Academic journal article Education

The Transition from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation in the College Classroom: A First-Year Experience

Academic journal article Education

The Transition from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation in the College Classroom: A First-Year Experience

Article excerpt

An interesting transition takes place when seniors from high school walk into most of their freshman classes in college. Instead of attendance being taken, seats being assigned, and personal connections being made between teacher and student, most classes instead begin with discussion of a syllabus, and continue with a marathon note-taking session. It is often even difficult for students to ask questions because the professors do not notice raised hands; their backs are turned to the class while they quickly and efficiently write on the board. This scenario causes a selection process whereby the students who learn best by listening and taking notes succeed, while others with different strengths fall behind. According to Post Secondary Education Opportunity, nearly one-third of college freshmen do not enroll for the following year of study. Retention rates for all college freshmen have been declining since the early 1980s, with the largest decrease occurring over the last 5 to 7 years (Cravatta, 1997).

One might ask, how is the aforementioned scenerio in fact different from the typical high school experience? Indeed success in high school is one of the main predictors of success in college. College freshman who were in the top 10% of their high school graduating class have the highest retention rate (Cravatta, 1997). Both high school and college emphasize the need to take notes and reproduce these "facts" on later examinations. Both primarily emphasize listening over dialogue and devalue student questioning. Despite pockets of school reform at the high school level, such as Sizers's coalition of essential schools which call for more personalized instruction, depth of understanding vs. content coverage, and measures of authentic assessments, the normative high school experience, still parallels the above description of life in the college classroom. The use of teaching practices, which focus on problem solving, higher order thinking, and understanding of subject matter is questionable, particularly in American high schools (Cohen, 1993). Some schools have implemented school structures to support such instructional innovations, such as double blocking and flexible grouping of students, yet these innovations are not the norm and may not be effective without the needed professional development for teachers employing the new practices. Double blocking in such cases is often interpreted as two periods of lecture and note taking, rather than in innovative hands-on, cognitively engaging instruction. So where is the difference? Where are the issues that need to be addressed for students to successfully make the transition from secondary schooling to college life?

One aspect of the college experience that may add to this challenge is that of choice and the motivation that leads students to make choices. Much of the motivation for academic success in high school is grounded in extrinsic motivation, namely grades. There are credits to be earned, honors to be garnered, and rules to be followed. Attendance is required, detentions and suspensions are still present to keep students in line, and communication to one's parents is still practiced to make sure their "support" and presence pushes students along. But in college this is not the case. Although grades, honors and credit are still in place, the student experiences much more freedom in the choices to be made. No one gets angry if you don't show up to class. No one calls Mom and Dad if you are not living up to your potential. You can withdraw from a course if you fall behind. If you do not pass a course, although your GPA is affected, you can take the class again. Students may learn that the professor's lectures come directly from the text, as do the exams, so there is no need to actually attend class to score well. So why come to class? Why work hard if there is no immediate negative consequence to choosing not to do so. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.