Literacy 7-12

Systems Change

Factor Connections

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Motivation is the desire and energy that guides behavior. When we are motivated, we engage more in what we are doing and learn more. Motivation has an essential influence on reading and writing development and students' identification as readers and writers.

Main Ideas

Motivation to read and write tends to decrease through adolescence. The amount of time students spend reading for pleasure decreases as they get older from 40% of 8- to 10-year-olds reading daily to 26% of 15- to 18-year-olds.

One important distinction is between intrinsic Motivation, the inherent desire to learn and accomplish goals, and extrinsic Motivation, which is the desire to accomplish goals because of external rewards/recognition or to avoid a negative consequence. Intrinsic and extrinsic Motivation are not mutually exclusive; it is very common for students to be driven by both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. For example, they may not be intrinsically interested in a specific assignment but they are motivated to do well for a related long-term goal. Further, students who struggle with literacy skills may be less motivated to participate in academic reading but may avidly read other kinds of reading materials. Moving students towards being more intrinsically motivated is important for long term engagement in reading and writing.

Some important concepts that impact Motivation include:

  • Self-efficacy - the confidence students have in their own reading and writing abilities
  • Interest/value - whether we want to complete the task
  • Goals - the reasons or purposes for doing a task
  • Self-regulation - the ability to organize and manage thinking, behavior, and emotions to accomplish a task

Students' self-efficacy can vary for many reasons, including the content area they are learning. Students may have high self-efficacy for writing in history class but low self-efficacy for writing in their science class. Girls often have better writing skills and higher self-efficacy compared to boys. Students' self-efficacy may develop from experiences where they master a task (e.g., successfully reading a complex book), the Emotions elicited by reading and writing (e.g., feelings of frustration and anxiety vs. joy), and feedback and messages of encouragement or discouragement they receive from others about their reading and writing skills.

Culture can also play an important role in academic Motivation and influence the value students place on reading and writing. Growing up in a culture that values close relationships with family increases academic Motivation. On the other hand, bicultural stress, the stress that results from living in an environment where there is a mismatch between mainstream culture and your own culture, can decrease academic Motivation in adolescents. However, some students who face adversity and low expectations in school settings can transform these experiences into a source of Motivation.

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