(3) The Community-Wide Importance of Personalized Education

This final section focuses directly on students’ academic motivation and success. Two generic approaches are considered with examples therein. One cultural concession is made. The paper then concludes with a pyramid of topical points, from culture’s impact on education, to education’s impact on the individual student. 

When tutors engage distracted students, tutors must strive to motivate their students and convince them to focus on their task.  According to self-determination theory, or SDT, potential motivation factors can be categorized as either extrinsic or intrinsic (Deci & Ryan qtd. in Areepattamannil 249).  Extrinsic motivation involves “instrumental” factors such as “external regulation,” while intrinsic motivation comes from an “inherent satisfaction” in the “participation itself” (249-250).

The former can be established quite simply through what Peter Alter calls a “token economy,” which offers tangible rewards for certain behaviors.  His motivational system involves punching holes in marked index cards for various achievements as well as awarding students bonus activities, computer game privileges, and snacks (57).  After researching its effectiveness, Alter found that a “token economy” can be implemented to “increase on-task behavior and academic performance” (62).  As a material system, this extrinsic motivation strategy may be difficult to maintain for many children simultaneously.  For this reason, the author then suggests that his “token economy could be potentially faded to use more self-management” (63).  Implementing the second approach toward self-management would fall under a more intrinsic motivational plan.

Intrinsic motivation may be a more effective and rewarding state to pursue in middle and high school education.  One understandable reason comes from its consistent production of self-sustaining processes.  The desired independence appears to be strongly correlated with academic success in many current studies.  These studies suggest that intrinsically motivated students “learn better” and are “likely to perform better than their extrinsically motivated peers” (Areepattamannil 254, 250).  Without the need for external rewards, at-risk students can also carry their intrinsic productivity across the boundary of school and into other realms of life where mentors may not reinforce good behavior.  Then, in turn, assisted students can become mentors and behavioral role models for other struggling students in the Lincoln community.

The large-scale community benefits of intrinsic motivation stimulation likely originate from the autonomous student’s own benefits.  According to a variety of compiled resources, self-motivated students demonstrate reduced anxiety and grief over failures, “cognitive flexibility and psychological well-being”, and boosted creativity, all of which come from “enhanced deep or conceptual learning” (250).  In brief, intrinsically motivated students “feel better” about themselves and their progress (Reeves qtd. in Areepattamannil 254).  With such a promising outcome, teachers will be drawn to establish a classroom conducive to such learning.  How then should a teacher approach this objective?

One may argue that, by definition, the student plays an equal if not greater role in his or her intrinsic motivation.  A teacher cannot force the student’s mind to regulate itself.  Yet surely there are a great many classroom practices which could foster children in such a direction.  Teachers can, in fact, model a pattern of self-regulation to which students conform.  Consider mathematics, a subject which naturally encourages a process of self-guided decision making.  Teachers can demonstrate example word problems by presenting the basic steps in solving them, such as: filtering relevant from irrelevant statements, determining an objective, and deciding a course by which to meet it (Alter 55).  After repeated enforcement, problem solving will become habitual.  These steps can then be applied beyond mathematics and across a variety of issues that at-risk students face.

Success in math and intrinsic motivation are certainly related.  According to Areepattamannil, the second is a “positive predictor” of the first (254).  However, the author proposes that the basis of correlation may be found in Western culture and not in general human learning behavior.  Some argue that the advantage in autonomy is the product of “individualist cultures,” whereas in “collectivist cultures … choice is nonessential” (258).  To test this theory, the author compared the self-reports of well-established Indian immigrant students in America with those of native Indians.  He found that the immigrants demonstrated a significant correlation between motivation and achievement not observed in the native Indian group (254).  This supports the theory of cultural influence.  For students adapted to American culture in Lincoln, such findings will prove irrelevant.  But for those recently immigrated into the city, teachers may want to consider a difference in needs and provide sources of extrinsic motivation as well.

As a Western community, Lincoln would likely benefit from curricula based on intrinsic student motivation.  This learning style would be well enforced through a one-on-one academic system, such as peer tutoring or mentorship programs.  The common thread among these systems is personal academic and emotional support, which are vital to all developing children. It is specifically applicable to those who are at risk due to learning, emotional, or behavioral disorders, or because of a specific background such as juvenile delinquency, family conflicts, or social turbulence.  The rewards of personalized academic and social support extend beyond academics and citizenship and into the physical and psychological well being of those affected.  The result is a healthier, more fulfilled Lincoln community.

Works Cited

Alter, Peter. “Helping Students With Emotional And Behavioral Disorders Solve Mathematics Word Problems.” Preventing School Failure 56.1 (2012): 55. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.

Areepattamannil, Shaljan. “Relationship Between Academic Motivation And Mathematics Achievement Among Indian Adolescents In Canada And India.” Journal Of General Psychology 141.3 (2014): 247. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 8 Mar. 2016.