Interventions can be discussed as effective approaches to implement changes in different contexts to alter certain behaviors (Mills, 2014). This vision is also relevant regarding interventions proposed for students to influence the learning experience to improve the performance and achieve high academic results. The action research has the cyclical nature, and it should be selected for the implementation of interventions because it is possible to administer the regular monitoring and revisions of the progress with the focus on the further modifications to examine how certain changes in the intervention can influence the action research participants, as well as the final results of the project (Mills, 2014).
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In this study, the focus is on implementing the motivational strategy as the intervention to affect the student’s behavior in terms of the motivation to learn. It is important to present the results of the research with the focus on the analysis of outcomes and identified themes to state what actions can be performed in the future to achieve the higher results concentrating on the cyclical nature of the action research.
Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to present the findings of the action research aimed at implementing the motivational strategy with references to the outcome and theme analysis. It is also important to review the context of the research, the literature related to the topic and problem, the area of focus and research questions, the intervention details, and the strategies of the data collection. The action plan that includes possible steps for the continuation of the project is also presented in the paper.
The selection of the participant in the research is influenced by the fact that I am not currently employed in the educational institution. The participant is my 17-year-old son who studies in high school. The problem that was examined in the context of learning and preparing tasks or home assignments for the classes is the student’s motivation to learn. The problem is in the fact that the participant’s motivation to learn, to prepare the homework, and to achieve the higher results in the class has decreased significantly. Motivation to learn is the key factor to influence the student’s academic success not only in a high school but also in a college or university. It is a difficult task to motivate adolescents, but it is an important stage to make them interested in achieving their personal, academic, and professional successes.
My son is highly motivated to achieve success in his sports activities as he is an athlete, and he participates in the Air Force ROTC program. He is also interested in joining the military services after high school in a case when he does not receive the full ROTC scholarship to enter the college. Recently, the participant has not demonstrated an interest in preparing the home tasks, and this fact influenced his grades.
Moreover, the absence of the high motivation to learn was in contrast to the increased motivation to achieve high results in sports, and this fact required further examination. In this context, I became focused on finding strategies and approaches that could be effective to stimulate the high school student’s motivation. Even though the variety of motivational techniques were used previously to affect the participant’s behavior, there was no systematic approach, and such techniques did not produce any positive effect because they were not implemented in the context of the research as a developed intervention based on the theory and previous studies in the field.
The students’ motivation to learn depends on a variety of factors. Margolis and McCabe (2006) have found that to develop the desire or motivation to learn in their students, educators need to pay much attention not only to their instructions but also to the emotional impact on students. The variety of factors that could influence the students’ desire to learn was discussed as ‘dimensions’ (Margolis & McCabe, 2006).
This research indicated that the student’s motivation can be affected by many aspects that need to be taken into account while creating the conditions appropriate for stimulating the students’ desire to learn. The researchers focused on the motivation of adolescents, and they have found that to affect the motivation and the overall interest of students in the study, it is important to influence the students’ self-efficacy.
Also, the researchers mentioned tools that can be used by both educators and parents to affect adolescents’ motivation to learn. They listed the importance of emotional stimulation, the focus on peer models, and the use of praise to reinforce the students’ efforts. It was also mentioned that the work on overcoming failures and memorizing successes, the completion of challenging tasks, and the discussions of students’ progress are important to stimulate their motivation to study (Margolis & McCabe, 2006). This research provided the background for selecting the techniques and tools that can be utilized to affect the students’ motivation.
The focus on self-efficacy as the dimension of motivation to learn allows assuming that it has the multidimensional character, and many aspects of the personality and behavior can be affected by the process of stimulating the person’s motivation. This assumption is supported by references to Martin’s (2008) study on the application of the multidimensional intervention to increase the students’ motivation in the classroom settings.
While following the researcher’s findings, it is important to note that the students’ motivation can be affected by such motivational dimensions as self-efficacy, goal orientation, and needs achievement, and the higher results are expected when students try to work on such areas as planning, study management, persistence, and failure avoidance. The researcher notes that to affect different dimensions of the student’s motivation, it is necessary to use a variety of methods, and this idea is referred to as Margolis and McCabe’s (2006) discussion of motivation.
The motivation of students is also influenced by the educator’s or parent’s approach to stimulating or reinforcing the desired student’s behavior. In this case, it is possible to use praise, punishment, or their combination. In his research, Hancock (2012) discusses the integration of the value and praise principles into the intervention, and he asserts that the praise is important to motivate a student to demonstrate higher academic results.
Moreover, this approach can also lead to improved self-regulation. Verbal praise can be used to increase students’ self-efficacy (Hancock, 2012). However, it is important to pay attention to the fact that praise is a highly debatable method to influence motivation; therefore, it is recommended to be used only in particular situations. These situations include moments when a student demonstrates significant achievement and positive changes in comparison to the previous results. This approach can also demonstrate positive outcomes when an educator or a parent chooses to praise the student’s desired changes in the behavior, successes in setting goals, and changes in attitudes to learning verbally.
Nevertheless, the literature on motivation and tools to stimulate the students’ desire and intentions to learn is not enough to support the discussed action research. The studies analyzing different techniques and instruments to affect the motivation to learn were reviewed for this research. In his study, Hayes (2009) noted that it is appropriate to use electronic gadgets to stimulate the students’ interest in the study while making the learning process more convenient and attractive. In this case, the student’s interest in the material content combined with the interest in working with technologies can produce positive results and effects on motivation.
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Kitsantas and Zimmerman (2009) discussed another perspective regarding the student’s motivation, and they noted that children and adolescents can be effectively motivated to do their homework when they understand and accept the responsibility for their learning and develop certain self-regulatory behaviors. These articles accentuate the role of the intrinsic and extrinsic reinforcers to affect the student’s motivation to learn. Thus, these studies provide the background for developing, improving, and administering the motivational intervention with the focus on the selected participant.
Area of Focus Statement
The purpose of this study was to influence the student’s motivation to learn with the help of implementing the effective motivational strategy and make the student change the attitude to preparing the home tasks, spending more time on doing the homework, setting goals for learning and development, and demonstrating the persistence in achieving them. The issue addressed while completing the goal of the research was the necessity of implementing the motivational strategy as a complex intervention that needed to affect different aspects of the participant’s motivation to complete the purpose of this research with the focus on setting goals.
During the process of implementing the intervention, the research questions were modified to address the purpose of the study directly:
- What motivation strategies can I implement with a 17-year-old student to convince him to learn and improve academic performance?
- What aspects and features of the strategy make it effective to influence the motivation to learn?
The implemented motivational strategy is based on Martin’s (2008) multidimensional intervention used as the framework. The goal was to increase the participant’s motivation to learn while affecting his self-efficacy, goal orientation, and needs achievement and developing persistence, as well as his skills in management and regulation. The intervention lasted six weeks, and the systematic impact on the participant’s motivation to learn was realized with the help of implementing and performing a set of planned activities.
During the first week of the intervention, the participant was informed about the planned work to increase his motivation, and the first discussions of role models and their successes, as well as the participant’s previous successes in sports and learning, were started. The cases of successful sportsmen and the U.S. Air Force officers were analyzed in terms of factors influencing their successes and professionalism associated with education, academic achievements, and experience.
The references to the student’s successes in sports and motivation to achieve the higher results were made. The information about role models was retrieved from videos and articles in newspapers and magazines. These activities were oriented to increasing the student’s self-efficacy as the dimension of motivation. At the end of the week, the student provided the self-report on his vision of learning and motivation.
Before starting the second week of the intervention, I reviewed the articles by Hayes (2009) and Kitsantas and Zimmerman (2009) and decided to use more electronic devices and gadgets for working with the participant and stimulating his learning at home, as well as to add exercises oriented to improving the student’s vision of responsibility, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and setting short-term goals.
The second and third weeks were spent on formulating and discussing the participant’s goals for the future and the connection between motivation and actual career achievements. The focus was on the goal orientation as the dimension of personal motivation. The student completed a series of exercises to determine and increase the level of his responsibility and self-regulation. I monitored the time spent on doing the homework and preparing for classes. The verbal praise was used as the tool to motivate for changes and completing the tasks efficiently during these weeks. The student formulated the plan for the future with goals in the self-report.
While focusing on the use of technologies, I also added online simulations and interactive exercises to the plan of activities instead of reading materials. The fourth week was spent on watching and analyzing motivational videos and playing simulations related to the problem of motivation and needs achievement. The set goals were analyzed and reformulated in terms of their connection with the current learning activities. During the fifth week, it was important to discuss the participant’s successes, personal and academic victories and negative experiences and failures. Possible fears and anxiety caused by those failures were analyzed, as well as approaches to coping with them.
These situations were discussed with the focus on the experiences of other people who coped with challenges successfully. During the sixth week, I asked the student to formulate his strategy to achieve success in learning to complete the set goals. This week was also spent on collecting the data on the intervention results to state whether the used strategy would be successful to motivate this student.
Data Collection Strategies
The data for the analysis was collected with the help of a questionnaire, self-reports written weekly by the study participant, and an interview conducted during the final week of the study.
These data were supported by my daily observations and conclusions based on the student’s self-reports. In his self-reports, the student mentioned such positive changes associated with his motivation to learn as the increased interest in learning Algebra and Science as subjects associated with his vision of masculinity; the increased interest in time-management practices and tools; the development of the interest in secrets and strategies of successful people; the increased interest in demonstrating higher results; the high grades received during the weeks of intervention; the increased time spent on doing the homework; the improved quality and the higher accuracy of the completed home tasks; the increased activity in the classroom; the increased interest in the peers’ opinions regarding his academic successes. Figure 1 presents changes in motivation to learn and associated behaviors that are reported by the participant as caused by the intervention.
The questionnaire was used to determine the changes in the student’s level of motivation. The questionnaire used for this study is Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire developed by Paul Pintrich and Elisabeth DeGroot in the 1990s and based on the 7-item Likert scale to present the data in numbers for the further quantitative analysis. The numerical data on the student’s level of motivation was obtained with the help of the questionnaire. It was found that after the intervention, the interest in the studied subject and the expectancy for success can motivate the student to learn most significantly.
The most actively used strategy that is associated with the high-level motivation in the student is Organization Strategy when the participant works to organize the learning material according to themes and sub-themes. Self-Effort also has a higher effect on motivation than the factor of time and space while discussing resource management. Figure 2 presents the results regarding the participant’s level of motivation after the intervention.
The qualitative data were collected with the help of the semi-structured interview on changes in the motivation to learn, new experiences associated with the intervention, possible achievements associated with the intervention, and changes in academic goals. It was found that high grades were received after days when the participant spent more time on doing the homework, and this fact influenced his vision of the intervention results.
Moreover, the discussion of role models contributed to forming a positive attitude to learning as the source of knowledge and skills to achieve results in the professional sphere. The participant experienced more positive emotions while thinking about the necessity of preparing for the classes. The increased motivation to learn was also associated with the possibility to use a laptop and an iPad for watching videos and searching the study materials because of making the process of learning easier.
The participant mentioned that more positive emotions were also associated with the verbal praise that led to inspiring the participant to cope with the tasks and increasing the mood. It was also noted that the reading of articles and the work with print sources were not motivational for the student. Figure 3 presents the percentage associated with the effectiveness of different activities to stimulate the student to cope with the home task and improve academic performance.
The participant stated that the discussion of role models, verbal praise, and the exercises on setting goals had the highest effect on his motivation. On the contrary, the reading had no obvious effect on changes in attitudes to learning. These findings are discussed in detail in the outcome analysis section of this paper.
The findings demonstrate that the motivational strategy based on the multidimensional approach to affect the student’s self-efficacy, goal orientation, and needs achievement was effective to convince the 17-year-old student to learn and improve his academic performance. From this perspective, the main research question was answered, and it was found that the multidimensional complex motivation strategy used to affect different aspects of the student’s motivation to learn was appropriate to change his attitudes and behaviors with the focus on actual positive results and outcomes in the study.
The data obtained with the help of the self-report used for examining the changes in the student’s approach to self-regulation and monitoring indicated that strategies oriented to addressing the student’s self-efficacy were effective to cause changes in attitudes to learning Algebra and Science. The questionnaire results also supported this conclusion with references to the score on the student’s choice of self-effort to manage his learning activities. Moreover, the positive results were associated with the use of time-management practices and the desired changes were noted in the self-report and with the help of the questionnaire.
It is important to state that self-reports, the questionnaire, and the interview indicated that the most successful strategies were the discussion of role models with the focus on their goals, successes, and coping with failures; the use of the verbal praise to increase confidence and motivation to take actions; the focus on setting goals and the use of goal orientation exercises; the use of technologies to spend more time on the efficient learning.
Thus, the second research question was also answered because it was found that certain aspects of the motivational intervention, such as the use of technologies, the verbal praise, the reference to role models, and the goal orientation practices, can have the more significant effects on the student’s motivation than other ones. The findings showed that the strategies that were directed toward increasing the self-efficacy and developing the goal-oriented approach to learning had higher effects on the student’s motivation to learn.
Thus, the goal orientation exercises contributed to rising the intrinsic motivation to learn to achieve the higher results in the professional life, the discussion of role models illustrated the target goals, and the verbal praise created the positive environments and mood to learn. As a result, the interest in secrets and strategies of successful people increased; the orientation to demonstrating higher academic results was observed; the results of learning activities improved; the student chose the effective organizational strategy to work with the learning material using technologies, and the interest to learning increased accordingly.
Nevertheless, such traditional approaches to working with the learning materials and motivational resources as the work with printed sources and the reading of articles from newspapers and magazines had no meaningful effects on the student’s interest in the study or discussion of role models. The use of technologies, videos, and simulations had more obvious effects. As a result, it was also important to propose using technologies, such as laptops, iPads, and other gadgets, to make the process of learning more attractive and less time-consuming to the student. However, the time spent on preparing the homework increased, as well as the quality and accuracy of the completed tasks.
The first theme identified after the evaluation of the data collected with the help of self-reports, the questionnaire, and the interview can be described as Significance of Role Models to Affect Motivation. It is important to note that conversations with the participant, his progress during the completion of intervention activities, and the outcomes of the intervention indicated that the participant is more motivated to learn, achieve the higher academic results, improve the academic performance, and set clear goals for the future while referring to the analysis of actions and achievements of role models.
It was found that the student feels more excited, motivated, and encouraged to learn or prepare the home tasks and participate in the class activities after discussing the life and achievements of role models, such as sportsmen and the U.S. Air Force officers, who are interesting for the participant. The male student also reported a higher concentration on the learning and the overall positive mood associated with watching videos about successful persons and making conclusions regarding their strategies to accomplish goals and cope with failures. Thus, the outcomes of the research support the assumption that role models are important for adolescents, and the reference to role models can influence the student’s attitude to the learning and his approach to setting goals.
The second theme can be described as the Association of Verbal Praise, Student’s Confidence, Self-Efficacy, and Motivation. It was found that verbal praise can be used to influence the participant’s self-efficacy and confidence significantly because it is helpful to encourage, empower, and inspire students to make more efforts to learn. As a result, the student’s motivation to learn increases because he views more opportunities to concentrate on the learning, he chooses to spend more time on doing the homework, and he also focuses on receiving a high grade as a result of his efforts.
According to Hancock (2012), praise is important to stimulate students to change their behaviors positively to demonstrate that the received praise is reasonable. Thus, the study proved the idea that praise can work well while being used as the element of the motivational intervention for adolescents when the focus is on increasing their motivation to learn. The verbal praise increases the student’s confidence, and he becomes more motivated to do the homework while accepting the responsibility for his learning and results. Therefore, it is also possible to speak about the role of praise to influence the student’s self-regulatory behavior in this study.
The third identified theme is the Association of Using Technologies and Increased Motivation to Learn. When I developed the intervention and planned using videos, laptops, and iPads, I did not pay attention to the use of technologies as a factor to increase the motivation to learn. I focused on the use of electronic gadgets when I noticed that the participant did not demonstrate any interest in working with print sources.
It was an unexpected result that the student can spend more time reading motivational materials using an iPad and a laptop instead of working with printed articles. I have also found that the process of watching videos and presentations followed by discussions of role models and the use of simulations were more attractive to the participant, and these activities had the observable effects on the student’s motivation to learn. I noticed that the student spent more time working with online resources and materials while preparing for the classes, and he also used gadgets to improve his time management and organization of learning at home.
While focusing on this unintended outcome of using technologies to affect the motivation to learn, I proposed to utilize the online versions of books and study materials to allow the easy search and manipulation of data and make the process of learning more attractive to the student.
I have not found any relationship between working with print sources, reading articles, and the student’s motivation to learn. While adjusting the strategy, I would avoid using these tools in my further research. Moreover, I would pay more attention to the learning strategies and their effect on the student’s desire to learn to conclude why the outcomes of using the organizational strategy were more significant than the outcomes of the elaboration and rehearsal strategies.
