Academic journal article Rural Educator

Rural Teachers' Best Motivating Strategies: A Blending of Teachers' and Students' Perspectives

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Rural Teachers' Best Motivating Strategies: A Blending of Teachers' and Students' Perspectives

Article excerpt

This paper extracts and elaborates rural secondary teachers' most effective reported motivating strategies. From the data generated by two years of mixed method research in rural secondary schools, these strategies emerged as among the most successful. Selection of best practices was based on a synthesis of what both teachers and students reported as making the greatest positive impact on their school-related motivation. Strategies are illustrated by multiple detailed examples from teacher interviews.

Teachers often enter the profession because of their heartfelt desire to witness and support the physical, emotional and intellectual growth of their students. Yet a teacher's performance is measured largely by student achievements. Because motivation influences both developmental and performance outcomes, educators have a vested interest in their students' motivation. However, understanding that motivation is not an easy task.

Motivation is a complex and dynamic construct that is a function of the past, present and future and is dependent on both the whole group and the individual (Hardré & Sullivan, in press; Linnenbrink & Pintrich, 2002). While one strategy will not work on all students, some elements of social contexts influence what will influence a given group (Bandura, 1997; Black & Deci, 2000). Teachers should view motivation as a complex task involving a multi-faceted approach to the classroom and to their relationships with the students within that classroom (Schunk, Pintrich & Meece, 2008). Motivation is a process, not merely an end product (Reeve, 2005). Many long-range motivational outcomes are not readily visible to the teacher, but a set of proximate responses that teachers can see indicate how students are positioned for engagement and success (Maehr & Midgley, 1996; Skinner & Belmont, 1993). Based on the current indicators, the teacher may see that a detour is necessary to navigate the process around a roadblock. Students do bring all of their past experiences into a classroom with them and those experiences are often outside of the teacher's direct control. However, students' motivation is also dramatically influenced by a complex of interactions with their teachers, the context and culture of the school and community, and their personal experiences both in and out of the classroom (Hardré & Sullivan, in press; Maehr, 1984; Pintrich, 2003). The vast set of influences on students' motivation means mat no one individual or group (e.g. parents, teachers) can be solely responsible for motivating students. Thus, motivation is a shared responsibility. However, the importance of teacher influence on students' motivation is well-demonstrated, making it clear that teachers really do make a difference (Hardré & Sullivan, in press).

Teaching is an honorable and noble profession in which individuals pursue me lofty goal of educating the youth of our society. Responsibility for learning is shared by students, teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and the entire society (Brembeck, 1971). Nowhere is this truer than in rural environments, which are known for meir development of strong social ties (Collins, 2007; Crocket, Shanahan, & Jackson-Newsom, 2000). The relationship between students and teachers in rural contexts is often different from the student-teacher relationship in non-rural settings. For example, Brown (1996) described parents' attitudes toward the closing of a small school due to consolidation forces, including being, "proud of their school", having a relationship of "trust" and not wanting meir children to be "taught by strangers" and when they have a "school staff that knows them" (p. 247). Due to the smaller rural community, students and their families are more likely to interact with teachers and meir families during community events and social gatherings (Flora, Flora & Fey, 2003; Khattri, Riley & Kane, 1997). Successful rural schools often function as venues for various social activities, so that they become social and cultural centerpieces of me community (D'Amico, Matthes, Sankar, Merchant and Zurita, 1996; Barley & Beesley, 2007; Holloway, 2002). …

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