Motivating Students

Motivating Students

Some students perceive an intrinsic value, while others perceive extrinsic value in being involved. Understanding what motivates each student will help you enable him/her to take on responsibilities and become involved in the organization.

What are motives? Needs, wants, drives, or impulses that are directed toward goals. Motives may be conscious or unconscious. Of course, each individual is motivated by different things, and students join an organization for a variety of reasons. Doing an activity with students may be beneficial when helping identify what motivates them. Some students may indicate that they are motivated by the attention received by others for a job well done; some may say they are most motivated by inner desire. There is no one right answer, but an advisor should be tuned in to the variety of factors that affect motivation so that he/she may better predict what will work and what may not.

What motivates? A student may be motivated by a variety of factors, and no form of motivation will be 100% effective. The following is a list of different forms of motivation. Some of the examples are extrinsic (motivation coming from an outside source) others are intrinsic (motivation that stems from the internal desire or goal of the student).

Recognition: Recognition is used frequently by advisors. Recognize a member’s contribution verbally or in print, in front of the organization or alone. This is an easy and effective way to motivate someone – almost everybody appreciates a “Thank you!” or recognition of a job well done. Also note who enjoys public and private recognition.

Achievement: A student motivated by the need for achievement may have a tendency to overcome obstacles, to exercise power, or to strive to do something difficult as well and as quickly as possible. Achievement is often tied to positive recognition from outside sources. In a few cases, there can be an internal desire for achievement, so the person would be satisfied by completing a task to the best of his/her ability.

Some students are interested in becoming members of organizations or organizations that will lead to a desirable outcome. So, if the outcome of organization activity is known to be desirable, the student may be more likely to participate.

Value: If the student perceives value in participation, he/she may be more motivated to participate (friendship, professional goals, personal interests, etc.).

Peer Approval: A student can perceive approval, and may be more likely to participate if provided with appropriate recognition. Caution: There are many students that join organizations to gain approval/acceptance from their peers to cover up personal issues. Watch for students who are struggling with self-confidence or that stop showing up. Follow-up with students who leave to make sure they are doing okay, and ask them back if appropriate.

If this all seems overwhelming, ask someone else what they like.

[Adapted from: Dunkel, N.W. & Schuh, J.H. (1998). Advising Student Groups and Organizations. San Fran cisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.]

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