The analysis of the data and discussed themes show the necessity of further steps to realize the action research with the focus on its cyclical nature. At the current stage, it is important to identify not only themes that are associated with the actual changes in the participant behaviors and motivation to learn but also themes that can be referred to modify the intervention for further action and re-evaluation.
The leader conducting the action research is always focused on observing the data, evaluating it, and acting according to the made observations and conclusions (Buczynski & Hansen, 2014). The first evaluation stage in this action research was associated with assessing the participant’s self-reports regarding his successes in working with role models and cases based on the print sources. At that stage, I chose to concentrate on the use of technologies in the study, and that action was the first modification based on the evaluation of the observed behaviors.
Currently, the action steps should be based on the re-evaluation of the data collected with the help of self-reports, the questionnaire, and the interview. The actions based on the implementation of the leadership strategies should include the adaptation of activities and practices to stimulate the students’ motivation and examine how adjustments can influence the student’s focus on elaboration and rehearsal strategies. The next step is the evaluation of possible results. To affect the student’s motivation to learn in terms of self-regulation and self-monitoring, it is necessary to propose new exercises for the development of the student’s feeling of responsibility and association of confidence and self-efficacy with the improved academic results.
To continue the intervention and achieve higher outcomes, it is important to add more motivational practices and evaluate their effects on the participant’s attitude to learning. The verbal praise, the use of technologies, the reference to role models, and the re-evaluation of set goals depending on the accomplishments and conditions should be used as the focus on the motivational intervention.
However, it is also important to modify the approaches to complete more objectives and address all possible dimensions of the adolescents’ motivation to learn. Currently, the focus is on self-efficacy, goal orientation, and needs achievement, but it is necessary to determine more areas that can be potentially influenced by the action plan to increase the motivation to learn, complete the homework tasks, and prepare for classes. After the evaluation of the effects of these strategies, it is also possible to refocus on the student’s motivation to perform well in the classroom, not only at home, preparing for tests and examinations.
The action research is necessary to address the gaps in practice and provide the educator with effective research-based strategies that can be used to solve issues. As a result, weaknesses in educational approaches can be addressed while focusing on the real researched outcomes. While discussing the question of the students’ motivation to learn, it is possible to state that it is often not addressed directly, and educators refer only to intrinsic motivation. The research literature shows that students need the following role models, being praised, and receiving tools and strategies to improve their approach to learning.
The outcomes of this study indicate that students are best motivated to learn when they are praised verbally and when they have the opportunity to use those tools for learning that are attractive and interesting to them like technologies and different gadgets. They are also motivated to learn when they compare their successes and failures with the life situations of persons that are discussed as role models. The study involving one male high school student demonstrates that such easy strategies can be useful to change the person’s attitude to learning at home and preparing the home tasks. Moreover, these results are supported by the literature accentuated the positive effects of the praise, technologies, and role models on motivation.
Also, the study outcomes support the idea that adolescents’ motivation depends significantly on their goals even though the behaviors of students are often associated with a low level of responsibility. The study results accentuate the idea that the motivation of students is a multidimensional phenomenon, and higher results associated with stimulating it can be expected when much attention is paid to influencing the student’s self-efficacy, confidence, goal orientation, and discussion of needs.
The majority of strategies used as part of the motivational intervention, in this case, have the positive effects on the student’s vision of their learning as the key to further success in the personal and professional life. Still, the vision that such traditional approaches as the motivational literature can affect the student’s attitude to learning and the interest in the class activities were not supported by the study.
The action research aimed at finding an effective strategy to motivate the student to learn demonstrated that the multidimensional strategy can be effective to change the behaviors and achieve the expected results when a certain combination of tools and techniques is used. Thus, not all techniques and instruments discussed in the literature can work effectively to stimulate the student to change the attitude to learning and spending time while preparing for classes.
However, it is also important to pay attention to the fact that individual characteristics of the student should be the priority while selecting the motivational strategy and possible tools. Therefore, in this case, I referred to the role models, understanding that the discussion of sportsmen’s accomplishments can have positive effects on the student’s vision of the role of learning in life. New tools and practices can be proposed to the student at the next stage of the action research to ensure the continuation of the change implementation.
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Mills, G. E. (2014). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.