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Motivation and Community

Learning is hardly ever conducted in a setting with equal footing. Schools are often the venues for division between those who are able to rise up to the challenge and those who succumb to underachievement. This is not to say that the division of the student body is exact. Varying degrees of both qualities are present in all individual students. This is even truer for members of the studentry who are part of racial groups with relatively bigger obstacles to overcome. Honora (2003) noted that school achievement is highly dependent on a sense of belongingness in the school environment.

For African American males, inclusion and belongingness are two things hardly ever achieved. Although social inclusion is the drive of all educational institutions, the fact remains that a discrepancy exists between the desire for inclusion and the actual implementation. Many researchers have come to the conclusion that a sense of relatedness may help encourage a sense of self-motivation. This sense of relatedness focuses on interpersonal relationships between the individual, his or her family, and his or her peers. Different individuals in the student’s life may play central social roles in fostering the child’s motivation.

(Furrer & Skinner, 2003) This paper delves into the

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possibility of a higher success rate in fostering motivation for success in African American males with an effort to strengthen the relatedness of their community or home environment with the school environment. A review of the available literature regarding the subject matter will be conducted in order to arrive at a viable proposal for further research. Lack of motivation Many students have the capacity to become successful in their academic undertakings but because of a the absence or lack of the desire to achieve.

Daniels & Arapostathis (2005) labelled such a group of students with an apparent lack of motivation to achieve in an academic setting as reluctant learners. Reluctant learners are students who are not held back by any problems relating to academic skill or ability but rather who are influenced by other social factors resulting to a case of underachievement. The research conducted by Daniels & Arapostathis (2005) worked on a few acceptable and basic assumptions. First, the researchers assumed that reluctant learners possessed the ability to succeed.

Second, reluctant learners only failed to achieve success because of disengagement from the school environment. This disengagement was said to occur in the early years of student life. And lastly, the researchers assumed that certain factors contribute to the motivation of learners to achieve success. By conducting interviews with a group of identified reluctant learners, Daniels & Arapostathis (2005) were able t come up with a list of possible factors that contributed to the motivation levels of said students. Inclusion criteria for the subjects involved the following: passing scores on the SAT-9’s but unsatisfactory GPA scores.

This criteria supposedly ensured that the population tested included individuals with the capability to achieve but who lacked the motivation to do so. Such an assumption on the performance of students does not take into account the possibility that students who failed the standardized tests may also possess the ability to pass and simply lacked the motivation to succeed even in that aspect. Interviews were conducted by the researchers and the results showed that engagement or disengagement from school activities were dependent, according to the interviewees, on a number of factors. Interest in the subject matter was one of the factors.

Understanding the value of learning and succeeding in the activity was another factor. The value of the activity is also interconnected with the student’s understanding that engaging in the activity would lead to something better. Also, a sense of already being good at the activity could lead to a decrease in the student’s motivation to engage in it. This could occur when a student and a teacher are not able to effectively make use of the concept of feedback and praise. (Daniels & Arapostathis, 2005) A feeling of effectiveness in one activity may also serve as an effective motivator for engaging in other activities.

The quality of the relationship between the educator and the learner is also a strong factor for motivation as is the educator’s focus on the individuality of the learner. The parent-child relationship as well as the expectations of the parents for the student also contribute to the motivation of the students. (Daniels & Arapostathis, 2005) This research showed that social factors play a critical role in establishing a sense of motivation in students. The identification of specific factors affirms the validity of assuming that motivation can be increased by changing certain dynamics in the school and home environment of the student.

However, the study does not deal with a specific group of students and much research is lacking in order for the implications of the study to be effectively applied in a real world setting. Motivation and the classroom environment Another research conducted by Ryan & Patrick (2001) delved deeper into the characteristics of the classroom environment that affected a student’s motivation or engagement in a particular school activity. The researchers focused mainly on teachers’ practices in certain activities and the effects these had on the students’ perception of the activities.

