Student Motivation serves as the drive to achieve the desired result. The purpose of motivation, for any educator, would be to maintain student engagement as well as to promote learning and academic development. Among the numerous tools and strategies available to educators, extrinsic, and intrinsic serve as the most highlighted factors in any classroom. Extrinsic motivators exhausted in most classrooms as well as any other environment, serve as the strategy most employ by educators. However, whereas extrinsic motivators required some sort of reward one away or the other, student are intrinsically motivated to succeed the self fulfillment, among other personal motivators.



Defining Motivation

Motivation is observed as an external action by students, and is internalized as energy to complete a task (Ryan & Deci, 2000, pp. 54-55). The antithesis of motivation is a passive behavior, avoidance of a goal, disaffected processes, distracted perception, and disinterest. According to O’Donnell (2012), the entire idea involves directed energy to accomplish a planned outcome. The influences of motivation are described as internal constructs or external factors that consistently drive the students tactfully, strategically, emotionally, cognitively, and physically to an objective, or in an attempt to control a situation or process (pp. 341-342). Motivation is influenced by feedback that defines the status of skill sets, objectives, experience acquired, failures, and successes.

According to Fishbach & Finkelstein (2012), reflective thinking and the decision making process will work together to filter out or demote irrelevant activities and objectives, while elevating the rank of other goals that are worth engaging. Besides cognitive feedback from interacting with the environment, the students should invest time to evaluate feedback from experts and teachers, whom assess strengths and weaknesses (p. 2). Motivation is a strategic impulsive response that could be an adaptive instinct, to persist through challenges, or a conditioned pattern that is executed in the context of a situation. Competent judgment and intelligence is going to direct “cognitions, affective processes, and behavioral” processes in an attempt to respond to a condition. A goal sets up a sequential structure that requires a set of motions being active through time, so the perceptions are going to use feedback to interpret the status of the being, and to respond to events that occur (Dweck & Leggett, 1988, pp. 256, 260).

The object is to control the current situation, predict an outcome, and use formulaic tactics and goal oriented strategies to obtain skills, knowledge, a performance, a self-concept, an award, or an academic outcome. In the context of education, the teachers are promoting a belief system and confidence, so students can learn and complete assignments. The daily interactions transfer knowledge, scaffold extensions of human cognitions, and produce solutions to problems (Choy, 2005 p. 15). When knowledge is applicable to situations or a student is able to relate to the notions, then there is an intrinsic motivating dynamic. The internal motivators are as antagonizing as the external motivators, bringing an individual to a state of fluent progress in space and through time.

Student Engagement

Engagement is activity levels of student involvement in a learning exercise, which is observed processes of “behavior, emotion, cognitive, and agentic” that work together to swiftly complete tasks (O’Donnell, 2012, p. 335). The teacher wants to see the students’ in an enthusiastic participation role, contextual processes that complete tasks, and the students immersed in the learning activity. In essence, engagement is the external pattern of motivation that “reflects the kind of interactions with activities and materials;” possibly, taking advantage of opportunities to progress, learn, and achieve (p. 494). The task being engaged might not be a biological necessity, but a cultural assumption in goal theory. The necessity of the activity will influence participation, which may produce negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression (pp. 495-496).

This ruins performance in the class, specifically hurting concentration and directed energies, which is the disaffection of engagement (Skinner et al., 2008, p. 500). The entire idea is interesting, because the disaffection is a pessimistic attitude about the classroom activity, so there might be psychological, environmental, or biological factors that are involved in the creation of the student’s mood. The teacher should focus on eliminating troublesome factors, and generating optimism to motivate students. According to O’Donnell (2012), positive emotions involve engagement in learning activities without the shadow of stress created by pressures or a despicable performance (p. 335). “The development of competencies and task mastery” is a process strategy, so students approach a situation with organized cognitions, independence, predictable behavior, and achieve learning outcomes (Elliot et al., 1999, p. 549).

