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The Motivational Aspect of College Teaching

One thing very noticeable with our present crop of college students is that they think they have the freedom to take or leave what their instructors/professors have to offer. If this is the case, it is very crucial that we take pains to see that they become involved in learning, that they become the principal actors/actresses in the learning process instead of just being passive audiences/listeners. The motivational aspect of the learning process is therefore immense.

Students learn at different rates and with strikingly different levels of completeness. There are times when we are amazed at the brilliance of some students and the shallowness of others. But no matter how much students learn, motivation can go only so far in compensating for differences in ability. Of course, we, as instructors/professors cannot be held responsible for the difference in ability students bring with them, but we are responsible for motivating all students to do their best work and to love the learning experience.

To be able to make students to their best work and to love the learning experiences necessitates on the part of instructors/professors a clear understanding of what motivation is and its significance as a factor in the learning process. William Kelly, in his book Educational Psychology, defines motivation as a process of providing the student with motive, that is, stimulating the will to learn. It is a process of inducing adequate and fitting motives which will energize learning and behavior. Motivating or stimulating the will to learn is a central factor influencing the learning process. In the absence of the will to learn, it is difficult for learning to take place.

The principle motivation states that the learner must be motivated before learning takes place. Learning is facilitated through proper motivation. And this holds true for college students. They cannot be expected to do their best and love their learning experiences if they are not properly motivated. They must be motivated so that their interests will be directed toward a definite objective which will take them far beyond the experiences which are utilized as motivators toward further learning.

So what are some ways of stimulating college students to learn? Of course, capturing students’ attention is the first thing required of college teachers. Almost all students will pay attention to an instructor for a few minutes but most students will not continue to listen actively to a lousy teacher.

The following are some ways to elicit attention and sustain interest in a subject/topic or learning activity.

  1. Plan very well individual class meetings in terms of objectives, subject matter, method of presentation and evaluation taking into consideration the types of students and types of classes.
  2. Use positive emotions to engage students’ attention fully in the content selected for presentation and to transfer to them his or her own passionate interest in the subject. Expressive speech, including changes in the loudness of the voice also helps to punctuate a presentation and to emphasize the organization of the instructor’s ideas.
  3. Avoid stimulating negative emotions such as anger, anxiety or perhaps boredom. The best way to keep students from being bored by a subject is to show them that you are not bored by it. If you want them to be excited about the ideas you are presenting, you should be excited by these ideas as well.
  4. Use a wide range of voices, gestures and physical movements, but be yourself. Develop a varied and interesting style consistent with your values and personality.
  5. Give students regular places to catch their breath and ask questions. It is better to talk less and stop short than to go on for too long. Encourage students to ask questions for this can promote independent thinking and motivation as well as enhance student’s involvement.
  6. Vary the methods of presenting the topics or subject matter. If a teacher senses on a given day that what was planned is not going well, he or she should definitely consider doing something different. The method of presentation is more likely to need change than the planned topic.
  7. Inject jokes or present humorous anecdotes in your lecture/discussion especially when malaise or boredom is getting to be evident. This can turn things around.
  8. Infuse the presentation of subject matter with dramatic tension and suspense and the excitement that comes from expecting something important or unusual. Create a sense of anticipation in the students by giving presentations as if they are telling a story, ordering or presenting topics in ways that stimulate in their listeners a sense of unfolding and discovery.
  9. Surround the students with a congenial and warm atmosphere which will create in them security, self-confidence, love and admiration for the teacher.
  10. End each class session with a conclusion that connects what has happened today with what will be covered during the next meeting.


Carmelita M. Felisilda / Western Mindanao State University

Kelly, William A. Educational Psychology. Fourth revised edition. Milwaulee: The Bruce Publishing Co.

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