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April 13, 2011
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                                   The Link Between Motivation and Education                                          

The United States’educational ranking in the world has dropped significantly in recent years, as the failure rate among students has risen.  At the core of that failure rate are poor reading skills.  Parents and the home environment are blamed; and students are blamed, according to a study of 5,000 school psychologists as to why children have learning and behavioral problems, conducted by Galen Alessi, psychology professor at Western Michigan University.  Complicity, however, according to Alessi can be spread among educators, parents, and students. It’s simply unrealistic to believe that only the parent and student are to blame.  Essentially, students lose interest in learning.  So what can be done to help students learn?

Paulo Freire, an education ideologist, maintained that motivation is the key to learning.  When teaching in third-world countries, he observed that older students wanted to learn to read because literacy commuted to an improvement in their personal finances and success within their community.  Literacy rates literally exploded in these poor and uneducated communities.  Students of all ages need to be motivated, and motivation is an intangible commodity.  

Students need to understand the benefit that learning will have in their lives, and then they need to become excited about it.  Motivation is responsible for the self-starter--the independent student, and motivated students make teaching far more fun for the teacher. Certainly, motivational development can begin at home, but it is the responsibility of the educator as well. 

Methods to inspire motivation change with both the subject matter and the grade level.  Knowledge is power; it creates mysteries; it solves mysteries. It opens up new worlds to a student.  It is the excitement that the young child feels before their first day of school.  To maintain this essence is the key to successful learning for everyone.   A teacher’s enthusiasm can inspire students; however, if it’s not enough, then a little inspirational resourcefulness in the form of books, stories, speakers, movies, music may be needed.  

More information about Galen Alessi's study can be found at http://www.jconline.com/article/20110413/OPINION03/104130301/Blame-game-doesn-t-fix-education-s-shortfalls?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs.