Should money be the primary learning motivation?

One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a teacher is instilling learning motivation among students and persuading them to want to do what they have to do anyway, somehow or other.

While some students find it increasingly difficult to retain information or engage in active participation in the class, others simply wouldn’t leave any opportunity to cause disruption. The process of infusing learning motivation in students can be hindered by many reasons, from having no interest in the subject, getting distracted by issues at the personal front, to teachers employing dull teaching tactics.

Learning motivation has been further challenged by unprecedented times sparked off by COVID-19, with over 90 percent of the world’s student population confined indoors and forced to do homeschooling. Today, students are left to figure out learning on their own as teachers keep bombarding them with assignments and worksheets.

With no access to support groups, and no means to socialize, feelings of hopelessness and anxiety are rife. Indeed, the need for motivating young learners and keeping their brains ticking couldn’t get any higher.

No takers for foreign language study

A case in point is the schools in Northern Ireland that are struggling to pique interests among students in learning a language. In the post-COVID period, the number of French, German, and Spanish language learners have plunged to a significant low, rendering language classes to be suspended abruptly. 

A recent report, jointly published by the association of leaders of schools and colleges in the UK, calls urgent government attention to offer language learning motivation to the students after GCSE. One of the proposed ways to tilt the odds in their favor to get that spark back was to provide them with monetary rewards by allocating extra funding to the schools.

At a time when the preexisting plans are falling short of getting language learners back in the class and help them get through the times when they feel less inspired, a fully funded primary languages curriculum will go a long way in stimulating more students’ interests and enhance academic achievements in learning a language.

Learning motivation: Do financial rewards spell success?

But is financial gratification the only way to drive students to learn a new skill? Wouldn’t monetary perk for every successful upskilling prove to be detrimental for an institution in the long run? Putting these recommendations into place will undoubtedly bring about the much-needed influx of language learning students and even induce a positive change; however, results could be short term.

An extensive study on motivational theories throws more light on what is really needed to promote life-long learning. As a famous philosopher once said, “successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”

Learning motivation is comparable in importance to differences in prior knowledge, ability, or developmental readiness. Students’ motivations take on special significance because of their part in the learning ecosystem and because they live in a society that requires young people to attend schools where modern education is compulsory.

Momentary loss of that language mojo amid COVID lockdowns shouldn’t spell the end of language learning aspirations. Teachers have a big responsibility to ensure students’ motivation to learn.

Teachers as part of an effective learning ecosystem

While parents are the child’s lifelong learning companions, teachers, too, make a substantial impact on shaping the child’s future. The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and teachers play a vital role in making that happen. Being the facilitators of learning, teachers can get creative and draw up an engaging and exciting plan to make language learning a lucrative choice of study. 

Teachers in a learning ecosystem are equipped to promote life-long learning in students.  Some strategies for improving learning motivation include getting the youth curious about a new culture or a new language, maintaining that curiosity through a variety of exciting presentation modes, role plays, interactive sessions, and eventually helping students set and accomplish their own goals. 

Several other strategies, such as student choice, demonstrating the relevance or usefulness of the content, and collaboration can also help encourage learning motivation. Ultimately, when it comes to learning motivation, offering monetary incentives can only give a sense of accomplishment but rarely encourages students to push their boundaries.

Acquiring a new skill like language takes an intuitive understanding of why someone would want to spend their time locked up in a room, poring over vocabulary and grammar. But once you commit yourself to be a part of a language learning journey, social and emotional rewards will be plenty. 

Observing students through generations, teachers validate what was said long before by a great man:

Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.– Benjamin Franklin