Motivation Assessment: Create an Assignment that Will Inspire Students

Motivation Assessment

Steven is 15-years old and he is a sophomore at a local high school. The class I am familiar with that he is in consists of about thirty students, give or take, and it meets every day for 16 weeks during the first semester of the school year. The class duration is a little less than an hour and teaches the subject of American Government. The content of the class is not easy but it is very doable for those who are willing to pay attention and apply themselves accordingly. Content of the course focuses mainly on the foundation of the Constitution and the process that went into making it. It also outlines the three branches of government and briefly touches on modern day issues in the United States Supreme Court.

The learning process that I am going to discuss is a paper that the students have to write, 3-5 pages long. The topic of the paper has to be on a court case that was ruled on within the last year by the US Supreme Court. References are to be noted in the proper manner and included in a standard MLA format bibliography. The purpose of the learning process is to familiarize students with the types of cases that are being discussed in the Supreme Court and to outline for the students how the judicial system works in that type of a setting.

For this assignment, the teacher outlines the way the paper is to be written both verbally and with a physical handout for the students to reference as needed. The students have three weeks to complete the task and it is talked about briefly on an almost daily basis, creating an ongoing environment of open communication should the students have any questions or thoughts regarding their work or the work of others. An example paper is also given to the class from a student in a prior semester who achieved the kind of work the teacher is looking for, and it was to be used as for guideline purposes only. During the three week process of writing the paper students are to write and turn in their draft work for assessment and comments from the instructor at least once but they are welcome to do so as many times as they please thereafter.

The learning setting of the classroom Steven is in is one where he is surrounded by other students within his same age group, but there is a very noticeable difference in levels of knowledge that the students have coming into the class regarding the judicial system in general and how it operates. Most of the students are from an affluent background where political discussion within the home is the norm. Steven, on the other hand has just moved to this school and was from a poorer background where things like the Supreme Court are never mentioned, much less debated in the home, so to him this is a whole new ballgame, so to speak, in the learning arena. Luckily the teacher leading the class has taught this course for many years and has the design of the assignment very well constructed and organized so that even the novice can participate and achieve very high end results if motivated to do so. Steven is a student who was very able to master such an assignment, easily receiving the highest of grades, if he chooses to do so, despite his lack of initial knowledge on the topic, for he was a child of high intelligence and readily absorbs what he is taught when he chooses to listen. The trouble is that Steven is more than willing to simply meet the minimum requirements of an assignment and is not motivated to go above and beyond that.

For this assignment Steven did not participate in the daily discussions regarding the papers, he did not turn in a draft although he was asked half way through about it, from his teacher, and while he did do the work and submit a bibliography, the work was done in almost identical format to that of the sample paper that was given as an outline only from a former student. He received a standard grade of a “C,” losing points for not submitting a draft, and because his minimum amount of effort made the project only mediocre at best.

Steven is a very shy student who does not relate well to his new classmates and finds them to be rather snobbish and upper crust. Were it not for the school baseball team that he is on, he would have little to no voluntary interaction with the other children in his school. He comes from a loving, but poor home, and education is not a priority in his household. His parents see that he is doing average work and to them, that is simply enough, and unfortunately that attitude has carried over into Steven’s thought process as well. He has no desire to achieve higher than passing and rarely to ever puts forth more than the minimal effort, unless per chance the topic is one of great interest to him. He does, however, very much like to write at home, and in fact carries a pen and pad with him almost everywhere he goes to record things he might think of as the day progresses.

This being the case, if he does find a topic that interests him greatly and it involves writing, Steven has been known to turn in absolutely stunning work with points of views on things that absolutely astonish his teachers with their clarity and preciseness. American Government is not one of Steven’s passions and as such not something he enjoys writing about, so he was content to simply do about a half an hour of research on his paper topic and form fit it into the format of the example paper that was given. For this assignment Steven completed a three-week long project in a time frame that consisted of no longer than two hours, tops. The fact that he did receive a passing grade shows clearly that if he had applied himself he would have easily gotten an A for his final grade.

The leader in this case, the teacher, does a great job of outlining and laying out the assignment so that it is easy to understand, and while it may not be the easiest of projects, she gives the students ample time to complete it and offers support by allowing multiple drafts. She is very participatory in that she allows discussion on the papers to occur as need be in her classroom, and she does her part to motivate by encouraging students with suggestions and comments every step of the way. She also did her part to help motivate Steven when she asked him privately how he was progressing along in his draft work when she noted that she had not yet received anything from him of the sort. Steven’s parents did not play any part in this assignment as school is simply not discussed in his home, and his peers did no part to encourage him because he is not actively involved in any kind of peer networking within the school. Steven simply did the project on his own and in such a manner as to merely have it complete within the minimum guidelines to receive a passing grade.

In analyzing the setting using the TARGET model we see that certain preconditions were met especially in the teacher’s planning. It is my opinion that she did go very much out of her way on a collective scale to ensure that all of her students were given a fair chance at completing the assignment with the same amount of a success rate. I think though, that perhaps, on an individual scale she could have tried harder with Steven, but like most teachers, she knew he would pass, she made the effort once to encourage him, and then she left him alone. Idealistically she could have taken the encouragement even further, but realistically in a classroom with 30+ students meeting for only an approximate time of an hour a day, individual encouragement is not always an easy thing to do.

Cognitive motivation was put in place by the teacher in that she tried to whet the student’s appetites for learning the judicial system by linking it to current situations within the Supreme Court and by discussing these cases that were being chosen daily within the classroom. In letting the students choose their own court case to write about she was allowing them to gain interest in the topic and then satisfy their curiosity by researching and writing about it, and she was allowing them to engage in intellectual creativity by offering her suggestions, knowledge, and experience to what they were learning via open discussion and draft material. Her method was very cognitive in that it allowed the students a way to positively and effectively gain understanding or better understand the subject matter being taught in her class.

The following is my application of the TARGET model as it applies to this case:

Task

1. The task in this course was structured to optimally challenge the students at an appropriate skill level because it was taught with the perspective in mind that it would be beginners who were learning the material. The teacher provided ample ways for the students to be able to achieve this task without overexertion, including giving them sufficient time to complete the task, involving them in daily discussions about it, allowing an open-door policy with the drafting process, and offering up example work of what she was looking for in the assignment.

2. The task was presented in such a way as to connect with the students’ interests and experiences because it allowed them to choose the case they desired for the work at hand. Students chose cases that were interesting to them or cases that they in some way related to from experience or knowledge.

3. The purpose of the learning activity was clearly explained to the class and very much related to the instructional goals at hand. Prior to the assignment students were reading from the text and learning the basic foundations of the court system and the three branches of government and how they related to it. The task generated a future interest in the court system by giving the students a chance to further explore it in a more personal manner via research and discussion. Generally, it is my belief, people will take an interest in things that they are very familiar with, and this project familiarized the students with the US Supreme Court process in a way that the text never could. Comparison amongst students was only done in a complimentary fashion, as everyone had the same goal but different subject matters to work with. Competition was not a part of the class and the assignment was met with a cooperative nature.

Authority

1. Students were provided a foundation from which to work but given the choice to choose their own topic there within. The format was structured in that it had to have a draft, a certain length, appropriate notations of where the material was coming from and a bibliography to prove it, but the actual writing style of each paper was left up to the student’s own choosing.

2. Student input was incorporated into the classroom learning, and their ideas and drafts were met with suggestions, approval, and encouragement from the teacher and from each other. Students were encouraged to pursue their own interests by being allowed to choose the case they were most interested in and to go forth from there, while the structure was still firmly in place by teacher instruction, guidelines, and examples.

Recognition

1. Students were not really recognized per say publicly, although encouragement and accolades for involvement and participation were given on a regular basis verbally. The individual achievement from this task was given by the grade that they achieved.

2. Students were given recognition based on their desire to participate. Those students who chose not to take part in the classroom discussions were neither encouraged nor discouraged but merely left to their own autonomy.

Grouping

The classroom did not function in smaller groups for this project but rather students worked individually on the projects yet were permitted to participate in a group as a whole in discussing how they were obtaining their shared goal to complete the assignment.

Evaluation

1. Students were very much allowed and encouraged to redo their work all throughout the three week time frame to foster improved learning.

2. Students were given many opportunities to show what they were learning and share it with their fellow classmates via almost daily discussions on the assignment and an interest from the teacher as to how they were progressing throughout.

3. What the students learned from this assignment was not forgotten once the assignment was complete and that was ready apparent from the students discussions of the topic long after the assignment was complete. In fact, those papers became a reference point from which many of the students drew from on later topics discussed in the classroom.

4. Evaluation formats for the class were given in a very considerate way that allowed the students to show what they were learning and to benefit from the discussion of that in such a way as they could progress to a higher level of understanding in what they were evaluating and learning.

Time

1. Students were given a very generous amount of time to complete their assignment and encouraged to elaborate upon and further research what they were learning along the way. In formatting a task that required outside research and an environment that encouraged discussion of it every step of the way, students were able to learn far more than the average 60 minutes of the class would otherwise allow and in fact took with them a great general understanding of the topic at hand which would sow the seed for further interest in it in the future.

In conclusion, this task was done in such a way that cognitive goals were first and foremost at hand in the teaching and learning style. Interest was generated in a very efficient and effective way and students embraced the teaching style in a way that teachers dream of in their quest to teach. Individual attention was given to the students in the drafting process as well as group attention given within the classroom. Ideas were discussed and bounced off of one another and a general interest in the topic served as a class motivator in itself. Students looked forward to the discussion time and as such most of them worked harder to be able to provide valuable input into it. It was not the grades that motivated the students but rather the interest in the topic, or the group feel, if you will, that served as the highest motivator to the students. The leadership of the teacher was done in such a way that she was felt to be somewhat a peer rather than a lecturer, although respect was held towards her in her knowledge and with regard to the way she expected the assignment to be complete. The only thing that I think needed change was that students who did not actively participate, such as Steven could have been given more attention. Perhaps taking the time to find out what kind of case would better interest the non-participants would help in getting them to further partake in the classroom. All in all though, I think this teacher did a fantastic job at teaching the curriculum requirements, achieving the desired results of having her students actually learn something from the inside out, and generating interest in a pertinent topic that students could relate to well into their futures. On a grading scale to reward the teaching efforts of that particular instructor I would give the highest mark of an “A” grade, hands down.

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