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MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

Motivating The Learner A Case Study

Amanda Brightman-Uhl EDU 615 Dr. Williams-Black February 29, 2012

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

LB is a forth grade student who is in a class with 14 other 9 and 10 year olds. LB has an educational technician who is with him for most of his day; they help him with mood regulation and behavior management. This student has an IEP and a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder and attachment disorder. This particular student has always struggled being in the classroom with his same aged peers and within the last year has seemed to lose all motivation to do well in school. LB has this year stopped doing homework and does not seem fazed by the consequences. LB is from a single parent home and has no contact with his father. His mother shows little interest in helping LB succeed in school and has told the school that she does not have time to help him with homework. Even though the homework being can be done without assistance, it still does not get done. This student has in the past wanted to please and do well in school. Because this student has an attachment disorder his past teachers reported that he would become very attached to them and act up when they would give attention to other students. LB is consistently one grade level behind his same aged peers, which means he receives some pull out services for reading and math intervention in my alternative classroom. LB was observed during a literacy center activity where he was asked to take pairs of words and determine if they are synonyms, antonyms or homonyms. I thought the use of centers in the classroom with peers, instead of being pulled out would be a good way to try self-determination theory. My goal was to see if being with his peers would boost his motivation to participate in a task. I had also given his educational technician an assignment to work on with him the day before on these same concepts. I wanted to see if pre-teaching would help boost his self-confidence and motivate him to

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

participate in the activity, seeing himself as a mentor to the other students. During this observation I can tell that LB has the need, as stated by Anderman (2010) for relatedness with his peers. He laughs and jokes with his classmates, different from his typical withdrawn behavior. The students are asked to take words and stick them under the appropriate heading on a whiteboard; synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. LB does very well during this cooperative learning group activity and is excited and engaged, helping his peers learn the new concepts. The second observation was done during independent math time. LB was expected to finish a graphing assignment he had started the day before. I knew this was going to be particularly difficult for this student to do because he has to try it on his own and this student is attention driven. I thought this time it would be a good idea to use his need for attention while also motivating him to work independently. For every three minutes that this student was engaged in the appropriate activity and there was an absence of targeted negative behaviors, the student would get excessive praise. While I was observing this seemed to really work in the beginning. The student got to work right away and after three minutes the educational technician sat beside him and let him know what a great job he was doing. She then got up and went to help other students. This happened repeatedly for about fifteen minutes until the student started stating the he was not going to do the stupid work, tossed his pencil on his paper and crossed his arms without completing the assignment. LB started doing things trying to get his educational technicians attention like sighing, pushing his paper off the desk and thumping his foot on the floor. The educational technician and I had foreseen this and decided that if this

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

happened she would not engage with him until he was sitting appropriately. She would also circle the room giving other students attention and praise for working and staying on task. After about seven minutes the student seems to catch on to this and reluctantly picked up his pencil and started working. The educational technician then immediately went over to his desk to praise him on working alone and then helped him with a problem he had been having. The remainder of the class went smoothly and the student was able to finish his work with the rest of the class. Each week the time between praise will be lengthened to see if we can help boost his self-efficacy, as Anderman (2010) explains, it is the individuals belief that he or she has the ability to perform a specific task. In this case we are trying to create a situation where this student feels he can do independent academic work without the attention of an adult at all times. Once this is mastered the student will have much stronger motivation and the belief that he can complete tasks on his own. My hope is that this will also extinguish the inappropriate ways he tries to gain attention. The third observation was done during science where the student had to help present a group project on the solar system. In this assignment we gave LB a big role in the group where he was expected to do a lot of work on his own for the project. I knew this will be an appropriate way to work on his goal oriented motivation through the mastery-approach because he loves science. This is a chance for LB to be more independent and spend more time out of his day learning about something he enjoys. This is a perfect opportunity to lead LB away from avoiding a task because he feels he is dumb and cannot do it. Weaving things into this students day that he perceives as easy

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

or things he is good at will help boost his self-efficacy as well. During the presentation LB was very confident and even helped his peers when they got stuck! This is something that never happens with this student. It was obvious that he knew he had mastered his information, was proud and highly engaged in the activity. The fourth observation was of LB taking a social studies test. This is another hard situation for this student because again it is something that most times has to be done independently. In this case because he has an educational technician I asked the classroom teacher if it would be OK for this student to take the test orally. We did this in hopes of cutting down on the anxiety this student has with taking tests. We also know he tests horribly even when it is obvious he knows the information, trying to get a true measure of what this student knows can be difficult. When LB took the test orally he received an 88%, I understand that tests cannot always be given orally but for now they can. This helps immensely with his expectancy-value theory the next time he takes a test. With consistent positive outcomes from oral tests it is hoped that it will cut down on his anxiety and he will see the value of doing well by the positive feedback and feelings it gives him. Anderman (2010) explains it perfectly by stating that a persons beliefs are related to students subsequent motivation to persist with and engage in certain task, courses, and even careers. After reflecting on these observations and what I know about this student I think there are some definite strategies that are and will be effective. In the first observation the student was engaged in a cooperative learning group where he had been pre-taught the information before hand. Tomlinson (2001) states that teachers need to understand the

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

needs of struggling learners by using many avenues to learning through differentiation. Using pre-teaching strategies for this struggling learner coupled with cooperative learning groups for center activities, provides LB with different avenues to acquire content. This worked extremely well for this student and while pre-teaching cannot always be done it is now helping to boost his self-determination. I have shared this with his mainstream teacher and it will be used as a common teaching strategy for LB. During the second observation we were trying to help this student gain more selfefficacy and shape a targeted behavior. This was more of differentiating for behavior modification, giving him the choice to either get positive attention or none at all. A lot of times when students have significant behavior disorders, getting the negative behavior under control needs to happen before learning can take place. I think in this situation once the student masters the skill of working independently it will help him for the rest of his life. This teaching strategy for behavior has been very successful for this student and we continue to use it with the approval of the mainstream teacher. Tomlinson (2001) explains the differentiation process, as any effective activity in essentially a sense-making process, designed to help a student progress from a current point of understanding to a more complex level of understanding. I think this is just what we are doing for LB and his behaviors to help him be successful in the classroom. The third observation used teaching strategies that utilized the students strengths and used goal-oriented motivation. It was a science project, a topic we knew the student liked and we knew he would be motivated to work hard and stay engaged. Two of Tomlinsons (2001) points on understanding struggling learners where; look for the

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

struggling learners positives and dont let whats broken extinguish was works. These are very important points for me to keep in mind with the population of students I work with. Differentiated instruction is all about developing teaching strategies so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of difference in ability. This is just what LBs educational team is trying to do by giving him a say in his own learning. The final observation done was during a social studies test. The strategy of test differentiation can be a touchy topic. Some teachers think all students should be given the same accommodations or it is not a fair or a true test. I feel if a student is unable to convey their point through testing another way should be available to them. Is the typical way of testing really a true measure for all students? Chapman and King (2005) state that differentiated assessment is all about choosing the right tool for each student. This does not mean giving all students the option of oral testing but the ones that could really benefit from it. Oral teasing for LB is the right and most effective choice for him right now but that does not mean it always has to be the case. Fortunately, this student has a mainstream teacher who will work with his IEP team to find the best options for him. The strategy of oral testing will be a choice for this student until his expectancy-value is increased and he has the confidence to start taking his tests in the regular fashion again. Meeting students where they are and truly getting to know them is going to be the most important strategy of all. This study made me take the time to try out different techniques with a student I had been worrying about. Getting to the root of why a student is or is not motivated can open doors for future learning and can make the students more available for instruction. Many of these techniques can be applied to the average

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

mainstream classroom. The direction education is heading, with an emphasis on differentiated instruction can be a great opportunity for teachers to explore student motivation. I look forward to doing more studies on other students now that I have the skills and knowledge to assess student motivation!

MOTIVATION CASE STUDY

References: Anderman, E., & Anderman, L. (2010). Classroom motivation. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River Chapman, C, & King, R. (2005). Differentiated assessment strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Tomlinson, Carol (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. (2 ed.). Alexandria, VA