Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Motivation in Secondary Music Education

Magazine article The Canadian Music Educator

Motivation in Secondary Music Education

Article excerpt

As an aspiring teacher, the topic of motivation and theories around student motivation have been interesting to me. I often wonder what my future students will need to feel motivated in my music classroom, and what appropriate motivational strategies I will need to employ to meet the needs of very different students. How to motivate students in the classroom is an important topic for me and for my perspective students! From this research, I hope to gain deeper insights into the complexities around motivation, and at the same time start to develop some guiding principles and practices that will underpin my own teaching. My goal is to have the knowledge and strategies ready to use to inspire and motivate my students. Students come to music classes with heavily laden schedules, competing pressures, and demands. I want to engage them in ways that are meaningful and respectful to them as they learn music, and help them develop a love of music that evolves from meaningful engagement and learning. There are several purposes to motivating students. Some of these include creating independent learners, to encourage continual growth and development as musicians, to keep practicing, and to strive for their full potential.

Student motivation is a topic commonly discussed among educators and psychologists. As West (2013) notes, motivation is a complex term that many psychologists and educators have researched and written about. Lumsden (1994) states that motivation as "students' desire to participate in the learning process". "All students are motivated by some activities; in school, student motivation is deeply affected by what happens in classrooms" (Canadian Education Association, 2011, para. 1). According to Anthony Mazzocchi's (2015) post on his website, "students begin an instrument through their school's music program" and "one or two years later, more than 50% of students quit; unable to enjoy all that music education has to offer...". Anthony and commenters on this post agree that motivation is one factor that impacts students losing interest. These examples point out the complexity behind student motivation.

Through personal experiences and my course work throughout my undergraduate degrees, I have been introduced to the work of Carol Dweck (b. 1946) and Daniel Pink (b. 1964). Both are well-known researchers and theorists in the field of motivation. In this essay, I provide practical applications of these theories for me and possibly other music educators to use in their various secondary music classrooms.

A Personal Story

When I was introduced to the theories of Dweck and Pink in recent years, as part of my university undergraduate studies, my life began to change. The way I approached learning shifted to a meaningful and engaging experience and I noticed significant improvements in my personal performance on clarinet. I felt more motivated to put time and effort into my studies and practicing. I experienced success more quickly than I ever had before in my studies, which motivated me to work even harder and strive to reach my full potential. When I reflect back to my earlier high school years, I remember that if I received a good grade then I would receive a monetary reward. This process worked for me at that time, but once the extrinsic rewards stopped (after high school), I noticed a decrease in my motivation to achieve high grades and practice. I realize now that while the extrinsic motivation of monetary rewards worked for me in the short term, this type of motivation was not long lasting. My goal now, at this stage in my music and teaching career as a pre-service music educator, is to understand motivation at a deeper level so I can derive motivational strategies for my students that have strength and meaning in relation to both immediate and lifelong learning and enjoyment of music.

Why is there a lack of motivation?

One of the leading problems for teachers today is the "lack of motivation toward academic activities" (Green-Demers, Legault, & Pelletier, 2006, p. …

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