PIDP ~ On Motivation and “Management”

Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le desir de la mer grande et large.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Well, coming back to life after a long flu with fever and frequent restroom visits…my entire body aches and I have now ~ 5 assignments behind and lost a 5% test!

To make things more interesting, this week we had a rainstorm that cut tree branches free (a huge one landed on my home garden bed…and is still there, waiting for my stamina to fully come back). The storm created a power outage that lasted all night till 10 am and came back today so for two evenings we had no power and no Internet: I think somebody is trying to get me to rest…and I resist!

Today’s post is about one of the topics we discussed for the last two weeks in the PIDP 3250 forum: motivation…

Motivation is an interesting topic as it has many faces: not only it is frustrating trying to teach anything to unmotivated students, it is the same when we try coaching people in their careers and they seem unresponsive (or plainly disinterested), and in my case, I am also interested in understanding what keeps some people motivated to engage in necessary (but sometimes tiresome and frustrating) tasks that may help communities to become more resilient…

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, motivation is “a force or influence that causes someone to do something”

Motivation can be intrinsic (coming from within) or extrinsic (coming from an external agent)…they may also be called “internal locus of control” and “external locus of control” to indicate where the source that controls the motivation comes from…according to Wikipedia there are many theories and types of motivation, but I will be focusing on the generic, informal concept we teachers, community workers and social activists manage everyday: whether the subject we are trying to coach, support or teach is motivated (or not) to do so…

In the course we read the book Student Engagement Techniques (Barkley, 2010) in which the author discusses thirteen tips and strategies for fostering motivation and a

nother of my classmates cited the Six C’s of motivation:

  • Choice
  • Challenge
  • Control
  • Collaboration
  • Constructing meaning
  • Consequence

Other topics discussed where how student-teachers relationships and teacher attention/acknowledgement of students also had an important impact in motivation, how to keep motivation high and what motivated us as students in this course (and in general)

My take

I think I was born self-determined and many efforts to break me (during my education years) didn’t work…I was also lucky enough to be put by my mother in piloting schools where new concepts in education where being tried: this kept my thirst for learning alive and since it has always been that way…probably because of this, I naturally expect people to be motivated and engaged and that, according to Barkley (2010) is engagement rule #1.

But my “theory” goes beyond that: I think people are all born intrinsically motivated: it is called life, even survival: people, unless they are sick or injured, have been harmed, neglected or abused, thrive to learn and do well: learning is part of the natural curiosity present in all small children…why does it disappear, dissipates or becomes selective, even spoiled when we grow up?

And then I have to disagree with two topics discussed in the forums that are directly related to motivation: how do we “motivate” students (and keep them engaged) and how do we “manage” the classroom…

I question: why do we have to “motivate” people?

People come to our classroom, course, workshop, presentation or coaching relationship because they decided to do so. Except for the rare cases (that shouldn’t exist!) of people who are “mandated” to attend a class (both children and adults), people come because they want: they are expecting to gain something from this course, class, presentation or coaching relationship. The responsibility to be motivated is theirs, not ours…

Our responsibility as teachers, facilitators, presenters or coaches is to create (as our instructor wisely said) a “learning environment” that allows people to flourish. I would add that our responsibility is to create trust, to be open and human, to set the tone from day one with enthusiasm and deep belief in what we do, teach or share, in clarifying goals and guidelines along with the learners, in providing human contact (beyond the “academic”): this is, attention and acknowledgement of that sacred being who is in front of us, learning (or not) but sharing for some hours, days, weeks or years a space and some goals and insights with us…

Our responsibility is also providing quality and value in what we teach: this shows in the details, from the materials we use to being punctual and accountable, providing appropriate feedback on time, that can be used by the learner, it shows in how we prepare the class and the activities we suggest, but also in how we assess and expect learners to be accountable, responsible and come up with a product or process that also shows quality and value…

I also question: why do we have to “manage” a class?

I have taught classes in high school to young boys and girls who were considered the worse in the school by other teachers. In my first class, I introduced myself as plain “Silvia”, share what I knew and could “teach” as well as my weaknesses and took the time to ask them for their expectations and where they were good at (I taught computer science, research and career planning)…most of them were surprised that anybody would ask them what they were good at or what they expected/wanted to learn…I ended up pushing these groups (different in a period of four years) to do beyond what it was in the curriculum and many of these “children” remain my friends after 15+ years…

Class management only “has” to happen when the teacher is not engaged and consider himself hierarchically superior or different from his learners…don’t get me wrong: I have seen it all, but even when we may have isolated incidents with a child, a youth or an adult who is not happy (or makes others, including us, unhappy) with her behaviour, this always has a cause: as human beings we have only one way of “managing” this” asking, listening and negotiating: we can also provide feedback, clarify boundaries when something that we don’t want to happen happens, etc. But I can’t ever agree with the term “management” and much less “discipline”.

We discussed many other topics, including learning “styles”, questioning as a teaching technique, visible learning, metacognition or learning how to learn, flipped classrooms, self-directed learning, how to create positive learning spaces and even gamification of learning…what this course did was reassuring me even further in my belief that we can only teach what we love, that we can only teach through love, inclusion and respect and that learning is transformative and self-directed (or even self-determined) or is not learning at all…

People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.”
~ Carl R. Rogers (American psychologist and educator, founder of the Humanism in psychology and education)


Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

21 Simple Ideas To Improve Student Motivation:

Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Technology: the Six C’s of Motivation:

4 Comments on “PIDP ~ On Motivation and “Management”

  1. Silvia, your final sentence says it all “what this course did was reassuring me even further in my belief that we can only teach what we love, that we can only teach through love, inclusion and respect and that learning is transformative and self-directed (or even self-determined) or is not learning at all…” I agree with that this is the only approach that honors those we have the good fortune to serve as teachers or mentors.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A final thought – because I became so focused on the importance of what you were saying, I forgot to say that I was sorry to hear that you have been sick, and am grateful that you are feeling better now.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry to hear that being ill put you behind in your studies, but sometimes it is important to take a break. I am glad you did some of the things that feed your spirit.

        (I just finished the post you wrote while you were ill – we do seem to live in an age of “double think.” )


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: