Motivation in U.S. Education Program

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Intrinsic motivation is an inward curiosity for something which is being driven by instinctual optimism. The latter is the natural behavior that will for example make an 18 month-old child keep on making noise to let you know what he wants to say, that makes a 3-year old want to gather reputation through scribbling and a four-year-old want to keep on looking at written work to know how to read. Intrinsic optimism and motivation have been indicated as the first and second critical keys to academic success by two psychologists namely Sam Goldstein and Robert Brooks. Young children engage in activities because they enjoy the activities and not because they receive external motivation. Educational programs-whether special or normal-must, therefore, nurture this culture that empowers children to become well as they grow. Everybody needs to be motivated to achieve the maximum benefits of education. Intrinsic motivation must be nurtured and reinforced in children to result in self-reinforcement which is the foundation of academic success surpassing intellect ability and opportunity. Any program must invest in such pillars and ensure that dictatorship and authoritarian programs do not deny the child a chance to reinforce himself through responsive teaching and program.

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In this paper, I seek to enumerate the importance of motivation in an educational program, the current embodiments of motivation in the current education system in the US. I will identify challenges in ensuring motivation is embedded in the current program, including related issues, and suggest the need for improvement of these programs to ensure child motivation in education programs. A case that relates to the special programs for the disabled has been considered also, touching the issue of motivation.

Theory of motivation

For an education system to be effective in ensuring that there is motivation in children as they are educated there must be a focus on the current and past research literature on motivation. According to the suggestions of theorists, personality happens in stages which have been linked to the struggle of an individual with the tasks during development. Several personality stages have a relationship between them. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most important of the five must be fulfilled first before going on to satisfy the subsequent needs. Maslow developed a hierarchical criterion he thought was necessary to fulfill the human or individual “universal needs” which were recognizable and predictive. The criteria for satisfaction from the most important to the least important were physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization. Sense of belonging and love needs would be attained from desires to have been a family, join antisocial groupings, or work out church and other relationships. Esteem needs would be satisfied by the individual’s efforts being recognized by family members after making certain achievements, recognition by peers and employees among other people. Moving to the highest level of human needs was possible only if there is recognition and appraisal of one’s efforts by others. Other means of ensuring that a person is esteemed include awards pay rises and bonuses. The highest level of human needs satisfaction includes such activities as writing a book, participating in a marathon race, among other self-actualization and fulfillment needs. Hertzberg (1966; cited in Motivation and Group Satisfaction) in the Motivator-Hygiene theory, on his part, came up with two groups of worker-motivation, namely maintenance, and motivators. It has been found that in absence of job relationships (environmentally related issues like a peer), pay, and supervision among others, people are dissatisfied but still not motivated in their presence. The motivators refer to those issues of job satisfaction and not dissatisfaction. These included freedom, the responsibility of work, and recognition after good work. Alderfer in his ERG theory recognized existence, relatedness, and growth as three categories of individual needs influencing work. He saw no necessity for the hierarchy of satisfaction of need and holds the view that although a need may be satisfied, it may continue to dominate. The motivator traits and growth requirements in the Alderfer are similar to Maslow’s esteem and self-actualization needs (“Motivation and Group Satisfaction”).

If it was possible to directly tie high evaluation to speech length, students who can communicate apprehensively can overcome enough anxiety to perform at a specific time duration. It was found out in a research carried out by Beatty, Forst, and Stewart (1986) to measure communication apprentice, that among the communicatively apprehensive students, the duration of their speech was largely due to a motivation to receive high grades. The researchers found a small but statistically significant proportion of speech duration variance among those who highly perform in communication apprehension if there were no competing motivating forces. In specific educational tasks and situations, trait motivation was found not to be a good predictor of individual motivation in these tasks and situations (particularly if the tasks and situations were important or interesting to the students). This was found in a study where Zorn (1991) created a ‘quadrant’ where a measure was used to isolate state motivated and trait motivated students. Zorn had used the ten-item Motivation Scale by Spitzburg and Hurt and the Situational Willingness Scale by Beatty to create the ‘quadrant’. Students’ participation in the educational process was assumed to be greatly influenced by the class instructor which differs from an assumption that many students are not open and reachable to being motivated. Situational variables such as relevancy theory have been said to have more influence on state motivation than on trait motivation (Brophy, 1987; cited in Motivation and Group Satisfaction).

