How Motivation and Prior Knowledge can Affect Students` Learning

Motivation and prior Knowledge
Running head: Motivation and prior knowledge
How Motivation and Prior Knowledge can Affect Students’
Ali Alawami
ED 633
Western Oregon University
Motivation and prior Knowledge
I think we have to know how to assess students’ previous knowledge first. In that way,
we will know if the students really have previous knowledge or not because it could be that
students have never heard about a specific thing. Previous knowledge is not always positive. It is
not always something that we can rely on it and build on it. Some students may have bad feeling
about a specific course or topic which may affect their learning. Another way of gaining negative
previous knowledge is listening to others’ negative experience. By knowing their previous
knowledge, we will be able to determine whether to build on it or try to change it. If students
have positive previous knowledge, we, as teachers, have to do our best to connect between their
prior knowledge and the new information that we want to introduce them to. Therefore, learning
will be more interesting and logical.
One form of prior knowledge is motivation. In my short teaching experience, I came
through many obstacles that made me think more about students and how to help them
learn. One of the major problems that I have seen in almost all students that I had taught is lack
of motivation. Students had no motivation for learning. Some of them were coming to school
only because their parents were forced them. If they had the choice, I am sure they would choose
not to go to school. I spoke with some of my colleagues about that and they were saying the
same things, “Students have no motivation.” They did not try to solve it. I talked with my
students trying to understand the problem and I always heard the same causes from all of them.
They were saying, “Why should we study? We will not be able to go to college and then we will
not get a job.” These were like stumbling blocks. I spent many classes trying to make my
students change their minds and see thing from different way. From that time I was thinking
about prior knowledge especially when it is negative and how it can affect students’ learning.
Motivation and prior Knowledge
In the beginning, I was only thinking about prior knowledge as the knowledge that
students have about subjects that they studied in school, or relative knowledge they had studied
before. And I was only concerned about how teachers can make a connection between the prior
knowledge and new information they want to present. Thinking deeply about the inquiry led me
to many different questions that I would like to answer. My goal from this literature review is to
explain the types of motivation and how prior knowledge can affect students learning. How can
we use an understanding of prior knowledge to facilitate students who are not motivated or have
bad experience about specific topic?
The focus of my literature review is “How prior knowledge and motivation can affect
students’ learning?” Every student has prior knowledge, even first grade students. In the
beginning, I would like to define the prior knowledge. Prior knowledge is the experience,
information, beliefs, or motivations that someone has about something. Specifically, this
literature review further defines intrinsic and extrinsic motivations and explores how each type
of motivation affects learning.
In this section, the discussion will be about the types of motivations that affect students’
learning and how they might contribute to their learning. Knowing how and why second
language learners are motivated might help facilitate acquiring a foreign language. According to
Gardner and Lambert (1972), being successful and making achievements in learning a second
language are linked with learners’ feeling of that language and the purpose of learning that
language (motivation). Students’ learning and their abilities to perform well in a foreign
language are connected with their motivations. Knowing the reason of learning, in other words,
Motivation and prior Knowledge
the factors that influence students’ learning would help teachers to support students’ learning.
Deci and Ryan (1985), presented motivation in two major concepts: intrinsic motivation and
extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic Motivation
When a learner enjoys learning and sees it as internal interest and happiness rather than
for external gains, this called intrinsic motivation. Deci and Ryan (2000), “performing an activity
for inherent satisfaction rather than for some separable outcome.” In other words, it is engaging
in a behavior or activity because it is personally rewarding. It has to do with the personal effort
and the desire to continue to do or achieve a specific thing which is called integrative motivation
(Horwitz, 1987, 2001). Research shows that learners are more motivated when they have
relevance to their learning and when they feel that the curriculum is tailored to meet their interest
and needs. Brophy (2010), describes motivation to learn as a cognitive process that stimulate
participations, interest, and success in learning. It is simply mean what people do without
external inducement.
Malone and Lepper (1987), develop the claim that in order to design environments that
are intrinsically motivating two types of factors should contribute in the process. The first one is
individual factors which are operated when someone is working alone. The second type is
interpersonal factors which play a role only when someone else interacts with the learner. The
first factor is challenge; when people are working toward personal goals, they are more
motivated. The second one is curiosity; that can be seen when there is something in the physical
environment attracts the learner’s attention. The third one is control; when someone has a
tendency to control what happens to them. The fourth one is competition; students feel satisfied
Motivation and prior Knowledge
when their performance is compared favorably to others. The fifth one is cooperation; helping
others to achieve their goals makes students feel satisfaction. The last one is recognition;
students feel satisfaction when others recognize and appreciate their accomplishments.
Intrinsic motivation depends on the fulfilment of three basic psychology needs described
by self-determination theory (SDT), Deci and Ryan. First one is the need for autonomy which is
the need to feel that someone is implementing a task of his own choice. The second one is the
need for competence in learning which is the need to feel capable to learn or to study. The last
one is relatedness which is the need to feel connected or belonged with fellow pupils and the
Autonomy in learning and autonomy-support by teachers has been found to make
students’ motivation more self-determined, Black and Deci (2000). Kusurkar, Croiset and Cate
(2011), presented 12 practical tips on how to engage in autonomy-supportive teaching behaviors
in order to enhance intrinsic motivation. First, teachers have to find out what students want to
learn and form the session around the needs. Second, build the lesson around the students’ needs
help to create a state of self-determined motivation. Third, encourage students to participate.
Fourth, encourage students to accept more responsibility for their learning. Fifth, provide
structured guidance to the students during the teaching sessions. Sixth, provide optimal
challenges during teaching. That can be done through asking students to make presentations.
Seventh, teachers have to give positive feedback to students on the process of learning to show
the gap between the current and desired learning. Eighth, teachers have to create an emotional
environment to support students. Ninth, teachers have to listen to students and empathize with
them if students express their disinterest or dissatisfaction. Tenth, it is that all activities are
interesting to all students. Therefore, it is important to think about how to handle with students
Motivation and prior Knowledge
who are not motivated in certain point. Eleventh, teachers have to allow students to make their
choices in order to bring in autonomy. Finally, teachers have to use the right words while guiding
students. For example, replace “you must do this” with “if you want to succeed, you need to do
Extrinsic Motivation
The extrinsic motivation occurs when students are motivated to engage in an activity or
work to achieve something in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment. Dornyei (2005)
develops the claim that extrinsic motivation is related to self. It is a tendency to do something in
order to gain separate outcome such as good grades or qualification to enter a university.
According to Deci and Ryan (2000) extrinsic motivation is divided into four distinct forms:
external regulations, introjected regulations, identified regulation, and integrated regulations. The
most extrinsic type of motivation is the external regulation in which someone is motivated
because of external demand or reward. The second type of extrinsic motivation is introjected
regulation in which the individual’s ego has to be maintained. Third, identified regulation is
when someone is trying to accomplish something because it is personally important; it is related
to valuing a goal. The last subtype is the integrated regulation. It is fully associated with the self.
It is included in a person’s beliefs about personal needs. Motivated students participate fully in
classroom activities and are more successful. There has been an inconclusive debate about
whether to depend on extrinsic motivators like rewards or not. This kind of motivation should be
used carefully because it may undermine students’ interests and engagement. However, a recent
study conducted by Marinak and Gambrell (2010) found that students participation can be
Motivation and prior Knowledge
increased when they offered rewards related to the desired behavior. Students should learn
because learning gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
Prior Knowledge
Many researches seem to validate the view that learning is influenced by the students’
prior knowledge. Most broadly, prior knowledge has been seen as useful and teachers can build
on to facilitate students’ learning. When students come to a class to learn, they do not have blank
minds. They have some form of information which might not be directly related to what a
teacher wants to teach but it can be used to connect it with the new information to facilitate their
learning. Teachers should be aware of that. Students use what they knew as the first step to make
guess; they may use phrases like “I know about this” or “I have seen this before”. According to
Glynn (1995), students use existing information to understand new information. One important
aspect of learning is to help students to acquire new knowledge by connecting it with what they
already know. Marizano, Pickering and Mctighe (1993), claim that teachers must follow certain
steps when they want to teach students to ensure successful teaching. The first step is helping
students to recall their prior knowledge. Secondly, present new information or concept. Thirdly,
compare or associate new information with the existing information. Fourthly, form
generalization with both old and new information. Finally, apply the expanded concept with its
element of old and new information. Students will feel interested if new information is connected
with previous metal states, the new will naturally be interesting, Herbart (1993).
Motivation and prior Knowledge
Prior knowledge in teaching
Students may have different level of prior knowledge, some may have a great deal of
knowledge others may have very little knowledge. Therefore, teachers have to measure the level
of prior knowledge in a specific topic. This can be achieved in the following way. Teachers have
to ask general questions and then make them more specific. Then, trying to summarize what the
students said and write different statements on the board to narrow down the topic. By doing so,
students’ prior knowledge has been activated. Teachers can connect what the students said with
the new topic.
The consensus view seems to be that students’ learning and performances are affected by
their motivations and prior knowledge. Different studies have been conducted in this area and the
results when teachers know their students’ motivations and use it as a support to teach students.
Some researchers have connecting the success of learning a new language with the purpose of
learning (motivation). Deci and Rayn categorized motivations into two groups; intrinsic
motivation and extrinsic motivation. They went further in explaining each category and how it
affects students’ learning. The first category is intrinsic which can be seen when students enjoy
what they learn. Learners do not care about grades and no one pushing them to learn. The second
category is extrinsic motivation which is opposite to the intrinsic. This takes place when the main
concern is grades or to avoid punishments. There are four faces of extrinsic motivation; external
regulations: external demand or rewards, introjected regulations: maintained the ego, identified
regulations: valuing a goal, and integrated regulations which is associated with the self. Marink
Motivation and prior Knowledge
and Gambrell see that rewarding students can increase their encouragement but students should
be motivated to learn because it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Prior knowledge also
plays an important role in learning. Prior knowledge is not only they information that students
have about specific topic but it is also the feeling that they have about a specific topic which
might be positive or negative. Assessing students’ prior knowledge is the first step to that
teachers have to do to make connections between it and the new topic and that can be achieved
by asking students general questions.
Motivation and prior Knowledge
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