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Motivation, problem or solution?

April 4, 2017

When people talk about motivation, or better, of the lack of it in the school environment, it is usually to designate one of the most frequent causes of student academic failure. But is this really so?
Let us consider how a child of Preschool is eager to go to school every day. He experiences his learning process as a great adventure full of surprises. However, the same student, over the years, may lose interest in attending school because he feels no excitement about what he does in it.
If students are not able to find for themselves the stimulus needed to learn, it is the task of all – parents, teachers and students – to seek, encourage and educate. Let us not fool ourselves, this process is slow and costly, but the solution tends to be closer than we think and intrinsically linked to the problem, since motivation may be the problem but also the solution.
As a teacher, I have been concerned about this topic for years. For this reason, in my classrooms I am introducing gamification – an educational strategy that consists in using game design elements. My objective is to be able to influence my students’ disposition so that they may take a playful approach to the curriculum. This practice is allowing me to create novel moments where I try to increase their interest in learning. Entering a secret code before accessing the research room -classroom-, searching for clues to solve cases or using geographic coordinates to find a suspect, are just some of the resources used to help me change the form and modify the background of the problem.

Mission Clío 2000 is a project that was born precisely from the need to change the way of teaching the students of Geography and History of 1º ESO [Compulsory Secondary Education]. In order to reach the students it was very important to build a narrative that would explain what was going to be done during a course without revealing any detail of the daily activities. Thus emerged the International Spy Center that came into contact with students, special agents who could become spies, if they succeeded in correctly performing ten secret missions. In this project there are no issues but missions and you do not have to do endless stretches of exercises but prepare to overcome challenges. The reward for a job well done are the points, badges and vouchers. These prizes stimulate their creativity and increase the chances of individual and group success.
As an Education professional, I think I should follow the advice that comes from the third meaning of the term “motivate” in the dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy (DRAE): “to influence their disposition”, so as to arouse their curiosity first and later their interest in doing something which is truly entertaining and useful in their lives and in which it is worth investing time, just like when they were in Preschool.

By Mª Ángeles Sánchez Puerto
Professor of Geography and History in Secondary School at Sagrado Corazón – Hijas de Jesús (Salamanca)