We will write a custom Essay on Motivating Middle School Students to Read specifically for you
301 certified writers online
Reading is an essential skill people use for facilitating learning and developing as well-rounded individuals. However, in the middle-school educational setting, motivating students to read can be challenging due to their lack of concentration, interest in the learning process, and the overall limited dedication to the process. Thus, there should be a set of cohesive guidelines set in place to ensure a high level of students’ reading motivation and the meeting of established goals. This paper will present a synthesis of the literature on motivating students to read to gain a better understanding of effective strategies that teachers can use in their practice. While it is essential to find methods that will benefit the motivation to read, there is no single approach that will be effective in every setting as students’ needs and levels of preparation vary significantly.
Motivation is a concept that is used for denoting the reasons for people’s actions, goals’ achievement, and willingness to do something. In many instances, motivation implies a person’s need for reaching satisfaction, with the desires and wants being acquired through the influence of lifestyles, society, and culture. In this discussion, the concept of motivation will be explored from the perspective of education. As mentioned by Tohidi and Jabbari (2012), motivation refers to “powering people to achieve high levels of performance and overcoming barriers in order to change” (p. 820). This definition applies to discussions of education, especially as learners are expected to modify their behaviors and be persistent in gaining new knowledge.
Similar findings about the role of motivation were presented by Strobel and Borsato (2012) who explored the ideas of caring and motivation in middle school classroom settings. For instance, it was concluded that the motivational beliefs and actions of students were directly associated with the establishment of caring classroom practices and positive environments. Besides, researchers found that learners’ perceptions regarding effective classroom practices ranged from one individual to another, suggesting that there was no single approach that would suit all students. This study is important to the discussion about motivation because it encourages educators to consider not only assignments or learning tools but also environments within which they practice pedagogy. Further discussion on intrinsic motivation will reinforce the importance of positive learning environments in increasing readers’ likelihood to enjoy the process of learning.
The orientation on specific goals within the educational process was also shown to influence the shaping of motivation. Mensah and Atta’s (2015) research is an important study that considered motivation and goal orientation. It was found that there was a gap in students’ and teachers’ perceptions about how motivation should be encouraged. For instance, teachers placed emphasis on the achievement of long-term goals oriented on mastery. Students’ opinions were different as they valued performance over mastery. These findings suggest that collaboration between teachers and their students is needed to ensure the meeting of motivational goals from both perspectives. Cham, Hughes, West, and Im (2014) also studied the concept of motivation for educational attainment, focusing on such factors as teachers’ educational expectations, peer aspirations, and the overall value of attaining new skills and knowledge. Students’ motivation to become educated was found to depend on four particular dimensions. To be specific, motivation increases through the support of educational competence, the economic valuing of educational attainment, peer educational aspirations, and teachers’ educational expectations. These findings align with the expectancy-value theory, which suggests that self-efficacy and the engagement in positive behaviors are distinct constructs related to motivation.
In the context of middle school teaching, the topic of student motivation is often approached with humor; as mentioned by Davis and Forbes (2016), motivating middle school students means “doing the impossible” (p. 14). Indeed, teachers often struggle with motivating their students, which is why the researchers propose to rely on communication instead of using external incentives. When students are approached with respect and are engaged in a conversation about learning and motivation, they are more likely to show positive attitudes toward their education (Daniels & Steres, 2011). However, it is important to note that the researchers did not address the issue of some students being introverted and not willing to engage in regular conversations with their teachers regarding learning and motivation. Constant groupwork and collaboration can often be tiring in classroom settings, which is why it is essential to consider the other side of the argument.
It is also important to account for underachievers when it comes to motivating students to gain knowledge and skills. The study by Rahal (2010) focused on the procedures of identification and motivation of underachievers who are often viewed as “lazy or difficult” (p. 1). The author addressed several myths associated with motivation and underachievement, which are “some students are just not capable of learning” or “underachievers respond best to rewards and/or punishments” (Rahal, 2010, p. 2). These misconceptions are highly likely to prevent students from reaching the desired level of motivation and engagement. The creation of motivating classrooms is linked to the strategy of building a community of learners, integrating activities of appropriate difficulty and learning outcomes, as well as using both moderation and variation when it comes to motivational strategies (Rahal, 2010). This means that there are no students that cannot be taught; rather, it is largely the fault of teachers and school managers who fail to cater to students’ demands. Besides, it is essential to understand that each student is different in what they need to receive to become successful in learning.
Motivation to Read
Getting students to read and enjoy the process is a complicated task for both parents and children. In the middle school setting, students start losing engagement and focus on learning because of the development of their social lives as well as the start of the teenage period associated with major mental and physical changes. Because of this, teachers should be more attentive to the experiences of their students. As motivation shows to be the main contributing factor in successful reading, it is important to mention how the subject has been approached in the scholarly field. Molotja and Themane’s (2018) study explored the improvement of reading habits through the application of reading bags within the secondary school setting. Reading is perceived as a complex processing skill in which students interact with different texts for the purpose of creating meaning. Therefore, the possession of effective reading skills is key for accessing information and deciphering meanings out of the text that is being read. Coming up with new ideas on how to motivate learners to read and testing them in educational settings will allow teachers to collect information on positive strategies and ultimately engage students.
Teachers, parents, and school managers should understand that not all students can be motivated in the same way, especially since their experiences and family backgrounds vary significantly. For example, struggling students are less likely to adhere to even the most effective practices of motivation and engagement because the level of their knowledge and skills is lower overall (Parenti, 2016). This can be attributed to the lack of parental involvement or the general disinterest of children to learning. To address such an issue, Parenti (2016) studied the motivation of middle school readers with the help of digital images as self-monitoring aids. The scholar linked the various influential ideas associated with best motivation practicing to enhancing learning through mental imagery, reading comprehension, and self-monitoring. Connections between reading motivation and technologies are notable in regards to Parenti’s (2016) study. Various devices that can offer the aspect of imagery to the process of learning can help struggling students develop mental images of certain concepts and attribute social meanings to them during the process.
Following the discussion of motivating struggling students, it is imperative to note the study by Vaughn et al. (2008) that explored intervention for secondary school students with various reading difficulties. To address the problem of students who struggle with reaching, the researchers considered the implementation of a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. This approach is developed with the help of such components as universal screening, the monitoring of progress, and multi-level instructional service delivery (Vaughn et al., 2008). Through the use of accountability tests and a multi-dimensional framework of instruction, it was possible to improve the reading skills of struggling students. While the study is valuable for its findings, it fails to provide a practical set of guidelines that teachers can easily use in multiple educational settings. This means that further research on this topic is needed to offer teachers the opportunity to use the RTI model in practice.
Within the educational context, the use of standardized tests has been associated with the assessment of students’ learning. Despite the controversy associated with the reliability of such assessments in showing the real level of achievement, they are still used to evaluate the degree of knowledge. Because of this, studying the connections between the performance of students on standardized testing and their reading motivation is beneficial. For instance, Mucherah and Yoder (2008) explored this relationship through conducting a questionnaire including 388 middle-school students. A major finding of the research referred to certain aspects of reading motivation being related to students’ performance in standardized reading tests (Mucherah & Yoder, 2008). Those students who had higher levels of self-efficacy in reading were more likely to enjoy processing challenging texts and therefore show better performance in standardized assessments. Although, it is notable that those students who read for social reasons or pleasure were not as successful in performing on tests. The study is notable to the discussion about reading motivation because it shed light on the connections between reading motivation and students’ success in reading texts.
Lastly, Wigfield, Gladstone, and Turci (2016) reviewed studies on children’s reading motivation in regards to their comprehension. Interestingly, it was found that girls showed greater levels of positive motivation for reading compared to boys. Besides, there were ethnic differences in learner’s reading motivation: African-American students reported higher levels of self-efficacy, intrinsic motivation, and valuing reading compared to their European American counterparts (Wigfield et al., 2016). Among Asian-Americans, intrinsic motivation was positively related to reading achievement than for Latino students (Wigfield et al., 2016). These findings suggest that teachers should account for such differences in the process of learning and assess the preparedness of every student. However, relying heavily on their ethnic background may not be effective since the findings may not be applied in every educational context.
Intrinsic motivation refers to a range of behaviors that are driven by internal rewards. This means that in order to engage people into specific practices, the latter should be potentially satisfying and interesting. This type of motivation is opposite in nature to extrinsic reinforcement, which is associated with engaging in specific behaviors in order to earn external rewards or avoid punishment. According to Akin-Little, Eckert, Lovett, and Little (2004), intrinsically-motivated behaviors recognize no other rewards except the activity itself. This means that there are no external controls that can influence the positive outcomes of an activity. Thus, there is a debate over the best possible type of motivation. While intrinsic motivation encourages learners to be focused on the act of gaining knowledge and new skills, external rewards exist outside the process of learning.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that while the dichotomy between the two types of motivation is generally accepted in the scholarly field, intrinsic encouragement is assumed to have greater value (Akin-Little et al., 2004). This belief is associated with the Western “conceptualization of the human as autonomous and individualistic. In this view, humans are driven toward self-actualization, and any occurrence that impinges on self-determination causes dissonance” (Akin-Little et al., 2004, p. 346). External reinforcements are seen as controlling and those that limit self-discovery and creativity, thus reducing the capacity of learners to reach the desired objectives.
In studying intrinsic motivation in the classroom, it is important to mention the study by Valerio (2012). The scholar acknowledged the fact that motivation played a significant role in students’ learning and development, suggesting that it was part of teachers’ pedagogy to reinforce a desire for new knowledge and understanding. Intrinsic motivation is associated with establishing a supportive learning environment to assist learners in developing effective skills. Such a setting imperatively involves teachers having very high expectations of students’ learning abilities as well as ensuring that the ultimate outcomes align with the challenges offered to students. A supporting learning environment assists in increasing motivation because it encourages diversity and goal setting without the need for external rewards (Valerio, 2012). Teachers act as facilitators when assisting in the learning process and ensure that tasks align with the assessment criteria. Goal setting is another important aspect of intrinsic motivation because it enables students to focus their attention on achievement, mobilize resources available to them, facilitate persistence, and enable accomplishment (Valerio, 2012).
Get your first paper with 15% OFF
Oudeyer, Gottlieb, and Lopes (2016) explored intrinsic motivation within the learning context through the lens of application to educational technologies. The study is notable for its exploration of intrinsic motivation from the perspective of neuroscience and psychology. The scholars found that the brain could be motivated and rewarded by complexity, novelty, and other informational measures. This means that learning is reinforced in cases when individuals can find new information and get positively challenged within the process of reinforcement learning (Oudeyer et al., 2016). The findings of the research can be applied not only in regards to computational models in educational technologies but also within conventional learning settings in which it is needed to boost the motivation and engagement of students.
Another notable study associated with the stimulation of intrinsic motivation among students was conducted by Kusurkar, Croiset, and Cate (2011). The scholars applied Self-Determination Theory (SDT) to facilitate autonomy-supportive teaching as it enhanced students’ independence and made them competent in learning. The research is relevant to the current discussion on motivation as it provides a framework of practical tips derived from SDT that teachers can use in their practice. For example, the authors suggest that teachers should identify and nurture what students want and need to structure the process of learning in a way that will account for those requirements. Another tip is to encourage students to take more responsibility for their learning to facilitate autonomy and independence. Emotional support is also among the recommendations given by the authors due to the need to create environments in which students are respected, nurtured, and feel safe. It is essential to consider the twelve tips proposed by Kusurkar et al. (2011) because they approach intrinsic motivation from the perspective of learners’ needs that may be often overlooked.
Lastly, Hesek’s (2004) contribution to the study of intrinsic motivation in educational settings should be considered. The researcher aligned intrinsic motivation with learners’ retention because the former is extremely useful for fostering educational environments that cater to the needs of students. In the author’s opinion, choice is an essential component of intrinsic motivation and students’ self-determination because the autonomy of supporting environments makes students behave freely and remain engaged. Self-efficacy is also closely correlated with intrinsic motivation because it enables students to develop self-concept in regards to specific situations.
Strategies to Motivate
Strategies for motivating learners are all focused on helping them reach established goals. Usually, motivational strategies depend on the needs and capabilities of learners and can, therefore, include a range of processes and steps taken to increase engagement. Scholars explored various methods of enhancing motivation in educational settings to reveal the most effective practices. For example, Ling (2018) studied the strategy of meaningful gamification as a method of increasing students’ motivation. Gamification is a recent pedagogical method that implies the use of digital games within the educational setting to enhance learning. In relation to reading, the application of meaningful gamification has shown to motivate students to read background materials on games and further their understanding of key concepts. The term ‘meaningful gamification’ was initially proposed within the framework of the self-determination theory that prioritized such aspects of learning as autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
Setting high expectations in an educational setting has been attributed to a greater likelihood of students being motivated. As mentioned by Ruiz (2012), it is essential to instill a sense of confidence in learners to promote positive attitudes and behaviors for increasing motivation. Supporting classroom environments help to establish high expectations by setting short-term goals through challenging but achievable tasks (Ruiz, 2012). By setting and communicating the expectations of high performance within positive environments, teachers can motivate students to engage in their own learning. The study is valuable for providing a comprehensive look at practices that enhance students’ motivation beyond collaboration and communication between teachers and learners.
Suhr (2018) analyzed various strategies targeted at increasing the motivation and engagement of adolescent aged learners within a middle school setting. The findings of the study suggested that such strategies as the setting of goals, the growth mindset, and the creation of a positive environment in classrooms were the most effective for motivating students. The value of the study is attributed to the fact that the findings can be applied to a wide range of educational settings because motivation-enhancing strategies are universal and are not targeted to a specific population.
Motivational strategies were also explored by Wang and Han (2001) who proposed a framework, the six Cs of motivation, for engaging students into the learning process. The six Cs include “choice, challenge, control, collaboration, constructing meaning, and consequences” (Wang & Han, 2001, p. 2). Such a framework is valuable to the discussion of strategies to motivate students toward reaching the established goals, especially in the context of open-ended tasks. When teachers integrate the six Cs into the design of the learning curriculum, they must be aware of each student’s or group’s progress and provide constructive feedback based on that information. In cases when students participate in the completion in meaningful, open-ended tasks, their motivation rises, with the effect on learning being greatly powerful.
Reynolds and Goodwin (2016) studied the use of motivational scaffolding to help students read complex texts. The strategy explored in the study represented a responsive in-person support provided by an expert to a novice reader to enhance comprehension. After the implementation of interactional scaffolding, students who participated in the intervention showed higher levels of vocabulary processing and comprehension. In addition, their fluency enhanced through the greater emphasis on sentence-level processing. Comprehension was also shown to increase because students were encouraged to engage in self-monitoring as their read and thus activate existing knowledge and provide the necessary background information.
In regards to motivation, the scaffolding technique was the most beneficial because the tests using within the intervention presented a great range of diverse and complex motivational challenges. The findings of this research are relevant to the discussion of strategies targeted at increasing reading motivation because the implemented scaffolding strategy can be applied in a wide variety of educational settings. As mentioned by the authors themselves, “the significant finding about motivational scaffolding also suggests that examining interactional scaffolding at this grain size is promising, and its effects can be detected on standardized measures of independent reading” (Reynolds & Goodwin, 2016, p. 12). Nevertheless, more research in this area is needed to develop methods in which teachers can implement the strategy both responsively and contingently.
Protacio (2017) studied reading engagement of middle-grade English learners. Students with high levels of reading engagement are those who are motivated to do so, use multiple strategies when working with text, and use reading as a way to infer meanings from new information. Strategies targeted at increasing students’ motivation can include modeling and demonstration, error correction and prompting, repeated practices, and shaping or reinforcement. For example, the strategy of modeling implies teachers demonstrating reading by simultaneously explaining and showing a student how to read successfully. When doing so, they should verbalize the process with as much detail as possible, including the position of the book or the act of turning a page. In the strategy of shaping, teachers are expected to reinforce appropriate behaviors to strengthen the comprehension and motivation of students (Joseph, 2007). When students start applying strategies to read words accurately and associate meanings with them, they should be provided with reinforcements to emit correct responses (Protacio, 2017). Overall, there is no one approach toward reaching the desired level of motivation in reading, which means that teachers should assess each situation separately to apply relevant strategies accordingly.
Why Reading is Critical
There is a generally accepted statement that reading is a critical skill that everyone should possess in order to function in society effectively. Through reading, people expose themselves to new knowledge, various ways of problem-solving, as well as new methods of achieving something. This is likely to lead to self-improvement as reading helps people understand the world more and gain a better grasp on topics that interest them. Since people who write books, articles, and Internet posts want to transfer their knowledge to others, those who read them gain valuable experiences that they did not have. This can increase the likelihood of succeeding in various goals as people will not have to repeat the same mistakes that were made previously.
Reading comprehension has shown to be of great importance in the middle school learning setting, especially since students are usually expected to extend their skills from elementary grades to next levels. Comprehension in reading refers to the ability of students to give meanings to words and distinguish them within different genres, contexts, and settings. It is especially important for students’ future success in content areas, such as social studies or science, when it is imperative to understand information on various topics (Baker, 2009). This means that comprehension is an important aspect within the entire curriculum as it encourages students to apply the already earned knowledge and use it across a range of disciplines. Baker’s (2009) approach toward reading comprehension is especially relevant to note because the scholar attributed the skill to reaching high levels of learning sustainability. Thus, when students have positive outcomes in comprehension, they are much more likely to sustain their learning and be susceptible to different teaching approaches in the long-run.
Kaya (2015) studied the role of students’ reading skills in enhancing reading comprehension ability within the Turkish context. As mentioned by the author and also supported by Whitten, Labby, and Sullivan (2016), reading is an essential part of people’s daily lives and is performed for both pleasure and information. Children cannot achieve the desired levels of comprehension to study new subjects or pass exams without having cohesive reading skills. According to Kaya (2015), students are more likely to enhance their comprehension ability in cases when they were taught effective reading skills. The study has a potential to contribute to future studies on the importance of reading for enhancing comprehension in different educational settings as the results were shown to be reliable within the Turkish English as a Foreign Language learning context.
An interesting perspective on reading was provided by Goodman (2005) in her article “The middle school high five: Strategies can triumph.” The author suggested that reading was necessary for elevating students’ skills and making them more successful in their future learning. The five strategies proposed by Goodman (2005) were developed on the basis of general knowledge that teachers have in regards to introducing children to language arts. The skill of reading is seen as highly important because it equips students with knowledge that cannot be attained through other processes such as writing or listening. According to Pardo (2004), reading comprehension is an important contributor to students’ development because of its role in helping them extract and construct meaning from newly-attained knowledge. As the number of meanings grows and expand with learning, students are able to synthesize new information easier. This view is also supported by Butler, Urrutia, Buenger, and Hunt (2010) who suggested that as students’ academic progress expanded, they were more likely to understand what they read. Those who cannot understand that are less likely to acquire the skills necessary to participate in the learning process.
This review of the literature on the topic of motivating middle school students to read revealed that learners’ needs must be met in order to reach the established objectives regarding engagement. The role of fostering positive learning environments was emphasized in multiple studies as scholars recognized that students should feel safe, valued, respected, and emotionally supported when being motivated to read. Besides, intrinsic motivation was shown to be a positive contributor to increasing the motivation of students in multiple settings. Such aspects as complexity, novelty, and other informational measures enhance the process of reading and increase the overall motivation of students. Nevertheless, further research into motivational strategies for reading is needed to develop a set of recommendations that teachers can use in middle school educational settings and cater to their students’ needs.
Akin-Little, K., Eckert, T., Lovett, B., & Little, S. (2004). Extrinsic reinforcement in the classroom: Bribery or best practice. School Psychology Review, 33(3), 344-362.