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivators

What motivates students? There is an array of strategies to motivate students to perform to their greatest potential. For instance, educators are able to realize the importance of the social-cognitive development that drives the students to interact in a certain way. As a result, educators are able to strategize and adapt to meet the needs of all students, according to their grade level and age group. For example, “by nature, human beings are social creatures.

People want to belong to a group or organization and to have friends—sometimes desperately so. This desire is particularly strong among teenagers and young people” (p.15). Now, when we seek to compare and contrast strategies employed by the military commanders to boost morale, we realize how they rely on strategies similarly employed by teachers in the classroom. For instance, students oftentimes rely on extrinsic and/or intrinsic motivators to succeed in the classroom; comparably soldiers rely on motivators to meet the desired results. Thus, while “your [students] desire to achieve good grades, [this] is an example of intrinsic motivation, while the high demands of Cadet curriculum and training might be an example of extrinsic motivation,” because there is a forced external demand to perform (p. 14).

Extrinsic motivators drives a student to succeed based on the ultimate goal of being rewarded on way or the other; yet, in the process the desired result or objective is achieved. Generally speaking, throughout history the potential of motivators has been exemplified in many instances. For instance, “at the Battle of Agincourt, in France, the English King Henry V, and his troops faced a far larger French force, and were cut off from their stronghold on the English Channel. As Shakespeare imagined it, on the eve of Henry’s crushing victory, the king delivered a stirring address to his nobles and yeomen” (p.16). As a result, unprecedentedly, King Henry V defeated the French army; subsequently, even if other factors play a role, his soldiers were largely extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to succeed. Similarly, as educators, the comparable strategies can be employed in the classroom in order to meet the required objectives. Educators may build a sense of community in their classroom; educators may verbally motivate students through motivational speeches.

The military has identified various factors that contribute to morale boost or in other words motivators. For instance, as extrinsic motivators the military argues that the following serves as a criterion for an extrinsic and intrinsic motivator:

  • Grades
  • Money
  • Food
  • Threats or fear
  • Status or promotion
  • Awards and recognition. (p.16)

Similarly, although teachers may not employ money, fear plays a role as a student motivator. For example, when a student misbehaves a teacher may warn the student that the parent is going to be notified, resulting in a evident improvement. Furthermore, grades, and recognition serves as a natural intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivator; for instance, as students work hard to achieve good grades in order to feel a sense of accomplishment or in order to achieve parental recognition. Ultimately, motivators are employed in order to achieve the desired results, which represents the ultimate objective in the classroom as well as the military (UNCC, 2002).

Goal Setting In the Classroom

Motivation involves the beliefs and values that success needs to be attained, to maintain control in a culture, and to feel self-worth (Brophy, 2004, p. 151; Eccles & Wigfield, 2002, p. 109). A key component to motivation is goal setting, which gives the students direction, a life structure, a reason to exert effortful persistence, and purpose. Also, these goals create circumstances for extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, which are environmental and cognitive forces that drive students through tasks (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002, pp. 111-112). The challenges of the objective learning outcomes are the components that motivate students to succeed in the classroom. The stimuli from interacting with the environment, cognitive processes, biological processes, cultural forces, and numerous other theories make motivation a permanent life structure for survival.

Due to large idealistic structures called goals, the minor utility of classroom tasks are evaluated for being instruments, to control a larger system of time, resource, and achievement to obtain the primary objective. According to Eccles & Wigfield (2002), the students will feel in control of the environment when they engage in activities that are necessary for goal attainment. The immersion in classroom activities will help the students master abilities, attend to necessary experiences, and be aware of certain environmental influences, especially during a challenging experience that builds skill sets (p. 113). Goals that are intricate are interesting to students, so the collaborative and competitive goals will add dynamism to the learning engagement, so plans appear with more dimension; in cooperative learning projects, a motivational element like moral responsibility exists (Brophy, 2004, p. 89).

Another list of motivating enigmas in the classroom is the grading scale, rubrics, and teacher expectations. The teacher is not going to be the only assessor of performance, but the students themselves are going to gauge their abilities, and self-assessments are going to motivate students to workout weak areas, so tasks can be completed according to criterion (Woytek, 2005, pp. 1-4). The students that succeed at a task are going to be motivated, while failure is a motivating situation, the entanglement of depression and self-doubt may entrench a student into a defeatist attitude. The teacher needs to explain to students the expectations and abilities being measured, so students are able to perform within a framework to get an acceptable grade. Using a rubric as a tool for grading and a guideline for creating an academic product, the students will be motivated to perform a formula of skills, drive energies to complete mapped academia, and meet learning outcome objectives.

Self-Efficacy, Self-Regulation, and Locus of Control

The students judge a situation in the context of activities that need to be completed, and to measure if they can accomplish the tasks successfully (Tollefson, 2000, p. 67). The difficulty of a task is measured in “degrees of confidence,” which is regulated by the self-efficacy judgment of a student (Zimmerman, 2000, p. 83). Self-regulation and self-efficacy are a multi-leveled cognitive, emotional, biological, and motivational behavior processor. The major components approach events with a decision-making and partially kinetic intellect judgment processor, as to whether the student is able to exercise enough influence over a situation for a satisfactory performance level that leads to progress and accomplishment in the event (Bandura, 1994, p. 2). Self-efficacy examines the future and builds a perception of performance, and the entire ordeal “play[s] a casual role in academic motivation” (pp. 83-84).

A similar concept that integrates into self-efficacy is a concept called locus of control (Zimmerman, 2000, p. 85). A feature that is embedded in the personality of the student and a “construct of self-efficacy” is a perception to control the environment by taking strategic action, planning, or other types of interaction (p. 517). The students are going to be able to adapt to the environment, demonstrate patterns, discriminate against certain stimuli, and execute cognitive abilities, to influence a configuration in the environment to control a situation (Anderson et al., 2005, p. 520). Another aspect of the theory is that external forces hinder and discourage student influences in the classroom, so the learning outcome and academic achievement is not in a sphere of control, but a plan or radical result of teaching, time, or external factors that create outcomes (Zimmerman, 2000, pp. 85-86).

The students that have a high locus of control or internal belief they control the environment are going to be more confident in their ability, and be able to score higher on tests, and achieve learning outcomes. According to Zimmerman (2000), and, they will be motivated to consistently perform in an attempt to change the environment and themselves, to get good grades and assignments finished (p. 85). The students that have high self-efficacy and a balanced locus of control will be able to measure ability, practice in adaptive ways, and measure within the probability of things, so they can achieve a long-term academic or occupational goal. A student with a high locus of control is going to believe he/she can accomplish the best results, but poor self-efficacy may prove that the student’s abilities are not able to control enough situations to make the long-term goal possible, as calculated by the locus of control. In essence, motivation to complete a task is not necessarily going to lead to a desired outcome; nonetheless, self-efficacy and locus of control can make a demeanor of ambitious motivation in students.

According to Zimmerman (2000), self-efficacy has a motivating mechanism that uses self-regulatory processes that consistently monitor behavior and adapt strategy to achieve a challenging goal (p. 86). Self-regulatory efficacy monitors behavior and the environment, to mediate the effects of most external influences, but provide the very basis for purposeful action (Zimmerman, 2000, pp. 82, 87; Bandura, 1991, p. 248). The classroom becomes an interactive system to calculate with forethought, to figure the types of actions that will make the correct outcome; this takes a perspective of action and consequence, planning strategy, and weighing capability percepts (Bandura, 1991, p. 248; Tollefson, 2000, p. 67). Self-regulation influences motivation with emotional states, behavior arrangements and sequences, and cognitive processes (p. 1). The cognitive motivator self-regulation operates within theories of “causal attributions, outcome expectancies, and cognized goals,” which are cognitive motivational processes that function better with increased influence of self-regulation (Bandura, 1994, pp. 2, 4, 13).

The self-regulated learner is going to set goals, monitor progress, implement strategy, and evaluating results (O’Donnell, 2012, pp. 397-398). The entire process involves timing, creative problem solving, and procedural knowledge. According to O’Donnell (2012), self-efficacy is coping with an existing situation by calculating abilities, measuring setbacks, and overcoming an obstacle with confidence, concentration, effort, and persistence. Another cognitive function of self-efficacy is using prior experience, vicarious experience, and monitoring physiological states, to measure if an activity can be engaged with full potential (pp. 376-378). The influences that construct thoughts and beliefs about a situation formulate a disposition that is motivating or defeating. According to Bandura & Cervone (1986), self-efficacy contributes to motivation, because the feedback process differentiates the standard set forth and the student’s attained position in a challenge. The discrepancy gap that needs to be closed is motivating, because the student will have performance knowledge, so they know “how much effort to expend” to accomplishing a goal or reach an objective.

Self-efficacy is a perception to maneuver through a situation using acquired skills, but a student can be discouraged, if the discrepancy is larger than their performance capability to accomplishing set objectives (pp. 92-94). There is motivation in setting standards and goals that are achievable, and this requires measurements with self-efficacy, perceived locus of control, and strategic adaption through self-regulation. According to Bandura & Cervone (1986), activities that are challenging sustain motivation, because the objective is attainable but requires intense effort (p. 94). The student is task-focused so energies strengthen in effort and persistence, to cope with a situation, and achieve a goal (O’Donnell, 2012, p. 378). The situation is not an existential effort to carry a rock up the hill, but a cognitive learning phase and kinetic strengthening period. According to Schunk & Pajares (2001), the students are going to pay attention to details, use the information from feedback to strategize, and instigate affective processes to “sustain human action” in an influentially motivating performance. The task that is chosen by the student is another motivating factor, because he/she will postulate experience in relation to the situation, and pick activities that are controllable (p. 2).



            Motivating students of any age can be challenging, even more so, is assisting in the successful utilization of self-regulatory strategies, which are most commonly aligned with student goals. However, there have been many theories proposed with regard to ways in which students can be taught and encouraged to self-regulate, which will in turn promote success within the classroom.


In the article “Maintaining Activity Engagement: Individual Differences in the Process of Self-Regulating Motivation” (2011), Sansone and Thoman introduce a model, which proposes, “that goal-defined motivation is only one source of motivation critical for sustained engagement. A second source is the motivation that arises from the degree of interest experienced in the process of goal pursuit” (2011, p. 1697).  In addition, Sansone and Thoman propose the following:

If motivation to reach some outcome is strong enough, it may overcome the conflicting urge to quit that is created by the lack of interest.  Alternatively, instead of trying to stick it out without interest, individuals may do something to try to enhance their experience of interest (2011, p. 1705).

This is a direct call to educators to relate more closely to students via attunement and supportiveness. By monitoring students and accurately identifying levels of engagement, and responding to the “words, behaviors, needs, preferences, and emotions” (O’Donnell et al., 2012, p. 113) of the student, and by supporting their endeavors with regard to self-motivation, a teacher can better assist in the academic success of the student.  A good example of this would be, if a teacher is aware that a student is more introverted and enjoys drawing, perhaps that student could be assigned an art-oriented task, which engages the student in the material and with other students in a group activity.  When a teacher makes this type of decision, however, the student must be carefully monitored as “a potential risk of regulating interest is that it detracts from performance” (Sansone et al., 2011, p. 1706).

In addition, to achieving success within the individual classroom, by thinking outside the box and teaching to the individual, the teacher is not only helping to ensure immediate success, but is also setting the student up for success in other academic environments, as Sansone and Thoman note, “when individuals are allowed to work on an activity in a way that makes the activity more interesting to them, they find the experience more interesting and are more likely to voluntarily engage in related activities in the future” (2011, p. 1713).  Essentially, the teacher is showing the student that their skills and interests can be applied to their studies in ways, in which may not have been considered before, with the hope that this will follow them into the next classroom.  In addition, the student now has a sense that they are not one in a crowd of faces, but are seen as an individual, which is also likely to encourage self-regulated motivation.  The ideal outcome would be that in the next scenario, it would not be the teacher who comes up with the suggestion, but the student.


            The self-determination theory also relates to self-regulating motivation in that as cited by Eccles and Wigfield, “people seek out optimal stimulation and challenging activities and find these activities intrinsically motivating because they have a basic need for competence” (2002, p.112). And as cited by Ciani, “the need for competence is related to feelings of effectiveness and efficacy, and the need for relatedness are associated with feelings of closeness and connectedness with others” (2011, p. 227).

The above would seem to be especially applicable to pre-teen and teen students who have the need to fit-in and crave peer acceptance, however, it can just as easily be applied to younger students.  The desire for young students to be able to achieve classroom goals can be just as strong as that of an older student, although the young mind’s reasoning may be different due to cognitive development; i.e. a younger student who may be determined to successfully complete a task or project may be doing so in an effort to elicit the teacher’s approval, whereas as an older student may be determined to successfully complete a task or project for the purpose of self-satisfaction.

When discussing self-determined motivation, it is also important that the teacher’s role be noted as it was with interest-based motivation, because as cited by Baird, Hamill, Dearing, and Scott, “students who believe in their ability to learn are more persistent, less anxious, experience more enjoyment, have greater intrinsic interest, set more challenging learning goals, use more effective cognitive strategies, and ultimately perform better in learning situations” (2009, p. 883).  When a teacher fosters a healthy student relationship via supportiveness, the student acquires confidence in their ability to accomplish a task or project and in the process learns the value of self-regulation, which will in turn promote self-determination. In conclusion, self-regulatory motivation is something, which must be taught via educators, whom promote an environment of supportiveness, and whose goals are aimed at not just teaching to the class, but to the individual. It is through this attention to the individual that students, younger and older, will learn the value they can bring to the classroom and their peers; this really is an endorsement of student-centered learning, to improve student self-regulatory learning.



Abraham Maslow formally proposed a motivational theory that would help the psychology field understand several layers of motivation; the concept was an arrangement of human needs that developed into higher order thinking. Simply, there is no human being without the physiological needs being fulfilled; these types of motivation don’t require careful planning, but are driven by primitive instinct. The primary concern with satisfying the early stages of human needs is to not be distracted by thoughts and behaviors that consume time, to promote energy and safety, and to pay attention to cultural goals that satisfy society and/or a self-concept. The school system implemented a breakfast plan that would eradicate hunger in the population of children, so students could learn in class (p. 1). The primitive needs are to be satisfied and to be secured, with a safety net that provides protection for finances, emotions, and the body (Martin & Joomis, 2007, p. 2; Cunningham, 2008, p. 17).

Cultural goals become the center of motivational planning once people achieve self-actualization, and mobilize a system of satisfaction, as the pyramid of esteem, knowledge, and lower deficiencies are content. The purpose of self-actualization is to reach a human plateau of cultural heights, which intrinsic and extrinsic motivators have been propelling the human towards through systems of regulation. Often times, the self-actualization will involve a profession, like a musician, and involve the production or invention of musical compositions; yet, music writing is a product of society (i.e. language, notes, and instruments), and the purpose of being a composer is a cultural construct, to obtain love, esteem, and to perpetuate the safety of physiological needs, like shelter and warmth; consequently, a professional musician could obtain enough money to satisfy the lower needs. In fact, the self-regulated learner can be seen as an intrinsically and extrinsically motivated person that is trying to satisfy Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to survive, or be a dominating and respected force in a culture.




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