Relatedness was also considered by Ryan & Patrick (2001) as a factor that weighed heavily on a student’s level of motivation. Their research focused on the relationship between the teacher and the student and the level to which the student’s feeling of relatedness to the teacher influenced his or her desire to engage in the activities supervised by the same teacher. The outcomes investigated in the study included not only academic results but also social outcomes. These outcomes were specified and operationally identified as the following: students’ academic and social efficacy, self-regulated learning, and disruptive behavior.

The operational definitions of the above-mentione variables covers the student’s judgements of their academic and social skills, the student’s active engagement with the activity, and also the student’s disruption of or negative conduct with the class’ activities. (Ryan & Patrick, 2001) This shows that the researchers not only took into consideration an apparent disregard or aloofness on the student’s part with respect to school activities but also a possible urge to have negative effects on the activity.

A lack of motivation, therefore, is not the only factor considered but also a possible motivation for detrimental results in school activities. The results of the Ryan & Patrick (2001) research, which utilized surveys to generate data, showed that teacher’s practices do in fact affect the student’s levels of motivation and engagement. An improvement in student motivation and engagement were linked to the students’ perception of teacher support as well as to teacher’s practice of promoting interaction and mutual respect.

Negative effects on motivation and engagement were noted, however, with teacher’s practices of promoting performance goals as perceived by the students. Ryan & Patrick (2001) were able to elaborate the classroom dynamics that influenced a student’s motivation and engagement. It does, however, fail to take into account the effect other types of social relationship have on the student’s motivation. It does not, for example, investigate the effect of the student’s social environment at home and in his or her community on motivation levels.

It also does not consider the interaction present between the school or classroom environment and the community or home environment. In order to have a more comprehensive grasp on the student’s response to teaching practices, one must take into consideration the practices the student is accustomed to at home and in his or her community. Although the Ryan & Patrick (2001) research effectively studied motivation in the classroom setting, the outcomes of the study are still not sufficient in providing a complete picture of student motivation and engagement.

Relatedness and motivation Relatedness has been a concept repeatedly mentioned in researches concerned with student motivation. Furrer & Skinner (2003) attempt to explain the concept of relatedness in their research. “The core notion is that a history of interactions with specific social partners leads children to construct generalized expectations about the nature of the self in relationships…A sense of relatedness may function as a motivational resource when children are faced with challenge or difficulties” (Furrer & Skinner, 2003, 148)

Relatedness is, then, basically a means for a student to develop motivation for certain activities because of a clear understanding of the value of their actions and their individual selves with regards to the other individuals around them. Specific individuals in a student’s life may, therefore, be crucial in a development of a sense of motivation.

A sense of relatedness is able to give this sense of value and motivation by providing the individual with a sense of support in his or her undertakings as well as by providing the same individual with buffers that increase his or her determination to achieve success and overcome obstacles to his or her success. (Furrer & Skinner, 2003) By making the student feel that he or she is a part of something in the classroom and in other social settings, one increases his or her motivation to succeed. Academic achievement is, therefore, positively affected by a sense of belongingness or relatedness.

Furrer & Skinner (2003) researched relatedness as a factor for motivation and focused on four main goals. The first goal was to show the relationship between relatedness and classroom engagement and performance. The second goal aimed to investigate the contributions of relatedness specific social partners. The third goal was set on discovering the interaction between relatedness and the variables of age and gender. The last goal was focused on providing profiles of relatedness for specific social partners. (Furrer & Skinner, 2003) The results of the research revealed that relatedness has a positive impact on motivation and engagement.

Furthermore, the effects of relatedness on motivation have been shown to be long-term. Students with a good sense of relatedness have shown better academic performance and higher levels of motivation compared to those with poorer sense of relatedness. The motivation and performance of the former group were also documented to improve as the school year progressed. (Furrer & Skinner, 2003) This suggests not only a positive effect but possibly a cumulative effect on performance and motivation. The Furrer & Skinner (2003) research effectively connected different social environments and partners in the study of student motivation.

Focus was not placed only on the classroom and the teacher-student relationship. The relatedness between the student and his or her family as well as his or her peers were also taken into consideration. This research effectively investigated the effect of social factors on motivation. Although the Furrer & Skinner (2003) research was able to provide a comprehensive view of how relatedness affects motivation, the applicability of the results are relatively low. This is because practices in the real world need to be based on particular populations.

This was also acknowledged, albeit insufficiently, by the researchers when they regarded the effect of age and sex on relatedness. That is to say that a specific group’s practices and traditions need to be taken into consideration before steps can be employed to positively influence the motivation of students. In the case of this paper, the focus is to be on male African American students. In order to come up with a concrete and viable plan for improvement of motivational levels for male African American students, therefore, the specific characteristics embodied by this group need to be taken into consideration.

African American male students and motivation Ethnicity and school identification African American students have been noted to have a sense of disidentification with their academic institutions. This disidentification is said to spring from a negative teacher-student relationship. Threats of stereotyping also contribute to feelings of disidentification. This disidentification leads the average African American student to detach from his or her academic community, from their sense of worth in academic success, and result in low attempts at academic achievement. (Honora, 2003)

The research conducted by Honora (2003) examined African American students’ identification with their school by reviewing the students’ perceptions of teacher feedback, teacher support, and accessibility and school roles and purposes. The results showed that students’ perceptions of their teachers positively influenced their sense of school identification. The perception of schools as venues for preparation for future success and opportunities also improved identification with schools. “Lower achieving girls viewed school as simply another societal standard enforced on youth.

What mattered to lower achieving girls was “getting it over with. ”” (Honora, 2003, 71) The Honora (2003) study effectively emphasize the importance of considering ethnicity when studying effects of social relationships and factors on academic performance and motivation. The researcher recommended that “Future research should include ethnographies to examine actual teacher behavior and teacher-student interactions to determine how these factors may influence identification. ” (Honora, 2003, 74) Male African Americans and motivation

Literature has noted that African American males begin a path of academic failure early in their school life and thus develop a sense of disinterest early. This disinterest is even translated to eventual drop out from school. Garibaldi (1992) conducted a survey, however, that showed results indicating the desire of African American males to finish school. Complaints on the incompetence or lack of motivation from the teachers of these students were also documented. A survey conducted on teachers of such students, however, showed that 6 out of 10 teachers believed that their male African American students would not finish school.

The parents of the students, however, provided a more encouraging picture. Eight out of ten of the parents interviewed said that they believed their children would finish school. However, only a paltry number of the same population of parents reported to have actively participated in the school activities of their children. This involved parent-teacher conferences and even simply talking to their children about their grades. (Garibaldi, 1992) The results of Garibaldi’s (1992) research show the importance of focusing on the specifics of the target population.

Also, it displays a very real and very concrete relationship between the student’s social interactions at school and at home or in the community. It is not possible to effectively succeed in changing the levels of motivation of African American males if only one of these social institutions are considered. Although Garibaldi (1992) was able to investigate the interconnectedness of various social institutions in affecting a student’s performance, he was not able to show the particular aspects of these social relationships that affected student motivation and performance.

Proposal Through a careful examination of the available literature on student motivation and relatedness in the school, at home and in the community, a proposal for future research is arrived at. A study must be conducted to investigate the specific social characteristics involved in a student’s relationship with his or her teacher, peers, and family that significantly affect the said student’s motivation to engage in academic activities ensuring not just successful academic outcomes but successful social outcomes as well.

A focus on a specific population of male African American students will allow the results of the said study to be utilized in formulating an effective plan of action that may be implemented in a real world setting. References Daniels, E. , & Arapostathis, M. (2005). What do they really want? Student voices and motivation research. Urban Education, 40(1) 34-59. Furrer, C. , & Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance.

Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1)148-162. Garibaldi, A. M. (1992). Educating and motivating African American males to succeed. Journal of Negro Education, 61(1), 4-11. Honora, D. (2003). Urban African American adolescents and school identification. Urban Education, 38(1), 58-76. Ryan, A. M. , & Patrick, H. (2001). The classroom social environment and changes in adolescent’s motivation and engagement during middle school. American Educational Research Journal, 38(2), 437-460.

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