By Preston Long, Adjunct Faculty in the Health Information Management program

Motivation is defined as the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. In education it may be thought of as what causes our students to act. That act may be posting an answer to a discussion question for points or reading a chapter for a better understanding of the material.

Our goal as educators is to find each students motivation: what makes them act, and how do we enhance this essential part of their innate intelligence?

Once motivation is understood it can then be harnessed into success.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I learned the power of a student’s motivation early on at Bryan. I was teaching one of my first classes. I had a student in my class that was very bright, focused but she lacked the ability or so it seemed to take action.

In live sessions she would answer questions, ask thoughtful ones and assist students in the chat box. She would not however, post her assignments. I found this perplexing so I called her one-day to find out.

After we exchanged the usual pleasantries I asked her, “why don’t you post your assignments? I know you know the material so why don’t you post anything?”

She became silent and then said, “ I am a single mom of three girls, I work two jobs, and I barely sleep. I need to make choices everyday on how to best spend my time.”

I sat there listening to this student in awe of her dedication and overwhelmed by her situation. When she completed her answer I asked her, “What motivated you to attend college? What made you put another rock on your wheelbarrow making it even more difficult to move forward in this life?”

“My daughters, I want them to have a better life than I do. I felt the best opportunity for them was for their mother to earn a degree and hopefully give them a better chance in life, so here I am.”

There it was: her motivation. Now all I had to do was help her use it to obtain her goals.

We talked for a few more minutes and I simply kept reminding her that a better opportunity for her and her children existed but only if she did the work.

The next few weeks she struggled but posted all her assignments on time. She turned out to be as great of a student as she was a mother.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin