An (Expanded) Summary on Levoie’s Lecture “The Motivation Breakthrough”
Parents and teachers of all generations have long struggled with similar battles. One huge idea that these authority figures wrestle with frequently is the question of motivation. Why is my student not motivated to learn English? Why is my child not motivated to do his homework? How can I motivate my son to weed the garden or do chores around the house? As an educator, these are my battles. As I am preparing for another school term, I enjoy spending time researching and learning about current issues and strategies with which I can battle them. After listening to a lecture by Richard Levoie, the subject of motivation became my passion for this year. In this essay, relying heavily on Levoie’s ideas[i], I will explain some foundational understandings of motivation and spend some time giving examples of ways to combat this giant in the classroom and home.
A primary misconception about motivation is that sometimes it is present and other times it is not. The truth about motivation states that all human behavior is motivated. When a student prefers to lay his head on his desk during a riveting geography lecture, something is motivating him to behave that way. It is correct assume that he is not motivated to learn geography, but it is incorrect to assume that he is unmotivated. Something – some power – is motivating him to respond in a way that shows he doesn’t care about geography. When we understand that all human behavior is motivated, we are enabled to create channels or devise strategies that direct that attention and motivation where we as authority figures desire it to be directed.
Motivation is a far more complexly structured idea than we tend to give it credit. We must understand that what motivates you as an individual, may not motivate me. What motivates Donald Trump is likely different than what motivated Charles Dickens. As multifaceted as people are, we should most assuredly know that motivational needs are equally multifaceted.
Each person is intrinsically motivated by different core motivational needs or styles. If a motivational need or style is triggered, a child will respond by getting excited and motivated about the chore, assignment, or project we wish for them to complete. What are these core needs and how can they be uncovered? Several of the needs outlined by Levoie which I will discuss in this essay are the following: power, inquisitiveness, gregariousness, autonomy, and affiliation.
The motivational need of power usually surfaces when a child desires to have some control over at least one aspect of his life. Allowing a child or student to experience power, however, needs in no way to diminish the power of the authority figure – it is not a bad thing. Children who are motivated by power can easily be recognized by their argumentative nature. They are the ones who seem to always question an authority’s position and seem to enjoy contradiction. A mistake authority figures often make with these children is allowing the child’s behavior to make feel insecure and disrespected. As aforementioned, there are healthy ways to give these children areas of power that motivate them and quench their argumentative side. The secret lies in the idea of choices. When a child has the power to make a choice, he has power. It’s not great power, it’s not world-transforming power, nor does it diminish his authority’s power. It’s simply the power of making a personal choice and it’s motivating enough for the power-driven child.
Children who are motivated by power can be given choices like the choices in these examples. Imagine that your child has been playing in the toy room. The room is in a wreck and you, as the parent, wish for the child to clean up what he has disarranged. “Johnny,” you may begin, “you have made a mess in the toy room and I want you to clean it up. Would you like to clean it up before supper or after supper?” Instead of giving them room to argue with you, the child is given power to choose. Once a child has verbalized a commitment to a task, he is much more likely to stick to it. An example in an educational setting may be the following: “Today I would like you to write your spelling words three times. Would you rather write them on white paper or orange paper?” Approaching motivation this way will likely stimulate your child to work.
Inquisitiveness is also a core motivational need. Children who are motivated by this style need lots of exploration and hands-on projects. Instead of lecturing on a subject, they need to experience it on their own. They are motivated by hours of personal research and experimentation. They never use the same recipes over again. These are the people who ask themselves, “What if eternal life could be discovered by mixing sulfur and potassium nitrate?” These are the people who in turn discover cool things like gunpowder. Parents of an inquisitive child may motivate in the following way: “Sarah, I would like you to make cookies today, but I want you to try a brand-new recipe and see if you like them.” An educational example may be asking a student to fill a poster board with as much unknown information about Nicola Tesla as he can. These strategies compel the child’s need to be curious, and thus he is motivated.
A child with the motivational need of gregariousness is simply motivated by doing something with another person. Asking a gregariously motivated child to spend hours creating a poster board with unique information will not motivate him; however, asking him to complete such a task with a group will be the incentive he needs. Children with the need to be socially motivated need to work in groups and discuss ideas with others. They are often most productive and successful when they are given opportunities to socialize while working.
Some children are motivated by autonomy. If a child is motivated by independence and doing things by himself, he needs to be given that space. As a parent, you may have a little girl who must dress herself, comb her own hair, and put on her own shoes – all by herself. She will be very unmotivated to get dressed or work if her parent insists that he can do it better. A child like this should be given some opportunity to do these things on her own. Because doing her own personal care is motivating for the child, the less-than-ideal quality of the personal care can be overlooked. In an educational setting, autonomous students will feel restricted and unmotivated if they are always asked to do a project in a group. These students need space to exhibit their intellect, knowledge, and personality without always being confined to a group.
Another sect of children is motivated by affiliation. Knowing that he belongs to a larger cause motivates the child to work hard for his affiliation. Children like these will be motivated to read, when it means they are a part of a community library system with larger gains, larger goals, and larger bounds. Parents or teachers may find affiliation motivated children always wearing tee shirts with logos of their favorite eatery, sports team, or school. When they are working for someone or something larger than themselves, they feel motivated to do their best. These children are quick to be motivated by and to rally around causes or people that feel threatened or celebrated[ii]. Parents can encourage a child by supporting his ideas. He can accomplish much knowing that his family or parents are backing up his work.
Motivation is a complex term that means varying things for each child. Parents and educators should be aware that children rank from low to high on these diverse motivational needs. When we understand how our child is motivated and what kinds of strategies motivate him, we will be more successful authority figures in our world, our schools, and our homes.
[i] Levoie, Richard. “The Motivation Breakthrough” DVD Lecture. 2007 This essay can be considered a review on this lecture. To learn more about this subject, I highly recommend further available online resources by Levoie.