college in order to achieve the grades they may have earned in high / higher secondary schools. Academic challenges might result in stress, frustration, self-doubt, and insecurity about one’s abilities and potential to succeed in college. Learning how to effectively study can be one of the most difficult skills to learn when a student first goes to college. Study habits learned while in high school don’t always translate well into a college setting. Since from primary education and in school education, most students have been taught the “right” way to study were to dedicate yourself; Memorize; Lock yourself in a quiet room and don’t leave until you know the material. But as one reaches college it becomes not as useable as the academic demands are different and the methodology that needs application differs from the earlier ways of learning. In some cases, students struggle to get out of their own way to achieve academic goals. Poor study habits, lack of motivation and poor preparation negatively impact student performance. However, students also face more indirect conflicts with high academic achievement from areas like finances and family support. Education has to be relevant, easy to learn and understand and it should have practical application of the knowledge learned in class rooms. Student motivation can be increased if some of these issues are addressed in the best positive and possible manner to achieve academic success.
Learning new skills involves absorbing a lot of information. Quite often this is in the form of text that needs to be read and sometimes depending on what you are studying; there can be a lot of reading to do. This makes reading effectively an important study skill. Knowing how to focus while reading can improve your reading and the amount of information you absorb. Many students exert enough energy in life to get big results, but they don’t focus on their energy well. Strategy and focus are the two levers that can move and motivate students to academic success. Some students seem to naturally have the inner drive to handle all of life responsibilities as students and achieve success while many do not know how to handle the study pressure and fall a prey to failure and loss.
The different brain waves can improve our study skills. It is obvious that our brain is in a different state from when we are sound asleep to when we are reading a book so it is logical that our brain waves affect how we absorb information. Here is a brief introduction to the different brain waves and how they can affect your concentration and study skills. The Different Brain Waves Brain waves are measured by electrical activity in the brain. The brain produces the most electrical activity when you are fully alert and this normal state in which you do most of your daily activities involves beta brain waves. When you are in a more relaxed state your brain creates alpha brain waves which are important for creativity and stress relief. We need to understand that our brain waves all the time sends images and stores in our memory in different forms. Focusing on what we do will help to improve the study skills and bring success to our academic career. As you learn as college student what is required to be successful during this phase of your education is identifying and marshaling your resources promptly and effectively and make use of all the opportunities available and achieve your goal.

Keys to Motivation:

  • Aspire to achieve
  • Achieve it through commitment and hard work
  • Enjoy a new sense of purpose in your academics
  • Keep your motivation levels high using practical strategies
  • Conquer your fear of failure
  • Set meaningful goals and achieve them
  • Increase your self-confidence
  • Deal with the expectations of parents and teachers
  • Fall in love with learning again
  • Focus on destination

St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama – Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Aug 19, 2013 10:30:56 pm