Baker, S. (2009). Reading comprehension: Essential for sustainability. Sustainability Series, 8. Web.
Butler, S., Urrutia, K., Buenger, A., & Hunt, M. (2010). A review of the current research on comprehension instruction. Web.
Cham, H., Hughes, J. N., West, S. G., & Im, M. H. (2014). Assessment of adolescents’ motivation for educational attainment. Psychological Assessment, 26(2), 642-659.
Daniels, E., & Steres, M. (2011). Examining the effects of a school-wide reading culture on the engagement of middle school students. RMLE, 35(2), 1-13.
Davis, A., & Forbes, L. (2016). Doing the impossible: Motivating middle school students. Voices from the Middle, 23(4), 14-18.
Googman, A. (2005). The middle school high five: Strategies can triumph. Voices from the Middle, 13(2), 12-19.
Hesek, E. (2004). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom: Increasing learning and retention. Rochester Institute of Technology. Web.
Joseph, L. (2007). Best practices on interventions for students with reading problems. Best Practice in School Psychology, 72(4), 1163-1180.
Kaya, E. (2015). The role of reading skills on reading comprehension ability of Turkish EFL students. Universitepark Bulten, 4(1-2), 37-51.
Kusurkar, R., Croiset, G., & Cate, O. (2011). Twelve tips to stimulate intrinsic motivation in students through autonomy-supportive classroom teaching derived from Self-Determination Theory. Medical Teacher, 33, 978-982.
Ling, L. T. (2018). Meaningful gamification and students’ motivation: A strategy for scaffolding reading material. Online Learning, 22(2), 141-155.
Mensah, E. (2015). Middle level students’ goal orientations and motivation. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(2), 20-33.
Molotja, T., & Themane, M. (2018). Enhancing learners’ reading habits through reading bags at secondary schools. Reading & Writing, 9(1), 1-9.
Mucherah, W., & Yoder, A. (2008). Motivation for reading and middle school students’ performance on standardized testing in reading. Reading Psychology, 29(3), 214-235.
Oudeyer, P., Gottlieb, J., & Lopes, M. (2016). Intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and learning: Theory and applications in educational technologies. Progress in Brain Research, 229, 257-284.
Pardo, L. (2004). What every teacher needs to know about comprehension. International Reading Association. Web.
Parenti, M. (2016). Motivating struggling middle school readers: Digital images as an aid for self-monitoring and enhancing retellings of text. I-Manager’s Journal of Educational Technology, 13(1), 1-6.
Protacio, M. (2017). A Case study exploring the reading engagement of middle grades English learners. Research in Middle Level Education, 40(3), 1-17.
Rahal, M. (2010). Identifying and motivating underachievers. Educational Research Services. Web.
Reynolds, D., & Goodwin, A. (2016). Supporting students reading complex texts: Evidence for motivational scaffolding. AERA Open, 2(4), 1-16.
Ruiz, E. (2012). Setting higher expectations: Motivating middle graders to succeed. Web.
Strobel, K., & Borsato, G. (2012). Caring and motivating middle school classrooms. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities.
Suhr, K. (2018). Strategies for motivating middle school students. Education Masters, Paper 362. Web.
Tohidi, H., & Jabbari, M. (2012). The effects of motivation in education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 31, 820-824.
Valerio, K. (2012). Intrinsic motivation in the classroom. Journal of Student Engagement: Education Matters, 2(1), 30-35.
Vaughn, S., Fletcher, J., Francis, D., Denton, C., Wanzek, J., Wexler, J., …Romain, M.A. (2008). Responses to intervention with older students with reading difficulties. Learning and Individual Differences, 18(3), 338-345.
Wang. S. & Han, S. (2001). Six C’s of motivation. Web.
Whitten, C., Labby, S., & Sullivan, S. L. (2016). The impact of pleasure reading on academic success. The Journal of Multidisciplinary Graduate Research, 2(4) 48-64.
Wigfield, A., Gladstone, J., & Turci, L. (2016). Beyond cognition: Reading motivation and reading comprehension. Child Development Perspectives, 10(3), 190-195.