Efforts by Massachusetts Senator Kennedy and California’s Rep. Miller resulted in the formation of The No Child Left behind act of 2001 which was passed by the Senate in the same year. The law emphasized the accountability of the teachers on student’s or children’s education. As a result of the law, parents were granted more flexibility to take children to their choice schools. The law offered more enhancement of the performance and participation of the individuals with disabilities and not conflicting with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and providing the need for accountability at the district and school level.

The law provided special programs of education such as those with disabilities to enhance participation through providing a need for school accountability for the disabled children who were often earlier denied access to the general curriculum. The states’ educational stakeholders are required to work for the contents and targets to be achieved by schools. Reportedly, there were no measures to assist track the adequacy to the disabled to help prepare them well to enter the workforce and post-secondary education, but the system allows evaluation and education assessment on an individual and group level possible. The law also allowed for flexible state assessments which allow the inclusion of accommodated material for the disabled to prove their skill and knowledge like sitting the examination in a quiet place, allowing frequent breaks among other things specifically for the disabled. This testifies to the fact that there have been efforts to increase motivation among the students in the special program catering for the disability in the current education program. The program also allows for the parents to be furnished with important reports of the performance of their children and this means that responsible parents can work out to improve the motivation of children by noting out the shortcomings through the tracked performance. It was mentioned in this paper that the issue of motivation requires recognition of achievements and other family members. Thus providing the reports of child performance as is required in the act can help the parents increase the motivation of their children.

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Importance of motivation

For an educational program to be competitive at best and enough in nurturing motivation, it must provide the likelihood of nurturing this motivation at a young age. Indeed, motivation appears to be the role not only for the teachers but also for the parents before and after the children join school programs. A program may be emphasized to meet the certain requirement which means it may align staff and resources into meeting these targets but fail in its quality and make the child hate school. Most children have an eagerness to attend school at a very young age, and soon find that they are evaluated in a competitive atmosphere that is driven by the promise of a reward, threat of punishment, and challenge of competing. The evaluators should be worked on to make sure that intrinsic motivation-which is indicated by the desire for the child to attend school for the sheer pleasure of learning-is well-grounded and not substituted by a promise for external rewarding.

Issues and challenges relating to education motivation

When the whole education system seems to emphasize school accountability and school and child performance such as requires The No Child Left behind Act, there is a need to nurture child motivation by emphasizing key issues that promote success through motivation. For example, the aforementioned act has been blamed for encouraging the school to emphasize performance because of the underlying penalties that come with failure. Yet the challenge of making an educational system help maintain good performance and high children discipline coupled with the need to ensure every child is motivated to learn, is not a simple job. For example, there are possibilities that there would be disagreement on the effects of disciplining a child through corporal punishment-a contended topic amongst researchers and other experts-in ensuring that a good degree of motivation is ensured in children as they learn. Whereas researchers have statistically or otherwise proven that corporal punishment increases children’s antisocial behavior in later years as reported (Earmon, 2001; Straus and colleagues, 1997; as cited in Grogan-Kaylor, 2004), some argue that corporal punishment is effective in making children comply in a short term basis (Gershoff, 2002). Furthermore, in this writer views, corporal punishment has been accused as failing to result in moral internalization as it does not allow communication of the child’s behavior effects on another child, doesn’t teach good-behaving of the child, and may make the child develop desirability to avoid being caught (Hoffman, 1983; Grusec, 1983; Smetana, 1997). As we know, and even as reported, corporal punishment which goes across the boundary may physically injure a child and this may make him hate school and lose motivation. What compromises balance to be struck regarding such and other issues may result in differing opinions and even biased research work to defend one’s point of view. Motivation is in itself a complex issue involving psychological development and people should invest in research to determine the best way possible and correct abnormalities.

In a study carried out by Christophel (1990), teachers’ closeness to students was found to result in increased learning. The mode of closeness was either verbal or non-verbal, the latter including techniques of positive questioning, motivational message, and strategies aimed at maintaining the student on task. Coercion or threats to students were found by this study to have short-run positive effects but detrimental long-term effects. Teacher immediacy behaviors were found to play a role in modifying the state motivation of students before immediacy could become an effective predictor of learning. The research can be used to allow modification of classroom environment to suit state motivation, which according to the researcher, was the students’ attitude towards a specific class. For a special educational program to harvest from the findings of this research, it must allow for the promotion of students’ state motivation by modifying the class environment to suit the closeness between the teacher and the student. This suggests to us that there is a need to have enough teacher-student ratios. Teachers who teach special education are always lesser in number than those offering normal teaching programs. The government should, therefore, other than focusing on a program that seeks to pressure teachers to perform, invest in a program that allows student participation and closeness to teachers. The currently in place No Child is Left behind act has been criticized for encouraging teachers to teach what is only examinable and accused of carrying the ability to reduce effective learning and instructions. The idea behind receiving sanctions for failure to produce good results may make the teachers not concentrate on the issues involving or encouraging closeness and participation between the teacher and the student-which requires more time for the benefits to be realized-which has been discussed earlier as necessary for increasing state motivation for the child. This case relates to the issues affecting the disabled.

Need for improvement

The current education system should identify the need for an improvement of the curriculum which has been put in place already to allow for the state motivation of the disabled children. Coupled with adequate laws and provisions that ensure that the education system does not emphasize producing results that can have negative effects in the latter life of an individual, an education program for special people such as those with disabilities should be reworked to allow flexibility in the curriculum, which is necessary to create an atmosphere for self-reinforcement and building of a relationship between the teacher and the child, both of which are vital to the motivation of a child.

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Extensive research must be funded to determine all or most of the factors that determine and/or influence child motivation and necessary measures put in place to ensure that the proposals are implemented. Enough resources should be focused on training enough staff for the implementation of a curriculum that ensures enough child participation and child-teacher relationship. School programs must be realigned with research that has identified the way forward to improving child motivation.


Intrinsic motivation which is the drive within making children do things out of pleasure is one of the pillars of educational success for the child. Any program must invest in such pillars and ensure that dictatorship and authoritarian programs do not deny the child a chance to reinforce himself through responsive teaching and program. State motivation-the tendency of the child to have an attitude towards certain classes-has been termed as one factor that affects child motivation in a greater measure. A program that focuses on the production of results and makes the teachers ignore important matters which would result in the improved motivation of the child, should be improved to suit the identified need.

In addition to ensuring that children who perform well are rewarded and recognized (to motivate and make them highly esteemed to climb higher ranks), the curriculum should emphasize more on self-reinforcement which will lead to responsive learning and produce effective and responsible citizens in the future.


  1. Beatty, M, Forst, C. & Stewart, R. (1986) Communication Apprehension and Motivation as Predictors of Public Speaking Duration. Education Communication. V. 35 p. 135-146
  2. Cristophel, D. (1990) The Relationships Among Teacher Immediacy Behaviors, Student Motivation, and Learning. Communication Education, V. 39, p. 335-345
  3. Gershoff Elizabeth. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review”.
  4. Goldstein, S. & Brooks, R. (2007). Understanding and Managing Children’s Classroom Behavior: Creating Sustainable, Resilient Classrooms. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
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  6. Hoffman, M. L. (1983). Affective and cognitive processes in moral inter-internalization. In E. T. Higgins, D. N. Ruble, & W. W. Hartup (Eds.), Social cognition and social development (pp. 236–274). New York: Cambridge University Press
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  8. Smetana, J. G. (1997). Parenting and the development of social knowledge reconceptualized: A social domain analysis. In J. E. Grusec & L. Kuczynski (Eds.), Parenting and children’s internalization of values: A handbook of contemporary theory (pp. 162–192). New York: Wiley
  9. Zorn, T. (1991) Measuring Motivation to Communicate in the Classroom. Communication Education, V. 40.

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