Student Motivation and Academic Achievements

Zeenat Shah

Education is all about discovering and nurturing the innate talents of a child in a learning conducive environment.  This process occurs when children evince their desire to learn and are practically involved in various rigorous academic and other learning endeavours. We believe that igniting a spark of energy and fervor in children to learn and succeed in academic and life pursuits is a fundamental role of schools. Otherwise, when children do not show their motivation and are reluctant to shoulder their responsibility to learn, teaching is like hammering on a cold iron.

The word “motivation” has been derived from Latin word “movere” which means to move. To move or to energize students toward academic behavior and improving grades, it is imperative for teachers to know what motivates them in classroom, and how to motivate students to learn at home as well.  First they need to discover students’ interests and multiple intelligences through variety of learning activities and instru

The word “motivation” has been derived from Latin word “movere” which means to move.

ctional skills. These various instructional skills and multiple learning activities may help teachers to unearth and nourish the innate potentials of a child, and develop his or her self- efficacy.

 Self- efficacy has been defined as individuals’ beliefs about their performance capabilities in a particular domain. Bandura, 1986; Schunk, 1985 say that self-efficacy includes students’ confidence in their cognitive skills to learn or perform an academic course work. Self-efficacy in other words builds a conviction in a child that he or she can perform better in a particular domain of learning, and may play as a driving force to regulate his or her learning. For example, if a child discovers that he can easily grasp grammar, he would love to read grammar. Similarly, if one explores that he is strong enough in calculations, he would enjoy participating and supporting in mathematical lessons.  This self-efficacy may provide a base for the child to set a goal for a particular domain of studies. It is basically teachers’ responsibility to discover students’ dominant learning style and area of strength for setting an academic direction for the child. Schunk, 1983 states that teaching low achieving students to set proximal goals for themselves enhances their sense of cognitive efficacy, their academic achievement, and their intrinsic interest in the subject matter. These goals encourage students to monitor and reflect on their academic efforts and performance.

In the context of Pakistan, student motivation for learning is still an enigma. Teachers blame parents and students that they are not motivated. Sometimes, they even label students uneducable and ridicule their personality for poor academic performance. Teachers often coerce students to memorize lessons by heart and reproduce the same text in exams. If they fail to do so, teachers use corporal punishment as the only successful tool for student learning.  This punitive behavior of teachers and inability to attract students towards learning has dwindled students’ interest in school.   As a result, there is high rate of drop out and low scores in board exams by both boys and girls especially in public schools in the country.

In fact most of the teachers have adopted the field without a clear goal for career, and joined it as a lost sailor who had never decided to discover this particular shore or island. When individuals join teaching without any ambition, the process of teaching and learning does not trigger excitement in students, and classroom becomes a hum-drum conventional place.   So, due to lack of ambition and verve in profession, teachers perform their duties mechanically instead of doing research and critical reflection on their performance and student learning. A large majority of the teachers neither have any objectives of their lessons nor any desires of student success.

Moreover, education has never been considered a prime priority by policy makers for the nation and they show their half- hearted attitude while allocating annual budget for education and making teacher recruitments.  Besides compromising with teacher quality during recruitment process, teachers have fewer opportunities of professional development.  Those who undergo training programmes there is no mechanism of assessing implementation of new learning and the impact.

On the other hand, when teachers have high desires of student learning outcomes, even without any professional training, they evince impeccable honesty and curiosity to find the real territory of teaching and learning. Avid reading, critical reflection, research and academic discourse for creativity and innovations in the field become a routine practice for such teachers. Finding individual learning styles and facilitating each individual child becomes a challenge for such teachers.  They understand and apply variety of learning resources and activities to discover each child’s dominant intelligence of learning.

We have learned from our experiences as teachers and teacher educators, and from literature that besides positive teacher behavior, adequate content knowledge, exciting and thought provoking learning activities, indigenized curriculum, effective assessment system; co- curricular activities also have a strong impact on attracting students toward learning.   These outside classroom activities provide multiple opportunities for individual students to demonstrate his/her dominant multiple intelligence.  These activities could be games, music and songs, puzzles, visual arts, speeches, debates, science and social studies projects, creative writing, skits, cooking, reciting the Holy Quran and Naat and quiz competitions. When students experience such activities based on their dominant intelligence, they are developing cognitive domain and strive for improvement in difficult subjects as well.

The contributor works at Professional Development Centre North (PDCN). 

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  1. My Dear Student Sajid, yes, I was teaching at Public school. Your comment reflects that I had a different approach to motivate students at the school.If I correctly remember, you are from Hussianabad. You may be right but it is as a result of continuos professional development. Thanks for sharing your comments!

  2. Well thanks for replying, firstly, you didn’t bother enough to get to know all your students much. I don’t remember you making an effort to get to know your students, you only knew students in class who you probably knew through outside-school connections. So no, I am not from Hussainabad. Anyway, yes, you didn’t motivate students, you tortured them. I remember once in the 7th grade, you banged the heads of two boys against the wall as if you were trying to make a hole in the wall. You know what was the unforgivable crime of these 7th graders, they whispered. How dare they whisper when you were motivating them, right? You are not alone though, there are other teachers i know who didn’t know how to teach or treat students, but yet are now seen in social media, telling us how to teach and treat students.
    And the biggest consequence of treating students at a tender age like this is the damage it does to their self-esteem. It reduced them down to the point where they feel their opinion is worthless. Thanks to you. And to Amin Zia. And to Mujeer. And to most other Public School’s civilian martial law teachers. I was mostly in good academic standing so if you are thinking i’ve personal issues with these teachers then you’re wrong. Because I am speaking for those who were academically less gifted than me and who had to suffer the “motivation” that was forced on them everyday. Today, as grown ups, I have friends who when see a teacher like Mujeer or another, run up to them and say SIR SIR CHAI SIR SIR CHAI. The same students used to be put down on push up position for lengths of the whole class by the same teacher, then he would smash their butts with a stick while his shinning boots stepped on their tiny 7th-grade hands. But yet these students grow and continue SIR-SIR-CHAI, you know why? no its not because they respect him. It is because deep down, they fear him, they are convinced that this ex-teacher knows-all and our opinion doesn’t count. This feeling roots itself deep in the unconscious for the rest of their lives, and the fear that teachers installed in the guise of “motivation” continues to show in the later years under the falsely labelled banner of ‘respect’.
    I am just glad you finally took some teachers training. I hope now you will know how to bring the best out of your students without banging their heads against the wall.

  3. Dear Sajid,
    First of all, as a teacher,I appologize to you that I have hurt you at this level. Yes, I used to be hard when students didn’t pay attention to learning, which was a traditional method to motivate or attract students. But during my fifteen years teaching career it happened four or five times that I gave severe corporal punishment as you mentioned and you may be one of those victims or witnesses. The incident that you are mentioning probably took place between 1995 to 1999 i.e. early four years of teaching at Public School. After reflection on my punitive behavour, I had left even having a cane in my hand and requested other colleagues not to punish students since 2000. I think it’s good to transform ourselves instead we remain in the past and continue doing what we had been doing. any ways, I am impressed of your communciation skills. can we focus on the piece of writing and give some feedback to improve it further.
    Zeenat Shah

  4. Glad that you changed your teaching methods, I felt obliged to say what I said so that next time you find yourself punishing a kid you might think again. But apparently you’ve progressed which is a good thing. Now about the piece, I agree with most of it, but I have a suggestion which may or may not make much sense. I think schools should stop “ranking” students as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so. One might argue that this ranking motivates students to end up at top, it might motivate the “top few” to go for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, but imagine in a class of 30-40 students, how would students who end up below 20th would be motivated by this? this ranking probably demotivates majority of the students in class. Besides, our current exams only measure a very limited set of skills in students, and to rank kids, (who happen to have several unique capacities and skills that they can excel in) on the basis on a selected few skills is an unfair judgement. Students should only get grades and they shouldn’t be told that ONE of you is better than rest of you all. Let them realize that they are all unique and good, do not put them in a single line of judgement because they are not the same.

  5. Dear Sajid,
    I strongly agree with you that students should not be graded as first, second and third. Literature also does not recommend to categorize students on the basis of their current academic performance. even among one’s own children there should not be comparison. Because evryone is unique with different capacities. I usually preach parents and teachers whenever I get a chance. I wonder when I see some of my stduents who were struggling to cope with the class but now they are performing well and who have graduated from universities, are at charming positions. So, literature and my own experience have changed my perceptions and therefore, I disseminate this message to all parents and teachers whom I come across. Finally I would say, students should be awarded only grades not ranking or positions. Welldone Sajid! Thank you so much. I hope we will continue this discussion for further improvement.

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